Ask An Atheist Day Q&A (Belated)

Apparently last thursday was national ask an atheist day.  Anyone have any questions for me on the topic of atheism, religion, philosophy, science, or whatever?

Advertisements

About agnophilo

Nerd.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Ask An Atheist Day Q&A (Belated)

  1. musterion99 says:

    Why are you atheist instead of agnostic?

  2. NeverSubmit says:

    Has “Ask an atheist day” had any definite beneficial results?  Does it work against the stereotype that atheism is an entire ideology, or does it feed back into it?

  3. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – Actually I, like nearly all atheists, am agnostic.  Which means I do not believe in the existence of deities but do not believe their existence or non-existence is knowable.  Similarly I am agnostic about unicorns because I cannot prove they do not exist, but I do not believe they exist because I have no good reason to.  Believing there is not a god and not believing there is a god are two different things.@NeverSubmit – I don’t see it promoting any stereotypes, and while the effects of something like this are almost impossible to measure I think people who believe different things sitting down and actually getting to know each other will, if anything, break down stereotypes.  You can only believe x people are all y thing until you meet enough of x people to find one that isn’t.  Unless your prejudice is the result of a neurosis in which case evidence won’t matter much.

  4. If we’re all worm food in the end, and if there are personal benefits to belief, what’s the harm of non-violent, non-fundamentalist religious worship?

  5. agnophilo says:

    @Celestial_Teapot – I don’t see what us dying has to do with anything, and I think the personal benefits are outweighed by the harm that beliefs do, even non-fundamentalist ones.  Here’s a short video about this you might find interesting.  There is a difference between indiivdual opinion and organized belief, the problem with organized belief is that it’s dogmatic and authoritarian.  Churches are based around not simply shared opinions that everyone acknowledges are just opinions, but a common belief in a source of authority, ie the bible, god, or a religious leader like the pope.  This will tend to do more harm than good for the same reasons a dictatorship will tend to do more harm than a democracy., it lends those at the top of that pyramid the power to automatically legitimize positions and policies without the people below being allowed to disagree or not go along without often severe social repercussions.

  6. tau_1 says:

    Why is the cycle of even and morning as day the same from the beginning?Why the simple day we live 24hr cycle has not change?

  7. nov_way says:

    Do you believe there is a reason for everything in life?

  8. Why do you like to argue with christians. If religion is so evil, what will complaining on xanga do, christians don’t take you seriously, and they will never believe God is evil, and your atheistic post do nothing to educate us ignoramusus, basically you are talking to yourself rach time you say something Hawkins says, or try to immaturely make others feel they are contradicting themselves, and you’re the only rational person left.

  9. A.A.A.D. needs more publicity. I’m an atheist and no one asked me anything.

  10. agnophilo says:

    @tau_1 – It actually is measurably changing, the early earth had a 14 hour day.  The reason it doesn’t change much over time is that there is no friction in space.  If I spin a top it slows down because it’s rubbing against the surface it’s on and the air around it, slowing it down.  But in space there is nothing to rub against so the only thing that slows or speeds up the spin of the earth (which gives the appearance of the sun moving across the sky) is gravity.  Specifically the moon’s gravity.  Because the earth is not a perfect sphere as it spins some parts are more dense (the two main land masses, north/south america and asia/europe/africa) so they pull on the moon stronger as they move away from it (and the moon pulls on those parts of the earth stronger) so every time the earth spins it gives a little bit of it’s energy to the moon, speeding the moon up, which makes the moon get gradually farther from the earth.  These things are changing, they just change so gradually they can’t be measured with the naked eye.  Similarly the position of the continents is shifting under your feet right now, it’s just happening at about the speed your fingernails are growing so you can’t feel it.And yes, I typed all of that out without googling anything – I am that big a nerd.@nov_way – I think there’s a logical, mechanical reason for everything, not necessarily a plan.  If someone slips in the shower and dies I think it’s because of the dynamics of friction and how fluids and surface texture and materials effect them and the physics of gravity, acceleration, deceleration etc and the nature of the human anatomy.  But I don’t think that everything is a result of a divine conspiracy.  I mean theoretically it could be I guess, but that guy could’ve slipped because space aliens from neptune made him slip with a slipperiness ray fired at his shower from high orbit.@RulerofMasons – Arguing is fun in an intellectual way, forming arguments and analyzing things is enjoyable, as is pondering new ideas – but I mainly don’t do it because it’s fun (it’s usually more frustrating than fun anyway) but rather because I honestly think that what many people believe does harm.  This is a blog I wrote recently which is basically a response to everything you just accused me of/asked me.@holeinyoursoul – Well it’s hardly going to be christmas.

