Hello. I noticed this article by a British doctor asking Atheists "Twenty Questions Atheists Struggle To Answer." I always enjoy a challenge so I answered them and emailed the following letter to him with my answers.

1. I would appreciate any comments, critiques, proposed revisions, additions, deletions YOU think would make my responses stronger/better.

2. These questions, some more so than others, may help you formulate your own responses for both your own edification, critical thinking skills and to assist others to "break the spell."

Kind regards to all.


Dear Dr. Saunders:

I apologize for being so late to the "game" but I only noticed your article playing "20 questions" today. Despite not being a scientist (retired trial attorney) I wanted to respond to your questions , not to attempt to persuade you of anything, but to see whether I should rethink my lapse from Christianity and rejoin the faithful. Any help you can provide would be genuinely appreciated. I am a seeker of truth and you believe you have some to offer. Please do. My answers are beneath each of your twenty questions. Please note that scientists DO struggle to answer many questions, including some you have posed, because science does not presume to know everything. Why and how the absence of perfect knowledge supports your belief in a triune deity despite no evidence thereof (unless you believe there IS such evidence, which would appear to contradict the very foundation of all religious belief, i.e. faith), is unclear to me. Hopefully, you will be kind enough to explain.

I would genuinely appreciate your answers to your questions or, if you deem them unanswerable, the reasons you believe the inability to answer these questions supports belief in a deity, especially YOUR deity, since you will agree there are others worshipped with equal faith, albeit incorrectly in your view, by others.

"Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer" (Your title, I believe)
1.What caused the universe to exist?

A. Nothing. See "A Universe From Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss. The explanation contained therein is subject to falsification as all scientific theories are. Feel free. Assuming a cause is required (you do based on your question. I do not, but I could be wrong), what caused your God? If your God does not require a cause, why does the Universe?
2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

A. Not sure. Science is still working on that one. I would point out that what you and others call "fine tuning" is simply human language attempting to describe what IS, as best we humans are able to describe what we OBSERVE in our universe. I enjoyed reading "Six Numbers" even though I did not understand a lot of the technical jargon. But I do understand that science has given us more meaningful answers in just the past one hundred years than all the religions of the world have given us throughout human history. Do you disagree? Science cured polio, hundreds of other diseases; observed that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of our Solar system; "expanded" our universe to hundreds of billions of galaxies; and continues to make human life on Earth better and better. Any reason you can think of why Jesus, God himself according to you, never mentioned any of this valuable information while he was here saving us from "original sin" and "demons"? It's a fair question, right?

3.Why is the universe rational?

A. This appears to be two questions: Is the Universe rational? And, if so, why? I accept that humans are rational, or, at least capable of reason, but I have no idea what it means to refer to the Universe (by which I mean EVERYTHING there is) as rational. I am not an engineer but I understand we cannot build much of anything complex without the assistance of irrational numbers such as pi and the square root of negative one. If I am correct, that suggests to me the Universe is NOT rational, at least not in all respects. Regardless of the answer to this question, I do not see how gods enter into it.

4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

A. Not sure if science knows the answer YET. But if it doesn't, it will someday. The answer will produce yet more questions even more difficult to answer. Do you really want to support your belief in God based on the "gaps" in human knowledge? The "god of the gaps" is so Nineteenth Century, don't you agree? I don't mean to "change the subject" on you, but are you a Biblical Literalist? Do you spend as much time questioning the Bible as you do science? Slavery? Genocide? Misogyny? Are you okay with these or am I misunderstanding the plain language of the Bible? Couldn't God have written his revelation in clear, unambiguous language?

5.Where did the genetic code come from?

A. See answer to 4.

6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

A. See answer to 4. Also please recall that realizing the Earth revolved around the Sun was "irreducibly complex" for a long, long time AND flatly contradicted by the Bible. You do agree the Earth revolves around the Sun, right?

