Atheism vs Meaning

The-meaning-of-life-41955043789_xlargeContinuing on with David Smalley’s “Top 10 Reasons I’m an Atheist”, we have this:

2. Living by the means of man helping man, and realizing time on earth is not a practice run, creates an urgency of life that requires fulfilling.

The first thing that occurs to me, in reading this, is to wonder if Smalley realizes that this doesn’t remotely make atheism true. I don’t think he’d really argue that something is true just because it makes us feel a sense of urgency. But, if not, why does he list it as a reason to be an atheist?

Perhaps he simply means that it is something that makes him feel better about being an atheist. If so, he’s allowed it, but I don’t see why anyone should be persuaded by this.

But, moving on to my second point: It’s simply not true that only atheists have a sense of urgency about life, or can help one another. I occasionally run into materialists who seem to think that theists have no sense that their life is meaningful, and I always find it astonishing.

Truly, we all see life as precious. But I think the atheist has a bigger problem here.

Smalley can love life, of course, and feel urgent about it. What he can’t rationally  do, however, is believe that there will be any lasting difference to come out of his life. Deep fulfillment means creating things that matter in the end, and atheism denies the very possibility of this. And even temporary meaning, on an atheistic view, is purely subjective in any case.

Really, all Smalley has done is point out that atheism creates a need for fulfillment (“requires fulfilling”), not that it offers any such thing.

So as to make it clear that I’m not diving into the same fallacy mentioned above, let me state directly that this doesn’t prove that theism is true. What it proves is that, if theism were true, life would meaningful (for theists and atheists alike) and meaningless if theism were false.

Of course, this would mean that anyone who believes that life is meaningful would need to be a theist in order to be rational, but I’ll leave each to decide whether he or she thinks life has meaning for his or her self.

5 responses to “Atheism vs Meaning

  • Logan Rees

    I don’t think atheism or theism inherently leads to or away from a nihilistic or fatalistic worldview; that depends on the interpreter. A belief in the absence of an afterlife could lead to a view of life as special because it’s all we get or meaningless because we can’t do anything to change the fact that we’re going to die.

    • Debilis

      I definitely don’t see why someone needs to believe in an afterlife to believe in moral value or meaning in life.

      But I don’t know of any way to explain objective meaning in life that doesn’t result in theism.

      This is not to say that atheists don’t personally see meaning in life. They definitely do. I only meant to speak of the objective fact of whether there is meaning in life or not. It seems that atheism runs counter to this idea.

  • paarsurrey

    Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:

    It is Ok that the Atheists find meaning in life as do of course the Theists; though the Atheists are very late in this realization.

    Can the Atheists mention the sum total of their achievements for betterment of humanity in the world at large since the inceptions of time?

  • Keith Pinster

    I find it incredibly ironic that you use the argument that this point doesn’t “remotely make atheism true” when arguments like this are widespread among the religious community. The fact that religion makes people “feel better” about themselves is one of the strongest reasons why people hold onto faith. And yet, as you yourself point out, it doesn’t remotely make it true.

    • Debilis

      I’m not sure why this would be ironic unless you happen across me, personally, doing this. At least, I don’t claim responsibility for all religious people everywhere.

      My position is that both sides do this. I completely agree that theists are constantly saying things in order to feel better about believing what we believe. And, I’ve seen atheists do the same.

      Personally, it doesn’t really bother me unless it’s being presented as a legitimate intellectual reason. When a pastor tells a story about how a religious person did something nice, and acts as if this is a reason to believe in Christianity, he ought to be called on it. Likewise when an atheist writes something like the post above as an argument in favor of the truth of atheism.

      Had Smalley simply claimed that this made him feel better about being an atheist, rather than claiming that this was a reason to be an atheist, I’d have no issue at all.

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