Friday, March 13, 2020

Epidemics and atheism

Atheists have different attitudes to death. At least, what they say for public consumption. In reality, I assume most of them fear death. 

One attitude is the Epicurean pose, in the classic quip attributed to Mark Twain: 

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” 

On this view, death isn't good or bad. 

Some atheists take a more brazen position, contending that death is a positive good. As Jeff Lowder put it:

“Death is what gives life meaning. The fact that life can be lost is what makes life meaningful.”

How many atheists who express these sentiments believe we must take drastic measures to contain and counteract the coronavirus? How many are panicking at the prospect that it will spiral out of control? 

On the Epicurean view, death is a matter of indifference, while on Jeff's view, you might suppose the coronavirus is something to celebrate. 

Epidemics and pandemics test the bravado of atheist rhetoric in the face of death. It ceases to be a safe abstraction and becomes an imminent reality. 

In fairness, epidemics and pandemics and also test the bravado of Christians who sing about heaven but are spooked by a terminal prognosis. It's an opportunity for atheists to reconsider their atheism and Christians to take their faith more seriously. 

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