Wintery Knight wants to interview atheists. I'll bite, although I have a low opinion of his intelligence, honesty and character.
1) Do you believe that the universe was brought into being out of nothing by a person (agent)?
Is it possible that this agent could communicate to us, or that we could discover something about that agent? (i.e. – does God exist, is he knowable)
It's logically possible, perhaps, but the evidence argues strongly against such an agent even existing.
2) Explain to me in which religion you were raised by your parents, if any. How did your parents approach religion in the home? (strict, lax, etc.)
I was raised a Quaker. Lax or strict does not really apply to Quakers.
3) What events in your past affected your beliefs about God’s existence and knowability? (e.g. – I studied biology, comparative religions or anthropology, or I met a girl I liked)
No specific events. Just generally thinking logically, scientifically and philosophically about the issue.
4) What are your main objections to belief in God’s existence and knowability today? (e.g – suffering, pluralism, hiddenness)
This question is not well-phrased. I have concluded that no god exists because the evidence argues strongly for that conclusion: we see the opposite of what we would logically expect to see if any kind of interventionist god (even a malevolent god) actually were to exist.
5) This salt shaker (grab salt shaker and brandish it in a non-threatening way) exists because it is made of matter and occupies space. What is the mode of existence of moral values and moral duties, on atheism? Where do they exist, and what do they exist as? (e.g. – in people’s minds, as descriptions of behavior, in God’s mind)
Moral and ethical values appear to be properties of minds (which are themselves physical entities with complicated causal explanations).
6) Free will is required in order for humans to act in ways that are morally responsible. You cannot assign praise or blame to anyone if they do not have free will. What is the rationale for free will on atheism? If there is no free will, on what grounds can atheists praise or condemn any behavior? (free will means the ability to act or not act)
I do not think the concept of "free will" is logically coherent. I praise or condemn behavior based on how it affects my interests, including my empathic interests. I take no credit for my empathy, I was born that way and my parents did not indoctrinate me into feeling otherwise about anyone.
7) Suppose you are an atheist journalist writing a story in atheistic North Korea in which you criticize the atheist leader Kim Jong Il. His secret police burst through the front door of your apartment and drag you off you a torture chamber. You are told that you are about to be personally executed by the dictator himself. On what basis would you plead for your life, on atheism? (i.e. – how would you persuade a powerful atheist to do right)
I don't think that appealing to God (or any sort of "objective" moral standards) would have any practical effect, so the question is irrelevant. If one criticizes a tyrannical dictator, one must practically expect nothing better than martyrdom as the price of exposure.
8) Suppose that you are strolling along the river in the winter, and you cross a bridge. Suddenly, you hear shouts for help coming from the icy water below. A little girl has fallen in the water and will die in minutes unless you jump in. There is no one else around to save her. You have no relatives/dependents. You can swim. There is an even chance that you will both die if you try to save her. Do you try? How is this rational on your worldview? (i.e. – how is self-sacrifice rational on atheism)
I have emotions and feelings (properties of my mind with a complicated causal explanation): I would feel bad if I did not try to save her; I do not wish to feel bad, therefore I would try. Death comes to us all, and holds no terror for me.
9) Suppose you travel back in time to the United Kingdom, when slavery is still legal! You meet William Wilberforce. He says that he has been battling slavery hard for 20 years, on the basis of Christian convictions, but that today he wants to let you try it in his place. On atheism, on what rational grounds could you try to persuade them? (If they say yes, ask them if they are pro-life and what they have done to support the pro-life movement)
I would find ways of arming the slaves and fomenting a slave revolt, again, because I would want to, not because I think there's some extrinsic reason I ought to. Note that attempts to use Christianityto eradicate chattel slavery were an abject failure; it was only when the material economic conditions made chattel slavery untenable was it exchanged for wage slavery (which in many ways is as bad or worse than chattel slavery). (And I do not consider blastocysts or embryos to be "persons" in the same sense that living, thinking, feeling, self-aware human beings are persons. I just don't care about embryos like I care about people with working brains.)
10) Consider the heat death of the universe, which is the theory that the amount of usable energy is going to run out at some point in the finite future, as it disperses in space. On atheism, what is the ultimate significance of your moral decisions? How does it does it affect your fate, or the fate of anyone else you act on ultimately? What does it matter to you and to the species ultimately whether you act morally or not? (i.e. – how do your good and evil actions change where you and everyone else ends up?)
There is no ultimate significance to my actions. So what? I'm not so full of myself that I have to believe I'm at the center of the universe to have a happy and fulfilled life.
11) What is your purpose in life, and why did you choose that purpose? Is it just yours, or for everyone else too?
I want to be happy. I generally like other people, and I want them to be happy too.
12) Suppose Jesus appeared to us right now and addressed you directly with the following words: “I’m really here and you need to follow me in order to flourish and achieve the goal for which I created you”. He then glares suspiciously at me, snatches a few fries from my plate, eats them, and then disappears. Later on, the Ghostbusters show up and confirm that Jesus was no ghost, but really God stepping into history. And everyone in the restaurant saw and heard exactly what you and I saw and heard. How would you proceed? How would you find out what to do? (i.e. – the atheist now knows Christianity is true, and I want to see what they think they should do in order to act like a Christian)
If I knew Christianity were true (and I will ignore the triviality of your attempts to establish its truth), I hope I would be courageous enough to dedicate my life to rebellion against God. Perhaps quixotic, but I have the moral beliefs that I have. Since I'm not sadistic, and I take no real pleasure from the suffering of others, I could comply with a savage, brutal psychopath such as the character of Jehovah in the Christian bible only out of fear and cowardice.
13) What would be the most difficult thing about becoming a Christian for you? Would it be the moral demands? The demands on your time? The unpopularity, humiliation and persecution that you would face? How would you feel about publicly declaring your allegiance for Christ and facing the consequences? (i.e. – they have become a Christian, what is the most difficult adjustment from your current life?)
Per above, self-loathing, the injury that fear and cowardice would cause to my self-image.