Disclaimer- Below is a real life discussion that an atheist friend of mine had with a theist. This conversation does not necessarily coincide with my personal beliefs; and is offered as an example of the need for intellectual discussion between parties of differing belief systems.
Theist: “Why do “atheists” have to spend so much time and effort and something that is not suppose to exist? God uses them to strengthen the faith of believers. All for His glory, even as they attempt to deny Him. How interesting. Even their logic cannot exist without Him.”
Atheist: “Some atheists spend time and effort on the topic of “god” because we view religion as the root of all evil. thats not to say that all religious people are evil, but religion is a weapon used brainwash people into hating their fellow man, oppressing women, flying airplanes into buildings, blowing up buses, killing abortion doctors, and brainwashing other people to believe in their own delusion. atheists are members of society whether they like it or not, and being members of society we want to see society prosperous and healthy. when religions starts encouraging people to learn and think for themselves and admit uncertainty in their holy book, that will be when “atheists” stop worrying about the dangers of religion.”
Theist: “How is there evil? It can’t exist by your own flawed “reasoning”. And since you are only a speck of insignificant dust… Why would you care? Simply illogical.”
Atheist:“There is evil because people perceive certain actions to be evil such as deliberate wrongdoing, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological well-being and dignity, destructiveness, motives of causing pain or suffering for selfish or malicious intentions, and acts of unnecessary or indiscriminate violence. an insignificant speck of dust probably doesn’t care about good or evil, but as a member of the living species of this planet i am subject to suffering and both want to prevent my own suffering and the suffering of others caused by the evil actions of people.”
Theist: “So you think that you have significance in this world? How could that be? You came from nothing. You have no creator. How do you get your significance? Who do you have significance to? Who do you matter to and how can you matter to them? Since trees and ants are “living species” they must be subject to suffering as well, in the same manner you are. They must want to prevent their own suffering and the suffering of others as much as you do. That is your logic, correct? And how could people perceive certain actions to be evil? Evil is a biblical term. hmmmm…You claim that evil exists yet there is no origin of said evil. If I am wrong, please enlighten me of the origins. I’m so glad that as an atheist you are exempt from said evil and that evil is only done in the name of religion.”
Atheist: “Life is significant because it is so rare. there are hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxy and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe and we are the only planet that we know of where life has evolved. even more significant is that intelligent life has evolved to the point of being able to question our own existence. if you are asking about my personal significance, i would think that i am significant to my friends and family and those people in life whom i have formed a relationship with.
When i refer to living species who suffer, i am talking specifically about animal species. any living organism with a nervous system is subject to suffering, therefore ants do suffer and want to prevent their own suffering. although trees may not suffer, that does not diminish their significance. as for animals wanting to prevent the suffering of others, i believe it is a survival mechanism that has evolved in social species. in a nutshell it is the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have the do unto you”. many humans are also concerned with the suffering of other species and the environment because of an appreciation for life, out of guilt, or because the survival of our own species relies on the well being of our ecosystem.
as I explained in my previous post, evil only exists because people perceive certain actions to be evil as opposed to being good. the bible and other holy books define their religions perception of what evil is, but that’s not to say nonreligious people cant have an opinion on the subject. I have never made the claim that atheist are exempt from evil nor have i made the claim that evil is only done in the name of religion. I did say that religion is often used to justify evil actions.”