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Seidensticker Folly #67: Atheism’s Logical End: Nihilism

Seidensticker Folly #67: Atheism’s Logical End: Nihilism December 10, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 66 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

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In his post, “About Atheists’ Empty Worldview . . .” (12-9-20), Bible-Bashing Bob takes up this question:

Atheism’s Empty Soulis a recent article from Alan Shlemon of the Stand to Reason ministry. Shlemon tries to slap some sense into those hard-hearted atheists by showing the inevitable, grave consequences of their worldview. Shlemon informs us that the atheist worldview, seen correctly, is nihilism, the view that life is meaningless.

Something always seems to be off when someone tells me that I haven’t assembled the components of my worldview correctly, but that they’re happy to educate me about how that would look.

Bob is obviously oblivious to the extreme irony of his last sentence above: seeing that he expends tremendous energy daily seeking to poke holes in the Christian worldview: always seemingly believing that he knows more about the Bible and Christianity than almost all Christians do . . . 

Atheists, does “empty and devoid of meaning” sound like your life?

First of all, Shlemon’s article was much more about logical progression, as opposed to claiming “all / many atheists are in fact, nihilists.” He does, however, claim that “Several atheists who have been candid with me have told me life is ultimately empty and devoid of meaning.” That’s not insignificant and can’t be dismissed as of no relevance whatever. Those atheists did give that report about their life. But the gist of his argument (as it has been of mine throughout the years, as I will document below) is the following logical point:

That doesn’t mean they can’t feel happy, follow a set of morals, or believe their life is significant in some way. . . . 

Perhaps the most egregious consequence of naturalism is nihilism . . . 

Nihilism . . . flows logically from naturalism . . . [my italics]

Since it is primarily an argument about logical reductions or consequences, it follows that not all atheists in fact (for many and complex reasons) will report that they are nihilists or feel as if nihilism is the true state of affairs. Therefore, it’s irrelevant for Bob to appeal to atheist’s stated outlooks. The argument is much more subtle and nuanced than that. Bob does show that he kinda-sorta gets it by stating, “the atheist worldview, seen correctly, is nihilism . . .” And he actually (surprisingly) concedes the entire argument, too:

The key word here is “ultimately,” and, yes, an atheist’s life has no ultimate, cosmic, eternal, or objective meaning.

Very true, and this logically leads to the philosophy of nihilism. But Bob softens this by immediately adding: “But does the Christian’s? They claim their lives have ultimate meaning, of course, but they need to show their work.” That’s a separate discussion, of course, and I and many other apologists, theologians, and philosophers are more than happy to discuss it from where we sit. Right now the topic is whether atheism logically leads to nihilism. Bob even adds:

He says it’s fine to criticize a worldview by showing that it’s incoherent or contradictory internally, and I would add that it’s fine to show where a worldview collides with the facts of reality. 

We Christians readily agree on both counts, and assert that atheism massively suffers from both problems.

Show me that a sizeable fraction of atheists feel that life is meaningless. Nihilism certainly doesn’t describe my life philosophy. As with the “life [for an atheist] is ultimately empty and devoid of meaning” claim above, atheists should consider whether nihilism describes their lives. 

Here again, Bob falls into a mere sociological discussion of what is; as opposed to a logical / philosophical discussion of what conclusion arguably follows — as a matter of logical reduction or progression — from a particular set of premises. He’s confusing two different discussions.

I have written many times about this idea that atheism logically and consistently leads to nihilism. It’s what I believe, and have believed for as long as I can remember. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic from four of my articles;

I am talking about the ultimate logical implications of atheism, regardless of how one subjectively reacts to them. The very fact of objectivism and subjectivism (assuming one grants both as realities) allows the possibility that the atheist is not subjectively facing the objective logical implications of atheism (which I maintain are nihilism and despair).

People of all stripes do this all the time. We all are able to make it through life and be reasonably happy (at least on a surface, superficial level) because we are all masters at (the great majority of the time) not thinking about the truly important things in life. I do it; you do it, we all do. We all concentrate on this movie coming up, on that hot date, on the latest U2 or Van Morrison album (two of my favorites), on this new opportunity or hobby, etc. So the fact that most atheists are fairly happy, fulfilled people (like Christians or Buddhists or Zoroastrians or Druids) is of little relevance to my overall point in this discussion. (The “Problem of Good”: Great Dialogue with an Atheist: (the Flip Side of the Problem of Evil Argument Against Christianity) + the Nature of Meaningfulness in Atheism [Part Two] [vs. Mike Hardie], 6-5-01; this is, by the way, my very favorite dialogue out of the more than a thousand I’ve participated in)

I’ve devoted my life as a Christian apologist to showing that there are indeed many many such rational considerations, and that non-religious / atheist alternatives are ultimately irrational and incoherent (leading to existential despair and nihilism), . . . (Is Christianity Proof-Free Belief & “Ridiculous”?, 4-13-17)

I do contend (as a general proposition) that a serious Christian commitment will lead to a more fulfilled, purposeful, meaningful life than it would have been otherwise; also, that — again, as a general proposition –, atheism leads to less of those things, up to and including a nihilistic despair that the entire universe is ultimately meaningless. How that works out in specific cases is exceedingly complex, and there will be a million exceptions for a thousand reasons. That’s why I’m only speaking very broadly (i.e., sociologically). I’m not addressing individual cases (including Anthony Bourdain). (Social Science: Religion Leads to Lower Suicide Rates, 6-9-18)

I have contended for 37 years now, . . . that rejection of Christianity and God will lead in the end to despair, [ultimate] meaninglessness, and nihilism. It may take many years to finally hit home, because human beings are great at diversions and covering up, but it will end there.

It’s loving on our part to say this to non-believers. We have something to share with them: not out of felt superiority or spiritual arrogance or naivete, but out of love. We share about the blessings of God because we have experienced them ourselves, and want others to experience them, too: as many as possible.

I feel so much for people who are in despair, or struggling every day to get through life. I’ve been there. I deal with depression in my family every day and have, most of my life. I went through one very severe, clinical period of depression for six months in 1977. It was truly a period of hopeless, existential despair and agony and torment. I have never had it since (I became an evangelical Protestant and devoted my life to Christ as His disciple in the middle of it). But I’ve been constantly around it.

My entire family (six people) has struggled with serious depression at one time or another, and so I am very concerned about it. . . .

I think Christianity (yes, including all its moral teachings and precepts) clearly plays a role in providing hope and meaning. (Christianity, Depression, Peace, Comfort, Hope, & Joy, 6-9-18)

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Photo credit: Lars_Nissen (2-11-17) [PixabayPixabay License]

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