Where Are The Honest Atheists?

Where are the honest atheists?
The ones who think life is so bleak?
The ones who recall
There’s no value at all
And no ultimate purpose to seek?

Where are the doomers and gloomers,
Who have realized we’re here all alone?
Who know life passes by
All to soon, then you die,
And that’s it for the life you have known?

Where are the nihilist numbers?
Who see nothing above but the sun?
Whose lack of belief
Brings them nothing but grief?…
I’ll tell you—we’re out having fun.

The above is based on two sources, actually. First, a Yahoo article that shares the title, which claims that New Atheism is dead, and yearns for honest atheists who recognize the bankruptcy of our world view:

If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

Author Damon Linker says that “Honest atheists understand this”, and cites Nietzsche, Camus, and others who have a considerably gloomier view of life than, say, I do.

The other source is something my aggregator pointed me to, a religious blog that took a look at Jason Rosenberg’s “The Atheist’s Guide To Reality” and found its conclusions bleak and not worth believing. “What atheism gets you”. Mostly I’m just pointing out that site because I commented at length there, and I’m too lazy to collect it back here.

Sure, there are some prominent atheist writers who see the world as bleak. There are, to be fair, writers of all stripes who may see the world as bleak. But that does not make them the “honest” ones. I am honestly an optimist; I honestly find great meaning in my life, without requiring a god to put it there for me. And I honestly wonder why some people can’t accept that.


  1. Ulysses says

    Another anti-atheist claiming atheists are nihilists. Why can’t these people talk to actual atheists before making up stories about us?

  2. raven says

    Why can’t these people talk to actual atheists before making up stories about us?

    The whole point is to make up stories about atheists. In other words. lie a lot.

    I glanced over that nonsense.

    One of the guy’s points is, The fallacy of argument from consequences. Atheism is bleak (it isn’t but no point in letting a lie go to waste), the Big Teddy Bear in the Sky makes me feel safe, so it can’t be true. Or shouldn’t be any way.

    The truth value of claims is independent of what they make you feel like or even if they just scare you silly.

  3. raven says

    What is bleak is xianity. It couldn’t get much worse.

    We were made by a perfect being. Things went wrong immediately with the Magic Tree. We are created by the perfect being to be evil, original sin. Our loving father already tried to fix his mistake by murdering almost everybody in the Big Boat event. It failed.

    Plan B was to send himself down to be killed by us. That didn’t work either.

    Most people will go to hell and be tortured forever because they were born into the worng religion.

    The earth is 6,000 years old and running down rapidly. But nothing much matters. Any day now, the Sky Fairy will show up 2,000 years late, destroy the earth, and kill 7 billion people.

    There is nothing positive and uplifting about xianity.

  4. emmet says

    I wonder where the honest atheists are too. Those who follow their worldview through to its logical conclusion and realise that there is nothing wrong with “might is right” and just go for it. I don’t doubt that most atheists “find great meaning” (although I’m not exactly sure what that means for an atheist, actually – what real “meaning” is there to anything if we are just evolved, clever animals?) – I just wonder how they logically justify things which presumably help to “give meaning” – things like monogamy, charity, social justice and so on – if there is no actual objective good.

    This is not a “if I wasn’t Catholic I’d be seven deadly sins 24/7” statement – it’s a “why don’t you guys be honest?” question. If I wasn’t a Catholic, I’d be an atheist. I’d still be “good” because I have experienced that virtue is its own reward – but I would know that I had to be intellectually honest, and intellectual honesty admits that if there is no objective source of morality, there is no rational, reasonable basis for “being good”.

  5. Cuttlefish says

    Emmet, there certainly are a few of those. Around these parts, they can usually be identified by their Libertarian leanings, and the majority of atheists here find them amusing and a bit annoying.

    “Meaning” is made by us, of course. Cooperation has been selected for, both in our genes and in our cultures, because it has been a successful strategy for facilitating our survival (both biological and cultural). You want an objective source of morality? Look around you. The environment is far more present than your god is, and far more active in shaping our behavior.

    As I said at the other site, if you think for a moment that my daughter is meaningless unless there is a god somewhere to imbue her with meaning… you are doing life wrong, and yours is by far the bleaker view of existence.

  6. sqlrob says

    Another anti-atheist claiming atheists are nihilists.

    Do you believe in an externally imposed objective meaning to life?

    If yes: Why are you an atheist?
    If no: Congratulations, you’re a nihilist

    I would say most atheists are nihilists, anyone who reached atheism through rational means will be. The nihilism they’re trying to blame atheists with (life has no meaning, woe is me) is only one implication. There’s certainly no reason to disavow the other meanings of the word (life has no meaning, I’m gonna make some!).

  7. Cuttlefish says

    Objective? Yes. Ultimate? No.

    In a given environment, some strategies have worked better than others; in hindsight, we call those strategies “good”. It is (or rather, has been) good to cooperate, good to work for the long-term benefits rather than short-term, good to follow some version of that seemingly ubiquitous “golden rule”. Such environmentally selected behaviors are so beneficial, they have supported structures that reinforce them–philosophies and religions which claim some “objective” source apart from the environment. Peacock’s tails, these elaborate fictions.

