Why do atheists care?

A few questions from Bethany,

Name: Bethany
Message: Hey guys,

So I believe in the God of the bible. I believe the bible. I believe that God came to earth in to form of a man (Jesus). I guess my question is not about science or even God, it’s more about you (an atheist)… Why would an individual who doesn’t believe in divinities of any sort, spend their life trying to prove that they are not real? An atheists ‘status’ is that they believe in nothing (correct me if I’m wrong in saying that), so why do they make such a big deal of proving that something they don’t believe in isn’t real? If it makes a person happy, or gives them comfort, then why do atheists strive to take that away from them. If we only have one life (as you claim), this life that we have on earth, then why are atheists so willing to take away something that gives people joy? I don’t mean to sound ignorant and I do apologise if I am coming across that way in any shape or form, but I guess I’m just trying to see your side of the story. What are your intentions/motives in being so persistent with trying to prove that something is not real? Especially if it’s just wasting your time that you have on this earth. I mean, YOLO right!? If I were an atheist and didn’t believe in the doctrines of Gods grace, I would send every moment of my life doing crazy things. Experiencing everything and going crazy! Anyways, I’m sure you get the gist of the question. Thanks. :)))))

 

Why do atheists talk about gods so much? Because people vote, and make decisions daily based upon their faith. Scientific progress is slowed down, peoples rights are denied, etc. For example if a person of faith doesn’t understand that global warming is a real thing and instead believes that Jesus is coming in their life time, they are less likely to vote for laws that would reduce deadly emissions. It’s also because some atheists believe, myself included, that religion and god belief do psychological damage. When your faith tells you that you are dirty, a sinner, not worthy, lacking of inner strength just because you were born into humanity, well that’s a horrible message, one which no good parent would ever tell their children, yet many parents do every week when they take their kids to church. To most atheists, god belief is like having to wear glasses that are always fogged over. Unless you wipe them, you’ll never see things clearly. It’s my personal goal to help others, in an honest and sincere way, to do just that.

As for doing what makes you feel good, well heroin makes you feel REAL GOOD. So why try to stop people from becoming heroin addicts if it makes them feel good? Feeling good isn’t a good reason to do a bad thing. It not only affects our lives but the lives of those who care about us as well. If this life is the only one that we have left then the way we live is the true measure of that life.

There’s a reason smart people don’t just go crazy and do what they want. It’s called consequences. Our actions have effects on the people around us, sometimes on those that we don’t even know. Why don’t I do just anything that I want? Because I’m an empathetic person with a sense of morality and ethics. I don’t want to hurt others and I don’t want them to hurt me in return. It’s really as simple as that. No god needed.

I invite you to explore this website more deeply and learn why atheists have morals, why we believe in personal responsibility, and why we don’t believe in your god. If you have any further questions, feel free to put them in the comment section below.

 

22 thoughts on “Why do atheists care?”

  1. Hi Bethany,
    I don’t think it’s fully appreciated by theists of many persuasions how much some people live in abject fear of, or whose lives are severely constrained by aspects of theistic thought. I could give you plenty of examples from history such as the church support of slavery in the US and organisations like the Ku Klux Klan etc, but in modern times there are examples like 9/11 (and the bombings in London & Madrid), the judicial and extra-judicial killing of gay people in countries like Uganda and Iran, the burnings of schoolchildren in Nigeria, the general opposition to basic human rights such as the right to marry the person you love, the right of women to have control over the biological functioning of own bodies (which is never denied to men), prohibitions on certain types of medical research etc. These sorts of actions are explicitly done in the service of god, they have no rational basis whatsoever. But I was particularly interested in your comment:
    “If I were an atheist and didn’t believe in the doctrines of Gods grace, I would spend every moment of my life doing crazy things. Experiencing everything and going crazy!”
    I’m always bemused by this type of thinking because it’s demonstrably not how atheists, in the main, behave. For example, studies demonstrate a strong correlation between atheism and higher levels of educational attainment, for example (and vice versa). Over 90% of members of the Academies of Sciences in most western countries are atheist – you just don’t get to achieve that sort of status by acting crazy. Another example would be the monastic tradition in Buddhism; they devote their lives to austerity, simplicity, and self-discipline, yet they are atheist too. Not so much craziness there either! Atheism is simply a lack of belief in a deity. It implies nothing else as far as behaviour goes, so atheists tend to be a varied bunch of people, just like Christians (compare, say, the attitude of a guy from Duck Dynasty with a typical Universal Unitarian).