  11. nov_way says:

    Sometimes  I like to wonder about the placement and timing of everything, how some things just seem to *click*, do you know what I mean? Take human anatomy for instance, since you mentioned it: how the eyes are placed at the upper half of the face– ideal for one to see the world clearly —  and how they’re protected by facial bones that are of perfect proportions for them. Or how the ears are placed on the sides with such intricate mechanisms inside to help us hear well, etc. 

  12. locomotiv says:

     Do you think that religion is an hindrance to moving forward in real spiritual matters ?

  13. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – I think people tend to overestimate how “perfect” things in nature are, ignoring that the supposedly “perfect” things often vary tremendously, such as the earth’s “perfect” distance from the sun which creationists maintain is “fine-tuned” at just precisely the perfect distance from the sun – when in reality the distance from the sun varies annually by about ten million miles (10%) because the earth has an elliptical, not a circular orbit.  As for your examples are you familiar with natural selection?  Genes mutate causing individuals to vary and those variations are passed on more frequently the more often the individuals that possess them survive and reproduce, so genetic variations that increase the chance of survival and rate of reproduction get passed on and those that decrease them don’t – by this mechanism of trial and error species accumulate new and modified traits.  This is a real, very well observed phenomenon in nature.  The eyes are so high up on the body most likely simply because an animal with a patch of light-sensitive cells (precursor to the modern eye) on it’s ass wouldn’t have survived very long to pass the genes on.I can explain more if you wish.@locomotiv – What I think of when I hear the word “religion” is dogma, authoritarianism, fear-mongering, guilt, peer pressure, indoctrination etc which I think is absolutely destructive to everything I would classify as “spirituality” that I see as a positive (love, selflessness, appreciation of beauty, pursuit of truth etc).  There are some things in religions that I think are good though (well, sometimes harmful in that they promote the above things), and that is some rituals and traditions.  I think there might be some benefit to reminding ourselves to think about things like kindness, charity, or to meditate on some ideas periodically.  I think for instance taking the time once a year to exchange gifts and food and share each others’ company is a good thing, like a wedding anniversary.  It’s good to have a reminder of some things.  I also think daily meditation might be a really positive thing but have been too lazy to try it.  Of course it depends what you’re meditating on, if it’s mein kamf it’s a bad thing but if it’s say the tao te ching then it could really enlighten someone.  Very good question though, thanks : )

  14. Why do some Atheist write so much about religion?  Maybe I am wrong, but if I was Atheist I would probably not give religion much thought.  But some people appear to be so passionate about their unbelief.

  15. locomotiv says:

    i just love the last comment..to be passionate about their unbelief…true, we can be passionate about something that we dont believe in…because it contradicts us…and we want to rectifie what we think is false to us….

  16. agnophilo says:

    @TheTheologiansCafe – It’s not atheism that makes me take an interest in religion, it’s religion that makes me take an interest.  It has a tremendous impact on the world.  Why do you think I’m not blogging about other things I don’t believe in, like UFOs and fairies.  If people were starting wars and denying people civil rights and setting people on fire to appease aliens and fairies I would be blogging about that too – and so would you.@locomotiv – If something is merely incorrect I will disagree with it but it will be an academic disagreement with no passion or real interest.  But religions aren’t just wrong – they get people killed, they are used to promote dictators and corrupt politicians and oppose everything good in the world.  Look at the arguments against abolishing slavery, giving women the right to vote, and now the arguments against giving gays equal legal rights.  I can’t think of a minority that’s been persecuted in my country that “god said so” wasn’t the primary justification and means of censoring those who stood up for the rights of the minority.As I said to theodan, if people were killing each other in the name of fairies I’d write a blog about why it doesn’t make sense to believe in fairies too.  But they aren’t, so I don’t.

  17. agnophilo says:

    @NeverSubmit – You’re welcome : )  Thanks for the question.

  18. nov_way says:

    I’ve heard about the type of water snakes that live in Britain but when it’s time to reproduce, they  swim all the way to the Gulf of Mexico where they lay their eggs and then die, and once the eggs hatch, the little snakes swim back to Britain, using the same path, so what about them? 