7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

A. "116"? Really. Not 115, or 117? We have discovered precisely 116? You are being silly, either intentionally or unwittingly. Human language has been evolving for thousands of years and continues to do so. When did Latin disappear and French, Italian, Spanish, et cetera begin? Which came first the chicken or the egg?  THIS kind of analysis convinces you there MUST be a god? Please explain.

8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?

A. Am far more interested in YOUR answer to this, than whatever archeology, anthropology and other sciences have to say. Do you believe this somehow demonstrates God was involved? Is the answer staring me in the face in the Bible? Please explain the significance of this ASSUMPTION (My understanding is that cities existed long prior to 3,000BCE).

9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

A. Sorry. I really do not see the apparent inconsistency you see. Science still working on how we think, but we DO think. Independently? My thoughts certainly APPEAR to be independent of your thoughts. The world is NOT "ruled" by anyone or anything other than "e=mc2" until someone comes up with a better theory. God don't enter into it. BTW, any reason God has not "revealed" anything since New Testament codified ? When do you contend God's latest revelation took place? Does NT tell us everything we need to know? If not, why not? When you medically diagnose patients, do you use the Bible? If so, how? If not, why not? Just curious.

10.How do we account for self-awareness?

A. That's a tough one, isn't it? Synapses? What is your answer? "God gave it to us." Do you really find that helpful and informative? I think I'll wait for science to observe, experiment and REASON its way to an answer.

11.How is free will possible in a material universe?

A. Who says we have "free will"? How do you even define it? We make choices every day. Do we REALLY have a choice? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? THAT is religion trying to be profound. But it isn't. Religion is on the silly side of this question, not science or Atheism. We have brains and we do not fully understand how they work. What we DO understand comes from science, reason and "worldly knowledge." Do you find it ironic that the Bible contains not one word praising human knowledge? You should because we've accomplished quite a bit by opposing god-myths and superstition masquerading as revelation. Do you believe a snake/serpent spoke to and tempted Eve? Your answer will tell me a lot about you.

12.How do we account for conscience?

A. see answer to 11. Also, evolution. Helping others, avoiding harm to others had significant benefits to everyone, i.e. it was a "selfish" act to be "unselfish." We did not need a god to tell us that. It works.

13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

A. Is "judgements" with an "e" a typo or a British thing? Either way, we make them based upon our common experience over time. That's why morality changes. Slavery was ALWAYS evil but it took us time to figure that out and come to a consensus. If we listened to your God, slavery would still exist worldwide and would be perfectly moral, as would genocide and misogyny and polygamy. I prefer modern morality to Biblical morality. My meme is winning, albeit not fast enough.

14.Why does suffering matter?

A. Terrible phrasing by you but suffering is to be avoided whenever possible because it opposes human happiness. This is the only life we get (as far as we know) so that making it as pleasant and free from suffering as possible just makes sense. We should also be concerned about the suffering of our fellow species even though god, if he existed, clearly was NOT concerned about it. "Suffering" evolved with the "food chain"/predator and prey/et cetera. No loving god would have designed nature in so bloodthirsty a fashion. Except, apparently, YOUR God. Please respond as you deem appropriate. Nature is not moral. Nature wants to reproduce itself. You know, The Selfish Gene, written by your favorite Atheist.

15.Why do human beings matter?

A. For any and all reasons we decide we matter. You can find NO reason why we matter without God? Look at your wife, your children, your friends. Of all the claims implicit in your twenty questions, this is the most offensive, if not the most evidencing ignorance masquerading as religious ideology. Shame on you.

16.Why care about justice?

A. Because the only alternative (which has been tried) is anarchy and resulting chaos. "Justice" helps to keep us from killing/hurting each other. Blood feuds are costly to society. "Justice"/law codes provide a measure of confidence that people will be treated fairly and, therefore do not need to exact justice on their own. Human justice much better than God's justice. We no longer kill people for picking firewood on the Sabbath; disobeying and being unruly to parents; fucking your aunt, et cetera. We have a long way to go but we have come quite far thanks to contradicting the Bible rather than following it. I would love to hear any disagreement you may have.

