Monday, July 11, 2016


I'll make another comment on Jeff's post:

1. A basic problem with his post is that he barely engages the issue of oblivion. Drawing distinctions between intrinsic and extrinsic value is a separate issue.

Most atheists believe that brain death entails the irreversible loss of consciousness. The extinction of personality. 

I'm not suggesting that immortality is a sufficient condition for a meaningful life. The question, rather, is whether immortality is a necessary condition for a meaningful life.

It's possible to take an Epicurean view of death, where death is not a deprivation, based on the alleged symmetry between nonexistence before conception and nonexistence after death. 

It is, however, arguable, that if we cease to exist when we die, that's the most drastic deprivation imaginable. We lose everything at one stroke. We lose the present. We lose the future. We lose the past. We lose hope and memory, love and happiness. 

The question is whether human life can be meaningful if death zeros out our existence. That's not merely a Christian view of oblivion. Rather, that's an intellectually serious issue for atheists. Not something they can just wave aside with hortatory rhetoric.

2. For several reasons, I think many atheists wax impatient about the charge of existential nihilism:

i) Most atheists aren't intellectuals. Most atheists aren't deep thinkers. In addition, some people are temperamentally upbeat. It takes an intellectual effort for them to consider the desparing consequences of their position. 

ii) Atheists have a disincentive to give existential nihilism much consideration. Because they don't believe in the afterlife, they think it's pointless to obsess about something we have no control over. It would be a lot better if we didn't pass into oblivion at the moment of death, but since that's the reality of our situation, there's no point despairing over that fact. Better to ignore it. Make the best of the hand you've been dealt. 

But there are basic problems with that response:

iii) If atheism makes life meaningless, then you can't make the best of it. There is no good to salvage from that prospect. That superficial response reflects a failure to come to terms with the grim implications of  existential nihilism. 

iv) It's a mistake to duck the depressing consequences of atheism. If atheism entails moral nihilism, then that's a powerful reason to reexamine your commitment to atheism. Atheists cling to atheism with pigheaded pride, but that's irrational. You have nothing to lose by abandoning atheism if it nullifies the value of your own life, as well as the lives of your loved ones. By avoiding the bleak consequences of atheism, the atheist has no overriding incentive to question his toxic belief. He needs to appreciate the unredeemable badness of atheism to motivate a change of heart. Once you know it's poisonous, why keep injecting toxins into your veins? How is that rational? If atheism isn't good for you, if atheism can't be good for you, then jettison your virulent atheism and consider something more promising. 

3. From a secular perspective, what advantage does a dead atheist have over a dead Christian? If atheism is true, then when you're dead, it makes no difference to you if your corpse is a Christian corpse or atheist corpse.

And if living a fantasy makes you happier, why not live a fantasy? In a godless universe, no one can say it's wrong for me to live a fantasy. What I do with my little life is up to me. 

1 comment:

  1. "And if living a fantasy makes you happier, why not live a fantasy? In a godless universe, no one can say it's wrong for me to live a fantasy. What I do with my little life is up to me. "

    Exactly this, especially in light of all of the various gender issues going on now. On one hand, they encourage people to live a fantasy life and demand that I accept it as valid at the same time their other hand is slapping me for living what they consider a fantasy life for believing in God.