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What Would Atheists Do?

Updated on July 8, 2016

Introduction

This hub is an attempt to learn more about Atheism by posing some questions. This came about when I was corrected recently by someone regarding my understanding of Atheism. It was pointed out to me that Atheism is the lack of believe in the existence of any gods. Moreover, an Atheist can be also an Agnostic. It is a subtle difference and will require some deeper probing. Being a Christian, I would like to learn more about Atheism and their world view. By posing some common questions and some hypothetical scenarios, it would help me understand their position better. Let me state up front that these are honest questions from me and not tricks. Please answer them honestly. It will help clarify one's position and perhaps move the discussion forward. Finally, please be respectful of others in making comments. Thanks for helping.

-May, 2015

What Would Atheists Do? (WWAD)

Here are some questions I have for Athiests. I want to focus on the "lack of belief in any gods" as compared to a Christian who does belief in a God. Regardless of the religious aspect of any belief system, which entails a structure such as the church for the propagation of faith, one can hold a belief and choose not to participate in any church. Keeping that in mind, I just have some questions that is relevant to this idea. To simplify the dialog, I will list each question by number. Please respond to each by number in the comment section at the end. Thanks for helping.

1. When a person is elected to office or chosen to be on a jury, they are usually asked to swear an oath usually with their right hand on the Bible. What does an athiest do and "who" does he swear to if any?

2. On special happy occasions such as weddings and births, friends and family usually offer good will and blessings. WWAD?

3. When attending a funeral or visit someone terminally ill in a hospice, a common act of compassion is to offer a prayer. WWAD?

4. When someone sneezes, we often say "God Bless You." WWAD?

5. When a person is mad or in a moment of frustration, he often resort to cursing such as "God Damn It." It is not something I condone but it does happen. We are all imperfect human beings. WWAD?

6. Is there such a thing as a "sin" in the way Christians think of sin such as the seven deadly sins? What acts do Atheists consider to be offensive and to whom?

7. When you teach your children about the founding of our country, and you read the Declaration of Independence, what do you say the word "Creator" was referring to?

8. When you teach your young children about right from wrong, what authority do you use to make your case?

9. In time of stress or hopelessness, it is comforting to rely on prayer to ease the burden and reduce anxiety. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind as a good way to offload our worries to a higher power. WWAD?

10. How do you teach your followers and descendants your philosophy or your "lack of belief..."? Each of us come to our belief system by way of life experiences. Some are born into a religion but others are converts in adult life. Once you make a commitment, you are usually part of a group of like minded. They in turn form some organizations to help propagate the faith. WWAD?

11. Most people of faith have established traditions that goes back generations. They are reminded of these traditions by various "special days" such as Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving...Over the years, some of these traditions have been adopted by secular society and some have even been declared as national holidays. What do atheists do on these special occasions?

12. Finally, my question refers to language. Our language contains numerous references to God and Devil, heaven and hell, angels and demons. Not only nouns but adjectives such as heavenly, hellish, angelic, demonic are also part of our language. Do atheists avoid using these words or do they make up their own version of these words?

The Liturgical Cycle

Scenarios

Here are some hypothetical scenarios to contemplate. I will list them by number. Please respond by number.

  1. If you are able to save only one from drowning, which would you pick, your beloved pet dog or a stranger human being?
  2. At what month do you think it is OK to abort a fetus? from 0-9?
  3. If a family member ask you to help commit euthanasia, would you do it? even if it is against the law.
  4. If you are in a plane crash high in the Andes mountain and survived, would you stay alive by eating the dead flesh of your fellow passengers?
  5. If you can test a fetus for genetic defects, would you abort it? for what deformity?
  6. If in the future, cloning is scientifically viable, would you condone it?
  7. If in the future, genetic engineering is possible, would you use it to choose the traits of your baby?
  8. If pot is legalized in your state, would you use it? would you allow your teenage kids to use it?
  9. If you won the lottery, and are given a choice to donate to one of two charities, which would you give to? The United Nations or Catholic Charities?
  10. If you had a near death experience similar to that of Dr. Eben Alexander, what would you change afterwards?
  11. On your deathbed, what would you regret the most?