    1. A timely example of why atheists care:

      March 18th 2014: Republican Susanne Atanus has just won her primary for a seat in the US House of Representatives. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions.

      OK, she’s an obvious crackpot and not all theists would agree with her. But imagine the dire consequences for every single one of us if all politicians thought like that…….

      1. Another timely reminder of why atheists care:

        March 19th 2014 is the 14th anniversary of the massacre committed by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. 530 people burned to death after being locked in a church which was then set alight by the church leaders. 258 others died after being stabbed or poisoned.

        All done to make god happy.

        1. Who cares? If an atheist, these people do not matter, nor do the church leaders. There is simply no point to do anything or not to do anything. Any feelings you have for those burned are meaningless, as are those people’s feelings. Human life carries no value if an atheist, so this is not a valid, reasonable reason to care.

  2. Gary – I have to make one comment back to you, which is that women should have control over their biological functioning of their own bodies. An unborn human, however, is not the woman’s body. It is a distinct, genetically unique human life that happens to be inside the woman’s body. It’s not convenient for some humans that mammalian life begins that way, but that is no reason to give one person complete and total control over the destiny of another.

    1. Tim, I can certainly appreciate where you’re coming from – though I’m unsure whether you’re arguing from a primarily metaphysical or scientific stance – I assume the latter. Here’s my thoughts on the matter.

      I don’t know if you’ve ever seen, in real life, a first trimester aborted foetus. I have. Without the magnification and blatant photoshopping usually used in the anti-choice literature, it looks like a very small amount of bloody material and a lot of mucous. I remember thinking that those who would claim that the nurse holding the petri dish (with her hopes, ideals, ambitions, love, creativity, intelligence, charm, humour, skill, kindness, sadness, etc) is equivalent to the contents of the petri dish is deeply disturbing. I cannot imagine a more thorough devaluation of humanity.

      It’s a common misconception (excuse the pun) that the product of human conception contains the same amount of genetic information as an adult. This is the whole point of doing stem cell research – blastocysts (70-100 cells) are not differentiated, they are pluripotent, they actually contain very limited genetic information. What they do is launch a genetic developmental program that both extracts and acquires information from the environment. So we do not start out as genetically human beings. We become human beings by accumulating information that was not there before. A blastocyst is no more a person than a recipe for a cake is a cake. And the baking frequently goes awry. The union of a sperm and an egg has traditionally been a necessary condition for the development of “a distinct, genetically unique human life” but it’s certainly not a sufficient condition. A conception can result in several entities forming that we would not identify as human at all, despite them having the same genetic material we find in humans, such as a hydatiform mole (random number of chromosomes), a choriocarcinoma (a particularly malignant tumour), a blighted ovum (46 chromosomes and no embryonic plate) etc., OR a viable blastocyst. Viable blastocysts only occur in around 50% of cases (depending on a large number of factors not yet fully understood; it’s a fact that spontaneous abortions occur at a far higher rate than medical abortions anywhere in the world). If we consider an undifferentiated or semi-differentiated clump of cells devoid of a neural system (and so devoid of anything remotely like a mind – which is surely what differentiates us from other species), as “a distinct, genetically unique human life” deserving of special moral consideration, what moral basis do we have to treat a pregnant woman carrying a choriocarcinoma? To do so we must kill a cancerous embryo. Yet, surely it’s no different than a sick child already born, and we don’t deliberately kill sick children who have already been born, do we? Using your criteria for being human, the moral approach would be not to intervene and to allow both the mother and the embryo to die (I’ve actually had supposedly ‘pro-life’ Christians say this to me). Furthermore, it’s probably within our knowledge and technology to create “a distinct, genetically unique human life” from a toenail clipping or hemorrhoid (and will certainly be possible in the future). We could create thousands of human lives from a single hair follicle. In years to come, are we going to have to consider any sloughed off body cell as a potential human being? So there’s nothing particularly special about egg-sperm conception in this regard (other than emotionally, I should say). Furthermore, using your definition of human, would you keep a person alive indefinitely who exhibits no observable brain function? Why not? They would also meet the criteria of “a distinct, genetically unique human life” which, like a first trimester fetus, feels no pain and has no thoughts. Indeed, you could argue that a brain dead post-pubertal male, kept on a life support, has even more moral right to be considered human life than an embryo, as it is possible to harvest their sperm so as to successfully father a child.

