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The Atheists Live Without Hope Argument

One of the big issues that I often have with fundamentalist religious people is that more often than not they will make wild accusations about atheists and sometimes these accusations even come in the form of a question. These questions often have implied answers which are not true and are just mean spirited toward atheists. For example: As an atheist, what is it like to live without hope?

Seriously, that was the question that a Christian friend asked me recently and it wasn’t the first time I heard such a question from a Christian either. It certainly wasn’t an isolated incident. I am pretty sure that other atheists have heard similar questions asked to them by the religious. How should an atheist answer such an absurd question or accusation? While there are many possible responses and every atheist is welcome to give their own, I do have a suggestion.

For starters, I love answering questions with more questions. It must be the philosopher in me. I usually ask the particular religious person, why they hate people? Of course I don’t think that the person actually does hate people (necessarily), but the point is that the question implies that the person does hate people and asks why that might be. Just like the question about hope implies that I don’t have hope and inquires about the reason for such a view.

I think it is important to explain this to the religious person and take a moment or two to call them out on the hateful tone of the question and on the unfounded assumption that the question implies. The religious person in question should have asked, as an atheist do I have hope and if so, what is it that I hope for? While still an ignorant question to ask, it at least doesn’t imply unfounded assumptions and accusations.

Then I attempt to explain to the religious person in question that as a humanistic atheist, I actually have a great deal of hope. I hope to make the world a better place and I hope for the continued progress of humanity and for our continued survival as a species. I also have hopes and dreams for particular people in my life.

The way I see it, fundamentalists Christians tend to be more selfish with their hopes. They usually hope for eternal bliss in Heaven for themselves. So I guess the real question is, why are Christians so selfish?

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  • Graham

    I’ve never actually run into this one. I’ve had a plethora of assumptive questions sent my way, but never why I had no hope. I would be slightly agitated by this question. I like your approach of sending another question with a ‘hidden’ implication. Though I hate to get tied up in the tit-for-tat game with religious people, sometimes it seems like the argument must happen. Otherwise, they wear that smug look on their face as if they just burned you by asking a non-sensical question that they’ve already answered.

    • http://Marktalks@MySpace.com Mark

      I think its a fair question. I’m an atheist, and I don’t believe in “hope.” As near as I can tell, hope is a theological concept, not a reality based or scientific one. I wrote a little poem about it: If you have hope/ Then you can’t see/ That hope is just a fantasy./ Its really just a form of wishin’./ You’d be better off gone fishin’. Mark

      • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

        Yeah Mark, Hope is a form a wishing. But we acknowledge that. I hope you can understand where I am coming from here Mark, lol. There is nothing wrong with wishing as long as we know that is what it actually is.

  • http://www.myspace.com/rothtalltales Tralf

    Might as well ask them what it’s like to live without a conscience. After all, Jesus died for their sins, so they can do whatever they want and go to Heaven. It is only to show thanks for salvation that Christians abide moral conduct.

    But they don’t have to.

    So, again I ask them: what’s it like living without a conscience, because I and other atheists follow moral conduct because it’s the right thing to do, no reward or recompense or get out of sin free cards from Jesus required.


  • Jennifer

    There is hope in Science..Faith in science!!Don’t these people realize our universe is like an unending story in a book and we have just begun to read the first word. So many glorious discoveries await our species.

  • http://www.anatheist.net James

    That last paragraph really nails it. For some reason (not difficult to imagine why) many Christians project all of their hopes and dreams into an after life and then can’t figure out how we could possibly still have any of those hopes and dreams. However, I think that if you really probed far enough you would find that these same Christians really do share many of our same worldly hopes and dreams.

    Therefore, the question usually turns on our lack of any ultimate purpose or destination and therefore the ultimate hopelessness of our situation. This is undoubtedly true, but why should one fret about something so far from our control? The mistake here is a simple one. The mere fact that we may not like the our circumstances does not make the reality of those circumstances any less true.

  • Tony

    Just ask them “When did you stop beating your wife?”

  • Jim Jones

    I compare the gospels to Superman comic books. They parallel quite nicely, leading to the conclusion that either Superman is real or Jesus isn’t.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    I think you missed the context of this post which was written in August of last year. It was a satire about Reza Aslan’s Fox News appearance. When he kept pointing out that he was a religion scholar and that he does this for a living.

    As for the title of the article, it fits the article completely. The article is about the silliness in a claim to search for an historical Jesus by showing the silliness of searching for an historical Hercules. Sorry you didn’t like the article. If you like, I’ll refund your money. ;-)