17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

A. Human desire for answers in a pre-scientific world unable to provide very many. Unfortunately, this was exacerbated by ascendance of Christianity after Constantine in 309CE. It kept us in the Dark Ages for more than a thousand years and would love to take us back there. Not going to happen. BTW, there is no belief in a personal god/supernatural among most Chinese. Ergo, Belief in Supernatural NOT almost universal, and decreasing at an accelerating rate, but, living in Britain, you are well aware of that fact.

18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

A. Technically, we don't. BUT, only technically, because you cannot prove a negative. If gods existed, at least one of them surely would have shown herself to us by now--clearly, unambiguously--"Here I am. This is what I want." Instead, we have myths and folk tales collected hundreds of years afterwards and promulgated as revelation by persons wanting to control other persons. Tough to argue with words/laws given by God himself. Nothing more than a clever and effective control mechanism. What else do you believe without evidence?

19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

A. Easy. We will all die and find out. Has anybody spoken to you from the grave?

20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

A. Assuming facts not in evidence. Gospels are not evidence of anything other than a new iteration of a then three thousand year old myth: Osiris/Mithras/Dionysius. You should know this. Justin Martyr, early church apologist acknowledged these "similarities"/borrowings from long-existing pagan cults/religions and explained them away as "diabolic mimicry," that is, he said the DEVIL pre-planted these myths into history because the DEVIL knew Jesus was coming and wanted to trick people. Clever Devil, huh?

There is NO contemporary evidence Jesus/Yeshua ever lived. There was no resurrection. All three synoptic gospels, written roughly 70CE, 80CE and 90CE, decades after Jesus allegedly lived, tell the story with irreconcilable contradictions--except to believers who do not care about contradictions. "Everything is possible with God." 

Finally, the church was quite small and inconsequential until Constantine had his vision and made it the unofficial state sponsored religion in 309CE. That explains its subsequent growth. It also explains why the first Church "Histories" (and I use that term loosely because they made it up as they wrote it down) were written at that time. There was money and power to be had by being part of the State supported Roman Church. "Follow the money" works here as everywhere else to provide explanation and motive.

Are you really arguing that "size matters"? The Mormons are one of the fastest growing religions in America. The FASTEST growing category worldwide is: No religion. But again, living in Britain you already know this.

I have enjoyed responding to your questions and did not find them particularly difficult to the extent I understood them. Compared to trying to defend the Bible, they were a cakewalk. Please let me know how I did.

Richard Dawkins was just selected by Prospect Magazine's panel of distinguished experts as the most impactful knowledgeable person in the world. Not a single Christian apologist made the list.

I hope to hear from you.

Kind regards,

Jack Kolinski

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Travis, IMHO, the only thing that causes anyone to change their minds about religiosity is cognitive dissonance. When faithful people pray for simple and complex events and their prayers go unanswered, they either acquiesce to the will of god or at some point they begin to doubt and question. That is the crack in the door that allows fresh air to flow in and brush out the cobwebs. If freethinkers don't have their ideas out in the breeze, hopeful praying people wander on in their delusions. Further compounding the problems is the fear of leaving their faith and risking cooking in eternal damnation. Hope/Fear = disease. 

Remember those parents who lost their second baby because they prayed instead of seeking medical care? After the death of their first baby, they should have learned to seek professional help. They did not and lost a second baby to prayer. Prayer is the disease in this case and other like it. To not recognize that fact, the parents are guilty of neglect and should be treated as negligent parents. Will the praying public allow that? Probably not. That is one reason to keep freethought in the open breeze. Perhaps another family will learn the lesson the Schaible's failed. 

Catherine, Herbert Schaible's Second Child Dies After Parents Use P...

Thx. Mathew. At least the first comment was positive and supportive. We all need that despite claiming we don't. Still, if there weren't a wide variety of comments covering most of the spectrum, I might have to assume I was on the wrong discussion board. LOL

A very interesting exercise. I answered the questions before reading your answers. Hopefully, we can contribute to each other's understanding. Here is my response:

"Twenty questions asked of atheists "


1.What caused the universe to exist?

