Thursday, September 27, 2018

A pig satisfied

Yes you say, but what is the alternative? What about the troubles with atheism? Probably the biggest worry about atheism–leaving aside now truth or falsity issues–is that it seems such a cold and unfriendly sort of business. You may eke out a life, but given atheism, you can hardly have a very joyous life, and any sense of a life with some kind of meaning seems impossible entirely. If there is no God to make sense of things–if death is death and there is no hereafter and eternity–is anything worthy anything? "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Who cares about standards! That is to play the Christian's game. Just enjoy yourself, or at least indulge your senses to and beyond the full. That is meaning enough to life. When you are dead, you are dead. The ethics of belief really don't come into the equation because either you were right that there is a hereafter or you were wrong and it no longer matters…You might as well start drowning your sorrows in alcohol before you slip off to Belgium to have yourself put down. 

Let us grant that you can have a worldview that is not religious in any sense. Does subscribing to such a view mean leaving behind much that makes life worthwhile and renouncing the world rather like a Cistercian monk entering a monastery of a virtually spartan kind? John Stuart Mill's answer would be that even if this is so, if you really believe there is no God, you have no choice but to go this way. "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. 

I don't mean there won't be times when you are overcome by the existential worthlessness of it all…Don't kid yourself, If you become a nonbeliever, then you have left the security of your childhood. There is no ultimate meaning. And secular attempts to find a substitute, like relying on progress, simply aren't going to do it. It's gone forever. M. Ruse, Atheism: What Everyone Needs To Know (Oxford 2015), 236-237, 243-45.

Ruse says other things to soften the crash landing. Personally, he seems to be an affable guy, but lots of people can be nice when it doesn't cost them anything. Would you trust him in a survival situation? That's an acid test. Given his outlook, if it hurt him to help you or helped him to hurt you, what would you expect–if he's consistent? 

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