silly labels, eh? realize that atheism is NOT one cohesive tradition. there is probably an authoritative book on the nature of the banana. there is probably NOT one on the nature of not-bananas. atheism is NOT a single tradition. and all of my answers are my own. atheists only have ONE thing in common:
that there can't possibly be a being something like a human mind that created the universe and Earth and all the critters and man and is inordinately fond of mankind in particular and has a plan for mankind and earth of punnishment and reward. and that this being can be communicated with unambiguously. Certainly no mind like being in control of the universe wrote us a book in a hman language. that's it.
and even that is questionable because what's this mean "something like a human mind" surely some think that the evolving earth is SOMEthing like the human mind since the human mind might ALSO work by a process of overproduction of varying 'thoughts' and a 'natural selection' of them. Who knows? we don't know how the mind works yet. and still these people might call themselves atheists. there is no arbitor of who can and cannot call themselves atheists.
so these answers are my own. and i am not sure i would call myself an atheist, because we don't know how minds work, therefore, even if there was a deity, i don't know how it would work.
There are the basic world view questions:
1) Origins: Where did life originate
This is the exciting advanture that science is on now. is life as we know it on earth a natural consequence of chemistry? is it rather inevitable that under cetain geochemical conditions the chemistry of CHNOPS and SiAlFeMgKCaNaCl spontaneously forms into life?
Or is life a one time low probability event?
Or is it so improbable that it had to be designed?
The point is that most people don't know what we've learned in teh past 150 years. What we've learned is that rocks and chemicals are not innert and dumb. the gyrating 20 odd elements the earth is mostly made of are dynamic information processing subtle fuzzy machines always bouncing into each other exploring, with complex behaviors! molecules are complex and have sublte behaviors. they are NOT only like bricks or lego blocks.
In the last 70 years we've learned the molecular nature of life. This is utterly mindblowing knowlege, that again, has not seeped into popular culture. Yes when you look at the molecular organization of the simplest cell, the first impression is yes, the whole shebang, the whole autopoeitic loop looks irreducibly complex.
on the other hand over that same time period we've been widening the scope of our exploration of chemistry. in school we may learn something kind of dopey like: a flame is C6H12O6 +O2-->CO2 +H2O. FAR FROM IT. even an ordinary gas flame, CH4 and O2 burns in a complicated network of cyclic chemical reactions, reminiscent of some of those in the cell. We've begun to explore many such cyclic reactions in chemistry that spontaneously form. We know that many of the small molecules in cells can form spontanously in a reducing atmosphere, in fact are present in meteorites.
and of course even mineral chemistry is complex. clays, zeolites, metal sulfides... in fact at the core of many living reactions are metal sulfides..
The bottom line is, that our knowlege of all this is exploding exponentially, this is an EXCITING time for exploring this question. the gap between non life and life is narrowing. this is NO time to back down into a stance of "it's impossible"
1.5) and humanity originate?
The question of whether humanity 'originated' is partially a mathematical one. The record shows that between the common ancestor of us and chimps to the first records of human culture 30,000 years ago is about 5million years. that's between a 250,000 and a million generations. children in each generation are born slightly differently, though there may be periods where differences are higher.
can we say at some point we were chimp/humans and some point human? is there a SINGLE GENERATION where we can point to the dividing line? This seems to me a silly idea.
Unless there was a discrete bifurcation in the properties or our neural nets. (here comes the mathematical part..) Or a very fast bifurcation in the network properties of our develpmental circuits or between them and ecological circuits...
We don't know. Waht we do know is that in early eocene strata and lower we find no bones that are remotely hominid, and in upper strata we find many. many different kinds over a period of 5 million years and 2million in earnest. how can 500 thousand generations of changes turn a chimp like critter into a human? if you can't imagine that happening in 500 thousand changes.. you need to learn some biology. learn that we are the results of analog physics helping incredibly complex cell factories interpret a discretely coded blueprint called our genes.
