A Sincere Question for Atheists


#1

This issue has been mentioned briefly in other threads, and I personally would be interested in hearing an atheist answer this fundamental question for me:

If God doesn’t exist, who or what created all the matter-energy in the universe? Or, where did all those atoms come from?

I am not looking for flippant or ironic comments. I want a straight answer please. Comments like “It doesn’t matter to me” are not going to cut it either. If you can’t explain something as fundamental as the existence as matter, tell me why you can’t explain it.


#2

[quote=ktm]This issue has been mentioned briefly in other threads, and I personally would be interested in hearing an atheist answer this fundamental question for me:

If God doesn’t exist, who or what created all the matter-energy in the universe? Or, where did all those atoms come from?

I am not looking for flippant or ironic comments. I want a straight answer please. Comments like “It doesn’t matter to me” are not going to cut it either. If you can’t explain something as fundamental as the existence as matter, tell me why you can’t explain it.
[/quote]

It takes far more faith to believe that we are here by the completely random chance combination of chemicals and minerals that somehow came together in the exact order, in the exact ratios, in the exact amounts, under the exact conditions necessary to create the spark of life.

That’s assuming that the “big bang” had just the right amount of energy to create these elements without either collapsing into itself or blowing itself into a mass of gas and miniscule particles, that the elements had the correct target energy level to exist without destroying each other, formed the correct ratio between electromagnetic and gravitational forces to permit the formation of planets and stars, with the correct ratio of electrons to protons (and other particles we have yet to discover) and so on ad infinitum.

And once life is created, we need to assume that the “big bang” also provided just the right amounts and ratios of oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and all the other elements (again in the correct amounts and ratios) to sustain that life.

Yes. It takes a lot of faith to believe that all of that could happen strictly by random chance. I’ve seen computer models and expert theories (even some from anti-theists like Hoyle) that have rendered this chance prediction as anywhere from 1 in 10^62 (a number equivalent to all the atoms present in a trillion earths) to 1 in 10^40,000 (a number many, many times the total number of atoms in the entire universe). Some estimates have concluded that it would take 10^130 attempts just to create a single amino acid. :eek:

I don’t like those odds.

Don’t even get me started on the fossil record… :wink:


#3

Barrister,

Thank you for your reply, but I think you’re preaching to the choir here. :slight_smile:

I find the big bang theory also hard to accept, but I am even willing to look past that if someone can explain to me where the energy for the big bang came from in the absence of a higher power. Unless I am mistaken, neither science nor a belief in no God can explain this. But I want to give atheists a chance to explain this.


#4

[quote=ktm]I am not looking for flippant or ironic comments. I want a straight answer please. Comments like “It doesn’t matter to me” are not going to cut it either. If you can’t explain something as fundamental as the existence as matter, tell me why you can’t explain it.
[/quote]

Guess that leaves me out. Have fun.


#5

[quote=Auberon Quin]Guess that leaves me out. Have fun.
[/quote]

Ditto… :thumbsup:


#6

[quote=ktm]Unless I am mistaken, neither science nor a belief in no God can explain this.
[/quote]

My take is that neither scientific theories nor a belief in god are explanations whose truth value can possibly be established by us. Nor are the two positions necessarily incompatible.

The basic misunderstanding is that theists accept a positive and axiomatic claim - the universe is created. Science, on the other hand, simply states that “at this point, our best guess is X.” Science’s best guess may shake the foundations of certain religious beliefs and human delusions of grandeur and thus hurt some people’s feelings, but the conflict arises from comparing apples to oranges.

All atheists that are not fundamentalist in their own way will respond with a variation of “I really don’t know, but unless you can convince me otherwise I’ll provisionally accept what science proposes.”


#7

Something is eternal. Scientists presume that matter is eternal, we affirm that God is eternal.