  19. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – A few things – one, could you answer my question?  Are you familiar with natural selection?  And two, after googling to try to find what snake you’re talking about it doesn’t appear to exist – apparently 12 miles is an uncommonly long way for snakes to migrate, let alone the 3-4,000 miles over open ocean from great britain to the gulf of mexico.  I think you’re probably thinking of some type of fish or whale or maybe a bird (though it’s less likely).  That being said, what is your question exactly?

  20. nov_way says:

    Ok =) 1- I am. 2- I did try to google that example the way you have and true, didn’t seem to find it online, so I’m going to try and find the source tomorrow hopefully. 3- not a question, really. It’s just that I believe there’s more to it than natural selection, and that’s when I remembered that example I heard a while back, and was wondering what you thought of it, that’s all. Again, I will try and find the source for whatever it is the species that is capable of doing that but the point remains the same whether it was for a fact a fish or a snake: since it died after laying the eggs, how is it possible for its offspring to go back ‘home’ using the same path? But i think you’re right about it being a fish. I googled something along the lines of ‘ they die after laying eggs ‘ this time and the results page is making me think that that person might have meant salmon with their example. Even the kind of physiological changes they all go through ( both the parents and their offspring) that goes quite well with the timing they choose to either migrate ( for the parent ) or to go back home ( for the offspring ) . I mean, how do they know that yes, it’s the right time for them to do such acts so they could continue to exist the very same way they have, as a species, so far in life? Doesn’t that indicate there’s something more to it than just a matter of nature?

  21. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – First of all how they find their way and how they evolved that way are two different questions – in the case of salmon they just go up-river, which isn’t that complicated.  Other species usually rely on things like wind and ocean currents for navigation – homing pigeons for instance just remember what unique scents are carried on the winds in different areas and use that to navigate.  Other explanations are sensitivity to things like magnetic fields (ie an inner compass) or being effected by the position of the sun, such as with moths who are not “drawn” to flames so much as they can’t tell the difference between artificial light and the sun so when they pass a light source at night they think it’s the sun and orientate themselves as though that direction were “up”, haphazardly flying into the light source – which is why bug zappers work.  There is a logical mechanism to these things and I’ve yet to find an example of an evolutionary system that cannot evolve incrementally.As for how they “know” to behave a certain way, I’ve been asked that before – the answer is they don’t.  They are operating on unconscious instinct, they are compelled to behave that way, they don’t consciously decide to.  And instincts and behaviors vary from individual to individual and can be selectively bred for or against, the way we’ve bred wolves to be tame (dogs) and bred some dog breeds to be aggressive again (attack dogs) or to be good at remembering many commands (sheep dogs) or to be fast (race dogs) or to have unusually good senses (bloodhounds) etc.  Behaviors can be modified by selectively picking naturally occurring variations the same way anatomical traits can.  I see no difficulty.

  22. nov_way says:

    I love the type of examples you provided in your latest reply; very fascinating. But, to me, reading that makes me think that things seem to go in sync with one another, don’t you?  I mean, I already knew they didn’t make a conscious decision to do so, it is just that:  how you mentioned the fact that they have an inner compass or an instinct of sort that directs them to where they ought to go– not one species or two, but all of them, at specific times, generation after the other, all in sync. Entire species.And while one might mention the matter of behavior using dogs for an example –which is an excellent example, btw– the truth remains the same: behavior is not the same as instinct. 

  23. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – “I love the type of examples you provided in your latest reply; very fascinating. But, to me, reading that makes me think that things seem to go in sync with one another, don’t you?  I mean, I already knew they didn’t make a conscious decision to do so, it is just that:  how you mentioned the fact that they have an inner compass or an instinct of sort that directs them to where they ought to go– not one species or two, but all of them, at specific times, generation after the other, all in sync. Entire species.”It’s “in sync” because they’re the same species, living things are by definition copies of copies of copies of organisms – geese all fly south for winter around the same time because they all commonly inherited the genes that make them do so.  And the ones that inherit genes that are deactivated or altered so they don’t make them do so freeze to death.”And while one might mention the matter of behavior using dogs for an example –which is an excellent example, btw– the truth remains the same: behavior is not the same as instinct.” Instincts compel behavior.

