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Sep 15 2010

Atheist Meme of the Day: Atheism Is Not Nihilistic

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

Atheism is not nihilistic, cynical, or despairing. Most atheists experience great meaning and joy in our lives, and are passionate about engaging with the world and making it a better place. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

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  1. 1
    Sarah

    Speak for yourself. Moral nihilism is correct and any ‘faith’ in airy fairy unscientific ideas like ‘morality’ where it is defined as anything other than an inbuilt emotional response that allows us to outcompete our neighbours, or any indication of belief in ‘meaning’ that is somehow ‘objective’, is fail religiosity of the most deluded* kind.
    *Most deluded because it takes a special kind of stupid to reject unsupported faith in a sky daddy, but hang onto the concept of his ‘objective sky rules’ without any good reason.**
    **p.s. It’s not the most deluded, it’s an entirely natural result of evolving to feel like our morals are objective, it’s just embarassing when other atheists fall for our evolved programming. Next it’ll be racism and religion, also built in.

  2. 2
    Greta Christina

    Sarah: ?????
    When did I argue in favor of “objective sky rules”?
    I completely agree that morality is an inbuilt emotional response, part of our neurological hard-wiring that developed from millions of years of evolution as a social species.
    So what?
    That doesn’t make morality not real. Emotions are also part of our neurological hard-wiring, developed from millions of years of evolution. They’re still real. And morality is also real.
    And when did I argue in favor meaning that is somehow objective? That’s not what I think. I think meaning is something we create for ourselves, not something handed down to us by God. But again, the fact that we create that meaning for ourselves doesn’t make it not real. It just means that it belongs to us — not God.

  3. 3
    Sarah

    Moral nihilism simply says that morals are not “objective”, it is not actually ‘wrong’ to kill an innocent child, you merely feel it is wrong.
    To declare that Atheism does not imply nihilism is disingenuous, and probably related to how people think nihilism is ‘bad’, but there’s no point being technically incorrect to try and sound more appealing when that is nothing but a lie.

  4. 4
    Sarah

    p.s. When did I argue in favor of “objective sky rules”?
    When you referred to “better” in the OP, as if there was such a thing as an objective “better” world, rather than a subjective “better in my opinion”, “better in our collective opinion”, or “better according to my arbritrary system”*
    *this includes magic sky rules. They simply don’t admit it is arbritrary.

  5. 5
    Greta Christina

    Sarah: There is a third option you’re not recognizing. Morality doesn’t have to be either (a) “magic sky rules” or (b) “arbitrary.” If human beings evolved some common moral values — as recent research is strongly suggesting they do — then those moral values aren’t arbitrary. They evolved for a reason. And they’re common across almost all of humanity. We can argue about whether that means they’re “objective” or not (although that’s not an argument I’m going to be very interested in) — but they’re certainly not arbitrary.

  6. 6
    Sarah

    Whoops, I have been drawn into arguing about whether morality exists, sorry about that. I am happy to debate that with you, but that is not the point I initially intended to make, my point was: “Atheism Is Not Nihilistic” is an exclusionary claim that acts as if I, and people like me (and I know a few), don’t exist. Purely to make ‘us’ as a wider group look better in the eyes of those who have religious belief in morality.
    “Most Atheists are not Nihilists” would have been fine, but your rhetorical choice was for ‘dramatic absolute statement’ rather than ‘accuracy that doesn’t leave people out’
    As for whether ‘common’ rules are still arbitrary – of course they are. If we all evolved to think that the colour pink is the only beautiful colour then that does not mean that our belief in the beauty of the colour pink is not arbitrary, it just means it is an arbitrary belief, a subjective belief that we all share.
    Subjectively it feels that there is such thing as “wrong” or “right” but so far we have no evidence for any atom of morality, any Electro-moraltic field. There is no ‘objective’ morality, thus all moral rules are relative or arbritrary.
    p.s. Things don’t “evolve for a reason”, that’s unscientific anthropomorphic thinking, things ‘evolve’ via random mutation and are fixed when they increase the organisms fitness in that particular time and place. Linear thinking and storytelling like suggesting things ‘have evolved for a reason’ is the kind of bullshit thinking that leads people to say “penises are evolved for heterosex”*, and that’s a severe misunderstanding of what evolution is.
    *which you are obviously not suggesting. That’s for the religiots and Natural Law.

  7. 7
    Greta Christina

    Sarah: First of all, saying “Atheism is not nihilistic” is NOT the same as saying “No atheists are nihilistic.” All it says is that atheism is not inherently nihilistic, that nihilism is not a necessary natural or logical consequence of atheism. Which is true. It’s not.
    And in fact, I used exactly the language you asked me to use in the very next sentence. Which reads, again, “Most atheists experience great meaning and joy in our lives, and are passionate about engaging with the world and making it a better place.” Most atheists. Believe me, I am well aware of the existence of a handful of nihilistic atheists. Nothing I said contradicted their existence.
    As for the rest… that’s exactly the debate over “what is meant by ‘objective’ morality that I said I wasn’t going to get into. And I’m still not. I find it a moderately interesting topic, but I’m not going to pursue it with you. Partly because I’ve had a bellyful lately of debates that revolve around how terms are defined, and I’m kind of sick of them. But mostly because I think nihilism in any form, moral or otherwise, is an utterly bankrupt and borderline sociopathic worldview, and I think the chances of anyone who adheres to it saying anything I’ll find useful or enlightening on the topic of morality to be… well, it’s probably better than the chances that I’ll see a coherent god hypothesis supported with good evidence, but not much better. Certainly not enough for me to spend my time pursuing it. Thank you for sharing.

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