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Why does atheism not provide any answers to the bigger questions?

Religion gives answers to why we are here on earth and what we can expect after our death.

Posted: June 6th 2007

SmartLX www

Atheism doesn’t give answers because atheists don’t know. I accept that and keep wondering.

Religions don’t know the answers either, but that doesn’t stop them from giving arbitrary answers and daring us to argue.

I’d rather have no answers than know that the answers I espoused were poorly supported and effectively indefensible. That’s part of why I became an agnostic en route to atheism.

Posted: November 18th 2007

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George Locke

Why are we here? What happens after we die? What is the meaning of my life and of life in general?

These are some big questions, and worthwhile. I spend some time thinking on these matters, personally. In the end, you have to decide what you think the answers are. You can choose to believe what the various world religions tell you, or you can form your own conclusions.

I mean to emphasize that if you believe exactly the answers in the Bible, it’s your choice to do so. The Bible, as we all know, contains many passages which seem to contradict each other, and Christians, both priests and parishioners, have to synthesize the elements that the Bible provides in order to arrive at their own answers to the big questions.

Atheists will all provide different answers to the big questions. Usually they focus on the independence you have to determine for yourself the meaning of your own life, but that’s just a generalization.

One important reason why atheism doesn’t provide answers is that atheism as such is not really a system of beliefs and isn’t intended to answer any questions except about whether or not God exists. Atheism is simply the belief (hopefully based on evidence, not faith) that God does not exist. There are atheist belief structures, such as Marxism or nihilism, but for a variety of reasons atheists try not to identify with the various received world-views of the world, preferring to research whatever issue seems pressing to them and deciding what to think based on that.

As far as my own answers to these questions, I might as well let you know a little bit about what i think, while I’m at it.

What happens after we die? I am personally highly skeptical of any and all answers to this question besides “I don’t know”. There is no way of getting evidence of life after death, simply because we haven’t had any witnesses. I don’t consider near-death experiences to be valid evidence. During those experiences there is usually some amount of brain activity, whereas there is no brain activity in a dead body.

Why are we here, what is the meaning of life? The meaning of life is other people, essentially. You may die but life goes on. The meaning of your life is your contribution to the world around you. This needn’t be on the grand scale. The ways you affect the people in your life, your family, coworkers, etc., is your lasting legacy.

Posted: June 18th 2007

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bitbutter www

Religion certainly gives answers where science is silent. This is because unlike science, religion isn’t 'limited’ to only assuming the validity of models of the world once they are strongly supported by evidence.

It’s important to notice that some of the questions that science cannot answer are the wrong questions. For instance why are we here?

The question isn’t wrong in the sense that it’s impolite to ask because science can’t answer it. The question is wrong because it makes some assumptions that aren’t warranted.

'Why’ is generally only an appropriate opening to a question if an agent (a person or thing that acts or has the power to act) is assumed to be responsible for the situation: why did Jack leave his bike there?

'Why’ questions presuppose an agent unless they are actually 'how’, or 'how come’ questions in disguise. An example would be why is the sky blue? This question actually gets answered as though it had been how come the sky is blue?

Science is silent about the god-assuming question: why are we here? But if we instead ask how did we come to be here? then science fills libraries with its answer which becomes increasingly detailed and accurate for each generation that asks it.

Posted: June 7th 2007

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RTambree

Some of the big questions may not have answers. The question “what is the meaning of life” presupposes that there is a meaning to be discovered.

If one rewords this question to “what is the meaning of an ant or a cloud”, the meaningless of the question quickly becomes apparent. Humans are part of Earth’s biosphere – just one more species, just one more collection of atoms, governed by chemistry which in turn is governed by electrical charge.

Other big questions such as “why is there something rather than nothing” presupposes that something needs more explanation than nothing. There is also the angle that if there was nothing, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question.

Where did the universe come from? Despite the best efforts of scientists, we may never know the answer to this question. It may be forever a mystery, and unfortunately we may have to resign ourselves to the possibility of not knowing. Or we may discover our universe is just one “Hubble Bubble” within a wider multiverse that is infinite in time and place, which to many, is more aesthetically pleasing and makes more sense than a universe that sprang into existence from nothing.

Atheism doesn’t pretend to know, or to presuppose the answer to any of these questions. It merely denies the existence of supernatural deities for which there is no evidence.

Posted: June 7th 2007

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