(Actually this is the second half of the third post but I felt it was too long, so I split it.)
If there is no objective standard, where do you get your morality?
Speaking for myself, I got my morality in part from my upbringing, interacting with (generally secular) friends and loved ones during my early life as they guided my understanding of right and wrong. The rest comes from my experiences over the years since then, which have sometimes resulted in my adopting vastly different perspective from what I grew up with. Still, the fundamental basis for our “moral code” can likely be traced back to those patterns of behavior that conferred a survival advantage to our ancestors as a developing social species. People who habitually stole from, assaulted, or murdered other people in the same tribe were considered a liability and threat to collective survivability; as a result, such behaviors were deemed “wrong” and eventually “illegal” once we developed a system of laws.
I honestly can’t figure out how one can make a connection between not believing in God with there being no absolute moral authority. Two reasons: first, simply looking at the cultures of the world today, it’s obvious that morality is entirely subjective, depending not only on the culture, but also on the era. Second, if we were to use the Bible as a guide for morality, you’d better throw out the books of (if I recall correctly) Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Numbers, Kings, and others I’m sure. Otherwise genocide, rape (including enslavement and sexual abuse of minors), slavery, and murder are all acceptable ways of dealing with your enemies. Only later do you read that you’re supposed to turn the other cheek. Maybe that’s because by that point, everyone will be too busy being dead or enslaved to try hitting you at all.
So which is the logically defensible position: that something came out of nothing, and life happened as a result, or that God did it all?
The Big Bang theory describes the conditions of the extremely early universe, but not the conditions at t=0. The early universe – at the earliest fraction of a second – is described as extremely hot and dense; so dense that the four fundamental forces act as one unified superforce. Still, even in this state it was still obviously something. Before that is unknown, but work done in the field of loop quantum gravity indicates that there are some ideas about how to go about looking even further back … to the time before time began! (Is that like a fate worse than a fate worse than death?)
So, two points: first, something didn’t necessarily come from nothing. We don’t know what existed at the very point that time began, or why it expanded, so again that representation isn’t honest. The second point is that even if the Big Bang were conceived as a joke one night by a bunch of drunk sociology students at Cambridge University, it still wouldn’t give the untestable and unsubstantiated claim that “God did it” – or even any other claim, for that matter – even a shred of credibility. That’s something creationists have to do on their own, and to date, they’ve failed.
What if God is real as described in the bible, and you realize once you stand before him that you’ve been wrong your whole life?
I would tell him that he has a terrible way of communicating his existence to his creations. Don’t give me the ability to reason and then act surprised when I don’t believe in you for lack of evidence.
While we’re on the topic, Pascal’s Wager is total crap. What if Mehrunes Dagon is in charge of the show? Then we’re all screwed, condemned to spend eternity in Oblivion as little piles of daedroth poop after a few thousand years in the Rending Halls. The point is that there’s thousands of gods – or more – out there. Theists believe in only one, forsaking all of the others. If there is a God, you’re taking as much of a chance as the rest of us that you’re right, and you have just as much to lose if you’re wrong.
What does the atheist position offer people? How has it improved your life? Why will it improve others’ lives?
Atheism has helped me see religion as nothing more than a set of beliefs. It’s improved my life because I feel as if I am no longer being psychologically manipulated … at least by Christianity.
I’m not about to sell atheism to anyone. You have to arrive at it on your own. I firmly believe people would benefit from it; at least, the Texas school board and the US government would. The former would no longer have Creationism even jokingly considered something comparable to real science, and the latter would have a much better perspective on the separation of church and state.
If you want to believe, go right ahead. Just don’t legislate it or call it science, and I’m right with you.