2) The Problem: Why is there suffering,
Because there is creativity! There is suffering because that is one way to create. to create means to say try this, NOT that. to not try that is to suffer, unless you can break your attachments to that. This life involves innevitable choices. try the Buddha way if this bothers you.
2.5) why is there sickness, and death?
more specifically, why are humans prone to horrifying diseases, insanities, social chaos? because if we were perfect we'd be impervious to fluctuations out of which evolution creates new beings. we'd be impervious to fluctuations out of which our minds try out new ideas. and finally if we were perfect, would we be lovable? would we be human at all?
Why death? some creatures don't quite die. but vertebrates accumulate so many diseases, wear out etc... it's easier to have kids, start from scratch than to keep repairing, a 100 year old carcass! Of course most critters don't have the story telling memories that we do, don't become so attached to their memories as we do, so this irks us.
3) The Solution: What is the cure for man's suffering,
The buddha way.
or, accept it. Judaism is one way to live with the glorious creativity of life and accept the suffering as a consequence of this creativity
you mean cure for diseases? some can be cured, more wil always evolve. it is the way of life. You didn't want to escape this life did you? here is the knife, go for it. i don't recommend it.
3.5) esp. his existential lonliness?
why do you want to CURE this? isn't it one of the things that define us as humans? we spend our lives trying to connect, trying to make meaning, trying to create before we die or set up connections to what has come before us and to who will come after. this is the human way. why you not like it?
Questions of Meaning and Value:
4) How does an atheist assign meaning to human activity?
same as the rest of us, if we love it, if it brings us what we love, it means something to us. what we love is partially determined by what we are like, partially a-rational. is this a problem?
Bar, you must address the common misconception that guitar chick stated: if no god, then life has no meaning, we can plunder, there is no daddy to come home to after death all is a veil of horror, it's a pathology you must address.
4.5) Is all meaning subjective, or do some activities have self-evident and objective worth and meaning. If so, what are these activities, and how to you arrive at their value?
see the answers to morals
5) Are humans of more intrinsic value than animals? Why or why not?
To other humans and some of their pets they are. If we manage master our warlike, our apocalyptic tendancies, we may even come to be able to defend our planet against large asteroid collisions, interplanetary invasion, and even spread this Earth's life to other planets, who knows? life and we have already spread quite spectacularly.
then again in the cosmic scheme of things? is the moon of more value than the earth? one cannot say. one can only say "i love earth, life, humans, and this particular human more" it is a-rational.
are humans such that they can apprehend the laws of physics and one day come to be able to CHANGE the laws of physics themselves? I cannot imagine any way to say that's impossible in 10,000 years of continued science. so who knows?
6) How does an atheist determine what is moral or immoral
as i said in item 1.5 there is probably no ONE definition for humanity, just as there is no ONE definition for how a mammal can live. we have an idea that humanity is a fixed thing. and therefore that there is a fixed moral code. i think this is wrong.
a better understanding is that there is a statistical distribution of ways to be human just as all other properties of various species are distributed and vary, and that our idea of a norm of humanity is based on the fact that some large percentage of us DO operate under the same basic root behaviors and morals. certainly psychopaths and people with severe brain damage do not.
SHOULD humanity hold to ONE norm? that is entirely another question. would it lead to more stability? Do clashing norms naturally lead to an armed apocalypse destroying civilization? Can you imagine a world society enforced to one way of life? i think it would be hell, and would require HELL to produce. Nazi germany, anyone?
in different cultures in differnt times people think differntly about this norm. in current amercian culture we are so attentive to this norm idea that we largely ignore the real range of humanity, we are so bent on forcing each other into a norm.
7) right or wrong.
right for who and when and where? again there is a broad consensus among many people on rights and wrongs, but it's NOT UNIVERSAL. gravity is universal. certain laws of ecology are universal, though at any point a new biological invention like plant life on land, or insect pollination or the development of animal societies can change them.
