A Set of Four

Questions from Hector, in separate emails:
1. Are we just lucky?
Do u believe it was just kind of a fluke thing that the universe, which you believe has always existed, was one that just happened to be such that it would someday become the life existing highly organized one that it is today? Or do you think even the deadest and dumbest of universes would always somehow just eventually end up turning into the live and highly organized one that we have today?

2. Do you give anything higher priority than your self interests? And why?
Is anything more important to you, that is of higher priority to you, than your self interests? If yes, what would that be and why?
And please please, respectfully I ask you to not dodge this question by asking me questions instead or answering the question for nonatheists. They can answer for themselves, thank you. I’m asking strickly about YOU, nobody else. Thank you.

3. Is unselfish love from other(s) something humans feel a need to have?
Can you conceive of being satisfied as a human if you believed that unselfish love from other(s) did not exist and that the best any of us could hope for was for others to treat us kindly only on the condition that we could give them something of value to them? In other words, do you feel unselfish love from other(s) is something humans do long for in order to be completely satisfied?

4.Atheist consensus view of who Jesus was?
Can you tell what is the shared view of most atheists about who they believe Jesus was and who they believe all those closely connected to him (his mother and father and apostles) were? And a second question, do most atheists give serious consideration to the historical question I just asked, I mean just from a historical perspective even if nothing more than that. I’m sure most atheists (assuming they are not historically ignorant) know that historians are in pretty unanimous agreement that he existed, was baptised by John the Baptist and that he was crucified. So assuming that level of education from atheists, I am curious to the concensus views to the above two questions asked. Maybe the consensus view is to just not even ever give any real consideration to those historical questions, I don’t know. You can tell me. Thank you very much.

Answers by SmartLX:
1. It’s a big universe, with a lot of varied chemistry. If life can emerge in one particular way here on Earth from the interaction of chemicals, there are probably many other ways it could emerge on other planets – and indeed in different universes. We don’t know why the properties of the universe are the way they are, but they’re hardly “fine-tuned for life” if life only develops on one precarious world in several light years, and the rest of the universe is empty. As Martin Rees says in Just Six Numbers, the fundamental constants could have been somewhat different and still allowed life anyway. All up, I’d say there was plenty of opportunity, so it’s remarkable that we’re here but not a complete statistical impossibility.

2. The problem with this question is that anything I’m interested in, even if it’s not directly for my benefit, is necessarily a “self-interest” of a sort. It’s always about what I want, even if what I want is for children in Africa not to starve or something like that. Still, this kind of altruistic desire is seen as a positive thing, so I suppose it counts in terms of your question. Here are a few simple examples of why my answer is “yes”:
– I value the safety, health and happiness of my wife far above my own. I love her, so it all comes with the territory.
– I devote time to this site which I could spend doing other things, perhaps making money or pursuing other selfish goals, because I think atheists need there to be more available resources about atheists, more than I think I should have more nice clothes. All the horror stories of prejudice are readily available online.
– I’ve regularly donated blood, which tends to sap one’s energy and at the very least takes a long time to do. Even a stranger’s health is more important to me than whatever I probably would have gone and done that day.

3. I don’t know whether we could get by and be happy solely on the social contract that drives us to behave well towards each other. Fortunately we don’t have to, because unselfish acts of love happen every day. People care about people, for the most part, whether you think this is a God-given property or it’s something which evolved in the social groups of our mammalian ancestors. Love actually is all around.

4. Atheists do generally think Jesus existed, or some itinerant Jewish preacher (or even several) the details of whose life and teachings were used to create the story of Jesus. In fact, atheists who argue that Jesus didn’t exist are often challenged by other atheists, and called “Jesus mythicists” or “Jesus mythers”. Atheists are usually quite comfortable with the existence of a real Jesus, because it doesn’t help the case for any of the supernatural claims about him.

One thought on “A Set of Four”

  1. I’d like to comment a bit on two of your questions Hector …

    2) Do you give anything higher priority than your self interests? And why?
    My self interests probably receive my highest priority, true. And that is because I think that my well being depends on me trying to make sure that my interests (as long as they are reasonable) are satisfied.
    Often-times my self interest (which I follow to ensure my well-being) lies in making sure that the interests of others are met as well (so that they do not come after me later with blow-torches and pick-axes, real or metaphorical). My self interest thus makes me think a lot (and I am not kidding here) about others’ interest as well as about the broader interest of humans as a collective.

    Where there are clear cross-purposes between others’ legitimate self interests and my own I try and seek an alignment.
    Where either my interests or those of others are illegitimate (in a local legal or universal moral sense), conflict is inevitable. I try and not harbor illegit interests and I try to persuade others to not harbor them.
    In the broader interest of us all, illegitimate interests do not lead to overall well being, though they may lead to patches of individual well being (and probably a frazzled state of mind in the individual seeking and accomplishing his/ her illegit interests).

    I do not for a second believe that the interest of the human collective lies in believing in things without evidence in any field (religion, science, politics, economics, etc) even if those beliefs mellow down our slightly belligerent and often selfish natures. That mellowing down is an illusion. Poor beliefs lead to delusions and actions springing from delusions tend to be wasteful and destructive for the human collective at large.
    The problem is that though most fields have their sets of crazy dogmas and blind beliefs, religion tends to have the maximum number.

    3. Is unselfish love from other(s) something humans feel a need to have?
    I talked about this with someone else I know (who is religious) and we both agreed that unselfish love is a want to have, not a need to have. We can both live without unselfish love (though as smartlx points out, living only on the social contract between individuals that drives them to be nice to each other can lead to a dreary existence). What we both cannot bear is foolish love – the kind where you do anything for the persons you love without thinking whether what they are asking you to do is in their best interests or not.
    We all expect unselfish love from our spouses, from our siblings, from our kids perhaps. And the religious tend to think that god’s love is unselfish and that if we believe in god our love toward humanity becomes unselfish.
    I personally think that no love should be unselfish i.e. all love should be tempered by sound reason that safeguards the broad interests (and though that, the broad well-being) of the one loved and the one giving the doting …

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