The correspondent was blunt: “Why don’t you atheists just go out and kill yourselves right now?”
True, most Christians phrase it rather more delicately, but atheists are regularly informed by a certain kind of believer that our lives can have no value if we do not believe in their God. What is the point, they ask, of being kind or loving, caring about suffering or doing anything at all, if one day we just die?
It is true that in the absence of a divine plan our lives have no externally determined purpose: an individual is not born for the purpose of becoming a physician or creating a spectacular work of art or digging a well in an arid corner of Africa. But are the sick less cured, the pleasure to the art-lover less intense, or the thirst of parched villagers less slaked, simply because a man sought his own purpose rather than following a diktat from on high? Do we really need a deity to tell us that a life spent curing cancer is more worthwhile than one spent drinking in the gutter?
Why should we not find satisfaction in alleviating suffering or injustice, just because we’re all going to die one day? The very fact that this life is all we have makes it even more important to do everything possible to reduce the suffering caused by poverty, disease, injustice and ignorance. To describe such attempts as meaningless is to say that avoidable suffering does not matter, hardly a moral stance.
Many Christians claim we have no reason to care about others if there is no God. But this is itself a religious claim, arising from the theological concept of Original Sin, which declares humankind fallen and corrupt. We can safely ignore it, for in reality we do not need childish stories of eternal reward or damnation to coerce us into being good: research shows that the least religious societies have the lowest incidence of social ills, including crime and violence. Healthy humans have empathy built in, and the explanations for this lie in psychology and evolutionary biology: no gods required.
Life cannot be meaningless so long as we have the capacity to affect the well-being of ourselves and others. For true meaninglessness, we would need heaven.
In the state of permanent, perfect bliss that is the very definition of heaven, ‘making a difference’ is ruled out. If the difference made an improvement, the previous state could not have been perfect. If it made things worse, the result would not be perfect. In heaven, neither is possible. Even being reunited with loved ones could not add one jot to their bliss or yours, for heaven would be, by definition, a state that could not be improved on.
Just consider for a moment the hellish pointlessness of heaven. At least in our real existence our actions have an effect, for better or worse, and it is therefore worth trying to get them right. In an eternal life where we can have no effect whatsoever, we might as well be dead.
If you have ever claimed that your life would have no meaning if it weren’t for your faith in God, do you really believe your family and friends have no worth in their own right? Can you really not see the point in striving to protect and nurture your children, even if there is no eternal life? Really?
If you do, then it is you, not atheists, who debase humanity, and it is Christianity, not atheism, that diminishes the real value and meaning of life. We atheists find purpose in the world as it is, and in our real lives; we see living beings as valuable in their own right, deserving of our concern and compassion simply because they share our capacity for pain and pleasure. It is hard to imagine a position less moral, less conducive to empathy, than this inherently warped and uncharitable view of humanity proposed by Christianity.
This is a perverse view of reality. After all, if the only valuable thing about existence is that God gave it to us, then that must mean the gift is not worth having in its own right. God’s creation would be the equivalent of a shapeless, baggy sweater of dubious color that you would never willingly wear but which you nevertheless can’t bring yourself to throw away because it was a gift from Granny. This approach in effect says you’re grateful for God’s gift, but you don’t actually like it very much; that, were it not for your belief that there’ll be an eternity in heaven to compensate you for having had to endure it, you can see no reason why you’d ever want it.
Theistic religion reduces life to something that has no value other than as the creation of an imagined deity. It decrees that purpose and meaning can only be found in being that deity’s puppet, having no purpose but its purpose and no value other than as its handiwork. Theistic religion looks on all that is best and most noble in human impulse and endeavour and dismisses it as meaningless and worthless —or worse: corrupt —unless done in the name of God. It is time to abandon this baseless worldview. It is time to reject theistic religion and start viewing ourselves and others with real dignity, as beings with value in our own right and not just as the distorted shadows of a fictional creator.
Paula Kirby | Jan 18, 2012 12:53 PM
Spinoza’s God > Einstein’s God > Sagan’s God > Sagan’s statement - “In this view we see god as the sum of all of the physical laws of the universe” (not sure if that is the exact quote). In my opinion this is the most logical god. If we think of the question that “god” is meant to answer, What controls everything? The scientific unarguable reason is physics, physical laws. And so their sum, controlling everything, is god. Eh?
While scrolling through the science tags on tumblr a noticed a surprisingly large number of posts that really bothered me. I’m going to site two examples here and go a bit into why they bother me.
This first post, though not disquieting to an extreme, upsets me. I’m bothered that she is angry in facing realities through science. Firstly, this girl should be rightfully upset about the animals dying for no reason, but I see no reason why she should be upset to hear this. If it does bother her so, why should she not keep it in her stream of conscious a little longer and possibly make a tumblr post to spread awareness, rather than a useless post such as this. Secondly I am angered by the fact that many people see things such as this as “negative aspects” of science and are saddened by them, but the same people never take the time to stop and marvel at humanity and science. Proof of the fact that humans have landed on the moon makes me a bit happier than idiots killing animals makes me sad, though obviously there is no basis to compare the two. Also note the duck face.
This second post is the one I find disquieting, and it’s quite a lot to read, but many of you may have already read it, or a version of it somewhere.
First of all, I always rage with anger at this ridiculous misrepresentation of Albert Einstein. His religious ideas have been bent and twisted through the few statements he has made on the subject, but at no point in his life did he ever express any views even similar to this. I boil in anger at the thought of all the people who will read this and go “Wow! Einstein really showed that professor, scientists are really nothing against the power of god <3333”. Secondly there is blatant flawed logic strewn throughout this. I’m not sure I know any science professors who wouldn’t be able to hold their end in an argument like this, or at least draw a different conclusion for the student. I shamefully admit that I do remember reading something like this as a kid and thinking “wow professors really don’t know anything, god really is great yayyy,” or some stupid shit like that. I’m thinking that maybe that’s why it bothers me so much, as a kid I was fed a bit of the poison.
If you think I’m stupid go research the story and give me a reply, or reply to the concept in general, I’m open for debate.
Oh, and read about this marvelous dude -
and another view on the story -