“Ten Questions That an Atheist Can’t Answer”?—I’m Up for the Challenge

Barry Lyons
7 min readApr 26, 2017

Update, May 2018: When I first came across this YouTube video in early 2017 the comments section was disabled. But I now see that the section was activated a few months ago. Great for others but no matter to me. I wrote my answers in April 2017 and here those answers will remain. Here we go, again (with some minor revisions [and more in September 2020 and September 2023]).

1. Does science answer everything? No — or at least not yet. There are plenty of things we don’t understand about existence. But maybe you meant to ask, Can science answer everything? Here’s what I say to that. There is no other method outside of employing observation, experiment, reason, and logic that can give us answers about the nature of the world and the universe. Sam Harris once offered a challenge on this point: “I challenge you to think of a question upon which we had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one.” There isn’t a believer of any religion on the planet who can mount a persuasive response. History shows that when it comes to understanding ourselves, the planet, and what we know (so far) about the cosmos, science works. Religion doesn’t.

2. Why do atheists care if people worship God? Ricky Gervais once said that believers will sometimes say something like this to him: “For someone so against religion, you talk about God an awful lot.” To which Gervais replied, “Yeah, I know a detective who talks about crime a lot. Mad, isn’t it?” Actually, we don’t care if people worship God. Believe what you want. What we do care about are religious views intruding on the public square. Politicians, for example, should never talk about God, at least not in their capacity as lawmakers. As John Adams once noted, “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” But if believers want to worship whatever god they believe in, go right ahead — but with the proviso that you do so on your own private time.

3. Can nothing create something? In the preface to the paperback edition of his book A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing, Lawrence Krauss discusses a salient point about the Higgs boson: “Associated with every background field [in a quantum world] is a particle, and if you pick a point in space and hit it hard enough, you may whack out real particles. The trick is hitting it hard enough over a small enough volume. And that’s the…

Barry Lyons

Not a fan of sports or religion. I guess that makes me a bad American.