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.
Don't forget your towel! (Let's see how many of you get that reference. There ARE a lot of geeks here.)
Yeth, there ARE, THUR - I couldn't even make a DENT in counting how many!
He's phoned us up to wash his head at us.
If you try to jam atheism into a Christian paradigm, yes, it's going to seem bleak. How could it not when you remove God from a structure entirely built upon the existence of God? But when when you simply allow for atheism to exist in its own paradigm, it can really be quite lovely.
@ Kris Feenstra - That is so true. If more children were brought up to appreciate the positives of life without religion, and were taught roundly about the pit falls of religion, they would grow up to be amazing people.
Fantasy is always rosier than reality, Mable, but not nearly as healthy. We either live life as it happens to us and meet it head-on, or we turn our back on it and start to wither away. I've never been much of a witherer.
The man certainly isn't an optimist. I do agree 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 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, [and] that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free..."
But where he calls it tragedy, I see it as a mix of a call to arms and a sandbox with a castle waiting to be built.
I took out, "that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter..." because I do not agree with it. We do as living creatures have more intrinsic dignity than non-animate clumps of matter. Life is a special condition that must be inherited and once lost cannot be restored. Further, humans, as sentient creatures that have a unique awareness of our surroundings and selves, can be argued to have a greater intrinsic dignity than almost all other creatures.
I think the author suffers from a condition where he tries to find evidence to prove his point and ignores what doesn't as well as the common theist mistake where he can't imagine how a world would work without a creator. It's ridiculous really. For the last 200,000 years of human history we've believed in gods and spirits for something like 12,000 and widespread belief in all of humanity of a singular deity has only gained widespread acceptance in a large portion of the world because of Christianity and Islam. For the rest of human history, we managed to get on without it, and if every religion ended tomorrow, then we'd still get on fine after that.
We humans tend to find meaning when it's needed, as evidenced by those who see Jesus in the burn patterns on a piece of toast. The point being, that it is better to accept the reality of the finality of life, freeing us from the bonds of meaningless superstition, false hope and self delusion, to seek our own subjective meaning of life wherever that may be for each of us, than to live by the often frivolous, misogynistic, and always open to interpretation, rules laid down by 4,000-year old Bronze Age nomads.
Dawkins explains that asking “why” when it comes to answering questions about life, is the wrong way to ask the question in the first place.
Only the religious ask “why” and look for meaning… for example
Q: Why are there dogs …?
A: God gave them to us because he knows we love to pat them.
Q: Why are there mountains …?
A: God put them there because he knows that we love to climb them.
After all, we are his special creation and he put Earth and everything in it, here just for us.
We can answer, “WHAT is a mountain” because geologists give us evidence for how they are formed.
Anyway ... just my 2 cents worth.
A lot of times "why" is meant to convey "how did this come about" rather than "what was someone's purpose to doing this."
"Why are there mountains" could mean "what purpose were they put here for" but also could mean "how is it that they come to exist?" The later of which can be answered by an excursion into plate tectonics. The former meaning has the planted assumption of a creator; asking it in that sense is a trap.
Thank you Sagacious Hawk for giving me what I needed to join in this discussion....in a simple way...
"If no one hears your prayers, then stop praying and do something more constructive"....
All I had to do was read the origin of religions......Instant FREEDOM!!!!!!!
I've noticed not all atheists are alike. Believers who write articles about atheists like to lump us all into the same category. Our existence as a diverse spectrum of individuals denounces their assumptions about us, just as reality itself denounces the existence of their god.
Some atheists seem to be of the humanist category, or veering towards a vague deism. Most atheists still believe in something, even if that something is science. No two atheists are identical, just as no two Believers have identical beliefs, but I've noticed most human beings still feel the desire to believe in faith; to accept that whatever you believe in is right for you, whether it's right for anyone else or not.
What Believers assume is that all atheists are ultimately nihilists. That without a god head, the inevitable answer is to abandon all hope and embrace the chaos that is ultimate reality without a creator at the blueprints or a driver at the wheel.
I think both extremes are nuts, but I don't find myself a moderate in this spectrum. I appear to be off the grid.
I'm not a humanist. I don't believe in humanity and I think history shares my sentiment. Let's face it. We suck. We're hypocrites and liars and we kill ourselves at the drop of the hat, provided we've rationalized the whole "us vs them" crapola. Humanity has no Grand Design. We weren't made by a perfect being. We aren't the end all be all of evolutionary superiority. We're at best a rung on the ladder, and I don't think it's wise to put all our chips on humanity's number. A day will come when we go the way of the dodo and the dinos. How long from now that day will come, we may have some control over, but not as much as we'd like to believe.
I'm also not a nihilist. While I no longer accept belief or faith of any sort as rational or valuable, I do accept aspects of my subjective perception of reality as objective reality, at least until i see evidence that puts that into question, which is more often then I like. Life is worth living for the same reason a mountain is worth climbing: because it's there. True nihilists are either already dead, or wish they were.
To me, the universe is simply too funny to leave. I might miss something. I'm an absurdist, which spellcheckers like to remind me isn't even really a word. I don't believe humanity has a divine purpose for its existence, but that's no reason to whine like a crybaby and then curl up and die. As Joss Whedon once put pen to paper, "if nothing that we do matters, then the only thing that matters is what we do."
I'm taking a road that appears to be less traveled. I'll let you know what I find out.
RE: "I've noticed not all atheists are alike." - we tend to be a lot like snowflakes in that regard.