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Friday, October 9, 2009

Atheism and Death (A Reply)

Since I spent the time to write a script for my latest video, i figure I might as well make the most of it and post it here as well.

In his latest video, Theatheistantidote, hence forth referred to as Brock, said that the problem with atheism is that it does not promise life after death. He then went on to state that there is no point in living if we are without purpose, individually or collectively. All of this is nothing new, and it is also all largely irrelevant to the truth of atheism. Atheism is not about coddling people with a raft of promises, that’s the job of religion. Really this amounts to nothing more than an appeal to consequences.
None the less, I see there are several issues with what he said that I was to address anyway.
1) No god is needed for the afterlife
Simply put, it possible to conceive of an afterlife that does not involve a THEOS, a personal god. Reality could be infinite, or there could be an infinite number of universes, in which case there would have to be one in which you “survived death” all be it in some bizarre fashion. It is also possible that there is a personal god, but one that is far more reasonable that the Christian god and judges you on how well you lived your life and not what you believed or if you knew the secret password (the secret password is: JESUS!). We could all be just thought in the mind of an impersonal super-consciousness. The list simply goes on and on, and that’s not to say that any of these things are true or even likely, but they are possible and as far as I can tell, at the least they are just as likely as any religious conception of the afterlife.
2) No one knows what happens after death
No one knows for sure what happens after death. More and more I see the need as person to stress my own believe in the virtue of Socratic ignorance, because all too often, because I am an atheist, I am mistaken by people like Broke as having a definitive answer on subjects such as death. NO ONE knows from whence the universe came and NO ONE knows what happens when we die. PERIOD! I will even admit that perhaps, as Hamlet says, there is enough suffering in this life to seriously contemplate ending it all if not for “that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country from whose bourn No traveller returns”, but I will also say that part of what makes life worthwhile is the fact that I don’t know everything, that there is still a journey of discovery to be made. Religion would only serve to rob me of that.

3) Objective purpose is conceptually impossible
Sorry Brock, that’s just the way it is. Purpose implies intention, intention implies mind, and mind = subjectivity. Objective purpose is conceptually impossible. Now I know you may try to argue that god gives us something like “ultimate purpose” but really Brock, all that amounts to is say “atheists don’t have someone with enough authority to dictate to everyone what to do”. Also, I should add that having eternal life is not the same as purpose. You could live forever purposelessly. Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, having purpose is in no way a guarantee of satisfaction, contentment, happiness, or anything else for that matter, Nor is not have purpose necessarily an impediment to any of those things. Really, the reality of religious purpose, at least nearest I can tell of the Christian world view, is that you must fulfill what God wants you to do and you have to TEACH yourself to be happy submitting to HIS plan. Living your life for a purpose someone else dictates to you hardly seems like something the religious should go out of their way to brag about.
4) This is purely an ego problem
This whole issue constitutes a problem with the Ego. Unwilling to accept that we are finite being on a small rock circling (and yes I know it is actually an ellipse) an average star which is merely one of SEXTILLIONS of stars. Unable to bare the fact that we are yet another animal destined to parish like all others, the ego of man stands up and revolts. Screaming and shaking its fist at the uncaring sky saying “I cannot continue to live if the whole universe was not created for me! How can I be just another animal?!”. The response to this is GET THE FUCK OVER OURSELF! What have you done what’s so great? Why this sense of entitlement?
5) Christianity is nihilistic to the core

In reality, if you are to take the Christian worldview seriously, and what is yet to come in the hereafter will eclipse all that is in this world, then why should you not wish for death on a daily basis and actively place yourself in situations where you are likely to be martyred? Certainly Christianity contains more than enough scriptural basis for you to “take up your cross and follow Jesus” into life endangering peril. At the least you should actually take seriously Jesus’ commands to “behold the lilies of the field”. Really, according to Christianity and the words of Jesus, the shorter your life, the better; the deeper into poverty you are, the better, because greater will your place be in the kingdom of heaven. The message of Jesus was not “Carpe Diem” it was grit your teeth and bare this life in order to gain the hereafter. It is a denial of life, not an affirmation.

6) How we should face death and life without purpose? By living the best we can here and now.
What is comes down to is that all that any of us are really able to do is make the best of what little time we have in this life. If there is any meaning to life, it can only be found through actually living it. If you live your life to the fullest and are annihilated after death, then what have lost? Well you may have wasted a few decades, but there will be nothing there of you to care or regret this lost time. If there is more after death, whatever that may be, at least you can go out with the knowledge that you lived your life the best you could, and really that all any of us really can do in the end.


CrazyMissSarah said...

haha couldn't have said it better myself.

Skew....aard said...

I really enjoyed this video Peter. You echoed a lot of what I have often asked to Christians concerning afterlife and what not.

Eternal Afterlife to me would be very boring.

Luis said...

Just want to say that I enjoy your videos on YouTube and that they've given me plenty of food for thought.


Bud said...

I have heard several arguments offered by Christian apologists which are based on the implicit premise, "I don't like it, so it can't be true." It should be obvious that reality doesn't really care about what we like. If I may quote myself:

I'd rather know the truth than believe a falsity, even if the truth is not something I might particularly enjoy. Not everyone shares this sentiment. Some think that if what they believe is incorrect, yet it gives them a "better life" than the alternative worldviews, then they'd rather live in the lie. Perhaps this is their way of ignoring the responsibility of thinking critically about their views. Perhaps they enjoy the comfort of their paradigms and don't feel like doing any epistemic remodeling. Maybe they're afraid that, if they look, they'll find that reality isn't as nice as they think. "Don't look under the bed or you might see a monster." Or maybe not looking helps them maintain confidence in their preferred worldview.