Pt.2 – Six Answers For Everyone [Anyone] … You Pick
To re-cap from part 1:
I’ve been meaning to do one of these questions ‘things’ for some time. Having just posted the What Now part 2 post, I think it might be time for one of these.
It’s just six questions from Dive In Scripture so don’t get too excited, right. I don’ t have a plan here. I’m just going to answer them as they show up on the page.
Gah!! That took some effort to answer just “question #1″ so it looks like this is going to be a ‘six’ part series. All this pretending that there were only six questions is making me feel math challenged.
So lets see what is on the menu for the part 2 question(s)
2. If we reject the existence of God, we are left with a crisis of meaning, so why don’t we see more atheists like Jean Paul Sartre, or Friedrich Nietzsche, or Michel Foucault? These three philosophers, who also embraced atheism, recognized that in the absence of God, there was no transcendent meaning beyond one’s own self-interests, pleasures, or tastes. The crisis of atheistic meaninglessness is depicted in Sartre’s book Nausea. Without God, there is a crisis of meaning, and these three thinkers, among others, show us a world of just stuff, thrown out into space and time, going nowhere, meaning nothing.
Well, at least question number two can be considered a single question. Lets see if I can do it justice here.
Why don’t we see more atheists like those three mentioned? Wait, the question started with a statement that is wrong. What? Someone on the Internet is wrong? That can’t possibly be.
The statement that “rejecting the existence of god leaves us with a crisis of meaning” is wrong on a few levels. First to reject the existence of a god there needs to be credible evidence of said existence, something to reject. Without that we have only a hypothesis without any credible supporting evidence. Unsupported hypotheses are rejected all day long all over the world for many things and it never causes a crisis of any kind. Rejecting the hypothesis that a god exists does not cause a crisis of meaning, except for those silly individuals who. The only way that this can happen is if you have hinged all the meaning in your life on a fairy tale. Why would you do that?
Back to the question. The reason that we don’t see more like Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, or Foucault is because:
- Many people don’t use religion as the starting point for their world view. The question presupposes that religion is true and god exists.
- Most atheists are not nihilists or atomists, they simply don’t believe the evidence offered for the existence of a god. This doesn’t require that one spend any particular amount of time contemplating the philosophical underpinnings of why and how we decide the evidence is not credible. Sometimes it’s just an innate feeling that it’s wrong. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t spend time on the philosophical vagaries of these things, just that many do not.
- Most atheists find meaning in life from what they value rather than simply wonder why the value promised by religion is not there
- A philosophical world view is problematic. An example of this is that nihilism gets a bad rap, a negative stigma attached to it by philosophy and theology through its history. Claiming to be nihilistic is somewhat akin to saying you like to hurt people. It’s not something you say in polite company. This could be why you don’t see many people professing such ideas. I do profess them. We are just atoms that happened to come together with certain functions determined by genetics etc.
The last sentence of the question is a presupposition. This is where the problem with philosophy and theology kind of rubs things raw. This sentence declares that some philosophers believe we live in an existence consisting of “a world of just stuff, thrown out into space and time, going nowhere, meaning nothing.” This is bad because the way it is stated hinges meaning on something related to matter. Meaning in life or purpose is found only in what the observer ascribes to life and this cannot be anchored to matter in any objective or universally meaningful way. That is to say that as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning is in the mind of the observer.
All of that ‘stuff’ that is just thrown out from the big bang into space and time is not going nowhere; it is expanding in ever increasing speeds. The truth is that it does not have any intrinsic meaning. It’s just matter. Consequently, we humans have no intrinsic meaning or value. The universe/existence does not care at all whether we live or die or even if our species has ever existed. There is nothing there to care. The only things that can care about human life are humans and those life forms which depend on humans. Other than that nothing in the universe actually gives a damn about human existence. Really!
While this ruins the theist’s thoughts of being special, it is true. The only piece of information that we have to say that there is anything in existence that gives a care about human existence is the apologist’s evidence for the existence of a god they claim cares about humans. This is the nihilistic view of things. There was effectively nothing. From that came what we call something and yet it is, in the big picture, a bunch more of the nothing that there is nothing to care about. There is absolutely no reason to think there is intrinsic value to human life other than what humans (and the life forms that depend on them) ascribe to human life.
God did it is not and will not ever be a valid scientific conclusion without credible, testable, verifiable evidence. Despite all the claims to the contrary, no such evidence has ever been found or produced.
In the long form answer I’d say that there are plenty of atheists with a nihilistic or atomism view of existence but it’s not popular to talk about it in that way because in view of the negative stigma it’s a pain in the ass to talk to theists and others about it when you have to explain to them that they have to get over their dogma or bigotry to understand what you’re talking about in the first place.
Let me add that just because you do not understand a thing does not make the thing wrong or bad or evil. Such thinking presupposes that what you do know is not wrong or bad or evil and we know that this ‘just aint so’.
Comments are always welcome.