The more theists’ blogs I read attacking atheists, the more I realise that the truly fundamentalist ones have a worldview identical to that which Nietzsche satirised. In short, Nietzsche’s Mad Man grounded all meaning and purpose and morality in God and then “killed” God. Nietzsche concluded two things: there is no good reason to believe in God and one should assume God doesn’t exist; nothing means anything without God. This is what theists assume my worldview (as a nonbeliever) should be. Nietzsche was a Poe; a satirist. But I’ll go on like Nietzsche was sincere (because it’s easier than continually referring to Nietzsche’s Mad Man).
The only difference between Nietzsche and these theists is the belief in God.
To me at least, this is horrific! These theists actually think there is no value in being human. Everything has to be grounded in a God, and if they were to be convinced by any argument that God was indefensible then they would only have two choices:
- Lie to themselves, and continue pretending like God exists (i.e. feign psychosis) to not descend into hedonistic sociopathy.
- Descend into hedonistic sociopathy.
Why would you feign psychosis if you didn’t see value in life and morality, separate from God? There is that option, but it’s not an option left open my Nietzsche.
Perhaps more importantly though, God doesn’t ground purpose or value or morality. If God grounds morality, then morality is not ultimately about doing the right thing, it’s about getting your soul into Heaven. And that contradicts the idea of morality by making it foundationally selfish. If God grounds purpose, then purpose is simply about making God happy. That makes the basal note of purpose fit the subjective whims of some abstract disembodied mind; God.
Even if all discussion fails to give godless lives objective purpose, we share that platform with theists. They don’t have some sort of high ground on this. Theists have objective purpose like godless people worshipping their dictator have objective purpose (anybody for a discussion about Kin Jong-Il?).
BY rejecting an afterlife we accept we only get one shot at life. And that gives it value. I don’t think there’s a second chance or an extension or—as would really devalue the system—an infinity of my consciousness. The fact that life is finite gives it more purpose that the idea that is it infinite; it’s basic economics. My life is worth something because it is an opportunity, a privilege, that I wasn’t entitled to and this is my opportunity to use it. As a conscious being this is my opportunity to experience it.
I still maintain that morality is objective (insofar that it can be empirically measured, at least in principle, by proxy of its effect on wellbeing). I don’t accept moral relativism. One of the best objections I’ve had to objective morality is the idea that implementing objective morality now would lead to a type of historical revisionism, where good historical figures would have to be re-branded according to this objective framework. The thing is I’m okay with doing that. Take Hitler, no revisionism required; he caused more suffering than he did happiness: immoral. Che Guevara’s moral standing would rest on whether he made people happier than he made people sad. And that depends on whether he fought and killed for an idea that would make people happy (I’ve not done the research, but I think in general he did, despite killing more people than the regime he fought against).
This, obviously, is beside the point. Moral relativism means we have to talk and think about it (Heaven forbid) and objective morality means we can measure it. Objective morality becomes ultimately objective because it is basal in human nature (and can be a zeitgeist) and moral relativism becomes and ultimate expression of human nature. The theistic model offers us neither of these.
When it comes to purpose nonbelievers defeats the theist hands down. Theists’ purpose is to surrender to, and enter serfdom under, their God. That’s simply a purpose I don’t want.
I do not share from the theists’ worldview to avoid nihilism and to value morality. I do the complete opposite; I reject it in every detail. I base everything on what actually is.
6 thoughts on “Getting Meaning from Atheism”
I find value in my nihilism for what I think are the same reasons that you seem to share. It is what is, and outside of that is nothing but ideas. Outside of this is where fairies and unicorns exist, where ghosts and demons exist, and these have never been shown to effect the real world… in short it is the ‘unreal’ and like the undead it does not exist in any meaningful way outside of the minds of those who claim to believe. To my understanding of the world, nihilism is the elegant acceptance of what is real. I find those that see nihilism as bad generally have a presupposition that there is objective meaning to life and objective morality. They have deluded themselves rather than look at the facts and try to find something that explains all there is without need of special pleadings.
It is more comfortable to live in a chilling truth and even the most satisfied fiction.
I think morality is objective, but to deviate from objective morality is not universally meaningful i.e. I can tell you what is moral, but I cannot tell you why that matters (unless you value experience, which I do).
To me, there is no objective morality but there are common or near universal moral values which (through evolution and time) most humans seem to share. Many religions claim to have common moral values yet on inspection they do not, unless you consider what they share with non-religious values. Morality and purpose are subjective no matter that what only seems like universal moral value is mistaken for objective value. I hold that there is no objective morality to deviate from. This is confusing to many because they believe that what is nearly universally chosen as moral is an objective morality – it’s not.
That’s fair enough. I believe that defining morality robustly allows you to empirically verify if an act is moral or immoral.
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