Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.
I read your answer on how to absolve your guilt. But why do you have guilt in the first place? Where do you as an atheist get your morals? If your truly an atheist isn’t it survival of the fittest?
I am often asked these questions, and so are most of my atheist friends. Unfortunately, most of the time these questions are not asked as sincere, earnest, and honest information-seeking questions.
Usually they are what are called “rhetorical questions,” which are statements the person wants to make disguised as questions. More often than not, the person asking is not really interested in hearing an answer. They are just pretending to ask a question so they can make a little speech, essentially saying that atheists have no morals.
Responding to people who ask such rhetorical questions is a complete waste of time, because they are not honestly interested in learning something new. They are not honestly interested in an atheist’s answer.
So, before I respond to you with a lengthy, detailed answer, please forgive me for asking if you actually want to know, or are just being rhetorical. I have a great deal of work to do, trying to help people who are in serious pain and anguish to improve their relationships with their religious loved ones.
If you are honestly, by your own moral definition of honesty, wanting to hear and consider my answer, please write back to me, and tell me more about where you are coming from with this question.
With sincere respect,
To the readers: I sent Don the above response on June 10, and have not heard from him yet.
I could have spent many hours writing a lengthy original response explaining humanist/naturalist/atheist views about guilt, morals and the misconceptions implied in Don’s use of the phrase “survival of the fittest,” and/or I could have referred him to several articles that I have since found because I became curious, such as these: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Your suggestions for other referrals and resources are greatly appreciated)
But I didn’t want to risk wasting my time doing either for the reasons that I explained to Don above. I’ve done that too many times already. I didn’t want to brush him off dismissively, but I think it’s understandable in situations like this to want to find out if all my effort will at least be seriously considered, regardless of agreement or disagreement.
I was trying to respectfully yet frankly explain why I need some reassurance that he’s actually going to read it.
So I’m asking you about my response. What do you think or feel about how I handled it? Don’s questions might have been sincere and earnest, or at least interested, or they might have been rhetorical, or maybe something else. It’s not his fault that other people have so often been manipulative or disingenuous with these questions, but I have developed a low tolerance for futility and now have little patience for wasting my breath. How do you respond to these or other questions that you’ve been asked many, many times, and have some hesitation because too often your carefully considered answer has not even been heard?