Because I am an atheist: Richard Carrier

Today’s contribution comes from fellow FTBorg Dr. Richard Carrier

Because I am an atheist…

When I realized I was an atheist, I realized we needed godless and non-supernatural answers to important philosophical questions that have usually been assumed to have a godly, or supernatural, or wooish answer, or otherwise swept under the rug as if we didn’t need to answer them. But we do. Not only does it become the Achilles heel of atheism when we don’t have satisfying or even plausible answers to them. But in each and every case we actually need at least a good working hypothesis, because we constantly act on the assumption that we do. Our every decision is based on assuming answers to every one. So I got busy answering these questions, in a way and manner I had never done before. Which culminated in my first book, Sense and Goodness without God.

Questions like: Why be moral? What actually is moral? How do we answer questions like that with any authority whatever? Where does logic come from and why does the universe obey it? How do we know we’re right about anything? Why should we trust science? Should we ever not trust it? What is consciousness and what causes it? What actually is a person? In other words, who and what, actually, am I? What really is love? Is it just chemicals? What really is beauty and what’s good about it? Why is democracy the best form of government? Is it the best form of government? Is there a “correct” political party platform–and if there is, how do we know which it is? And if there isn’t, how can that be? What’s the point of anything? Without an afterlife, is there any prospect for immortality? Why is the universe like it is? What, ultimately, exists? What, ultimately, doesn’t?

Without becoming an atheist, I would never have even seen the need, much less actually undertaken the task, of creating a complete, coherent worldview that answers all these questions, and more, in a way that ties them all together, and has evidence to back it up, without recourse to anything woo. And the task of doing that, without ever appealing to ignorance, deities, or the supernatural or mystical, has greatly changed the way I understand myself and the world, and has made it vastly easier to investigate or address claims of all varieties, from factual to moral to political. It quite literally changed everything about me as a person, and my direction in life.

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  1. Tyle Stelzig says

    “Questions like…” In other words, atheism led you to philosophy. Cool. 🙂

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