Just as we do not feel threatened when someone barks “Well, if everything has to have a designer, then who designed God? Huh? Huh?” likewise the atheist cares nothing about the origin of matter, since he considers it an internally incoherent question.

I, like Barrister, think that the question of design is much more compelling. We know quite a bit about matter and we know that it doesn’t become organized via random processes. But it is organized. Therefore it became organized by an intentional process (or act!) :twocents:


#8

[quote=wolpertinger]

All atheists that are not fundamentalist in their own way will respond with a variation of “I really don’t know, but unless you can convince me otherwise I’ll provisionally accept what science proposes.”
[/quote]

I think this leads us to the larger question. An atheist believes there is NO God. An agnostic questions the existence of God.

So an atheist believes *something * - so upon what, exactly, is that belief based?

I look at creation and I see the work of God (I’ve explained this in great detail before, so I won’t reiterate it here; see, generally, the CCC).

So when an atheist looks at creation they see no God. Then how did it get here?

I think the question is capable of a response.


#9

wolp,

I’m responding to your post in the other thread in this one. You said you lack belief in God rather than have a belief that God doesn’t exist.

On what do you base your lack of belief?

So far no one (atheist) has said anything about from where matter comes. On the one hand you say it’s eternal, on the other hand I routinely hear astronomers giving ages to the universe. I don’t know how scientists can clam that matter is eternal and have an age at the same time. Please explain.


#10

[quote=The Barrister]I think this leads us to the larger question. An atheist believes there is NO God. An agnostic questions the existence of God.

So an atheist believes *something *- so upon what, exactly, is that belief based?
[/quote]

I don’t agree with your definitions. In general, atheists lack the belief in god. The majority of atheists, myself included, resent being mischaracterized and I leave it to a member of the atheistic minority that makes the positive claim that god doesn’t exist to represent their position.

An agnostic does not question the existence of god; an agnostic holds that it is fundamentally unknowable whether or not such is the case.

Thus, atheists make a statement about the belief, agnostics about knowledge.

Since the only commonality between individual atheists is the lack of theistic belief, it is impossible to make a general statement about what they ground their belief in. I am still shopping for a philosophy, so to speak, but I profess an inclination towards secular humanism.

Then how did it get here?

I think the question is capable of a response.

I have already stated that I am ignorant of the correct answer.

Kevan makes a very good point, although I’m not convinced that his concluding argument is sound. I.e., the conclusion may be correct or not, but I have reservations about the premises and the validity of how the conclusion is arrived at.


#11

[quote=ktm]If God doesn’t exist, who or what created all the matter-energy in the universe? Or, where did all those atoms come from?
[/quote]

As a former atheist, I can tell you what I used to believe:

“It always existed.” Theists believe God always existed, I believed matter always existed.

The next question, which science cannot answer, is: “Why is there something rather than nothing.” From a purely scientific point of view, there really should be NOTHING (it’d be a whole lot simpler, after all).

God is (of course) the answer to the second question. Being eternal (existing outside of time), and spiritual (outside of matter), God has the unique ability to be the answer.

Kieron


#12

[quote=wolpertinger]I don’t agree with your definitions. In general, atheists lack the belief in god. The majority of atheists, myself included, resent being mischaracterized and I leave it to a member of the atheistic minority that makes the positive claim that god doesn’t exist to represent their position.

An agnostic does not question the existence of god; an agnostic holds that it is fundamentally unknowable whether or not such is the case.

Thus, atheists make a statement about the belief, agnostics about knowledge.
[/quote]

Atheism “rejects or denies the existence of God.” CCC 2125.


#13

[quote=The Barrister]Atheism “rejects or denies the existence of God.” CCC 2125.
[/quote]

It is and remains your definition and I reject it. Is it acceptable to you if I redefine Catholicism in a manner that willfully misrepresents what Catholics self-identify with?


#14

I don’t understand the difference between:

  1. I don’t believe God exists.
  2. I lack belief that God exists.
  3. I have a lack of faith that God exists.
  4. I believe God does not exist.