      So I consider that the rights of the nurse trump those of the goo in the petri dish. To consider otherwise is to view each adult woman’s womb as not being a legitimate part of her body but an incubator, a life support system akin to forced rental space for the human species and/or god. There is no equivalent part of the male body with which society demands a right to control; we would not compel, for example, males to donate a kidney, or even donate their blood, regardless of the moral virtue we might espouse in saving and nurturing the lives of others.

  3. Gary – thanks for the response. You are correct that I am commenting from a scientific point of view.

    A zygote, defined as the initial cell that is created from the joining of sexual cells (egg and sperm), contains 46 unique chromosomes with all the genetic information necessary for that human life to exist. That is a complete set of DNA. Stem cells can become many different things, but regardless of what they become they ALL carry those 46 chromosomes. I’m not sure where you got your information from, but it is incorrect to suggest that a complete set of DNA is not present from conception onward…

    I have seen pictures of various stages of human development (medical ones too, not the doctored nonsense that some pro-life groups put out). A first stage fetus doesn’t resemble much of anything. I fail to see how that should matter. Because it doesn’t look human, it’s not human? I’m not sure one could hold a more arbitrary standard than that for defining humanity. Ask a descendant of a slave how accurate looks are when deciding who deserves what. I’ve read many posts by you at this site Gary, and you are better than that.

    You go on to list a lot of different scenarios, all of them examples of naturally occurring failures in the biological process. None of them will produce viable pregnancies. You go on to talk about miscarriages, and I happen to know that 1 in 4 woman will experience at least one in their lifetime based on literature that I have read. Again, more evidence that naturally occurring failures are common in the reproductive process. I fail to see, however, what this has to do with defining the start of human life. This part of your post doesn’t address the statement I made.

    You continue with other examples, none of which really address my point either. My point, which I fear I may not have made clear and will try to do so now, is simply that human life starts at conception. There is no other clear cut, definable moment as that. Humans ARE their DNA, and that unique DNA begins at birth and ends at death.

    A sick child or a brain-dead person is still human and still has rights. Can they be killed because they are not wanted? Of course not. But the unborn can. Despite being a unique human being, they are not afforded the same rights as everyone else.

    A woman’s womb is specifically designed for human life to begin and grow there until such time as it can better survive outside her body. This is how mammals evolved. Her body is not forced to rent this space, it has specifically evolved this way. Mammals found an evolutionary advantage to protecting their offspring in utero instead of laying eggs as their ancestors did. (The fact that males don’t have something similar in their body has no bearing on these facts either). Human life starts inside the body of the mother, at conception, when a unique set of DNA is formed. I see no other scientific conclusion that makes more sense than that…

    1. Hi Tim

      I somehow missed your reply so I apologise if you think I ignored you. I have a few points in response, mainly centred around my view that you are simplifying the whole issue:

      ” it is incorrect to suggest that a complete set of DNA is not present from conception onward…”

      I didn’t say that. I said:

      “It’s a common misconception (excuse the pun) that the product of human conception [blastocyst or zygote] contains the same amount of genetic information as an adult.”

      You are (unwittingly, I’m sure) assuming the same as a creationist; that information cannot be added to a genome. Yet the mere presence of a complete set of DNA does not solely determine the characteristics of the human being that is eventually born. Both deterministic and probabilistic epigenesis resulting from environmental variables alters an individuals genome and affects development (physically and psychologically) and so the resulting unique human that is born, grows and may live to old age is, in sometimes very important ways, a genetically different one to the “distinct, genetically unique human life” that is a zygote. And what of a zygote that fuses with another zygote? Using your genetic definition of ‘human’, aren’t they somehow doubly a genetically unique human life? Human chimeras can possess two distinct genomes and can even appear genetically unrelated to their own children.

      “My point, which I fear I may not have made clear and will try to do so now, is simply that human life starts at conception. There is no other clear cut, definable moment as that.”

      Life does start at conception, but how does it follow that human-ness starts at conception? It only follows if you’re prepared to discount all the attributes that make us identifiably human and so differentiate us so markedly from other species. Science has also demonstrated that conception is a sufficient but not a necessary event to start life. It’s certainly only a matter of time before your definition of the start of human life becomes obsolete. If you insist on holding onto it, would people whose life did not start at conception be human? No, according to your definition. I can easily imagine an extremist Christian or Muslim arguing that, but surely not someone basing their outlook on humanist values.

