Talking back

We are pleased to revive the “Talking Back” department that was so popular during the days that Robin Murray-O’Hair was the editor of this journal. “Talking Back” contained the replies of both ordinary and extraordinary Atheists to what nowadays are called FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). Some replies could be sardonic one-liners: Q. Why are you an Atheist? A. I’ve read all the Bible. Other replies might take several carefully reasoned paragraphs to answer. We hope to be able to publish the responses of several different people to given questions at the same time, and so we published a partial list of popular questions in the last issue and asked readers to take a crack at one or more of them. If you would like to respond to any of those questions or to ‘pet-peeve’ questions that you yourself have had to answer, we would like to hear from you.

E-mail responses may be sent to:

Snail-mail responses may be sent to:

Talking Back

American Atheist Press

P.O. Box 5733

Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733

2. Prove there isn’t a god.


leprechauns–in fact, its impossible to prove the non-existence of an



any arbitrary assertion.

For good reason, we must impose certain requirements on any claim

before we can accept it as being true, thus the burden of proof falls

upon the person making the claim, and not those who ask for real-world


–Wayne Aiken


–Edward Hill

This is not a proof but rather a response to this challenge. The

reason I call it a response is that the challenge is meaningless. It is

meaningless because assertions are proved or disproved only within the

context of a theory. Since no such theory (a description which predicts

an observable phenomenon) exists concerning such supernatural beings (a

nonobservable being) a proof cannot be given. I can however give a

response and it is as follows.

The number of assertions I cannot disprove are only limited by the


assertions simply because I cannot disprove them? Oh you will? Well

then, for each such assertion there can be constructed a mutually

exclusive assertion. Both cannot be true. Will you take the psychotic


still cannot disprove either? You will? Oh well, good luck with the new


–Daniel Sheltraw


3. How did you get here?

I walked. Sometimes I stagger. Sometimes I crawl. Depends on how much


–Edward Hill


–Wayne Aiken

I usually drive, but today I had to take the bus.

–Bernie Klein

9. How does it hurt you to have “In God We Trust” on your money?


–Edward Hill

It hurts non-believers when religious groups point to such slogans and

mottoes in support of their political agenda–in fact, that was the



when the government assumes the role of actively promoting any

particular position with regard to religious belief. It sends the wrong



enough, and someone is bound to act on it.

–Wayne Aiken


more reliable; is self-correcting; expands, increases, and improves our

natural, material knowledge; is testable, revisable, etc.



in spite of our scientific, medical, and archaeological findings because



twice and different, which no longer exist or existed]; the printed


material knowledge has not improved or expanded whatsoever. As a matter


century CE while humanity pretty much remains the same. The Bible is not

testable (not changed when it fails) and not revisable but always

reinterpreted with over 38,000 different Christian denominations each

believing itself to be the One and Only True Church of … .


calamity/evil. How can anyone trust someone or any supernatural being


Our national currency must respect the US Constitution and reflect the

whole population of the US of A and all of its citizens. Since I am a

Patriotic Atheist Citizen, it does not represent me. It used to have E

Pluribus Unum which did respect both the Constitution and all citizens.


–Chester Twarog

22. If you’re right about god, when we both die we both just die. But if I’m right, then when I die I go to heaven and you go to hell. So why not believe in god, just in case?

How do I get to go to hell when you die? I thought I was supposed to


–Edward Hill

Which god? Literally millions of them have been imagined, often with

mutually-contradictory demands, and there is no way to distinguish any

choice as being better or worse than any other. It is equally likely

that any Supreme Being would value the honesty and reason of Atheists

and reward them with eternal paradise instead.

–Wayne Aiken

26 How can you have any ethics if you don’t believe in god?

In his book, What Evolution Is, Ernst Mayr makes the case for the

evolution of human ethics. He points out that altruistic behavior arises

from the natural activity of cooperation which develops in many

successful groups of animals. Altruism goes one step further in being

helpful or giving without the expectation of reward and at a cost to the


such altruism would be favored by natural selection. Anything a parent

does to enhance the well-being and survival of its offspring favors its


Ethics then can be regarded as another product of evolution. Ethical

codes arise from natural selection and are enhanced by the experiences

and requirements of living in groups. Mayr extends this altruistic

proclivity to near relations and ultimately to the larger group since

it is still enhancing the group genotype. Perhaps the ethic is applied

with less intensity the further removed the relationship, but it can

still be operative.

Mayr then points out that the same altruism has not generally been

granted to outsiders. However, in modern times there is the pressure to

extend altruistic behavior and honorable ethics to those outside the

immediate group. Mayr makes the comparison between Old Testament ethics

and New Testament ethics in the Christian Bible. In the Old Testament,

outside groups are consistently treated differently than the family

group. He points in contrast to the parable of the good Samaritan in the

new testament wherein at some cost and inconvenience to himself a

Samaritan helps a complete stranger. This behavior is offered as a

favorable way to act towards others, even outside your own group.

These stories are separated by thousands of years, and by many

generations, but they do demonstrate a growth in the complexity of the

ethical outlook. I suggest that evolution has not stopped, but even in

the present time is being swayed by the influence of the wiser members

on the rest of the community. With the accumulation of greater knowledge

and the time for consideration of the thought patterns that knowledge

spawns, it seems to me that our ethics are even now still evolving.


evolution of individual and group reactions to life experiences. We

adopt our ethical attitudes on the basis of our total experience of

sensual input, since this is the only source we have for the

information to make these decisions.

By experience and teaching in addition to innate responses, the human



inexorable. Even the evolution of human thought and perception is a

protracted process. We assimilate some kinds of knowledge slowly, but

perhaps humans will one day learn to live without war and to treat

others fairly and equally as they themselves would like to be treated.

It is a noble goal. Ethics are evolutionary, and no god or religion is

involved or necessary.

–John D. Boenke

34. If you don’t believe in God, why are you fighting against him?


their beliefs and ideals on everyone else.

–Joseph Zarka


48. What would you put in religion’s place?

Science, reason, logic, and critical thinking.

–Joseph Zarka

What would you put in the place of cancer, smallpox, and plague?


#53 What’s stopping you from killing someone?


–Bernie Klein


–Edward Hill

The fact that I would go to prison for doing it.

–Joseph Zarka

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