World Views

When dealing with difficult decisions, it is often helpful if we are guided by some core principles. This will make it a clearer choice with some foundation. Sometimes, there are no solutions. That is OK. Everyone of us is shaped by our family, our community, our education experience and our interactions. This is called a "world view" whether we know it or not. It is helpful to spend a little time thinking about this and putting it down on paper.

What is an Atheist's world view?

What Corner Do You Belong?

Summary

In summary, I hope this hub will create a discussion about belief systems. Please don't confuse this topic with Religion and church. That's a different topic which I may address in a future hub. Peace be with you.

Comments

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    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      jonnycomelately - thanks for your inputs. I've learned from responses to my hub. I look forward to reading your responses on the rest.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 2 years ago from Tasmania

      I reply here not as "an Atheist," but as a person with an atheist perspective. There is a strong difference. I don't like to "wear the label," because it makes the presumption I have certain characteristics.

      1. I would not swear to anyone or anything. I would just make a promise. My word is my bond.

      2. I do the same, but without any reference to what I regard as fictitious entities. It's just a way of expressing myself in a convivial, colloquial manner... it's a sort of tribal communication, a sense of belonging.

      3. I would try to sense the mood of the family members present and try to meet their mood with something appropriate to their needs at the time. If they wish to pray, I can bow my head in silence and respectfully, without denying my own concepts and understanding.

      4. When someone sneezes, we often say "God Bless You." WWAD?I do the same sometime, knowing full-well that it's just a superstitious saying, born out of centuries when a "cold" could quickly become fatal. It's just a habit that proves I am one of my community.

      5. When a person is mad or in a moment of frustration, he often resort to cursing such as "God Damn It." It is not something I condone but it does happen. We are all imperfect human beings. WWAD?I would not use the expression "God," just the "damn it." Sometimes a lot harsher, lol! but only if it's unlikely to offend others present. I am not perfect either.

      6. I do not accept the existence of a judgmental "god" so there is no sense of offending by a "sin." However, I do see each of my acts as judge-able according to whether it hurts or harms another person/creature/habitat.

      7. I have no children and I don't live in your country. There is space in my mind for the possibility of some entity "creating" the universe as we know it. But certainly not a "personalized" super-human being that watches down upon me ready to spank my posterior for any wrong-doing.

      8. If I was a parent I would use my own authority and expect the surrounding community to support my authority of my child....until he/she was old enough to take full responsibility. Without the community's support, it is just my child versus me..... a position of weakness that cannot benefit the child and his/her life.

      9. I have this "prayer" in front of my desk on the window sill. It starts with the word God. If there is any "God" relevant to me in this situation, it's the deeper awareness within my Self, at the Center of my Being, that I am appealing to. That is the place of deepest serenity. There is no need to project the mind out there, away from the Here and Now.

      10. How do you teach your followers and descendants your philosophy or your "lack of belief..."? Each of us come to our belief system by way of life experiences. Some are born into a religion but others are converts in adult life. Once you make a commitment, you are usually part of a group of like minded. They in turn form some organizations to help propagate the faith. WWAD?I don't require or expect others to agree with or follow my line of philosophy. My a-theist concepts stop with me. I can live amongst any religious group, provided they respect me and my private beliefs.

      I hope this gives you food for thought. The remainder of your hub I will read through another time.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      Or they claimed to have divine guidance so Christians would actually listen to them?

      And actually, the British were first... then when our explorers discovered America, they took our values with them. Your country is based on ours before we outlawed guns. :P Okay, that may not be entirely true.

      But I can say God has told me to me tell you to act like this, it would be no different. It would be different now on the basis people weren't so gullible as they were back then but if I was around back then and I claimed Don't listen to these men, God has told me they are lying! --- It really would have tarnished their claims.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Andrewhil93 - I'm not sure what is your point. The founding fathers created our nation with divine guidance. They wrote extensively about this. Their genius in crafting the Constitution is to work with human nature and knowing their faults such that we can have a prosperous nation without tyranny. Up to that time, the US is the only form of government with this goal. It has worked very well for over 200 years. They also realized that government cannot rule without a consenting public, one that is inherently good, hence the importance of religious foundation.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      Ah, it does help a lot.