Bar you must address a specific instance like african genetal mutilation, or the hijab or nazi germany. or feminism. or the automobile, YOU think it's wrong. ecologically it is. But he's asking about kosmic ultimates. and i'm saying it DOES depend on context.
8) Is there any objective standard or principles?
that's what i'm saying. NO. it's dependent on the ecological milleu. On the current state of evolution or speciation of Homo sapiens.
Questions of Worldview:
7. What type of government does atheistic philosophy translate into? How does it understand the relationship between man and government?
I am not aware of a single type. Humanity is too complex to determine this i think. i think we are doomed to continual experimentation. there are certain guidelines, such as how stable creative ecosystems work by their interactions. We can learn how other mammal societies manage and whether some of those principles are appropriate for us or not, or whether they in fact DO operate among us and whether we WANT them to or not.
again, you want one fixed answer for all time. the evidence shows that this is NOT the way of life on this Earth. you want a reality more cozy than it is.
7.5) Does it merely rely on someone else's system of thought, like the assumptions of naturalistic science?
Some ONE else's? that's silly. government is when MANY people get together and knock out a creative agreement. and in the scheme of things perhaps governements will come to evolve as they interact with each other. after a few rounds of hellish war, maybe we'll learn. has europe learned or has she collapsed? interesting.
the assumptions of naturalistic science? these arent assumptions, they are observations of how ecosystems work, how humans work. we can base how to make governemtns partially on data of the world, partially on our own desires.
8. How does atheism view religions and religious faith?
obviously all ancient societies that we have record for have had religious civilizations. I think this is a reaction to the way we must have suddenly (see bifurcations in (1.5) above) awakened to the immense depths and horrifically tortuous passageways of our own minds. It has taken us a long time to get out of that nightmare, and back into this refreshing REAL world.
nevertheless, since humanity is not fixed there is no ONE answer for how to live. only a norm for MOSTLY how to live. The rest of the choices are left to what we LOVE. and how we love is a-rational.
and then there is the question of suffering. most of us grow up naturally loving some aspects of life, becoming attached to them and suffering thereby, because all is change. if you would like, you can define religion as a response to this.
Buddha way says practice letting go of attachements and you wont suffer. this is hard. This is a very hard path, not many are willing to put in the work.
tora way says accept the suffering, it's a necessary adjunct to creativity and individuality for humanity. celebrate it. this is also a hard path. very few take it.
I suppose these two are close to the atheist way.
the way of the cross says, suffer now, and after you die, you can escape that kind of reality. this is an easy path, billions take it.
untill we change the nature of reality, religion will be here.
8.5) What about metaphysics? Is atheism purely materialistic and naturalistic?
i don't know what those mean. what could possibly be unnatural?
answer the question is atheism purely rationalistic. ah..
9) Who are the authoritative writers/books of atheism?
there is probably an authoritative book on the nature of the banana. there is probably NOT one on the nature of not-bananas. atheism is NOT a single tradition. and all of my answers are my own.
10) What are the central tenets of atheism
that there can't possibly be a being something like a human mind that created the universe and Eaerth and all the critters and man and is inordinately fond of mankind in particular and has a plan for mankind and earth of punnishment and reward. and that this being can be communicated with unambiguously. Certainly no mind like being in control of the universe wrote us a book in a hman language. that's it.
what are the central tenets to MY view of life? oy vey.
11) and if they have a "greatest commandment," what is it? For example, arguably, Christianity's is "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."
again, atheism is NOT a single tradition. perhaps you are thinking of the recent phenomenon of Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens, Schermer.. I've not read. Do you suppose even THEY agree?
greatest commandment to me? keep trying to do the next thing.
Questions of Revelation:
10. What happens after we die?
everyone else still alive, lives. oh, you mean to us? but that's the point eh? you want to keep holding on to your life. Well, it wasn't yours to begin with, let go.