Where Did It All Come From?

This question has plagued humankind for a long time in one form or another. In the search for our origins, to discover why and how we are here, we have gone from the embryo, the fossil records, extraterrestrial objects, and even to extraterrestrial intelligence. There are many ideas on the origins of life, some make sense, others lack substance, and still others are so far out that they make creationism look credible.

What questions remain once we figure out where everything came from? Where did the universe come from?

Now that we know where Homo sapiens came from, we have to expand the question beyond our personal world. We have only just begun to question and barely scratched the surface of answers.

Where did we come from? Why are we here? Who is this strange woman in my bed? These are the questions that plague mankind!

The “Big Bang,” as it has become known, is right now the most likely cause of the Universe as we see it today. A Christian monk proposed the “Big Bang” in order to prove to scientists at the time that the universe was not infinite, but finite (NOTE: “Big Bang” was a title given by opponents of the theory in order to make is sound like a fairy tale. It backfired on them and now it is one of the most recognized theories in science.).

The monk supposed that an infinite universe could not have a god, where a finite one could have a creator (whether that creator was his god was a completely different issue). Science at the time dismissed the hypothesis because the monk could not back it up with mathematics.

Later, a mathematician worked out the numbers and agreed with the “Big Bang.” The problem is that at 1×10-43 seconds after the Big Bang, he had no means of doing any more mathematics. He had reached a singularity (note the often misuse of this word and huge misunderstanding of what a singularity is and is not).

Science eventually agreed with the monk and the few Christians that had adopted it when mathematics proved the monk correct. The odd thing is that as soon as science accepted the idea, Christianity dropped it like a hot potato.

The singularity is the key. A singularity means that we do not have the knowledge to go any further. For example, Boyle wrote a law for gases under pressure. However, under a certain amount of pressure, gases turn to a liquid. When the gases reach a liquid state, they have reached the singularity of Boyle’s law. Boyle’s Law can no longer explain the behavior of the gas. Liquid-state gas was a singularity until new knowledge arose which allowed us to measure it and understand its physics.

Prior to that singularity, we can make educated guesses, provide multiple hypotheses, and even have enough to warrant a theory. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that we do not know 100%.

Of course, science is never about 100%. Science is always questioning itself more then it questions the world in which it is involved. We can hope that in the future the knowledge will become available that will allow us to peer before that 1×10-43 seconds after the Big Bang. The Hubble Space Telescope is the beginning of that new knowledge – we look forward to great things as it peers into the beginnings of the universe with its large eye that is unhampered by atmospheric distortion.

I try to keep things simple at Atheism Awareness because I do not want readers to need a degree in science or theology to understand what I am talking about. However, some subjects require a deeper understanding of the science to grasp the concepts that I am trying to relate.

This is one of those subjects.

The fact that we do not know what happened prior to that 1×10-43 seconds does not mean the creationists are right. Most Creationism pages insist that because we do not know that this proves god exists. We can say that many things exist just because we do not know. How does our lack of knowledge in this area prove the existence of god?

Nature is amazing and beautiful and awe-inspiring on its own. It does not need a god to corrupt and pollute that beauty.

Religionists and creationists have fallen for this repeatedly. They used to say that lightning proved god existed. They used to say that the geocentric universe proved that god existed. Over the centuries, the creationists have insisted that scientific lack of knowledge was proof of their god. As science expands its knowledge of the universe, it forces creationists to withdraw from that stance each time. The creationists have clung on to this one because it the only thing they have to justify their belief in a literal creation.

The bottom line is that we do not know for sure. It remains one of the great mysteries of science. We know what happened 1×10-43 seconds after the “Big Bang,” but before that remains a singularity.

Laypersons are often confused as to what a singularity means. A singularity (referring to the “Big Bang”) is not the astrophysics singularity (point in space-time where gravitational forces cause matter to have infinite density and infinitesimal volume, and space and time become infinitely distorted). It is the mathematical singularity (point where the derivative does not exist for a given function of a random variable, but every neighborhood of which contains points for which the derivative exists). In other words, before 1×10-43 seconds after the Big Bang, we do not know what was before it; we have reached a mathematical singularity.

There are of course theories based on the available evidence (we have to go on what we do know: not on what we do not know). For those that are interested in learning a few of the theories that scientists are working on today, visit the following links:

Are Atheists a Minority?

Atheists are not as much of a minority as you might think.

While atheists are certainly the minority in the United States, that is not necessarily the case worldwide. For now, we will stick to the United States.

Recent studies by several research foundations have concluded that 14.3% (14.1% and 13.9% in other studies) of Americans are non-religious. Non-religion is the fastest growing “religion” in the world.

