Top 33 questions they get over at Talkatheist.org

Reddit user bmgoau has made a post on the “r/atheism subreddit” about Talkatheist.org, which is an atheist chat service started by a group of redditors inspired by Mormon chat. You can go there and, well, chat with an atheist.

Bmgoau went through their chat logs and compiled a list of the top 30 [33 actually] questions they get asked. It’s pretty interesting.`

It’s been three months since a group of redditors, namely dnroyston, decided to start an atheist chat service inspired by the infamous mormon chat. I thought it might be good to give people an idea of what kind of questions and topics we’ve been dealing with, so I went through some of our logs and noted the most common questions. So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Where can I find and meet other atheists? (Usually asked by people surrounded by religious family and friends)
  2. How can I, or should I, tell my parents or loved ones about my atheism?
  3. I told my friends/family about my atheism and now they hate me and have threatened to abandon me. My friends tell me I’m going to hell. What can I do?
  4. Why are atheists so antagonistic/militant? Atheists are just as bad as the religious fanatics. Why can’t atheists just leave people’s beliefs alone?
  5. If I was an atheist I would do whatever I want. How can atheists know the difference between right and wrong? Why shouldn’t I steal and kill and rape people if I want to?
  6. If we have no soul, and our choices are just chemical reactions in our brain, how can anyone be held responsible for what they do? Are we just robots? Automatons?
  7. My spouse is forcing my children into religion, what can I do?
  8. How can you be an atheist? How can you know god isn’t real? Why not be an agnostic? (Also lots of confusion over Dawkin’s scale and weak/strong)
  9. What evidence is there for atheism? What evidence is there against the existence of god? Why doesn’t god exist?
  10. What do you think of argument X by Thomas Aquinas? Irenaeus? Augustine? Lewis? Luther? Calvin? Montgomery? Schaeffer? Clark? Til? Craig? (This is usually followed by a wall-of-text)
  11. Can you explain a particular cosmology/biology/chemistry concept to me?
  12. How did we get here? Where is the evidence for human evolution / evolution in general?

    Lots of misinformation and confusion about the big bang, abiogenesis and evolution. Guests will often take the tact [sic] that god exists if we can’t explain something yet or they don’t immediately grasp a particular concept.

  13. Anything I assert as being metaphysical is true. How can atheists refute [incredibly vague and unnecessarily complex metaphysical idea]?
  14. Please define truth/existence/knowledge/reality/identity etc.
  15. Materialists/Evidentialists/Science cannot recognise supernatural phenomena. Why isn’t my personal anecdote/experience enough? Why are you so close minded?
  16. How do you refute the Ontological Argument, Aquinas’ Five Proofs or this other popular apologetic argument?
  17. Do you think religious people are dumb/stupid? Smart person X was religious, why aren’t you?
  18. Why not be religious just in case? (basically Pascal’s Wager)
  19. I just became an atheist or am on the verge of atheism and am afraid of death. Please help me.
  20. How can your life have any purpose if you are an atheist? Atheism is nihilistic. Why don’t you just kill yourself?
  21. Why do you set the bar for evidence of god so high? What would convince you god exists?
  22. Don’t you think X part of the Bible is worth following? How can you ignore the Bible’s message?
  23. Do you believe in free will? What is free will?
  24. Can you help me in a debate with someone? What are some good resources/videos?
  25. What evidence can I show or what thing can I say to make my friend / family member an atheist?
  26. Atheism leads to killing/Nazism/Communism. Stalin/Hitler were atheists. (This isn’t really a question, but i felt it was worth throwing in.)
  27. I love/like someone, should I pretend to be religious to stay/be with them?
  28. Do atheists believe anything is unexplainable, or is all of existence able to be studied? Is theism/metaphysics correct if science can’t explain something?
  29. How do you deal with not having absolute knowledge? How do you deal with the problem of induction? How can you know anything at all? How can you judge what is real or true?
  30. We would still have war if we didn’t have religion! How can atheists say religion causes war/human suffering?
  31. Do you think we should get rid of religion? Are you an anti-theist?
  32. How does an atheist explain what appears to be a genuine, personal, spiritual experience? Is everything i felt/heard/saw just my brain? Why do I still feel spiritual sometimes even after become an atheist?
  33. I recently became atheist or am in the process of deconverting. What is the purpose of life? Why should I live? Can atheism give me a purpose?

If you want to help us out please spread the word of our existence. Unfortunately we’re in a bit of a holding pattern right now (for various reasons unrelated to the site) so we can’t accept any more volunteers. You can also join our public IRC channel #talkatheist on irc.freenode.net or use this web client. You’ll have some great discussions with many fellow redditors.

And in the comments, bmgaou added:

Overall, most of our visitors have been very polite and discussions have been wide ranging but a common thread that seems to run among many theists and metaphysicists, and sometimes even atheists, is a wishful thinking for a god or soul. Things like the Cosmological Argument, Argument from morality, etc simply seem to be the tail end of a belief structure; a way for people to convince themselves. Most of the people that I have talked to are afflicted with those key fears and questions: What will happen after I die? Why do bad things happen? What is the purpose of it all? Many seem to know that atheism is correct, they just don’t want to accept the implications of an ultimately indifferent universe, that is, they’ll have to answer those key questions for themselves.

Some other notes:

Many theists expect atheists to be experts in all human endeavour, including philosophy, the sciences and all the innumerable religions. If atheists cannot provide a perfectly worded answer, or dare to admit ignorance… atheism is wrong and god exists.

Religion doesn’t just seem to cause the problems we see on a broad scale: namely conflict, violence, sectarianism, tribalism, irrational political positions and poor government policy. Religion has a not-so-outwardly visible effect on theists and atheists alike that one only really discovers after much personal conversation with both parties. I can only describe it as ‘spirit crushing’, for lack of a better word. It causes amazing amounts of guilt and heartache and isolation entirely artificially. It also actively prevents people from making reasonable decisions about their life and their loved ones; it can literally tear families apart.

No one I have talked to is stupid or silly, not even the Young Earth Creationists. They’re simply looking to make sense of it all, like the rest of us, and have stumbled across the wrong answer. They can, however, be aggressive and all those other things humans can be.

~ by scaryreasoner on May 27, 2011.

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