Are there questions atheism can’t answer?


Rebecca thinks there is. Before we get to discussing her posts, I don’t make a pretext to have any answers to any questions. All I am interested in dialogue and I don’t promise to be nice to everyone, but I will try. It appears to me that to most theists there are only two positions, either one is a theist[ Christian] mainly or atheist. Which world do these people live in? Is it really that hard to educate oneself on the variety of religious beliefs or are people just lazy?

I could be guilty of logical fallacies of whatever manner and I would hope that sometimes you point them out to me. That said, Rebecca’s starts by saying atheism necessitates a belief in evolution. There is no requirement in a science class to believe anything, all one must needs to do is to understand what the theory or law attempts to explain. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an atheist who didn’t understand evolution, this is expected. There is no requirement that atheists be a certain class of people. They appear in every segment of society and that explains why some of them are in the army.

That the religious person believes man is distinct from animals doesn’t make it so. Man dies just as a dog sometimes more painfully, they still must fuck just like dogs to reproduce. If there is any difference, it is in degree but never in kind. The argument that we are better than other animals is like calling a fish stupid because it hasn’t learnt to ride a bicycle.

The Christian has been made to believe that man is fallen, in need of salvation from a god who could have created him better but failed to do so. She further believes that this god loved him so much to come and die to save her from himself and sees nothing odd with such a vicarious redemption. Asking a christian parent if they would kill themselves to forgive their children of a wrong or kill their only daughter for the transgressions of their neighbour’s daughter are met with blank stares and they think this is fine if it is done by a god. Is the requirement to believe be that one should forego their ability to reason?

And now we get to Rebecca’s big question. She says

where did evil come from? If life has a common descent, if we’re born with no natural bent toward evil, what injected evil into the equation?

To answer this question, we must agree on what evil is. The Catholic Encyclopedia[read it for a longer explanation] defines it as what ought not to exist. Since the definition of evil is broad, it includes limited intelligence for which every Christian seems to suffer from especially with regard to discussions concerning religion. Whence is the source of all this? Since all the things described as evil are those that are inimical to man, they all have their origin in the subjective experience of man. Evil is man’s idea of the world viewed in a certain way. It is not evil when a park of  hyenas chases a pride of lions from their game. It is how life is.

She continues to ask

But society is nothing more than people interacting with one another. So how and why did humans start acting in hateful ways toward people who were different from them? Why did the strong decide to take from the weak instead of using their strength for the greater good?

which before I attempt to answer, I would be interested in knowing the Christian answer to the question. And I hope she doesn’t intend to say that when man ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, evil came to the world. I do hope she has a better answer than that. I don’t know why the strong decided to take from the weak. Our morality is as Nietzsche called a slave morality. A struggle between the noble and the common, the master and the slave. Everything the master does is evil from the eye of the slave. To the master the slave is not fully a person.

As I conclude this piece, as I have said elsewhere, I don’t think it is the task of atheism to account for any question. And as an atheist I can live all my life saying I don’t know and I will be half right all the time. I don’t know of any atheist who blames god for evil as that would include a contradiction. The problem of evil is not a problem for the atheist. It is as anyone with an understanding greater than that of a toddler would know, a problem for theism, especially one who believes in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being who is also personal.

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

52 thoughts on “Are there questions atheism can’t answer?

  1. I agree. Atheism isn’t a philosophy intended to answer ever bizarre question that someone has. Rather I think that atheism is a position that someone comes to after having asked the tough questions.

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  2. themodernidiot says:

    Cats are pretty evil. Just sayin’

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  3. Great post, Mak. Before Christians can ask any question of me for not believing in their particular take on their particular god, they must first show me empirical evidence to support why it is that their god, and their very specific take on him, is the “real” god and all the other religions and gods out their that billions of people believe in are not. I need clear specific points of proof, not friggin’ Bible quotes either, that show me the Christian way is the right way and the Muslim and Hindu ways are not. I want them to defend their position to Muslims and Hindus who do not believe that their god, Jesus, is who they (Christians) claim him to be. If they can successfully do this, I’ll still not believe in their god, but I’ll sure respect them a helluva a lot more than I do now. Now I have no respect for them at all. None. They don’t deserve it.