Over the past 30 years, Christianity in the United States has only grown 1.2%. Non-religion in that same period has grown 127% (using the 14.3% total).

One thing that the 14.3% does not take into account is the religious atheist. One third of all the world’s religions are atheistic in nature, meaning they worship no deity (Taoists, Buddhists). Many spiritualists do not worship a god or believe in any deity (New Age, Confucians).

Taking only the 14.3% that means there are twenty-seven million non-religious people in the United States.

Atheists are one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States and globally.

My personal view is that the combination of increased scientific awareness and human evolution are driving the rapid increase in non-religion. America seems to be the last bastion of religiosity (except in areas where scientific awareness is limited or access to information is restricted by theocratic societies) – especially in the South where religion permeates everything. It is no coincidence that the eight dumbest states in the nation (Department of Education, 1999) are all in the Bible Belt?

Barna (A Christian-based research organization) advises that the 14.3% is probably too low, because they concluded that an average of 7% of all churchgoers are non-believers that only go as “show” or in order to prevent family from knowing they have “left the fold.”

“Non-religious”, in the terms of the study, indicated individuals that described themselves as non-religious. This included self-described atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhists, Freethinkers and others.

If you take into account the non-believers that are hiding in the pews in fear of retaliation or discrimination that brings the figure to around 21% of the population of the United States claiming to be non-religious or no belief in a god.

If you start throwing in the figures of non-Christian religions in the United States then it becomes obvious that Christianity, still the majority religion, is not as predominant as it used to be.

America is becoming more and more pluralistic in religious beliefs and non-beliefs. It used to be rare to see a Sikh walking around in the local mall – now we see them all the time. It used to be rare to see a family of Hindus walking around Disney World in their religious dress – now we see them all the time.

The beauty of religious freedom allows pluralism to thrive in the United States. The foreknowledge of our Founding Fathers ensured we did not have a theocracy that all these religions can prosper in the United States.

We are not a Christian Nation – we are a religiously diverse nation – a nation of religious freedom.

Do Atheists Have a Meaning To Life?

I would return the statement first by asking, “Why do you need to believe in a God or an afterlife to have a point to life – to have meaning in your life?”

Do animals other than humans believe in an afterlife or gods? Do sheep go to heaven and goats go to hell?

There is a lot to look forward to in life before our deaths. Perhaps a small list of some of the major things in my life that give it meaning and make it worth something would help here. What is the point of my life?

  • Raising my daughters to be productive members of society
  • Spending time with my family and friends
  • Enjoying nature and Earth’s beauty
  • Learning something new every day
  • Laughter
  • Leaving a legacy – contributing to society

In other questions, we discussed the psychological and emotional needs humans have and how those needs may have resulted in the invention or evolutionary necessity of religion. Fear is an emotion, but fear of death is psychological.

The Atheists I hang out with are some of the happiest and most productive people that I know.

Most people need to know, both emotionally and psychologically, that life is not just a trip from birth to death. Religious beliefs give people hope and help to eradicate people’s fears and anxieties. Belief in an afterlife makes death easier for people. When a theist is on his or her deathbed, their beliefs about going to a higher place will comfort them. If belief in an afterlife helps people deal with death easier, then more power to them.

When I am on my deathbed, I will be comforted knowing that I lead a good life and I am leaving behind a legacy for my children. I will be comforted knowing that I spent my time here well. I will be comforted knowing that I did not waste my life. I spent my time educating my children and myself. I made a point every day to learn something new and to share that knowledge with others. I will die in peace knowing that I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish and that I taught my children to be the best they can.

We have a meaning to life, but many people do not recognize it. We are an animal, albeit an animal with higher intelligence and the capacity to philosophize, but an animal nonetheless. Our biological purpose (meaning, if you will) is to perpetuate the species through reproduction.

Our meaning of life is to reproduce and to raise our children to do the same. When we have accomplished this then we feel at peace, we feel that our lives have some meaning.

When you talk to the elderly and ask them what the most important event in their life was you get some amazing answers. For religionists, they expect to hear answers about going to church and loving god, etc, but that is not what you hear.

The biggest answer to that question is having and raising children. The elderly take great comfort in their children – knowing they accomplished their meaning in life by having and raising children successfully.

The second biggest answer to that question is some type of contribution to society – be it scientific, anthropological, or societal. The accomplished writer, artist, and scientist feel that they have contributed to society and helped the species along – they take great comfort in that.

When you talk to the elderly and ask them what they regret the most in their life you get almost the exact same thing – but from a lack of.

