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Existential Nihilism And Atheism


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One of the things that has been asserted to me is that atheism necessarily leads to an existential nihilistic standpoint, esentially. That without God, life doesn't have any meaning at all and we're just sort of 'here', existing in the universe.

 

Among my defenses of that is that religion is no suitable answer to the questions nihilism asks, as the existence of God does not add meaning to existence. There is still no reason for a god to exist or why this god needs to be worshiped, or why meaning should be taken from this god getting worshiped. My response when people attack atheists of nihilism is that religion has nothing on atheists in that area.

 

However, what I haven't been able to come up with is an atheistic thought process that goes a different direction than nihilism. It doesn't seem that all atheists think like that, but ever since I became one, I've found the existential nihilistic mindset somewhat unavoidable, since I truly don't see great meaning in anything at all.

 

Do any atheists here have any intellectual arguments against nihilistic mindsets regarding life and meaning? What other thought processes can be had other than that we're just sort of 'here'?

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The reason so many people ask "Why are we here" is that there is no obvious purpose to life as we know it.

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Just because The Universe doesn't care (and as a materialst, I'm pretty sure it can't care), doesn't mean that I don't. It's the naturalistic fallacy again: just because animals are violent and cruel doesn't mean it's moral for humans to be so. Just because there's no big consciousness out there assigning us meaning doesn't mean we can't find our own lives meaningful.

 

Personally, I lean towards humanism. I find that I am quite a social animal - I may be an introvert who hates having to spend too much time with other people, but I still want to belong, to fit in, to contribute to my society, to mean something. Christianity is a nice crutch in that you can be totally useless to your fellow man, even destructive, yet still mean something to god. But... I find that without god, I'm much more worried about how my actions impact the people around me. I don't want to make art just for me, I want make art that's good enough to share. I don't want to do well at my job just to make money, I want to do well because I "believe in" the project I'm working on. I may not believe in life after death, but I do believe that I can "live on" in other people's memories and in what I've contributed to society. That makes me "one of us" instead of just an individual.

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For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love - Carl Sagan

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We give meaning to our existence. The mere fact that our creation and end has no meaning doesn't mean we cant create meaning during our duration. I see no need to subscribe to Nihilism because of this just because something is temporary does not mean we have to devalue it. An orgasm has no meaning as far as the universe is concerned but I am conscious and I perceive an orgasm as an experience of euphoria that contributes to my well being and happiness. Even the most temporal of things have meaning you just need to know where to lookeek.gif

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There's nothing very challenging about that strawman because, quite simply, it's simply a presuppositionists/reductionist argument based on nothing. And from an empirical standpoint one can counter with something like 'since we don't believe in any god myth, we take THIS life very seriously and live it accordingly'.

Case closed..

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One of the things that has been asserted to me is that atheism necessarily leads to an existential nihilistic standpoint, esentially. That without God, life doesn't have any meaning at all and we're just sort of 'here', existing in the universe.

 

Among my defenses of that is that religion is no suitable answer to the questions nihilism asks, as the existence of God does not add meaning to existence. There is still no reason for a god to exist or why this god needs to be worshiped, or why meaning should be taken from this god getting worshiped. My response when people attack atheists of nihilism is that religion has nothing on atheists in that area.

 

However, what I haven't been able to come up with is an atheistic thought process that goes a different direction than nihilism. It doesn't seem that all atheists think like that, but ever since I became one, I've found the existential nihilistic mindset somewhat unavoidable, since I truly don't see great meaning in anything at all.

 

Do any atheists here have any intellectual arguments against nihilistic mindsets regarding life and meaning? What other thought processes can be had other than that we're just sort of 'here'?

You're right. There can be no ultimate meaning or reason for that which is eternal. It's without beginning or end so it simply is, it just exists without explanation, meaning, or any ultimate reason for existing. Whether we call that eternal thing the natural cosmos (eternal multiverse etc.) or God doesn't matter, either way it can have no ultimate meaning. Religion can not avoid that conclusion any more than atheism. 

 

Until this year I'd never heard any good argument in favor of ultimate meaning or purpose. Then we got into contemplating existence on a Pantheist board and something new sort of popped up unexpectedly. After going on about eternal inflation type of conclusions and how existence itself in one form or another can have no fixed beginning, it was put forward that existence itself, the totality, exists because total and complete blanket non-existence is impossible.

 

All of the latest from cosmology seems to point in this direction. Soap bubble universes coming and going only one of which represents our entire universe and so on. Existence was always around in one form or another and we're simply experiencing a small fraction of an eternal natural and material cosmos the bounds of which seem endless. Absolute or total and complete non-existence seems completely impossible. Some thing had to have always existed in one form or another in order for anything at all to exist right now. 

 

So I got to thinking about this with respect to the question meaning and purpose. 

 

What can be said from a naturalists perspective of eternal existence? 

 

I still don't see any one fixed meaning for life. You could give it any number of meanings and several may ring as valid.

