Because I am an atheist: M

This post was submitted via e-mail by M.

Because I am an atheist…

…I know that justice will be done by human hands, or by none at all.

There is no celestial Eye to see a Wrong inflicted; there is no divine Judge adjudicating the balance of fortunes and cruelties; there is no deific Hand to intervene in the mechanical operation of the Universe in order to ensure just desserts for ethical or unethical behavior; there is no heavenly Realm in which there is a post-necrotic reward or punishment for what was not redeemed in life.

Justice by human hands, or none at all.

The aphorism goes that there are no atheists in foxholes. Bulls—. If I had any reason to believe an omniscient, omnipotent, and just being oversaw the cosmos, and would set right what I failed to correct, I would have had no reason to spend so much of my life in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would not have become a Marine—to risk my mortal existence on a titanic [for me] struggle that is ultimately [from Invisible Space Man’s perspective] trivially fixable. The great struggles of the world that do not affect me are ultimately not my concern if there’s a supreme adjudicating authority that can fix it.

The lack of a transcendental autocrat is precisely what gives meaning to our lives and our judgments. I will do right by my fellow man, because fellow men are the only ones who can do right by one another. The stars will form and burn and die of their own accord. Galaxies will coalesce and quiet on trillion-year arcs, uncaring of our pale blue dot. But I will spend my years as a companion to my friends because I choose to and because, in my judgment they are good people worth loving.  And I hope they do the same for me for the same reasons. If I learned that my friends or my wife acted kindly to me only because they hoped to get some reward for it in the afterlife, I would regard such justification as ghastly and meaningless. Kindness for kindness’s own sake is the transcendent goal of the human condition: kindness for the sake of reward is primitive, game-theoretic behavior. I aspire to more.

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  1. anna says

    I like it, but I wish you had said “by other people” instead of “by my fellow man.” I know you didn’t *mean* to exclude women but it sounds kind of like that. Just a nitpick though.

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