The elderly that never married and had kids list that as their biggest regret in life. The elderly that never contributed to society, in one way or another, list that as a big regret in their life. You will rarely hear someone answer his or her biggest regret with “I didn’t go to church enough.”

When it comes down to it the meaning of life does not need a god. Those that are reflecting back on their life know their meaning through their children and their accomplishments. They take great solace in being able to say, “Mission accomplished!”

Do Atheists Hide From Family and Friends?

Yes, many Atheists do hide their Atheism from family and friends. Many Atheists are afraid of the repercussions of letting their loved one know about their Atheism. Many Atheists just avoid the conflict.

There are so many variables that an Atheist must concern himself with in revealing his Atheism to family and friends. The real difficulty is that each family member and each friend (individually) create a completely new set of variables for the Atheist to deal with.

These variables include the degree of religiosity of the person, the closeness to the person, the time one has known the person, the attitudes (including tolerance) of the person, and other issues. I often jokingly say that it is easier to come out of the closet as a homosexual than it is to come out as an Atheist.

It is unfortunate that many loved ones will “disown” a family member after finding out they are an Atheist. Have they no shame?

The problem is that my joke is not too far from the truth. A homosexual friend of mine that is also an Atheist said he received more static about his Atheism then he ever did about his homosexuality. While the family was disgusted over his homosexuality, they seemed comforted that he at least believed in a god. When he told them that he did not believe in god, they started to distance themselves from him. In hindsight, my friend misinterpreted the variables and came out of the closet to his family the wrong way. There are still family that refuse to talk to him.

One of the biggest issues for an Atheist when coming out of the closet is the sincerity of the people they are telling. What I mean is that they often sincerely believe that you will go to Hell and burn for all eternity. This creates emotional stress for them, can often be seriously heartbreaking, and may cause depression in some. You have to weigh their degree of religiosity and sometimes even their age. Should you tell grandma at ninety or let her die thinking she will see all her loved ones in Heaven?

When another friend of mine finally told his Mom, she cried. She cried because she was sincerely concerned for his soul and that he was going to Hell. She felt with all her heart that she would never see her son for eternity; that she would have to peer down from Heaven and see him writhing in pain at the torturing hands of Satan. While this friend saw the ridiculousness of his mother’s beliefs, he understood her sincerity and he had to deal with guilt from telling her. He second-guessed his decision to come out of the closet with his mother.

How open-minded are your parents and friends? Should you only tell your immediate family or include your extended family? Should you come out at work? Should you tell your spouse or children? Will the people you tell ostracize you? Will your friends leave you? Will everyone start a proselytizing campaign or an “intervention?”

These questions plague the Atheist before coming out of the closet. The sad part is that these questions are even considered. Why should Atheists be afraid to admit what they are to their relatives and friends? Why should Atheists be worried about discrimination at the workplace? Why should Atheists fear retaliation in the form of proselytizing and religious harassment and discrimination?

What do you do if you are still underage? Should you wait until after you leave the house? Can your parents still force you to go to church? Will your parents increase your religious indoctrination and get your preacher or priest involved? Will your parents get other family members involved? Will people single you out for ridicule and harassment at school? Will your teachers get involved in the proselytizing? Will your family see your declaration of Atheism as a form of teen rebellion instead of an honest lack of belief?

Obviously, other issues and variables come into play. I could never list all of them. Each individual will face different problems and different variables that they will have to take into consideration.The comedy movie Blasphemy is a perfect example of how not to come out as an Atheist to your family.

Generally, the best method is to bring it up slowly and to use “less stressful” terminology.

For example, start by asking probing questions that do not give away your Atheism (play the doubting Thomas role). You can point out inconsistencies, contradictions, and other fallacies without coming out directly and saying, “I don’t believe in gods.” Sometimes simple things like, “I don’t understand this doctrine” or “How did Noah fit all those animals into that tiny Ark?” can be great tools for letting your family know that you are questioning your faith and religion, but without coming out and saying you’re an Atheist.

By leading up slowly, over the course of a few months or so, they will be more prepared for your declaration and it will not be such an emotional hammer for them. You can use “friendly” terms like Freethinker or Agnostic instead of the dreaded “A” word if you think that will help your family and friends deal with it.

I know it can be stressful on the Atheist hiding their identity. There are feelings of resentment that build up because they feel forced to hide their true feelings from family and friends. Why should we have to hide while they get to express their religiosity out in the open? Do we ask the black man to paint his skin white in order to avoid discrimination? Do we ask the woman to act masculine in order to avoid discrimination? So why do Atheists still hide?

This goes back to the taboo associated with the word based on the very myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings that I am addressing at Atheism Awareness. Even Atheists fall victim to the perpetuation of the 3 M’s.