A. I am not a trained scientist, however, I have ready everything I can get my hands on to learn what people say caused the universe and the only answer that makes sense to me is the Big Bang theory. The biblical version is outrageous, given all the evidence of time that disputes the “Young Earth” hypothesis, and supports the theories of physics and chemistry.

2.What explains the fine-tuning of the universe?

A. If by fine-tuning you mean an insect or bird exists for the available plant of an area. There is no fine-tuning to achieve that, only time and natural selection makes it possible for birds or insects shaped to pollinate plants. That principle applies across nature. 


3.Why is the universe rational?

A. Who said the universe is rational? There are laws of nature such as gravity, electro-magnetism, weak force and strong force, and I do not believe some being or spirit wrote those laws. Newton and others discovered the laws, as they always existed, by observation and experimentation.


4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

A. DNA and amino acids exist as part of the chemistry of the universe; not because of some designer but because of the natural development of existence. There is no known cause of these factors, but the explanation of a creator making them makes no sense at all and what evidence that does exist can support the natural beginning of life.


5.Where did the genetic code come from?

A. Genetic code is like the laws of nature. There is order in the universe and it exists as natural processes.


6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

A. Complexity is not evidence against natural forces of nature. How does water become liquid, solid or gas, depending upon its environment?


7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

A. I don’t know how many languages there are but time and distance can explain as many languages as there are. The migratory pattern of humans out of Africa occurred 200,000 years ago, and other migrations occurred over time. Some groups headed north, others south, some went east and some went west.  Each encountered different environments and adjusted according to their new environments.


8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?

A. Population grew, slowly at first and then exponentially. Humans naturally are social creatures and joined with others for mutual benefit. As populations grew, cities grew. 

9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

A. Individual thought evolved because of the challenges they met and overcame. The human brain began to develop in the frontal lobe, making it possible to think, reason, experiment, explore, examine, and develop new and different ways of doing things. Others learned from the experimenters. Information passed quickly within groups and then between groups.

10.How do we account for self-awareness?

A. What some call “soul” others call consciousness. Becoming aware of one’s thoughts and actions, and then vocabulary and writing, differentiated humans from other animals. These human characteristics made it possible to share ideas, even across generations, or distances of space and time.


11.How is free will possible in a material universe?

A. Free will is a construct of human imagination that states humans have free will to choose between good and evil, right or wrong. There are many factors that influence choices, some of them exist unaware, and some from thinking, or even dreaming or imagining. Free will does not exist.

12.How do we account for conscience?

A. Humans are creatures of community. In order to live together, humans have to learn how to best survive and thrive. Because there is no natural law of hierarchy, different ways to create hierarchy are constructs created in the minds of humans. Nature does not ordain lines of authority; they are assumed or assigned. Living together in harmony requires manners, or customs, or traditions, or values that serve the community.

13.On what basis can we make moral judgments?

A. Moral judgments exist out of constructs of human creation. Different cultures have different norms. In one culture it is noble to murder and eat one’s enemy; in another it is not allowed. Moral judgments occur when two or more people interact. For some, war is acceptable, for others, it is not.


14.Why does suffering matter?

A. Suffering exists. It comes from disease or illness, conflicts between people, or difficult problems or different ways of knowing. Some suffer because they don’t know how to resolve conflicts, solve problems, or for wanting something beyond their ability to achieve. Some people know ways to manage stress, or how to control desires. Not all people know these skills.  

15.Why do human beings matter?

A. In the long scale of things, humans don’t matter. There may come a time when only cockroaches, sharks, and bacteria survive and Homo sapiens may become extinct. Humans have no particular place in existence. They are not created to have dominion over the entire universe. Humans exist for a very short period of time and will go the ways of other living things, to extinction.


16.Why care about justice?

