Unlike the “new atheists,” the old atheists, such as Nietzsche and Camus, were at least honest in facing up to the implications of their non-belief. Consider what Walter Burns says about Camus’ “The Stranger”:
Meursault, its hero (actually, its antihero), is a murderer, but a different kind of murderer. What is different about him is that he murdered for no reason–he did it because the sun got in his eyes, à cause du soleil–and because he neither loves nor hates, and unlike the other people who inhabit his world, does not pretend to love or hate. He has no friends; indeed, he lives in a world in which there is no basis for friendship and no moral law; therefore, no one, not even a murderer, can violate the terms of friendship or break that law. As he said, the universe “is benignly indifferent” to how he lives.It is a bleak picture, and Camus was criticized for painting it, but as he wrote in reply, “there is no other life possible for a man deprived of God, and all men are [now] in that position.” But Camus was not the first European to draw this picture; he was preceded by Nietzsche who (see Zarathustra’s “Prologue”) provided us with an account of human life in that godless and “brave new world.” It will be a comfortable world–rather like that promised by the European Union–where men will “have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night,” but no love, no longing, no striving, no hope, no gods or ideals, no politics (“too burdensome”), no passions (especially no anger), only “a regard for health.”
Sound familiar? This describes our postmodern lives perfectly! Notice that our culture’s “practical atheism,” believing in God and yet assuming that He doesn’t matter, has the same effect as actual atheism. And that we are already there!