When religion comes between family members: the family member isn’t the problem – the religion is.

Barna Research, a Christian research organization based in San Diego, conducted a survey in 1998 on non-believers in churches. The survey concluded that up to 7% of all churchgoers are non-believers that are afraid to come out of the closet to their family. These non-believers live a fake life, living a game of charades and lies as they appease their family and friends. Others pretend to be believers in order to keep their business contacts – knowing that as soon as word gets out that they are Atheist, they may lose a large portion of their clientele.

Of course, there are examples of coming out of the closet that went perfectly. The family was accepting and friends shrugged their shoulders as if to say, “Whatever floats your boat.”

I recommend a few things before coming out of the closet.

Join a local Atheist or Freethought group. Fellowship with like-minded individuals is just as important for Atheists as it is for churchgoers. You may even consider your local Unitarian Universalist church or fellowship, as many of the congregations are Atheists and Humanists.

Be prepared to answer questions that will come your way. You should be able to answer these questions without hesitation. Questioners identify hesitation as doubt, which may lead to heavier proselytizing. Be prepared to be hit with questions like, “How did this happen?” Be ready to answer questions like, “Can’t you find some other way to rebel?”

Accumulate lots of ammunition. In the case of Freethinkers, Agnostics and Atheists the ammunition is knowledge. If you cannot argue against what you believe then you should not be arguing for it. You should have knowledge of all sides, all arguments, and counter-arguments, both sides of the issues and know how to rebut people properly. You do not have to be an all-star debater or be exceptionally articulate – you just need to know the information so you can properly rebut anything that comes your way.

If someone hits you with a question that you are not prepared for or something you do not know – that is okay. Tell them you have to think about and you will get back to them. Do not delve into a subject where you know less than the other person does – they will corner you too easily. Remain on the offensive if you can – there are only certain times where appearing innocently defensive works to your benefit.

Be patient. Coming out of the closet will not resolve itself overnight. You may have to explain things over time and you may have to come out slowly.

Most of all, do not let anyone force you into coming out. Come out when you are ready. On the other side of the coin, do not let anyone keep you in the closet – come out when you are ready.

Do Atheists Hide Their Children From Religion?

As a realist, I know that exposure to religion will be routine for my children during their lives. I do not try to keep that exposure away from them. It would be a futile attempt to keep it from them and brainwashing them with Atheism would make me just as guilty as the theist that brainwashes their children and indoctrinates them into their religion.

It is more important to raise our children to think for themselves in order to make their own life decisions.

There are instances where I will prevent certain exposure, of course. I will not let my children go to a church that espouses hatred. I will not let my children attend certain events affiliated with certain denominations because of some things that they do that I deem to be unethical.

My in-laws isolated their children from the world out of fear that they would not believe in God if they saw how the world really operated. In my eyes, that was mental child abuse. Their daughters lacked preparedness for the world and reality when they left home. They were dependent upon others and scared of their own shadows. That is no way to raise children so I would never raise my children in the same way.

All I can do is to help my children understand what is exposed to them. I can explain to them why people believe what they do and help them to become critical thinkers. I can give them everything they ask for when it comes to education. If they leave my arms knowing how to think on their own two feet and how to use the critical thinking skills, logic, rationality and reasoning that their human brains allow them to do, then I have achieved something. If they go on to believe in a god, then so be it.

One thing that I have done for my children is to teach them as much about religions as possible. The important thing for them to understand is that this is not a black & white; Atheist versus Christian world. They need to know that there is a rainbow of beliefs and religions out there.

We cannot protect our children from religious influence: the best we can hope for is to give them the critical thinking skills needed to overcome religious indoctrination on their own.

They have learned about Hinduism, Judaism, Paganism, Wicca, Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Shamanism, Buddhism, and others. When my children ask for information on a religion then I give it to them. I am not afraid to expose my children to different religions because I have also taught them the critical thinking skills they will need to make an educated decision about this matter.

My children regularly attend a Unitarian Universalist fellowship and they have gone to Vacation Bible School with their friends. My children ask questions about different religions and different beliefs. I do not push my non-belief on them, but I do answer questions they have honestly.

My children know that I am an Atheist. I do not lie to them. My children know my views, but they also know the views of others. When they ask about something, we tell them what everyone believes. We tell them what Christians believe, Muslims believe, Jews believe, Wiccans believe and what Atheists do not believe.

By exposing my children to all religions instead of isolating them away from religion, I feel that their odds of being critically thinking and rational adults actually increase. They already know that there is not “one true god,” but a bunch of different religions all claiming the same thing about their deity.