      Now, one thing which did spring to mind, and I know the declaration is what America was made upon (so to speak), you know it has all the American values? Right?

      But... the declaration was written by men, not God... so really - bear with me - it's just a human being's opinion which influenced the declaration; though they did follow Christianity religiously (excusing the pun), you do have to take into account human nature and free will...

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      andrewhil93 - with regard to your response to question #7, I understand you are from the UK and may not have the same understanding of the US formation. In the US Declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..." I included this question because some humanist in the US have tried to re-write history by declaring that we are not a Judeo-Christian nation and deny the divine providence that created our nation. Hope this helps.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      I'd call them narrow minded. The fact is, there's no proof to say he does not exist.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Joseph O Polanco - Perhaps a God Denier? What do you suggest?

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      How would you designate someone who believes God does not nor cannot exist? What would they be called?

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      They'd have had to demonstrate it was what they really wanted. If they changed their mind after it was too late... I'm going to sound horrible but... it's not my problem - I mean, I wouldn't have done it unless I was sure it was what they really wanted.

      Mind you, in this country, it would be my problem because then we would be talking murder aha.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      andrewhil93 - With regard to assisted suicide you replied "Yes, provided it was for genuine reasons. If they were depressed then no, I would help them through it. If they were terminally ill and have no quality of life and truly incapable of doing it themselves, then without a doubt. Same as I would want someone to help me if I was incapable."

      My question is how would you know the mental condition of the requester? In many cases, people have changed their minds over and over... It is much tougher a decision than people realize and it has unintended consequences that most of us cannot foreseen. For those reasons, I rather refer to God to make the final decision. That is my view. I hope you will agree that it should never be an economic decision as some countries have decided it is too costly to keep terminally ill people alive.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Joseph O Poanco - I'm not sure what your comment refer to, please explain.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      andrewhil93 - I have a lot of ideas in the works. Perhaps I will get to pot legalization at some point. Thanks.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      But then what do you call someone who believes God does not nor cannot exist?

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      The reason DWI testing is easier is because so much research has gone into it.

      I hope you publish a hub detailing your views on the matter of pot legalisation. :D

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      In the US, banning alcohol was tried back in the Prohibition and it has failed. Making drugs legal will just compond the problem. Testing for DWI for alcohol is much easier than testing for drug use. Hence, the unintended consequences could be much greater. I will keep an open mind and let the experiment in Colorado and Washington states play out.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      Did you know the pad prints on every individual poor is different on a dog and no two pad prints are the same?

      In regards to pot, did you know alcohol will destroy your liver, brain and increase the risk of cancer, poison you and increase your risk of psychosis.

      I personally believe, as a non-drinker myself, that alcohol is far more destructive to humanity, look at the amount of deaths it is directly related to for a start, then the bill for criminal damage... the only damage pot heads do is to the contents of the fridge... ;)

      I would hate to see someone flying a plan or driving a car whilst stoned, equally as much as I'd hate to see them do it with a can of beer in their hand.

      I believe legalisation of the drug will be massively more beneficial than if alcohol was outlawed. But that is where we differ as people.

      I thoroughly enjoy our discussions.

    • jackclee lm profile image
      Author

      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      AndrewHIL93 - Interesting response. Did you know Man is very special in the eye of God? Did you know that even identical twins have unique finger prints? Can you see the implications of that? Anyway, getting back to the discussion, let me address the use of pot. You have said you would allow your kids to use it over drinking alcohol. Did you know pot affects the development of the child's brain? There are many good use of pot for medicinal purposes, however, recreation use is detrimental to society as a whole. Can you imagine someone high on pot flying a plane or driving a train? There are many unintended consequences... I guess in the US, we are experimenting with this in some states. Time will tell if I'm right.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      Love it, Oztinato! That's brilliant! Haha.

      But Jackie, even if there was a God, for me the hierarchy would be God and then Humans and Animals alike.

      Who is to say we are any more special than the dung beetle?

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      jacklee

      yes that is no doubt true.