#15

Wolpertinger, We might have different beliefs but I must say you are very eloquent and honest.I enjoy your participation in this forum.


#16

[quote=ktm]I don’t understand the difference between:

  1. I don’t believe God exists.
  2. I lack belief that God exists.
  3. I have a lack of faith that God exists.
  4. I believe God does not exist.
    [/quote]

Ouch. Okay, I’ll try.

1 and 4 seem equivalent exect for the phrasing. It is the positive claim that god does not exist, which does not admit the possibility that the opposite might be true. Anybody making such a claim assumes the burden of proof.

2 is a weaker claim than 1. It falls short of the positive claims that god either does or does not exist, while not volunteering any opinion on the corresponding negative claim. In other words, it is an expression of biased, but uncommitted doubt.

3 has me stumped. It is close to 2, with the subtle difference that 2 is closer to make a statement about knowledge (as in justified belief), while 3 is a statement about belief (faith).

The language of all of these examples could be tortured even more.

Here are some examples to highlight the different stances:

theist: God exists.
strong atheist: God does not exist
weak atheist (the default): I have no reason to believe that God exists.
agnostic: It is impossible to know whether God exists or not.

Agnostics also come in different flavors. Arguably, all agnostics are also weak atheists – they have no reason for a theistic belief, since they deny that such knowledge is even possible.

Did this help? For what it’s worth, I myself am completely lost with the distinctions between the Christian denominations.

(edited. it’s hard to keep all the negatives straight.)


#17

[quote=SCTA-1]Wolpertinger, We might have different beliefs but I must say you are very eloquent and honest.I enjoy your participation in this forum.
[/quote]

Thank you!


#18

[quote=wolpertinger]weak atheist (the default): I have no reason to believe that God exists.

Did this help?
[/quote]

A little yes. :slight_smile: Does the “weak atheist” designation describe your position? Is it that you’re just not convinced of God’s existence? You personally, I mean.

For what it’s worth, I myself am completely lost with the distinctions between the Christian denominations.

Join the club, I am too. Most of the thousands of non-Catholic Christian denominations vary in very minor ways. Just don’t associate the notion of “denomination” with “Catholic Church”, which is not a denomination. A denomination can change its set of beliefs, essentially by a vote of its members. The Catholic Church is unique in that it never changes its beliefs on issues of faith and morals. Practices change, certainly, but not our set of beliefs.


#19

More torture of the English language follows. It’s this torture that gives me so many problems with atheism, in part:

weak atheist (the default): I have no reason to believe that God exists.

Why not instead say “I have no reason to believe that God does not exist.”

Why should the first statement be any more valid that the second?


#20

[quote=ktm]Not really, sorry. :slight_smile: Does the “weak atheist” designation describe your position? Is it that you’re just not convinced of God’s existence? You personally, I mean.
[/quote]

That is pretty much my position. I am not committed either way, but since I lack the (positive) belief that god does exist, I am an atheist by definition.

To venture a guess, chances are that most atheists that have never been theists fall into the weak atheist camp, while theists that have revised their beliefs are more likely to fall into the strong atheist camp.

And to completely muddy the waters, this taxonomy is subject to the definition of ‘god’. You as a Christian are necessarily strongly atheistic with regards to any gods other than the Christian one. Buddhism is an atheistic religion, which opens yet another can of worms…

Join the club, I am too. Most of the thousands of non-Catholic Christian denominations vary in very minor ways. Just don’t associate the notion of “denomination” with “Catholic Church”, which is not a denomination. A denomination can change its set of beliefs, essentially by a vote of its members. The Catholic Church is unique in that it never changes its beliefs on issues of faith and morals. Practices change, certainly, but not our set of beliefs.

See, you got me already. I recall a novel that mentions “genuflectory differences” - left knee or right knee. Now I’m not so sure it was entirely in jest.


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