      “Because it doesn’t look human, it’s not human? I’m not sure one could hold a more arbitrary standard than that for defining humanity.”

      You’ve missing my point entirely. I suspect deliberately. I said:

      “I remember thinking that those who would claim that the nurse holding the petri dish (with her hopes, ideals, ambitions, love, creativity, intelligence, charm, humour, skill, kindness, sadness, etc) is equivalent to the contents of the petri dish is deeply disturbing. I cannot imagine a more thorough devaluation of humanity.”

      I don’t know how you conclude from this that I judge human-ness by mere appearance. Quite the opposite I would have thought. You seem to be one judging human-ness by appearance – albeit microscopically; they both share a genome so they are equivalent.

      “Her body is not forced to rent this space, it has specifically evolved this way.”

      Ought from is; naturalistic fallacy. Because she has a womb she ought to use it for the purpose it evolved. Following conception, if she decides against that she’s somehow contradicting her evolutionary lineage. But what’s the problem? Who is she offending? The natural world?

      I do get what you’re saying Tim and I do have sympathy with your view that human life starts at conception (I have to; nearly all sexually reproducing species start life at conception), what I don’t follow is why you would then conclude, from a supposedly secular viewpoint, that aborting a neurologically undeveloped, semi-differentiated clump of cells is somehow ‘wrong’, seemingly on the basis that it simply shares a genome with neurologically fully developed organisms. Like I said, it seems to represent a thorough devaluation of everything that makes us identifiably and subjectively human.

  4. Why do i believe in Jesus?
    If a man said that I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.
    So why do i believe in this word? I can say that like Jesus said

    1. Kevin, read your post, will you, and tell me how it makes sense to anyone?
      And feel free to answer your own question, because I sure don’t know why.

  5. Personally, I’ve been coming to a point where I’ve stopped bothering to ask people to not believe in religion or whatever mumbo-jumbo it is that they want to believe in. I consider it to be a point of personal apathy – it’s not my highest point of productivity … and hopefully it’s just a passing phase.

    I’d really like for people to find joy in the real and flawed instead of in the imagined and perfect. There is much more fun and wonder in the real than there can ever be in the imagined (badly imagined at that too … if one goes by what religious texts say about god(s) ).
    Anyhow, that’s just me.

  6. But if my faith does not tell me that I’m ‘dirty, and a sinner’, and that no human has the wisdom to judge another, then what?

  7. What a load of ****.

    Atheism is a blight. Atheists dont mind the current system of morality in place do they? Where do you think it came from? Had we not had religion, tell me, would we still have a system of justice and order. Atheists will say yes, but tell me this, where is the “atheist justice system?” Exactly, there isn’t one and never will be.

    Ridiculous.

    1. I’m curious, Jamie, if you even noticed that you had to use the phrase “current system of morality”. That would suggest (and is certainly true) that there were other previous systems of morality. Certainly the existence of many moral systems over the millennia shows that morals are just a subjective standard. Nothing but a human concept defined by the society or culture doing the defining. Even in your crass post you have to unconsciously admit that moral standards are fluid and changing things, and ultimately human in origin…

  8. None of these answer the question. There is no reason to care about anyone. All your feelings of ethics and empathy are just pointless chemical reactions in the brain, so they may be ignored. There is no point in trying to convince others. Achievement, both personal, national, and for a civilization are fundamentally pointless with no God. There is no meaning in life without a finality of some sort or another. Pleasure is likewise utterly meaningless and pointless, so this is not a purpose for living. If one is an atheist, one may just as well commit genocide as help someone in need, because everyone’s feelings are meaningless chemical reactions and can be ignored. People’s lives carry no value, including your own. Anything you do as an atheist is logically pointless. Every goal carries no meaning whatsoever, meaning there is no difference between accomplishment and suicide. If one is an atheist, there cannot be logically founded goals.

    1. When those chemical reactions constitute the entirety of human experience, Dan, they become pretty important to us. “To us” is the important part there; if there is no God then there are no events which mean anything to God, but they mean plenty to us. Other people’s feelings are just as important as our own, because whatever they are on a chemical level is exactly the same as ours, and we know what it’s like to feel bad so we feel the urge to save others from that. The question of whether it means anything is irrelevant, because we feel it and act on it anyway. Empathy happens, whether it matters or not.

