This is a lot to unpack. First of all, recognize how you define atheist for yourself. You will see great variance in use of the words atheist and agnostic. I cannot prove a negative. No matter how implausible I believe a god as described in, for example, the Bible is, I can't prove 100% either way. I do not KNOW (gnostic) but I do not BELIEVE (lack of theism). So, I am among the group who considers this defined as agnostic atheist. Notice Lot's Wife goes with just agnostic. This would be correct since no one KNOWS with proof. Whether or not she believes, I do not know.
The problem comes whensome atheists say there is no god (which might be true) but they put themselves in the position of burden of proof. If someone defines atheism that way, it is important to know. Most theists assume that is what is meant, which is often true. The word means a(without)-theism(belief in god). This is a constant source of confusion. If you don't know 100% but don't believe, for many of us, that falls under the atheist umbrella.
If a theist describes God with some vague terms, it leads nowhere since they can't define what they mean. They usually pick words that already have a definition (love, physics, energy, everything, etc.) to define God. This solves nothing.
> I watched the Genius of Charles Darwin by Richard
> Dawkins and my world just lit up. I was ignorant
> of a lot the science having never looked at it as
> a mormon and not much since. I am of course
> continuing to read and (mostly) watch things but
> have no one to discuss it with being surrounded by
> mostly religious folk.
Dawkins is a brilliant teacher for biology. The Greatest Show on Earth is great.
The problem is that many dismiss him because of his personality. They shoot the messenger and therefore never learn the message. He has many fantastic books we can discuss as you decide.
> So for those who are long standing atheists
> discussing detailed science stuff that I don’t
> yet understand, if you’re interested in
> discussing it, I’m interested to know what you
> think/understand in simple layman's terms (or
> point me towards a good resource) of:
> -How you understand how the universe began?
> Namely, what are the physics involved in getting
> something from nothing?
Before the Big Bang, frankly, the honest stance is "We don't know" because we don't. It doesn't add any information to add to add "God did it" since that only creates a bigger mystery to explain.
An excellent place to browse is the Talk Origins archive.http://talkorigins.org/
This site has articles, refutations to articles, and refutations to refutations. There are lots of references to explore. Spoiler alert: Get used to not having the answers we want. There are no McMythology explanations in science since "God did it" is not a scientific explanation.
> -How do religious spokespeople tend to rebut the
> problem of who created god, if god is the creator?
> Can’t find one so far, but wondered if anyone in
> these infamous televised debates had tried and
> I’d missed it.
They don't go there. They usually try to define God outside of the parameters they define for everything else as if that solves anything. The trend now is to put god into the latest grey area of physics, quantum mechanics. The netherlands of science have always been god's hiding place, moving from volcanoes and clouds to particles. Still, this doesn't solve anything.
There might be info at Talk Origins. Pascal's Wager is another thing that comes up to defend the position. The pros and cons of that wager are easy to find.
> -I’ve heard it quoted that humans have existed
> for somewhere between 100,000 to 250,000 years.
> How long do you understand it to be based on the
> science you’ve read?
> -(Have I missed any fundamental questions?)
> -I think the mormon church has declined to ever
> comment on evolution, is that correct? I’m
> guessing they have so many other fires to put out
> no one is paying attention to that fact?
Mormons dance around this. There is no official position. You can find any position you want to support whatever you want to believe. At one time, Steve Benson was here. He posted a very helpful post about his investigation into what the LDS church says about evolution. I believe if you search his posts you would find it.
> -In terms of listening to brilliant minds, who
> else is there equal to or better than Dawkins?
> Thanks in advance
Did you mean about atheism or biology?
No one is more revered for brilliance and hated for various views than Christopher Hitchens. You can get an idea of what he is like in YouTube videos. He is not a biologist but debates with him are fascinating.
Christians will often recommend authors like CS Lewis and others who try to explain theological positions. I started there but the bottom line is they don't know either.
So this could lead you down the road of existentialism since there are no answers for certain. In that case, it is exhilarating to realize you are responsible for your purpose and how you will live.
Some classics to check out:
Carl Sagan: Demon Haunted World This book has information about making and defending claims and scientific literacy. The first half is the best.
Thomas Paine: The Age of Reason This book is short and sweet. It contains his thoughts about the Bible. He was called a dirty atheist for pointing out the obvious.
Sam Harris is another figure who people love to hate, and for good reasons. He is a little too honest about Islam's ideology so he is always in hot water for his views for starters. Also, he is into Mindfulness which I can't say is my thing. Still, he has a podcast Making Sense and books about god delusions that might give you some sources to pursue.
Check out books by Michael Shermer of the Skeptic Society. He has issues people attack him about (justified), but his books are excellent. He has podcasts too.
Joseph Campbell has excellent books about mythology. They provide a perspective about understanding how religious mythology came to be, what it all has in common and why it is important.
Karen Armstrong's History of God (very long) will help explain how the concepts about god in the monotheistic religions came to be (for example how and why they had to form the trinity). She is a believer and former nun. It has a lot of good information to understand why things are the way they are when it comes to how the god beliefs evolved.
Once you start reading, you will see references to other authors. Good luck in your quest!