 

But one glaringly obvious purpose is to serve the function of observation. As Carl Sagan pointed out in Cosmos, we're a way that universe has evolved to perceive itself from within. I think Carl said that we're the eyes and ears of the planet. I think that qualifies as at least one obvious purpose. Without life the planet would be blind and the universe could not see itself (map out it's own depths) or attempt to know itself and figure itself out from within. The mysteries we seek are that which the material universe is seeking to know through it's own life forms. This can get deep but rings as true. 

 

I might extend that to account for the recent data and discoveries about eternal inflation and how if life exists here then it's deduced to exist elsewhere as well. There would be repeating factors involved. Along with an eternal greater surrounding cosmos life may have always existed in different realms the entire time right along side of an eternally existing greater cosmos full of universes coming and going. The possibilities seem endless and the earth wouldn't be the first rodeo. The purpose of life as a repeating process of the natural cosmos would merge into any potential purpose or meaning we may serve. It seems that there's a lot of exploration ahead even from a naturalists perspective free and clear of traditional religious think. And we may find greater meaning and purpose for life and existence than anything that our primitive and barbaric religious traditions have had to offer...

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The thing is that our existence does NOT have intrinsic meaning or purpose. Nothing does.

That by itself is nihilistic.

We, with our intelligence, can create meaning and purpose.

Think of a waterfall. Does it have intrinsic purpose? Not really. It's just water moving from a higher to a lower place.

But put a turbine in there and you just gave that waterfall the purpose of providing energy to a nearby town.

You don't have an intrinsic purpose either. But with training, effort, education, etc, you can build houses, treat diseases, repair broken things, and so on.

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Atheism, by definition, cannot derive meaning from gods. However, that is not to say that atheism necessarily leads to nihilism. Atheism is the absence of belief in gods, no more, no less. Whether and where atheists derive their meaning is another question.

 

My take is that nihilism is a start, not a destination. The universe is a blank slate in terms of meaning; that’s nihilism. We get to write on that slate; that’s the human experience.

 

To turn the tables, I think meaning derived from a god is vacuously meaningless.

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One of the things that has been asserted to me is that atheism necessarily leads to an existential nihilistic standpoint, esentially. That without God, life doesn't have any meaning at all and we're just sort of 'here', existing in the universe.

 

Among my defenses of that is that religion is no suitable answer to the questions nihilism asks, as the existence of God does not add meaning to existence. There is still no reason for a god to exist or why this god needs to be worshiped, or why meaning should be taken from this god getting worshiped. My response when people attack atheists of nihilism is that religion has nothing on atheists in that area.

 

However, what I haven't been able to come up with is an atheistic thought process that goes a different direction than nihilism. It doesn't seem that all atheists think like that, but ever since I became one, I've found the existential nihilistic mindset somewhat unavoidable, since I truly don't see great meaning in anything at all.

 

Do any atheists here have any intellectual arguments against nihilistic mindsets regarding life and meaning? What other thought processes can be had other than that we're just sort of 'here'?

 

Why do Christians assume that belief in God gives life meaning? Why do Christians assume that non-belief in God equates to a meaningless life? Ask a Christian what meaning they get from wasting their whole life worshiping a deity that doesnt exist. :-) What meaning do we get from an imaginary being that is identical to our own thoughts. What meaning do you get from life by being a Cookie Cutter Christian Clone like every other fucking Cookie Cutter Christian Clone?

 

I can get 'meaning' out of life by drinking a cup of coffee or taking pictures of a gorgeous sunset from my back porch. I can be moved to deep emotion by listening to electronic dance music. :-) I can become completely intrigued and fascinated in writing a computer program. It's a total geekgasm. I can and do have a wonderful life of meaning with my family.  I especially get meaning out of life by trying to be original or do something original or following The Road Not Taken for at least a few blocks.

 

Ask any highly driven atheist (like a scientist, neurosurgeon, businessperson) what gives their life meaning.

Ask a Buddhist monk what gives their life meaning.

 

Life is an amazing sandbox experience where you can do simply anything you want. God doesn't give your life meaning. You give your life meaning.

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Wow. I certainly recieved a lot of insightful answers here. It's interesting how much deeper than religion these thought processes can go.

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The purpose of life is to live it.

 

I thought it was to fuck like rabbits. 

 

 

Lol

 

......And eat ice-cream all day..........yum.gif

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The root of Judeo/Christianity focuses on three assumptions about life: that individuals are born evil, that humanity is evil and cannot better itself, and that the world and our environment is cursed. In other words, humanity and planet earth are doomed, so why bother making the world a better place? From a philosphical standpoint, can anyone think of a more nihilistic, pessimistic, detached, and gloomy portrayal of human life?

 

I suppose the Christian would point to all the hope if offers, what with recreating people anew to live in heaven or a rebuilt earth. But this is really white-washed nihilism.

 

Stripped of religious beliefs and perceptions we discover the truth, that there really is no perceivable "cosmic or spiritual" purpose to life. Regarding atheism and nihilism, I can only say that I did not start really living until I became an atheist. More importantly, I really started focusing on the human dynamic and making this world a better place.

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