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  4. I agree. I commented on her post that I think she’s trying to present the “Problem of Evil” in a different way to justify God’s existence. Granted, the “Problem of Evil” is a bad argument – at least to me it is.

    At any rate, it would be nice if Christians could just admit that atheism doesn’t require extra beliefs. They’d have lower blood pressure, and nobody would have to spend time talking about how they are wrong.

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  5. Wow. I’m only on my second cup of coffee, this is very deep (and the cup isn’t). First of all, evolution is no more something that one “believes” in than gravity or the moon. It just is. Also, I had the evidence of evolution presented to me by nuns in a Catholic school. There was no question about young earth, special creation, isolation of species, that was acknowledged to be ancient mythology whose purpose was more to explain that what the neighbors believed in as gods, the writer’s god had created. OK, it’s their myth after all.
    So then, evolution has nothing to do with beliefs in the existence of gods anymore than gravity does.
    The problem of evil is bigger really. First of all, what do you mean by evil? Is death evil? A broken leg? Cancer? Getting mugged on the street? Rape? The excessive gap between the rich and the rest? Countries that prohibit the most basic freedoms and (usually) start wars so that they can do the same to others? You’ve got lots of things on this list that most of us would often call evil. As for the problems of short lives and breaking bodies, that’s just what being part of the earth is. It’s not “evil” in some insidious sense, just damn unpleasant. Nor is it the punishment meted out on humanity for pissing off some god.
    So we are left with all those examples of nasty behavior by one or more humans against others. Well, let’s look at our closest cousins, the other primates. Chimpanzees (at least of the genus Pan) are at least as bad and you can see some of the trends of today’s headlines in regular behavior by them. So, are we “fallen”? No, we’re primates. Are we capable of not being nasty, yes. But it takes work. That is what makes humans a little different. We have the capacity to be nicer than our cousins. Still no gods needed. Are they there? That’s another question entirely. And that’s OK.

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  6. why are humans “evil”? Well, most aren’t too damn bright.

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  7. john zande says:

    Yep, another nonsense conflation of “atheism” to something it is not.

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    • makagutu says:

      Do you have any idea why they keep doing this? I can’t understand it. Then you have theologians who say that we need to answer sophisticated believers when the majority are this ignorant.

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  8. My cat is not evil! I’m not so sure about one of the dogs though. Good post.

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  9. shelldigger says:

    As per the usual great post Mak.

    Comments too.

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  10. Argus says:

    Easily led people tend to think ‘in boxes’.
    But atheism isn’t in a box, is it?
    It’s an old ploy—if you can name your enemy (typecast him, box him, classify the bugger) you are halfway to defeating him.

    But sadly for theists, atheism isn’t strictly an ‘ism’. There’s no ministers, no sacred buildings, no ritual, no doctrine, no tithes, no muttered magic words and machinations with candles, no bosses, no sacred book, no formulae … in short, there ain’t no nuthin’.
    Which of course can be a real headache to someone capable only of sticking to a clearly defined road or track; or of ‘thinking’ only in black and white, and of speaking only his own language in his/her own little comfort-zone world.

    With the truly devout (mindwashed? Your call) of any species I see a two-dimensional Flatlander trying to make sense of a three dimensional world and by denying the existence of that very real third dimension … making a big mistake.

    Sure there are questions atheism cannot answer, such as: to whom was God speaking when He said ‘Let there be light’?

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    • makagutu says:

      Atheism can’t answer many questions, for example why some are poor and others are rich.
      To deal with the devout isn’t an easy task. They create a strawman to fight and then go thumping their chest they have won.

      Liked by 1 person

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