      As they often come from religious backgrounds you can see that many of their arguments tend to 'blame' God: the trouble is if they 'blame God' they are indirectly saying He exists!!

      I call it the "Blame God Paradox".

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      AndrewHil93 - Let me address scenario 1 for now. In the Christian view, the hierarchy is God, Man and the rest of the animal kingdom. In secular view, I believe, the God is removed from the hierarchy and Darwin's evolution is the ruling principle - survival of the fittest, humans are not special and just the next evolution step. Correct me if I am wrong. My believe is this - as much as we love our pets, they cannot be valued more than a human being. I would save the stranger over my pet.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      I went to a Church of England school. Prayers every assembly. God pasted on every wall... Perhaps, ramming it down my throat was what turned me into an Atheist at such a young age.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Oztinato - Thanks for your comment. Just as there are many Christian views that may differ, the same seems to apply to Atheists. It is still interesting for me to learn how atheists come to their conclusions. I don't know this for sure but I suspect that some atheists were brought up in a religious environment but somewhere along the line, became disappointed by the church and turned them away from God all together.

    • jackclee lm profile image
      Author

      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      AndrewHil93 - Thanks so much for the extensive response. I have learned quite a bit from your response. In fact, we don't disagree on many issues. Good starting point for further discussion.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      There are extremely wide differences about atheism here on HP by atheists.

      Many atheists agree that atheism is now much more than the old one line definition as it has become an entire philisophy with a political agenda.

      Other atheists cling to the old nineteenth century definition when it suits them in a debate but then go straight back to their political agenda. Although it is easy to observe them (some not all) doing this they keep doing it anyway.

      It is my theory that atheist based philosophies deaden the conscience which causes many of them (not all) to be blind to their own common hypocrisy.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      In my opinion, the bible (as is all other sacred texts) is just a guide to help influence your conscience, Atheists do not need a God or a book to teach them right from wrong, we rationalise situations and use logic and fact to influence our decisions rather than a book.

      This is why, I guess, more Atheists go bad rather than Christians and other members from different faiths. The sacred books are to be used as a positive influence but to some people, they're just fairy tales.

      To others, they're the absolute truth, demonstrating that Jesus was in fact a heavenly being turned human. Atheists, we just can't comprehend that as truth when there's no actual evidence of it. The bible would be far more credible if he didn't rise back to the heavens and instead was laid to rest in a grave, he could have been our zombie saviour (I'm definitely going to Hell now, if there is such a place - but the bible doesn't actually mention Hell to my knowledge, does it?)

      I really hope I've cleared up your ideas and I welcome any more communication and questions. :)

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      1. When a person is elected to office or chosen to be on a jury, they are usually asked to swear an oath usually with their right hand on the Bible. What does an athiest do and "who" does he swear to if any?

      We affirm an oath to honesty and integrity. Without the "So help me God" in the UK at least.

      2. On special happy occasions such as weddings and births, friends and family usually offer good will and blessings. WWAD?

      They wish us well, the Atheist do and good luck. Some will adopt the saying like "Bless you", but it is them blessing us rather than asking God to do so.

      3. When attending a funeral or visit someone terminally ill in a hospice, a common act of compassion is to offer a prayer. WWAD?

      Console them, try to explain to them you don't know what is next but if they're in pain, I am sure it will be better than this.

      4. When someone sneezes, we often say "God Bless You." WWAD?

      Bless you.

      5. When a person is mad or in a moment of frustration, he often resort to cursing such as "God Damn It." It is not something I condone but it does happen. We are all imperfect human beings. WWAD?

      For F*** Sake. Or simply Damn.

      6. Is there such a thing as a "sin" in the way Christians think of sin such as the seven deadly sins? What acts do Atheists consider to be offensive and to whom?

      Paedophilia, murder, rapists, thieves, cheating on your spouse, lying and greed and austerity.

      7. When you teach your children about the founding of our country, and you read the Declaration of Independence, what do you say the word "Creator" was referring to?

      Non-applicable.

      8. When you teach your young children about right from wrong, what authority do you use to make your case?

      Us as parents.

      9. In time of stress or hopelessness, it is comforting to rely on prayer to ease the burden and reduce anxiety. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind as a good way to offload our worries to a higher power. WWAD?