    The environment exists apart from us (or if it is an illusion, as Einstein said, it is a remarkably persistent one). Even if a god does not exist, the conditions which led us to invent one still do.

  8. says

    “There is no rational, reasonable basis for “being good”.”

    Yes, there is – because being “bad” (for lack of a better word) is contrasurvival, both for individuals and for communities. That whole “right is might” strategy didn’t work out very well in the long term for Hitler. Or Stalin. Or Pol Pot. Or the Roman Empire. Or Torquemada. Or…(fill in your own).

    Also, note how the author of the article cites in the post states that if we are atheist, we believe we are alone in the universe. Uh, no, actually, a lot of us believe in a universe that is teeming with life. We believe we are many things in this universe but alone is not among them. They equate their deity – and let’s not be coy, they are referring to one deity in particular, they aren’t including Odin or Kali or Lugh or Gaia in this – with life, period. Which seems to me a tacit admission that they are aware that they’re entire purpose and identity is wrapped up with their religion, that they are nothing in and of themselves. Which is very sad but I can’t say I sympathize.

  9. Ulysses says

    sqlrob @8

    Do you believe in an externally imposed objective meaning to life?

    I certainly do. My life has meaning because of how I interact with other people. My wife, my children, my siblings, my friends, my co-workers, my cow-orkers, and even my enemies (thankfully a very small group) give meaning to my life. Unlike most theists, I don’t need gods or other supernatural critters to give my life meaning. Unlike nihilists I don’t feel life has no meaning.

    My approach to life’s meanings may be unique to me, although from what he’s written @9 I suspect Cuttlefish would agree with me. I am an atheist, i.e., someone with no belief in gods, and I am not a nihilist, i.e., someone who denies all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth.

  10. raven says

    I just wonder how they logically justify things which presumably help to “give meaning” – things like monogamy, charity, social justice and so on – if there is no actual objective good.

    You certainly don’t get morality from the bible or xianity.

    Monogamy? In the bible, polygamy is accepted as the norm. As are buying sex slaves. King Solomon, the hero of the OT had 700 wives and 300 sex slaves.

    Social justice? Democracy isn’t mentioned in the bible. Slavery is with approval. The Southern Baptists split from the other Baptists to support slavery in the US and later opposed integration.

    In the bible you can sell your kids as sex slaves for a few bucks, and are supposed to stone disobedient children, nonvirgin brides, heretics, apostates, adulterers, sabbath breakers, and false prophets to death,

    What emmet is calling xian morality is something we developed during and after The Enlightenment and has nothing to do with xianity. The days when xianity ruled were called The Dark Ages and with good reasons.

    emmet being wrong:

    Those who follow their worldview through to its logical conclusion and realise that there is nothing wrong with “might is right” and just go for it.

    This is an assertion without proof or data and it is wrong.

    There is nothing in an atheist worldview that leads to Nihilism and most atheists aren’t Nihilists. We use our common sense and evolutionary programming to develop morality. So does emmet. He is free riding off of us and falsely, attributing modern ethics and morality to xianity. It’s not, it is if anything, a vast improvement on the primitive tribal middle eastern cultures fossilized in the bible.

  11. raven says

    Do you believe in an externally imposed objective meaning to life?

    You certainly don’t get that from religion.

    1. There are 42,000 different xian sects with more being made up every year. They all disagree wth each other.

    2. There are dozens of religions and thousands or more gods.

    Theists have no way to determine which gods and which religions are the real ones. They disagree wildly among themselves. So they just make it up and claim their religion and their sock puppet god is the Real One.

    What objective meaing to life. A Moslem Jihadist would have one answer. A Mormon another, A Hindu would talk about Karma and reincarnation. A Catholic would say most Protestants are doomed to hell. It’s all just make believe and pretending.

  12. sailor1031 says

    “that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter”

    WTF? We are part of it all. What’s more fascinating, more comforting than that? Would that I had as much intrinsic dignity as Summer-the-little-stripey-cat who shares her life, and her affection, with me. Fuck religion – it’s pure 100%Hall-marked bullshit.

  13. Rieux says

    Camus did not have a gloomy view of life! He just recognized (1) the reality of serious injustice in the world, (2) the complicity of all too many people in that injustice (including, indeed perhaps especially, by turning a blind eye to it), and (3) the reality that everything we care about is finite.

    None of that, on sane premises (i.e., not this Linker twit’s), actually counsels gloom-and-doom. It counsels taking life—and its inevitable questions of fact and value—seriously and fighting hard to resist injustice.

    – Rieux, whose nom de web is a Camus creation

  14. Z says

    I’ve always wondered if an external objective morality exists, how do you know when you’ve tapped into it?

    What test could possibly be done that would say “yep, that precept is unambiguously and unarguably part of an objective morality”.

    Without such a test, what use is an external objective morality even if such a thing existed?

  15. mobius says

    So the believers are telling us, “If atheism is true, it is better to live in a delusion that a wondrous afterlife exists, and all will be peaches and cream.” That it is better to have some mysterious, unrevealed purpose than to find purpose in family, friends and self.

    I think you are quite right in your “Where are the honest believers?” that follows this post. The believers ask the question, “If atheism is true…”, but never think about the answer to the question. They don’t want it to be true and therefore don’t even consider the possibility. They don’t consider that they waste their life on a delusion.


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