    2. Dan, you claim “If one is an atheist, there cannot be logically founded goals.” In other words:

      P1: If no God exists, then no logically founded goals will be observed
      P2: God exists
      C: Therefore: logically founded goals will be observed

      Or it’s reverse:

      P1: If God exists, then logically founded goals will be observed
      P2: God does not exist
      C: Therefore: logically founded goals will not be observed

      So, your claim is that God is the causal factor for the observed effect of logically founded goals. To appreciate where your reasoning has gone awry consider the following logical arguments in which alcohol is considered the causal factor for the observed effect of drunkenness:

      P1: If no alcohol is available at the party, then drunkenness will not be observed
      P2: Alcohol is available at the party
      C: Therefore: drunkenness will be observed

      Or it’s reverse:

      P1: If alcohol is available at the party, drunkenness will be observed
      P2: Alcohol is not available at the party
      C: Therefore: Drunkenness will not be observed

      Dan, compare the two examples of logical reasoning. Can you now see the problem with the inherent structure of your argument? Your assertions are also morally suspect in ways you might not fully appreciate:

      “Achievement, both personal, national, and for a civilization are fundamentally pointless with no God.”

      That very same point is consistently made by ISIS/Daesh in their Jihadist theology.

      “There is no meaning in life without a finality of some sort or another.”

      A particularly strong motivation for ISIS/Daesh Jihadist theology. Indeed, that’s exactly what they are moving toward – their purpose is the finality as prescribed (and apparently described) by God.

      So, if your own supernatural reasoning regarding the meaning of life doesn’t guarantee empathy or an appreciation of the value of human life any more than “pointless” chemical reactions (which we know to exist), then what is the point of continuing with that reasoning? It appears to just as effectively underlay the actions of both ‘saints’ and ‘sinners’. Therefore, your reasoning is neither morally superior nor even a “logically founded goal”.

    3. Dan writes: “None of these answer the question. There is no reason to care about anyone. All your feelings of ethics and empathy are just pointless chemical reactions in the brain, so they may be ignored.”

      Except, obviously, people don’t ignore the chemical reactions in their brain, do they Dan? They act on them, all the time. Did you feel a little angry or perturbed when you wrote your response above? Then why didn’t you ignore those chemical reactions in your brain? Must not be so easy to do, eh…

      “There is no point in trying to convince others.”

      I beg to disagree. I know plenty of people, myself included, who came to the realization of what makes rational sense and what makes no sense in part because of websites such as this one. Something as logical as atheism should be shared with the world.

      “Achievement, both personal, national, and for a civilization are fundamentally pointless with no God. There is no meaning in life without a finality of some sort or another.”

      There are two ways to respond to this:
      1) They are pointless with a god too. The god creature (especially the Christian Bible one) is a jealous being who wants all the attention for itself. So mankind’s achievements mean nothing to it. Doesn’t your holy book say faith and not actions are what get you into heaven? So achievements don’t matter even if you are religious.
      2) It doesn’t take a god being to achieve something meaningful. Work that progresses the human species and human civilization is not pointless. Medical breakthroughs aren’t pointless. Increased knowledge about the universe around us causes awe and wonder in a substantial percentage of the population, including believers. Meaning is a human application. It only means something if we think it does, and we don’t need supernatural critters for that…

      ” Pleasure is likewise utterly meaningless and pointless, so this is not a purpose for living.”

      Right, you’d live a pleasureless life if their wasn’t a god. Quit fooling yourself. Pleasure varies for each individual, and if it was meaningless and pointless then no one would be doing the stuff they like to do…

      ” If one is an atheist, one may just as well commit genocide as help someone in need, because everyone’s feelings are meaningless chemical reactions and can be ignored.”

      This is just a rehash of your earlier comments that I already addressed. I’ll add that since humans have the ability to empathize, feelings are not meaningless because we all have them and understand what they are, and how it feels to have them.

      “People’s lives carry no value, including your own.”

      I am an agnostic atheist, and my life has value, as does other peoples. I can better appreciate the value of my life and my rights because I know that they aren’t guaranteed, and it’s not going to get better when I die. This is all each of us have, so if I want my rights and my life valued then I have to make sure all lives are valued and have rights. Tell me, Danny boy, are you against gay marriage?

      “Anything you do as an atheist is logically pointless. Every goal carries no meaning whatsoever, meaning there is no difference between accomplishment and suicide. If one is an atheist, there cannot be logically founded goals.”

      How trite…

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