Alright, so first of all I'm taking Theology & Religious Studies at university. A lot of people find this pretty strange for an atheist, but I'm fascinated by mythology, by superstition and by the things that people believe and why they believe them.
Anyhow, needless to say I regularly come into contact with various religious people, one of whom is a girl on the same course of study who's a Christian. I won't mention her name; let's just call her "Sal Vation".
So this is my final semester, and I'm taking a module in Philosophy in the World religions (philosophy is a great passion of mine), and yesterday was the first lecture. We were discussing dogma and scepticism, and at one point our lecturer asked us where we stood on the issue of life after death.
I responded, of course, that I was completely sceptical.
At this point, Sal Vation pipes up with a somewhat defensive and indignant barrage of: "So you mean that your life is just meaningless? There's no point in being here, and no point in being good people? If there's nothing after death, why should we be moral, why not just do whatever we want and not care? Why should we bother being nice to people?" And so on, you get the gist of it.
Somehow, I think that I managed to respond calmly and intelligently to this, and got her to shut up. But there are two things that I really don't understand, and I was wondering if anyone could explain them to me:
1) If there is nothing after death, then there's no point in having any morals. People should just do whatever they want, and just not care about the consequences.
Where exactly is the link at here? I simply don't understand this at all. Why does the lack of anything after death necessarily lead us to a lack of morals?
Also, if you're only being a good person because you're looking forward to a cushy afterlife with God, then does that really make you such a good person after all?
2) Why was Sal Vation's reaction so discourteous?
I thought that the way she reacted to me was a little bit rude. But why?
I didn't say "Christians are all morons," or "I think that anyone who worships Jesus should be tortured and hanged," or "I'd really like to rape all of your children".
All I said was "I am completely sceptical about life after death".
Was this assertion really so disrespectful or offensive that it warranted such an indignant response?
1. I really don't understand how they came to this conclusion. Its like they're only nice to people because they "have" to be, not because they want to. It makes them seem really fake and shady.
2. I think A LOT of Christians really don't realize that not everyone follows their religion. Its almost like they think if you aren't a Christian, then you must be the devil.
hi hi hi, since she's a girl... I was thinking SALy Vation would be an even better name :)
But to seriousness....
IMO the paradigm of a 'meaningful/less life' is entirely religious and/or anthropomorphic. It is a sign of the the last few millennia's condescension onto all other life forms. Does a moose 'need' a meaning in it's life, no, would a moose serving humans lets say, have a more meaningful life? Religion has taught humanity to feel superior to all other life forms around us. Wild nature has become so sparce on the planet, that most people no longer have any understanding of the relationships sustaining wild nature. In this regard, in recent times we've been suffering from fundie-anthropomorphism.
As an atheist, you should be able to simply reject her paradigm altogether, since it is based on false premise to begin with. And I don't consider her words 'discourteous'. You're both simply coming from entirely different paradigms.
Her reaction comes from fear. She reacted according to her up bringing which was designed to make her think that you were good so as not to be punished, and, if you follow these rules, you will be safe.
Someone saying the perceived equivalent of "I don't know that that would make you safe", is scary to her.
Many are also taught that worshiping god gives their lives meaning. And, yes, that's nonsensical as well, but, they do tend to get told what to think, etc.
So, to her, you essentially said HER life is meaningless and she will actually DIE, and she could have done all those crimes and didn't, for NOTHING!
TO HER, she perceived your opinion as an ATTACK.
I agree that if that's the only reason a person is "good", then they are actually not good, merely afraid of punishment.
A person who is good because its the right thing to do, etc...is like the person who doesn't commit a crime even if he's told he would not get caught if he did.
A person who would commit the crime if he knew he would not get caught is acting like a good person, without being one.
So, that's the context for the reaction.
"if you follow these rules, you will be safe."
- in addition to a feeling of safety, a feeling of justice is important too I think.