A. What is justice? Does a rabbit perceive an eagle as being just? Or does a flattened town see a hurricane as being just? Justice is a construct of human imagination that arises when a community desires law and order. There can be no peace among humans if there is no justice. Justice exists because of a common need for peace.  


17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

A. I can’t. It makes no sense. A belief of and faith in a supernatural power is the imagination of people who feel they have no power of their own; they have no meaning and no purpose. They depend on the supernatural to provide those factors.

18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

A. Where is the evidence? I recognize no god as father, no jesus as lord, no virgin birth, no miracles, no crucifixion, no resurrection, no assent into heaven and I see no judge who acts as law enforcer, judge, jury and executioner. There is no there, there.

19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

A. There is no conscious existence after death. When the electrical system of a living body stops, the organs and all systems stop and the body is dead. Period. Nothing. No afterlife. No castles in heaven. No meeting of loved ones. No burning in hell. Life ends. The materials of the body return to the elements from which it came.


20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

A. The empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church all exist because of humans’ nature of wanting order out of chaos. Chaos is a factor of living things and I suppose of non-living things as well. Humans create constructs to explain the unknown. When a natural explanation occurs, that replaces the construct. God of the gaps exists in those events that we have no natural explanation. The trouble is, if there is a problem, and people say “goddidit”, thinking reasoning, exploring, experimenting , seeking stops and learned helplessness leads to no thought or action.

To counteract learned helpless, realize that “goddidnotdoit”, and get busy. 


Joan Denoo 2013-04-26


Joan, I'm going to keep this simple:


Would you get a ticket?

Unfortunately I get more than I care to discuss but that's for a different forum. Of COURSE I would buy one to listen to an intelligent discussion between believers and non-believers.

The believers I know are capable of repeating what they'd been taught; they are not capable of intelligent discussion.

During the recent presidential campaign I went to a talk about the issues as evangelicals' leaders saw them.

Among the speaker's claims was the usual one that America was founded on xian principles. I later asked him to explain the Tripoli Treaty's statement that America was not founded as he said. He admitted to knowing nothing of the Treaty. A week later at another talk he repeated his claim.

Tom, You describe a familiar situation. Not knowing history as a presenter to an uninformed audience, reaffirms incorrect thinking. Glad you were able to discuss the Tripoli Treaty with him; just wish it had occurred so the audience could hear the exchange. 

That is just one more reason to know the background story and speak it so others may hear. Maybe someone doesn't know and becomes curious.  Just a hope, I know. But words are seeds.  

Joan (and others)...No question that we have to introduce the doubt where possible and never stop probing the weaknesses of religion.  Every individual moved towards agnoisticism or atheism begins a multiplier effect, such that anyone he/she influences will hear the humanist POV -- kids, family, and many others. It's not just about that one person. After all, that's how religions do it.

Thx. Joan. VERY impressed with your responses. So many different ways to respond. Currently reading great book of scholarly articles on why people believe these fairytales and it is not very encouraging about the use of reason and logic. In short, Religion is a believer's "culture" without which he feels less than naked. He KNOWS he's right and has no intention of lettin the FACTS get in her way! BUT that does not change the fact we need to try to help these "poor souls" "break the spell." No one ever said it was going to be easy.

Questions like the "Fine Tuned Universe" is a nonsense word made up by people like their hero Craig to try and prove things exist because a guy who uses big words and obscure quotes says so. They also throw in stuff like the empty tomb question which is trying desperately for you to buy into the premise of the question when it is nonsense. The universal belief in the supernatural is another one of Craig's tricks by saying "All historians agree" or "it is universally agreed that..." The reason so many believe in the supernatural is has been used in the past to understand science and now the amount of things that science does not have an answer for is very small that most people do not take the time to learn the science and their laziness is fodder for religion.

The "fine-tuned universe" is one of the bigger loads of crap I've heard.  I mean seriously, which is more likely: that the universe was fine-tuned for our benefit, or that our development adjusted and progressed based on local conditions and in effect, Was Tuned BY The Universe?


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