For all of you Nexus readers, Ask an Atheist is a safe haven. An opportunity to ask what it really means to be an atheist, a rationalist, or a skeptic. We listen to everyone, no matter your beliefs, and offer the chance to pose moral, scientific, or even deeply personal questions (and watch us squirm).
For me, Ask an Atheist is an unsafe haven. This column is the most intellectually unsafe place I have ever inhabited. Between the constant challenges to my opinions from my fellow writers and the e-mails I receive as a result of unraveling my thoughts in public, I have been under constant intellectual siege since this column began. But I love it when someone pokes a hole in what I have written or said, because it offers me the chance to defend my mind and, when defeated, to learn something new.
I have written whole columns in 20 minutes with a big stupid smile plastered on my face, and I have also faced questions that have kept me up nights wondering whether I did the Nexus and its readers justice. And we live off of those readers. So the next time you’re ruminating on the meaning of life, the universe and everything as you stretch drunkenly out on a roof, staring up at the stars and listening to the shrieks of Del Playa Drive rising from the street below, put pen to paper and send it our way. I would love to hear what you have to say.
Connor Oakes is a third-year political science major.
Let’s be abrupt: God does not exist. I’m not at all shy or tentative in saying this because, even though many may find such blunt honesty arrogant and offensive, in reality it’s no different from saying leprechauns do not exist or that unicorns do not exist. Why? Because the story of God is indistinguishable from myth, from superstition and from fairy tale. Religion and its heap of gods are human creations, and this fact couldn’t be more obvious.
Nevertheless, to some, it’s not so obvious. In fact, four out of 10 Americans believe God created the universe roughly 10,000 years ago. Meanwhile, 85 percent of Americans admit to some form of religious identity. American religiosity isn’t what’s surprising to me, however. What’s surprising to me is this: Religious beliefs are plain weird and absurd, yet no one criticizes them. If there was a student group on campus whose mission statement was the belief that Elvis Presley will make his return and save music from its present degradation, would you simply walk by and politely smile? Is it just simply what’s “true for them” doesn’t have to be “true for me?” Fuck that. Elvis is dead; he’s not coming back. Your club’s batshit crazy and I worry for your mental health. That’s what I’d say. So I ask you, are the Elvis-crazies any different from the Jesus-crazies?
Of course, Christianity (and religion in general) does have its merits in community, in fellowship and in a sense of the spiritual. But here at Ask an Atheist, religion doesn’t get the “pass” it enjoys elsewhere because ultimately, it’s founded upon mistakes and ignorance.
Brian Gallagher is a fourth-year philosophy major.
When answering a question, we must first understand what is being asked. What is Ask an Atheist? With the verb here being “is,” we must wonder what it means to “be.” In what state does the column exist? Can it really be said to truly exist? We know that the “idea” of the column is present, insomuch as we are conscience of something with a name that can be assigned to a general description. But can the column, as a collective whole, really be said to be an object itself? Does it even need to be an object in order to “be?” Or perhaps the better question is to ask whether it does exist when referring to the whole — a collection of thoughts, together forming a single abstract; where the series of thoughtful, analytical, purposed and pointed weekly articles might truly only exist as a collective whole in the mind. The articles and papers themselves exist on paper, but can the idea of what it really represents be held, heard, smelled or seen? It would seem the representation and reputation of the column is, arguably, the most relevant part, but it exists only in the thoughts of the readers so long as they hold it. So we then ask, does thinking something make it real? Nope. Enjoy the upcoming year of Ask an Atheist, readers. We endeavor to make it even more interesting and provocative than it was last year.
Cameron Moody is a third-year computational biology major.