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Do atheists have a nihilistic worldview?

Do atheists have a nihilistic worldview? December 9, 2021

Do atheists have a nihilistic worldview? | haunted faces

We looked at the odd views of “John the atheist” in the last post.

  • John denies that morality exists (apparently he means that objective morality doesn’t exist).
  • John dismisses aspirations and love as imaginary by equating them with the chemistry that makes them (just because we can understand how love works doesn’t mean it no longer exists).
  • John says that “there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife” (no, you’re thinking of a sociopath).

You’ve pressed the Christian’s magic button!

Let’s move on to what is the more interesting aspect of this story, Christian bloggers’ eager and gullible embrace of John’s views.

John’s essay first appeared in “The Inevitable Consequence of An Atheistic Worldview” at Jim Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity blog. Wallace says, “John bluntly captured the true nature of morality when it is untethered to a transcendent source.”

I wonder why he accepts John’s nutty view of morality rather than those of many other atheists whose views contradict that—I reject that view, for example.

Wallace makes clear the atheist’s problem: “[As an atheist,] I embraced a particular set of moral laws even though I couldn’t account for these laws in a world without a transcendent moral law giver.”

If you’re looking for a sensible worldview, you’ve backed the wrong horse. Naturalism explains morality with evolution, while Christianity posits God as a law giver without evidence. That’s how you tell the difference between science and religion—science is the one backing up its claims with evidence.

And Wallace is confused about how society works. “Without a true transcendent source for morality (and purpose), skeptics are left trying to invent their own, justifying their subjective moral rules as best they may.”

Societies around the world and throughout history have developed moral rules. Christians have a special book, and yet they have the same moral programming as anyone else. It’s not just Christianity that has the Golden Rule.

What is the meaning of life?

Wallace wraps up his argument this way:

In my interaction with John, he told me he was weary of hearing fellow atheists mock their opponents for hypocrisy and ignorance, while pretending they had a definitive answer to the great questions of life. He simply wanted his fellow atheists to be consistent. As it turns out, theism provides the consistent moral foundation missing from John’s atheistic worldview.

Hold on—who is pretending to have definite answers to the great questions of life?

By “great questions,” I assume you mean questions like, (1) Why are we here? (2) Where did we come from? (3) What is my purpose? Or (4) What will happen to me after I die? Yes, Christianity has answers, but are those answers backed up with evidence? Other religions have different answers to life’s great questions. Why imagine that your answers are better? And if theirs are made up, why not yours?

Remember science, the discipline that backs things up with evidence? It answers your Great Questions. It’s just that you don’t like the answers: (1) We’re here for no more cosmically significant reason than a goat or oak tree is here, (2) the Big Bang and evolution are parts of the explanation of where we came from, (3) your life’s purpose is yours to define, and (4) what happens to you after you die is the same as what happens when the goat or oak tree dies. (I’ve written more about how science answers the big questions.) Might there actually be supernatural explanations behind these questions? Sure, maybe, but why think that in the absence of good evidence except to satisfy your predetermined supernatural conclusion?

A final insult

John said, “You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all.  When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife.” John demands that atheists be consistent and accept the consequences of their worldview.

I am an atheist, and I reject that worldview. I won’t accept his “consequences” when they’re ridiculous.

Wallace concludes, “As it turns out, theism provides the consistent moral foundation missing from John’s atheistic worldview.”

Consistent? First, you’ve given no evidence that Christianity is not just pretend, which is what it looks like. Second, Christian morality is wildly inconsistent when Christians in the West must juggle modern morality (racial equality, gender equality, and slavery and genocide as abominations) with God’s actions in the Old Testament (God supports slavery, God supports genocide, and God even supports human sacrifice). Christianity’s “moral foundation” sucks.

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well,
on the surface of a gas covered planet going around
a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away
and think this to be normal
is obviously some indication
of how skewed our perspective tends to be.
— Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 2017-8-17.)

Image from flickr

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