I'm sorry if people are already talking about this -- I couldn't find a discussion.
So, I just read this article, "Where Are The Honest Atheists?" in which the author suggests that, while there's nothing wrong with being an atheist, we have to admit that it's a pretty bleak and inherently meaningless life we live. I tend to cringe when I see atheists claiming to know things that they can't possible know -- this guy seems to be presenting a more elaborate version of the old "If you don't believe in God, what stops you from committing murder?" He implies that only God can give a person intrinsic dignity or value or purpose or meaning.
If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we're alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.
I do like some of the quotes he uses to prove his point, but I don't think they prove his point. They only demonstrate the courage and process it requires to embrace what's vast and unknowable.
Or pieces of popcorn. No two pieces of popcorn are alike, either, you know. Isn't that amazing?
(I've always wondered if anyone has actually examined every snowflake. How can they say no two are alike?)
Well there is plenty around here for them to examine.
They can come here and haul it off to their lab for analysis and individual snowflake-by-snowflake examination.
I suppose the author has hit upon a perceived flaw of atheism, and one that will be incredibly difficult to overcome: Atheism does not provide for humanity's emotional needs in the way that theism does.
And the author is correct. The answers that atheism provides are harsh ones: "You feel afraid because you are alone? Well, you ARE alone." Or, "You miss your mom and want to see her again? Well, you'll NEVER see her again."
Atheism relies on logic, but we are emotional animals. We feel before we think (if we think at all). But there is no coddling in atheism. And to people like the author, this fact makes atheism not only unappealing, but flat-out wrong.
They need answers, not questions. They need to feel like their lives mean something. They need to feed their egos, and they do this by believing that they are important to an all-powerful creator-being. The more power they give this thing, the more important they feel. It is a metaphysical circle-jerk, and it works. Atheism cannot come close to this -- all we have is boring old "honesty."
We know the miracles of Christ are common occurrences thanks to science -- the blind can see, the deaf can hear, the sick are cured, and the (temporarily) dead continue to walk the earth. And it is logical to stand in awe of not only the accomplishments of science, but its journey as well: thousands of years of tiny discoveries coalescing into life-changing "miracles." But when a loved one is pulled from the brink, they always say, "Thank God." Their emotions rule their minds.
I was recently at a funeral for a six-year old who died suddenly when a virus infected his brain. I had expected his funeral mass to be a very emotional experience, but it wasn't. His parents were naturally in great pain from their loss, but they were also unexpectedly subdued, as were the members of his extended family. The theme of the service was typical: "He is gone from us, but lives on at the side of the Father, and we will see him again." It not only gave his family a sense of relief, they almost seemed jealous, for they will continue to suffer here on earth while their son/grandson/brother/nephew will enjoy paradise.
How can atheism compete with that? What solace can we offer for a life that ended so quickly? Religion served its purpose that day, and will continue to serve its purpose, because life is painful and will always be painful. And what we think about most when we are in pain is how not to be in pain anymore.
We can tell them "the Band-Aid is a lie" all we want, but we'll do nothing but reinforce what they believe. As atheists, we serve an important purpose to them, in the same way the Two Minutes Hate served Big Brother. By reacting to us in an emotional way, they can dismiss us and our arguments, no matter how sincere and well-constructed they are.
Being right doesn't matter; it's feeling right that's important. That's what the author has accomplished with this article. It was his two minutes of hate.
You bring up really interesting points and given me something new to consider.
I'm not sure I get the embrace of the term "bleak," because it's got value attached to it that doesn't seem to make sense outside the context of the nonsense construct that says that since religion is rich with meaning then no religion must be void of meaning.
Look, when I think about religion, I think of boredom, claustrophobia, fear. It seems arbitrary, cruel, perverse and way too small. It's an outrage in so many respects. It's like we've codified infancy and made that the standard of human behavior. That's bleak.
But when I think about the immensity and limitlessness of.... just everything... it's thrilling. More than one universe? Maybe! Black holes? WTF? Flying squid? What else is out there?! Oh, just a fire-raining solar flare several times the size of the earth. None of that cares about us, has a purpose for us, or gives us meaning, but we're no less a participants in this whole thing, and we care. What's bleak about that?
Also, I am with everyone who points out that if we crave meaning, it's within our power to create it for ourselves.
The concept that we are born defective sinners condemned to worship a slave holder is bleak. An infinity spent placating an egotistic god is bleak. Complete knowledge is bleak. Human sacrifice is bleak. Death gives life value. Christians do not value life, they value death.
So a guy walks into a bar and the bartender is a horse. The bartender says "so why the short face?"
He says, "If atheism is true, it is far from good news."
This isn't a new idea. Sartre said much the same, as did Dostoevsky. It's what Sartre called "the dreadful freedom." We do what we do thinking it's right but never knowing for sure. We're on our own. That's the price we pay for giving up the lie that is God and living a life of dreadful freedom.
So it's NOT good news. It means we're on our own. We can't just follow some stale old commandments by rote. Protestants offer their members a total cop out. Just sincerely repent and off you go to Heaven. Catholicism bases it more on acts and even repentance is no guarantee. Some since are unforgivable.
Some SINS are unforgiveable. And it's too late to edit it. LOL
Okay, you should have written "Good, I make lots of typos. If you ever bust my balls on say, using TOO many, or not enough commas(insert comma here), I'll point back to this."