ChristianAnswers.com offers us a little quiz for atheists and materialists to answer. It is very easy to recognize, even after only a glance, that this quiz is nothing more than propaganda for the “materialism is icky” strand of Christian “thought.” This strand of “thought” seems rather attractive for radical Christians, for some reason. The basic rationalization for “materialism is icky” goes something like this:
“Christianity has given my life meaning, therefore I believe that Christianity is necessary for life to have meaning, therefore anyone who is not a Christian leads a meaningless life.”
The approach taken in this quiz to drive the point home is simple. Point out some assumed consequence of atheism (mortality, the lack of a personal creator), even if it’s not an actual consequence of atheism (moral relativism and cultural relativism), and ask the atheist how he can possibly find meaning and purpose given that assumed consequence.
The main problem with this strategy is that it reveals a very myopic view of reality. This extreme myopia is also common amongst presuppositionalists, who believe that, because they justify logic through divine will, materialists cannot justify logic, as if there is no other possible explanatory scheme other than Christianity. To them, Christianity is the alpha and the omega, and no one can consistently believe they have a coherent worldview without it. That’s like stating that, since 1+1=2 is true in base ten, 1+1=2 therefore cannot be true in any other numeral system.
The questions also reflect a strange fetish with “ultimate” this and that. Using the term “ultimate” merely show how loaded these questions are, because anything could be rejected as not being “ultimate” by the Christian and his fairy tales of eternity. Because they are loaded questions, I have thrown out three questions for using the term “ultimate”: questions 2 (“… what ultimate meaning has life?”), 3 (“… what ultimate difference…”), 4 (“… how is mankind ultimately different…”) and 6 (… if it all ultimately comes to naught anyway?”). The word “ultimately” merely serves to exclude temporal answers a priori, without any argument or hearing.
Let’s get started:
1. “If all of life is meaningless, and ultimately absurd , why bother to march straight forward, why stand in the queue as though life as a whole makes sense?” —Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
Because life is not, in fact, “meaningless, and ultimately absurd.” As a materialist, I find plenty of reasons to live as if my life makes sense: because to me it does. If the Christian finds it hard to believe that I find meaning without his petty religion, he may just have to expand his mind a little bit and explore materialist philosophy before writing stupid questions in books that are meant as little more than preaching to the choir.
5. What viable basis exists for justice or law if man is nothing but a sophisticated, programmed machine?
I don’t really understand the connection implicit in this question. It is not clear to me why they believe that man being a “sophisticated, programmed machine” is supposed to go against the basis for justice. As we know, justice is based on the natural law that is “programmed” in our minds, and everyone has access to it:
[A]lmost all men have the same perceptions of what constitutes justice, or of what justice requires, when they understand alike the facts from which their inferences are to be drawn.
Men living in contact with each other, and having intercourse together, cannot avoid learning natural law, to a very great extent, even if they would.
Spooner is correct in pointing out that interacting in society provides us with much of our understanding of justice. Our genetics also provide a part of the answer, as much of the brain development in primates has to do with social interaction. Either way, we can say, in the terms used by the question, that justice is “programmed” in us by nature and experience. Therefore the question is loaded.
7. Without absolute morals, what ultimate difference is there between Saddam Hussein and Billy Graham?
I don’t think there was much difference between Saddam Hussein and Billy Graham, except that now Hussein is dead, and had a lot more political power than Graham while he was alive. And of course, as I already explained, there is no “ultimate difference,” since “ultimate” can be used to reject any answer.
[…] here are better answers to those same […]
[…] Francois Tremblay of Check Your Premises dispatches a fundamentalist Christian quiz for atheists in a ruthless, but humorous fashion in Christians Arrogantly Ask: How Can You Possibly Live Without God? […]
[…] And yes, I did email these answers to the website that proposed the questions. I’d love to get comments from any other atheist/materialist/naturalists out there who have different answers.￼ If I’m wrong about something, persuade me! I actually have found one other set of answers to the same questions here. […]