      We channel our energies into solving the cause of the stress or hopelessness. Sometimes, unfortunately, we succumb to alcohol or other substances.

      10. How do you teach your followers and descendants your philosophy or your "lack of belief..."? Each of us come to our belief system by way of life experiences. Some are born into a religion but others are converts in adult life. Once you make a commitment, you are usually part of a group of like minded. They in turn form some organizations to help propagate the faith. WWAD?

      It isn't a lack of belief. We just don't believe in an eternal being. I personally will not sit here and say God doesn't exist, but who am I to say who God is when there are so many names from Jehovah to Allah when all the religious contexts are so unbelievably similar if you actually read them. We believe that the world was created through a different means to someone saying "Let the be light" and light appearing and being good.

      We believe also in humanity and what we can do for ourselves, not what we should do for a greater being.

      11. Most people of faith have established traditions that goes back generations. They are reminded of these traditions by various "special days" such as Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving...Over the years, some of these traditions have been adopted by secular society and some have even been declared as national holidays. What do atheists do on these special occasions?

      Some do follow the traditions of the religious holidays, I personally do not. I celebrate birthdays with a simple "happy birthday", I give gifts all year round as per when the individual deserves it rather than electing 'special' days like a lot of Atheists do which happen to fall on Christmas.

      12. Finally, my question refers to language. Our language contains numerous references to God and Devil, heaven and hell, angels and demons. Not only nouns but adjectives such as heavenly, hellish, angelic, demonic are also part of our language. Do atheists avoid using these words or do they make up their own version of these words?

      No. We understand what is meant by these words in the Bible and we use the words ourselves to represent likeness to the definition of the words. Some people avoid using the mentioned words in reference to religion though, which is strange. I personally think the Bible is a good book and is useful as a guide to help take examples from others on how to lead a good life, as is the Qur'an and Bhagavad Ghita (excuse my spelling).

      Scenarios

      If you are able to save only one from drowning, which would you pick, your beloved pet dog or a stranger human being?

      Beloved pet dog. But I would probably risk my own life to save them both.

      At what month do you think it is OK to abort a fetus? from 0-9?

      At any stage before it develops a functioning brain organ and heart organ.

      If a family member ask you to help commit euthanasia, would you do it? even if it is against the law.

      Yes, provided it was for genuine reasons. If they were depressed then no, I would help them through it. If they were terminally ill and have no quality of life and truly incapable of doing it themselves, then without a doubt. Same as I would want someone to help me if I was incapable.

      If you are in a plane crash high in the Andes mountain and survived, would you stay alive by eating the dead flesh of your fellow passengers?

      Yes. If needs must. If the only other option is to die myself after all other food sources have depleted and I really can't find anything of nutritional value in the wild. I would seriously weigh up when the desperation for food makes eating the corpses a necessity.

      If you can test a fetus for genetic defects, would you abort it? for what deformity?

      No.

      If in the future, cloning is scientifically viable, would you condone it?

      Somewhat. But I wouldn't personally have any involvement with having a clone made.

      If in the future, genetic engineering is possible, would you use it to choose the traits of your baby?

      No.

      If pot is legalized in your state, would you use it? would you allow your teenage kids to use it?

      Yes to me using it, it's illegal in my country but I do sometimes use it. I would rather my children didn't smoke it but if they did then I can only ensure they do it safely and try to keep them away from it as much as possible without interfering too much with their right to live the life as they wish. I would hope, if I was bringing up a child, I would do it in a way they wouldn't use it.

      I'd rather them use cannabis than drink alcohol.

      If you won the lottery, and are given a choice to donate to one of two charities, which would you give to? The United Nations or Catholic Charities?

      Neither, I'd keep all of the money and open a not-for-profit hostel with it to reduce the homelessness pandemic sweeping through the United Kingdom.

      If you had a near death experience similar to that of Dr. Eben Alexander, what would you change afterwards?

      I don't know who he is but whatever I was doing right at that point before the near death experience, I would probably try to refrain from doing that again.

      On your deathbed, what would you regret the most? Not giving faith a chance to influence my life, just in case there is a God.