You can be an atheist without nihilism

A theist decided to think through atheism and it apparently really bothered him.

It’s stunning how close to the truth this guy is, and yet he handwaves away what atheists would say — either “we’re social animals” or “we should just enjoy life”. I don’t see how either of these should be handwaved away, though.

Once you realize that we are tiny and insignificant on a cosmic scale, yet we have spheres of influence on a much shorter scale, and our lives are finite and therefore everything we do on this Earth is all we honestly have, it can be incredibly freeing — you are free to live and love and enjoy life and make other people’s lives better and all of this is its own reward. The fact is, we don’t go killing a bunch of kindergarteners is because it would be a net ill for society, and it would deprive ourselves of our social structures, as well as cause huge burdens of guilt on our consciences, consciences that we evolved to have in order to facilitate our perpetuation of the overarching social structures we’ve created.

We’ve evolved to be exactly the caring, loving, social animals that we are, and we shouldn’t fight against these tendencies or assume that they are invalid just because of some petty egotism that suggests that this universe was made expressly for us. The fact that it wasn’t created for us, that we are here “by accident”, means this universe is vast and there is much to be discovered. And that “by accident” is misleading. It’s more like, by a series of fortunate happenstances that built on one another, and would have eventually happened given infinite time because the laws of physics in this universe allow for it — meaning, we’re here because we’re capable of being here, by the Anthropic principle.

This world is beautiful, because we are in it, and we see it as beautiful because we are here to see it as beautiful. In much the same way as we see babies as cute and worth protecting even though observed objectively they’re but sacks of poop and vomit and crying, we also see the universe as amazing rather than harsh and cruel because we’re bred for optimism and wonder and empathy. This probably has something to do with why we assume that beauty means a creator, though life on another planet might find our life to be disgusting because their life looks completely different from our leafy greens and meaty flesh.

So, yes, we’re nothing but chemicals, and yes, our emotions are nothing but our brains reacting in certain ways, and yes, there’s nothing to dying but going to sleep eternally ourselves, and our loved ones missing us while we rot to dust in the ground, but that’s no excuse to not live our lives and enjoy them and make others’ lives better in the process. We’re all hurtling toward oblivion, whether we like it or not. Nihilism just gets you there faster.

You can be an atheist without nihilism
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One thought on “You can be an atheist without nihilism

  1. 1

    Yep… really, really dark stuff. I am just so sick and tired of these… Well, I’m not even going to go into it. Let’s just say “fervently religious fuckwads” and leave it at that.

    What is it about being able to live a happy and healthy life without their imaginary god™ that has them so scared? That’s what it comes down to: They’re afraid of us. We don’t fit their equation. They simply can’t conceive of what it is we get out of life because, to them, god™ is life. How pathetic.

    I can understand when it’s people with very serious mental illnesses who can’t differentiate between fantasy and reality, but these are supposedly “normal” individuals who live in my neighborhood. To be honest; I don’t trust them. If they can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not, how can I be sure they’re not going to run me down in their SUVs when I walk down the street? How can I be sure they won’t shoot me with their guns when they see me heading off to work? Life and death mean nothing to them because they have a “magic pass” from their Jesus™ that makes it all okay in the end. Who knows what these people are capable of? We’ve seen evidence of it though… shootings at museums and even in churches, perpetrated by… who? god™-fearing Christians, that’s who.

    Yes, we know who to really be afraid of.

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