#5 Post of 2013 – How Does Atheism Answer Our Most Important Questions?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Old-school atheists like Friedrich Nietzsche recognized that atheism utterly failed to answer the most profound of human questions, and thus atheism, he believed, led inexorably to nihilism.

Nowadays, most atheists are very uncomfortable with nihilism and want to distance themselves from their intellectual forefathers. Just because God doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that life can’t be vibrant and meaningful, right?

Well, it seems that not every atheist has abandoned Nietzsche’s insights. Atheist professor Alex Rosenberg provides the following summary of atheism’s answers to life’s most profound questions (as quoted from the Reasonable Faith website):

Is there a God? No.

What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.

What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.

What is the meaning of life? Ditto.

Why am I here? Just dumb luck.

Is there a soul? Are you kidding?

Is there free will? Not a chance!

What is the difference between right/wrong, good/bad? There is no moral difference between them.

He concludes, “So much for the meaning of history, and everything else we care about.”

Rosenberg left out other depressing atheist answers like the following:

Will there be justice for all those who have been wronged? No way.

Is there life after death? Are you joking?

Where did mankind come from? A prebiotic slime.

Wow! What a positive outlook on life! No wonder more people don’t become atheists. It casts such a stunning vision for mankind, doesn’t it?

  • Do we determine truth and reality by our personal preferences? Or by what actually is? Whether a particular claim—theism, atheism, naturalism, etc.—is “positive” or “negative” or “neutral” in a person’s eyes should not be the question.

    The question is whether it accurately reflects reality. If there is no after-life, then whether belief in such is positive, negative or neutral does not answer the question of existence. If it does not exist, it does not.

  • “Rosenberg left out other depressing atheist answers like the following”

    There are depressing answers in the Christian worldview too, such as many of your loved ones potentially being sent to eternal hellfire.

  • staircaseghost

    Err, I thought we atheists only lack god belief because of our emotional attachment to a view of life which is full of freedom and pleasure and happiness?

    Which is it?

    Bonus round: why did Nietzsche write a book called ‘The Gay Science’ in he exuberantly tells us to “say yes to life”?

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Where did mankind come from? A prebiotic slime.”

    As opposed to being made out of dirt…

  • Well then let us be thankful for Pandeism, which fully accounts for all theological and scientific beliefs with no unnecessary assumptions. Pandeism offers an enlightened answer to these questions, derived from reasoned examination of our Universe and discovering that it is one which lends no credence to the bigotry and violence of theistic faiths and their mad claims of revelation and demonology.

  • Ryan

    Haha, I’m sorry the truth might seem depressing to you. Making you happy is hardly a qualifier for it. Maybe you should man up and face facts instead of whining about how the real world is scary and sad.

  • Alex

    I have commented on many threads today Bill. I appreciate the work you are doing. I agree, atheist philosophy comes up short. You know, I like the words of OSHO. He felt he was here just to disrupt everything. He wanted to disturb people. Whether he succeeded or not is not important. I think we need more like him.

    In fact, I think that was Jesus’ point, he just had a much more narrow world-view, and didn’t have the internet. Jesus was his day’s overturner Today’s Jesus would be so awesome. I feel he would not be a Christian or want to have anything to do with the current church. That is just my opinion. Either way, gotta respect a man who is moved to action by his convictions. You seem to be one of those men Bill….

  • Bill Pratt

    Thanks for your comments. In glancing over them, you have clearly thought a lot about matters of Christian doctrine. I don’t have time to really interact with much of what you’ve said, but I would invite you to subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already and keep reading.

  • Alex,
    Thanks for your comments on various posts. In glancing over them, you have clearly thought a lot about matters of Christian doctrine. I don’t have time to really interact with much of what you’ve said, but I would invite you to subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already and keep reading.

  • sean

    This here is a straw man argument which stems from a misunderstanding of what the atheism claim is. (I think) If theism is the believe in a god, atheism is everything else. Atheism makes only one claim; theist claims have not met their burden of proof. Atheism isn’t a worldview and atheists can answer any of the above questions any way the like (except for yes to the first one) Atheism is only equip to answer that first question listed. The rest are answered by people’s worldviews and other beliefs. For example, my answers to those other questions stems from my humanistic beliefs, which I hold in addition to my atheistic ones. A sample of an actual atheist’s answers; (mine, plus some others from atheists I know)

    Is there a God? No. (but one could also answer “I don’t know” and be an atheist)

    What is the nature of reality? What physics has shown it is though reasonable and repeatable experimentation. (however, I know an athiest who believes in reincarnation as part of the nature of reality, something surely way outside of, and not proven by, physics.)

    What is the purpose of the universe? No idea. (I don’t know what others say here. Someone could claim something else and be an atheist, but I have not heard of any examples.)

    What is the meaning of life? Life is what you make it. You give your life meaning. (Some would say no meaning. Some would say to make the world a better place.)

    Why am I here? Not necessarily dumb luck, I happen to believe in a deterministic worldview, though that isn’t from my atheism. (most people, including atheists don’t agree with me here, some would say dumb luck, others just point to the history of the universe and say, “That happened, therefore I am here.” a view I hold.)

    Is there a soul? A life force, sure, but a soul would imply the supernatural in most traditional definitions. (That said, you can be an atheist and believe in some form of a soul. I don’t but people who believe in reincarnation do, in some form, and as long as they don’t believe a god is the source of that soul, they’re still atheists.)

    Is there free will? Definitions are tricky, I’d say no, but I know many atheists who say yes.

    What is the difference between right/wrong, good/bad? Right and good are in line with my moral values, wrong and bad are not. (some may say there isn’t a difference, though I find these people tend to be pretty crappy people, Hitler, Stalin, and the like)

    He concludes, “So much for the meaning of history, and everything else we care about.”

    This isn’t an atheistic worldview being discussed, but a nihilistic one. Nihilism is not an atheistic belief, merely a belief some atheists may hold. Atheism is not a worldview. It describes one tiny question, is there god. Even religious people would agree that isn’t enough. It is the properties of that god that shape their worldviews, not the mere existence of one.

    All that said, I’m a person who’s going to disagree with a lot of what you think, but I still respect you. I really appreciate that you are actually willing to have a dialogue about these things, because I find too many people who don’t really find these questions addressed here important, and I think they are.

    Question everything ~Sean


  • euchw87gm

    If god made everything out of absolutely nothing, except humans, why did he switch to dirt (something he already created) to make the first man, then a rib from that man to make a woman? We can get DNA from blood, hair, skin or other parts of the body so why did God use a rib? Did all the female animals also get created from ribs or were they male and female already?

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