Did you ever hear about Logan, a tall teen from Holly Springs, North Carolina? The 17-year old is 6’7”, and as you can imagine, his height became quite the conversation starter. People constantly asked the kid about his height, and after a while, he got tired of answering the same questions over and over again.
Guess what he did? He had a business card made up with all the answers to the most common questions.
When someone asked him one of the common questions, he pulled a card out of his wallet and handed it over.
People had a good chuckle over it, but I thought it was brilliant. I know what it’s like to be asked the same questions over and over again.
See, I’m a humanist in Mississippi, and since 83% of people living in the Magnolia State identify as Christian, I’m an “other.” Sometimes, I feel like I’m some strange creature from a far-off land that people feel the need to investigate.
“Look, there’s a humanist,” they say. They gather around, look me over, and try to figure out what this unknown person is.
“Let’s ask her a question,” they decide.
And oh boy, do they ask.
Over the years, I’ve heard everything from the well-meaning query to the outright rude question. I’ve answered all these questions over and over again, and frankly, I am tired.
I would love to make a business card that I could pull out when someone asks a question, but the answers are a little bit longer. Let’s dig in and answer these questions once and for all.
1. How can you be moral?
This is probably the most infuriating question that people ask me. Many people cannot wrap their heads around morality without a God. They claim that if we didn’t have the Bible, the world would fall into chaos.
There are a couple of ways to look at this.
First, as a human being with compassion, empathy, and a sense of social justice, morality is hardwired into my brain, just as it is in the brains of other humanists. I am moral because I do my best to be a good person. I get no pleasure from seeing others suffer, and the idea of putting myself above the greater good of humanity is just not acceptable.
The second way to look at this is even more interesting.
Some of the most amoral actions that take place are done in the name of religion.
Abortion clinics are bombed by people who identify as Christians.
The Ku Klux Klan, one of the most despicable organizations in the world, is a Christian group.
The GOP administration is considering wiping trans people off the map in the name of the God they follow.
And most recently, a man walked into a Jewish synagogue and killed 11 people after claiming that “Jews are the children of Satan.”
These are just a few of the countless evil actions done in the name of God.
That’s why when people ask me how I can be moral without God, I ask them how they can be moral with God.
Frankly, religion is against my morals. I know some very moral people who are religious, but I also know those people would be moral without religion. They don’t need God to tell them not to kill. They don’t kill because that would be wrong.
And guess what? They ignore those parts of the Bible that tell them to hate gay people, treat women as second-class citizens, and attack people who don’t fit into their religion’s clearly defined idea of what is godly. They ignore those verses because those beliefs don’t fit into their morals.
Religion is not necessary for morality, and to be truly moral, you have to be willing to ignore those parts of Christianity that go against yours. If you are willing to infringe on the rights of others because you think it’s your ticket to heaven, that’s about as immoral as you can get.
2. How can your life have any meaning?
This is typically a well-meaning question. People truly want to know how I or any other humanist can possibly find meaning in life when we don’t believe in an afterlife.
I, like most other humanists, find a great deal of meaning in the here and now. I find joy doing the same things that others enjoy, such as hanging out with friends and family, reading a great book, traveling, and so much more.
I actually often find more meaning in these activities because I understand that life is finite. This is all I have, so I need to extract as much meaning from it as possible because when I am gone, my existence is gone.
In my opinion, this is much more meaningful than claiming, “We are not of this world.”
Can you imagine trying to extract meaning from a life that you don’t think belongs to you? Also, can you imagine searching for meaning when you think this entire life is just a means to an end?
Talk about a life without meaning. It seems like a waste of a good life to me, which is why I am more than happy to live in the here and now.
3. Aren’t you just angry at God?
I’m as mad at God as I am at Santa Claus.
OK, that’s the flippant answer, but here’s the deal. How can I be angry at something that I don’t think exists? It makes no logical sense.
Now, I find myself angry at those who do awful things in God’s name, but that is logical anger. I am angry when I drive by the state’s only abortion clinic and see grown men running up to people’s vehicles, yelling at women as they are making a healthcare decision for themselves.
I am angry when someone tells me that they don’t think I should have the right to be married to my wife, and I am certainly angry at people who twist religion to hate people in need from other countries.
But am I angry at God? Of course not, because I do not believe he exists.
4. What if you’re wrong?
This question is almost laughable. Some far-right Christians wear blinders so they believe that everyone else must be wrong and they must be right. Well, what if they are wrong about one of the hundreds of other gods out there? What if they are wrong to spend their time hating gay people, women, and everything else their religion tells them to hate?
5. Doesn’t it take as much faith to be a nonbeliever as a believer?
The short answer is “no.”
Let’s dig into this a bit.
Generally speaking, humanists and atheists don’t believe with 100% certainty that God does not exist. Instead, we are reasonably certain that there is not a God or gods. We have considered the evidence (or lack thereof) for a god, and we have drawn the conclusion that it is highly unlikely that such a being exists.
Because we believe in science and reason, we don’t say anything with 100% certainty unless there is proof. We believe the onus of proof is on the religious. Simply having faith isn’t enough. We need some sort of proof, and that proof is not found in a Bible that was written by human beings just like us.
What Questions Bother You?
These are the questions about humanism that I get regularly, and frankly, they can be irritating sometimes. What about you? What questions do you get about your beliefs that make you cringe? Sound off in the comments below.