Friday, October 26, 2012

Will he be missed?

R.I.P. Paul Kurtz. We all owe you a great debt of gratitude for making the world a better place. You will be missed.

It’s customary to say nice things about the dead, especially right after they die.

Still, atheists pride themselves on their unflinching honesty, even when it hurts. As Richard Dawkins so charmingly put it:

If it's true that it causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it's true, and you'd better live with it. 

So is Shermer’s eulogy true? Not only do I see no evidence that Kurtz will be missed–I see no evidence that he was missed even when he was still alive. Indeed, it’s pretty clear to me that time had passed him by long before he died. He was just another old man, filling time, waiting to die.

The intellectual momentum of the infidel movement had clearly shifted to the younger generation. And even among the old guard, the atheist thinkers whom Christian philosophers took seriously were guys like Antony Flew, J. L. Mackie, and William Rowe–not Paul Kurtz.

For that matter, did he leave the world a better place? Even from a secular standpoint, his impact was fairly negligible.

Likewise, it’s been less than a year since Christopher Hitchens died. Honestly, who even notices? Absence is very different than presence. Once you’re gone, it’s only a tight little circle who really miss you.  

Nietzsche was right about atheism. In a godless world, it does come down winners and losers. Young and old. Rich and poor. Healthy and sickly. Powerful and powerless.

A godless world is a shouting match in which everyone is screaming for attention. The prize goes to the loudest.    

And that’s no contest. The young bucks oust the aging bucks. In about three decades, Richard Carrier will be where Kurtz was in his dotage.


  1. Given atheism and neo-Darwinism, if we fast forward a gazillion years or so, it's quite possible future humans will have evolved. As such, perhaps Homo futurus will regard Homo sapiens something akin to how we regard Homo neanderthalensis or Homo habilis or Homo erectus.

    Or maybe there won't be any humans around. No Homo genus. Perhaps the Homo genus will have gone the way of the Australopithecus genus.

    If so, it's not as if we know (let alone care) a great deal about any particular individual within Homo habilis or Australopithecus afarensis. Maybe someone like Carrier or Dawkins will be the modern day equivalent of a chimp to Homo futurus.

    Also, given the possibility of natural or other calamities, it's possible the Homo sapiens most respected in their day and their works won't even be preserved. It's possible what's left for Homo futurus to study are the works of the average day Homo sapiens. The Australopithecus afarensis remains of "Lucy" could be the modern equivalent of an office worker for all we know. Maybe Joe Blow's works have as much chance being preserved a gazillion years from now as do Carrier's or Dawkins' or whoever is the atheist du jour now.

    Someday Earth will be destroyed. Certainly by the time the sun becomes a red giant in 5 billion years, give or take, although life on Earth (at least as we know it) will have been destroyed far sooner.

    If future humans settle other planets and galaxies in the universe, I doubt they'll be carrying Dawkins' works with them. On the offchance they do, once the universe ends, so will all memory of all humans including Dawkins. In the end, given atheism and neo-Darwinism, everyone will be forgotten, for there will be no one around to remember them.

    That's the universe Dawkins, Hitchens, Carrier, Harris, Dennett, and other atheists inhabit. And that's the universe they vehemently argue everyone should inhabit. But death (as it's said) is the great equalizer.

  2. What I find amusing about Dawkins' comment is that if the subject is about heaven, then atheists will take the "deal with it, if it's true, it's true" stance given above; but if the subject is teaching kids about hell and original sin then all of a sudden the stance changes to "you're damaging their self-esteem" - with the truth of the concept being an afterthought, or nonexistant.