  24. nov_way says:

    Ok, and where said instinct come from? 

  25. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – As I already said, behavior varies from one individual to the next and the genes for behavior that is useful is selected for by natural selection.  Are you sure you understand the process?

  26. nov_way says:

    I actually do understand it and I was kind of expecting this answer– just wanted to be sure I understood your thought process. Now I realize that I simply have a set of beliefs that are too different for me to discuss, so,  thank you for replying to my comments, truly. 

  27. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – I don’t see why your beliefs being different would preclude you from discussing them.

  28. nov_way says:

    Actually, my beliefs doesn’t preclude or prevent me from discussing them. The truth of the matter is this: the more I learn about them, the more I want to share them with the world.But I don’t know…sometimes it feels so pointless especially when a lot of people confuse the acts conducted by some group with the actual beliefs they claim to subscribe to, you know? That, and knowing how talking about things hardly changes anything anyway.

  29. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – I don’t think christianity is harmful because christians occasionally do bad things – some members of any group will always do bad things.  I think it’s harmful because the belief system and the scripture and fear and indoctrination etc is often what’s used to do bad things.  Christianity is the sole reason gay people are second class citizens in america.  It’s the sole reason funding for stem cell research is being opposed.  It’s the sole reason for a lot of things around the world.If I wanted to keep some group from having the same rights I have I’d have to make a really good case and have a really good argument.  When “god says so” is the basis you don’t have to have an argument at all.  And no matter how good an argument someone else has they’re not only automatically considered wrong, but vilified. It’s not just the acts of a few, it’s the consent of hundreds of millions.

  30. nov_way says:

    I do agree with you in pretty much all that you said. But the answer is not to abolish the religion, but to have someone whom the public do listen to and who’s quite knowledgable about the religion remind them about the actual teachings of said religion. 

  31. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – This is like saying dictatorships aren’t bad, we just need better dictators.  While a dictatorship could, in principle, be a positive thing there is nothing about the nature of a dictatorship that guarantees this or safeguards against abuses.  A democracy on the other hand is full of safeguards against abuses, elections, courts, separation of powers, and even partisan politics which limits the power of the majority.  Our system has grown incredibly corrupt and yet this results in gridlock more than tyranny, like an automatic safety brake.  Similarly if there is no religion or dogma or holy texts that are beyond reproach but simply a marketplace of ideas the good ideas will tend to win out over the bad ones.  Christianity and islam have been shaped by the dictatorships that they operated in for centuries, they have been molded after them.  Now they are being slowly molded to pluralistic democracy – but strongly resisting the process.

  32. nov_way says:

    I feel the need to clarify something: the reason why I am against what’s going on regarding gay marriage in the states is because it’s not a Christian country, that is all. And like you said, dictatorships in principle can be a positive thing. However, Islam is a religion with a certain set of rules and guidelines that are meant to be followed always, yes, but it does encourage people to speak-up and share their thoughts and concerns to the governor. Again, in a certain manner, so as to make sure everyone’s rights are peotected including the governor’s right to be respected at all times and the people’s right of living a good and just life, among other things. 

  33. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – What makes a country a christian country?And as I said in principle a dictatorship could be a good thing – do you think the reality matches the principle very often?  Or for very long?And I don’t think people in muslim theocracies feel encouraged to speak up and disagree, unless maybe it’s within the constraints of a sort of broad ideology.  In other words “you can question our theology but only within the constraints of our sect, and if you question whether allah exists we might imprison/kill you”.

  34. nov_way says:

    It would be written in the constitution as such. Dictatorships are something I’m against because it depends on the viewpoint of a person. But with religion, Islam in specific, it is not. ( here I would like to say that you must already know that dictatorship is a negative term while Islam isn’t that– negative. )Again, the problem is with the kind of people who think that way and not with the religion itself because Islam actually encourages people to think about what proves the existence of Allah. The Quran itself calls for that, too. But it seems like I do need to mention that if someone doesn’t  believe in God then they should either 1) keep it to themself.   Or, 2) live elsewhere.          Because one has to be logical and think about that sense of unity a community has when they share the same religion and how someone like that might cause an uproar that would keep the people from focusing on their duties even if just for a little while.And really, if someone felt like they can’t believe it’s not because of the religion, but because of their lack of understanding of it. I do realize that I may sound awfully confident about my religion but knowing what I know makes me so. 

