Are Answers to Ultimate Questions Dangerous?

by Bill Pratt

Answers to Ultimate QuestionsFour times in the past year I have heard the following kind of statement from atheists: “Religious people are dangerous because they think they have answers to ultimate questions.”  Twice these comments were uttered by personal friends of mine, and twice I heard them expressed by atheists in debates that I listened to via mp3.  The first few times I heard the comment I didn’t think much of it.  The fourth time, however, has bothered me enough that I need to respond.

What are the ultimate questions that religious people think they know the answers to?  Generally, these are questions like the following:

1.) Where did the universe come from?  2.) How do we know what is right and what is wrong?  3.) Does God exist?  4.) What happens to us after we die?  5.) What is the purpose of our lives?

Atheists seem to be alarmed by the fact that religious people think they have answers to these questions.  The argument is that people who think they have answers to these questions are often dogmatic, uninterested in reason, irrational, arrogant, and exclusionary.  The flip side of this argument is that people who claim to have no answers to these questions are open-minded, reasonable, rational, intellectually humble, and inclusionary.

The first thing that strikes me about this argument is that it is a bit disingenuous for atheists to claim they have no answers.  Many of the atheists I know seem quite sure that their answers to all five of the ultimate questions above are correct.  They can be just as dogmatic, unreasonable, irrational, arrogant, and exclusionary as the most extreme religious fundamentalist.  Just read through the atheist comments on my blog posts, and you’ll have all the data you need.

Secondly, it strikes me as strange that anyone would frown upon a person finding answers to ultimate questions.  After all, these are the kinds of questions that…

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Recommended Resources:  God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible  /  Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors