Why Should Atheists Care About Their Legacy?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: Why should atheists care about their legacy?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Atheism, in itself, does not create a substantial reason for us to care about our legacy. But many (most?) atheists take our lack of belief in an afterlife and we channel into a decision that we will work to improve the one real world that we know actually does exist.

    Meanwhile, humanism (more so than atheism) actually does provide a clear basis for why we would care about leaving a positive legacy/impact on the world.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I like this project. I think this FAQ-style, short video format might be a good way to reach a new audience.

    Regarding a legacy, I couldn’t care less. If others persist some memory of me or my words and actions after I die, then so be it.

    • allein

      It’s also good for those of us with short attention spans. I see a video is 45 minutes long, I bookmark it for later and then half the time don’t get around to it. I see it’s 5-6 minutes and I can watch that right now. (But not now now cuz I’m at work and the youtubes are blocked here.)

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        Exactly. That’s the audience I had in mind. Not everyone has the time and patience to read a book, or watch a lengthy video, to get the answer to a question.

  • Kat Dean

    Suggestion for a video question: How do I come out to my religious parents with out “breaking their heart”?

  • WillBell

    I believe the best way to put it is that it is more of a comfort for you in life even if it won’t be in death.

  • Lynn

    I also think short video’s like this have value and a great way to educate, empower and enrich lives. Leaving a legacy, means you want to make a difference. Not all people want to, but those that do, congrats!

    The first atheist that changed my perspective, Eddie Tabash, a Church and State Attorney in California said, “building communities will be important.”

    How can you get people to think a little different, about their beliefs, what they believe, or why they believe. Why do people get hooked on religion?

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Atheism answers an “is” question; “why should…” is an “ought” question. Answers can vary widely, depending on what is-ought bridge the particular Atheist uses.

  • joey_in_NC

    Given atheism, the rational conclusion is that your own personal perception while you’re alive is ultimately the only thing that really matters.

    If you perceive that you’ll have a great legacy and others will think highly of you (assuming such things increase your personal happiness), then that is all that can matter to you. Even if this perception is actually false and not at all grounded in reality, it doesn’t matter as long as you continue with this perception until your death.

    An interesting thought experiment is whether you would subject yourself to a Matrix-like simulation for the rest of your life, given that you would experience absolute bliss (whatever the simulation may involve) and that the simulation would continue until your death. Would you do it, even though in reality you’d be a mere vegetable in the “real” world? Given atheism, undergoing the simulation would be the rational decision.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      You may wish to consider actually reading about atheism and Humanism from atheistic and Humanistic philosophers, rather than making up nonsense in an attempt to malign people with your demands that they believe that which you want them to believe in order for you to have something to complain about.

      That you equate atheism to robotlike rationalism and that you insist that atheism inherently requires any belief system, let alone a specifically self-centered on, are perfect demonstrations that you have not read such works.

      • joey_in_NC

        First of all, find the flaw in my first point, which states “your own personal perception while you’re alive is ultimately the only thing that really matters.”

        Does it matter how other people view you? Sure, provided…

        1) You’re actually aware of how other people view you and…

        2) You allow their opinions to affect your own perception of yourself

        If you are never aware of how other people view you (such as the case when you die), how could that ever have an impact on you? And if you don’t choose to have the opinions of some (or all) affect you, then do these opinions really matter?

        In the end, it all ultimately depends on your own perception of yourself (while alive). Note that is not the same thing as saying that you must be “self-centered” or selfish (the Matrix-like simulation in which you obtain bliss could mean you’re reliving the life of St. Francis serving the poor…or it could mean living Kim Jong Il’s life). Rather it’s simply the conclusion based on the premises of no gods, no absolute morality, no afterlife, etc. There presumably will be no god in the afterlife telling you that your perception of things was all wrong.

        Secondly, what’s wrong with the thought of “robotlike” rationalism? If “robotlike” simply means that a thing’s actions are strictly a function of its physical makeup and the mindless physical laws of nature, then what else could actions be other than “robotlike”?

  • Charles Chambers

    I had question. On regards to your CNN clip, why did you state that [religious beliefs] are untrue? While I agree with you I’m just wanting to know. I think of you as careful thinker, so I wanted to know the idea/reason/motive behind saying that on air? Not a criticism, just more wanted to hear your thoughts.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani J. Sharmin

    I enjoyed the video, Hemant. The idea of leaving behind a legacy, of doing things in this life that are helpful to others, is one of the things which gives me some hope and solace in the face of death.

  • Tony

    As the product of a few million years of evolution, we find ourselves the most socialised mammal on the planet. To be a successful member of our species means, necessarily, that we contribute to the wellbeing of each other. That is our biological imperative. Do it and be happy. Fail to do it and suffer inner conflict. What happens after death is irrelevant.


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