  35. agnophilo says:

    @nov_way – “It would be written in the constitution as such.”So words on paper make persecution okay?”Dictatorships are something I’m against because it depends on the viewpoint of a person. But with religion, Islam in specific, it is not. ( here I would like to say that you must already know that dictatorship is a negative term while Islam isn’t that– negative. )”Oh I think there’s plenty of room for opinion in religion.  Otherwise there wouldn’t be different sects and theologies.  Not to mention throughout the ages what has been considered being a good member of a religion has varied from mass-murder and setting people on fire to being nice to… well, not doing those things.  Religions change all the time, they just pretend they never have.”Again, the problem is with the kind of people who think that way and not with the religion itself because Islam actually encourages people to think about what proves the existence of Allah. The Quran itself calls for that, too.”So does the bible:”Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 peter 3:15)”Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 thess 5)Not that it matters, because the bible also promotes child-like unquestioning faith.  What passages people pay attention to is arbitrary.”But it seems like I do need to mention that if someone doesn’t  believe in God then they should either 1) keep it to themself.   Or, 2) live elsewhere.”So you’re saying islam promotes questioning while censoring and punishing it with exile…”Because one has to be logical and think about that sense of unity a community has when they share the same religion and how someone like that might cause an uproar that would keep the people from focusing on their duties even if just for a little while.”If simply being offended by someone’s presence is a justification for treating them by different rules then you’ve just justified every act of intolerance, racism and genocide in the world.  Hitler was deeply offended by the presence of the jews, so I guess it was okay that he rounded them up and killed them.Either people are to be treated decently because they’re people or only your group gets to be treated like human beings.  Please take the time to think about the company you’re joining if you choose the latter.”And really, if someone felt like they can’t believe it’s not because of the religion, but because of their lack of understanding of it. I do realize that I may sound awfully confident about my religion but knowing what I know makes me so.”I think this is an artifact of the human mind’s ability to rationalize.  If I came to you with a scripture passage that seems demented you would be able to point to some different translation or different interpretation and say “see, that’s what the author really meant to say”.  But in reality while one interpretation or translation may have more merit the meaning of ancient texts is often nebulous and sometimes impossible to decipher with any real accuracy.  You decide that interpretation B is correct and interpretation A is false because interpretation A contradicts your values or implies a theological problem etc and interpretation B doesn’t.  You say there are no real problems with the koran and all supposed contradictions are the result of misunderstanding.  Guess what, I hear the same exact thing from christian evangelists about the new testament every day.

  36. nov_way says:

    Persecution: n., hostility and ill treatment, especially because of race, or political or religious beliefs. Islam is truly against that– it does call for people to defend themselves, which is only common sense. Islam is meant to make a community prosper as a whole, so a lot of its teachings speak of the ways one can help reach that goal. Islam is against what happened on 9/ 11, for instance, because Islam is against targeting and harming  innocents. — Opinions on anything may change, sure, and like you said, that’s why there are different sects, etc. but anyone who is truly knowledgable about Islam would know that there is only one true sect. Which is the one that believes in God and follows the teachings of his prophet in their lives. There’s a sense of unity by doing that, that no other thing could manage to do for a community, generation after the other, because those teachings are the same. And yes, they are positive teachings, no worries. — “So you’re saying islam promotes questioning while censoring and punishing it with exile…” It’s MY personal opinion that they either should keep it to themselves or leave the place. Not that the country would actually make them leave just because they don’t believe. That’s not what I said. I mean, people — no matter who they are– just want to live life, don’t they? so why someone who is having difficulty understanding their religion should have the right to disturb their peace by questioning their faith in a negative manner while having the opportunity to ask them about said faith in a positive manner that would give- off that sense of respect for what they believe regardless of what that person is thinking about it ( common courtesy, right? ) —–“If simply being offended by someone’s presence is a justification for….” No. It’s not the presence. Only if that person [chose to raise an uproar] because of their lack of understanding for what they chose to believe in.  If said person is minding their own business, living life normally like the rest, then people are obligated to let that person be, even if some people didn’t like it. That’s where the power of religion/Islam comes in: people have to respect others’ rights, regardless of what they might be thinking or feeling. —–And finally, I do understand that it seems like what I say about the Quran is the same as what others have been saying about their bible and set of beliefs.  

Speak yer mind.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s