I was faced with this assertion today after revealing to an acquittance of mine that I am an atheist. The very short exchange went something like this...

acquittance: "How do you know all this, Michael?" (referring to my knowledge about Islam)

me: "Because I've studied the topics and the religions. How do you think I arrived at my position of disbelief? I didn't simply wake up one morning and not believe."

acquittance: "But Michael, there has to be something. What if something bad happens? I couldn't make it through the day..."

me: "Why? Why does there have to be something."

acquittance: "There just has to be something."

me: "Why?"

and on and on...

I'm pretty sure many of us have been faced with the "there has to be something" assertion. My usual response to this is simply, "why?"

I'm curious about anyone else who has encountered this when revealing their disbelief and how they responded.

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I think that most people who believe that we were created will ask “Why are we here”? If we were created it must be for a purpose. That purpose is to serve the Creator in some way. Those of us that understand we are an evolved species do not think like that. We are more likely to ask “How did we come to be here”

To think that life is meaningless without a god existing is rather sad. When you can think freely and without any form of magical thinking you are then in a position to find your own meaning to your own life, whatever you want it to be. The Universe is not aware of us.

Fear. Without it, religions wouldn't exist.

And ignorance :)

I believe that the best parodies and commentary on religion has been done on South Park. I promise this has to do with your topic but indulge me.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker (creators and voices of South Park characters) have produced several cartoons that mercilessly attack religion as stupid and absurd. For christianity there are at least three:

Do the Handicap Go to Hell episode 1 and episode 2 which parodies the greedy and power obsessed side of religious leaders, the stupidity of mandatory confession or else hell and the devils homosexual relationship with Saddam Husein. My favourite part is when God is revealed to be something none of us ever expect.

All about Mormons is an ingenious critique of Mornonism while maintaining that respect for harmless religious beliefs is important.

Trapped in the closet lambastes scientology and also puts Tom Cruise in an actual closet he won't come out of. The Return of Chefalso makes fun of Scientology...written after the voice of Chef quit because of the earlier episode. He never said a word when other religions, ideologies or races were made fun of...but then left when his was. You can think of the episode as exposing hypocrisy and a pay back.

Then a two parter takes on Islam and those who will murder non Muslims if they depict Mohommed in any way and does so in the most absurd and helarious way. Part 1 and Part 2. Tom Cruise also takes the brunt of the celebrity bashing.

As well as Go God Go episode 1 and episode 2. This doesn't attack religion (in the future we have done away with it) but shows how atheists can be rather nasty towards the religious and other atheists with a rather graphic sex sceene involving Richard Dawkins.

Hinduism, Bhuddism and spiritualism and its woo is also attacked in other episodes.

Despite the fact that they have thoroughly destroyed religion...they still believe that something is out there. 

Out of all the ridiculous religion stories — which are greatly, wonderfully ridiculous — the silliest one I’ve ever heard is, ‘Yeah, there’s this big, giant universe and it’s expanding and it’s all going to collapse on itself and we’re all just here, just because… That to me, is the most ridiculous explanation ever.

He insinuates that existentialist metaphysics (that there is no point or purpose to existence) is a religious stance. He also finds it ridiculous.

We are so conditions to believe there is a purpose behind all actions, structures, lives, objects etc. that even atheists who parody religion...still believe there is some purpose out there. They were unable to run the last 10 meters and cross the finish line. This argument however doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It is an emotional argument. Show us evidence that there must be some purpose. No one can. I think a better question to ask is: Why must people believe there is a purpose to the universe. The book "Why people believe weird things" by Michael Shermer (one of the worlds top skeptics) does an excellent job at explaining this.

Yay!  More South Park!  Thanks! 

oh. my god. 

If you can look past the Fart jokes youll find that they deal with difficult topics better than most philosophers do...and you get to laugh your ass off along the way.

I agree.  Reason and logic aren't the same thing as wisdom.  For wisdom you have to have compassion and preferably experience as well. 

Something more:  dammit, fuck everybody, there is something more. 

I now have an explanation of my theory that I'm happy with. 

Nature wants you to survive, and in vigorous health.  These are a direct and straightforward consequence of evolution, natural selection and adaptation.  You can assist this tendency with positive (adaptive, self-maximising, compassionate) actions, or obstruct it with self-destructive actions. 

That's the basis of atheism's spiritual dimension in a nutshell.  It's another way of talking about God's love, and shows that it's real.  It's not only real, it's unconditional as well.  Just like they always said. 

I strongly suspect that the need to find purpose and to fulfill roles is quite naturally an evolved trait, not only for us, but even for lower animals.

It used to be simple: Belong to and serve a group; empower the group; play a role that feels like it might best serve the group, even if you're uncertain of what that exact role should be. And one learns that being successful at it often brings rewards not just soon, but also later. We gained abilities to wonder more and understand better what other people want and need, even before we could communicate such thoughts to each other in words. We could learn whether taking creative leaps of faith regarding how each other feels or can be influenced lead to success, or failure. We excelled at wordless communication, and group cooperation.

And then came language with more and more words... crude at first, but shaped over time, with increasing effectiveness, including the communication of higher, abstract ideas. Myths and stories were created, with themes and (sometimes) supposedly profound meanings.

I'm struggling to get across how complex and often fanciful our thoughts and communications could now become, also including strong inferences of meaning and purpose. Unlike many here who poo poo the idea of purpose (probably because of how religion hijacked it to hell), I choose to not deny that we naturally have a need to seek out and fullfil purpose. In fact I'm quite sure that civilization wouldn't have been possible without a need and ability to cooperate, pressure each other, and complete projects, even if unifying language and beliefs could be flawed or lack evidence and logic.

Yeah, there has to be something. We just have to allow and help one another figure it out for ourselves instead of pressuring everyone to submit to whatever the local culture has traditionally claimed to be the only truth, or only "true faith". Finding purpose and playing roles in modern times entails more care and research than just faithfully accepting one set of dogmatic rites and ceremonies on Sundays.

Maybe you planted a little black hole in their belief system.

there has to be something

Bad assertion. Show that "there has to be something" or this statement is meaningless.

What if something bad happens? I couldn't make it through the day...

In the same way that life being difficult in India makes Hinduism real?


I wouldn't bother asking this as I'm already fairly sure the answer is "because it feels bad to think otherwise". As I said above, a better question would be "Show me that..."


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