A hopeless atheist

Posted by on December 29, 2010 in Thoughts | 2 comments

I read this (or at least things like it) all the time:

“You are an atheist? Where do you get hope from? How can you have hope if you don’t believe in God’s guiding had? How can you not see life on earth as futile? Without God, you must hate humanity. Without God, your life is useless and has no purpose. How can you go on living like that?”

Man without God

Man without God

It’s really kind of frightening that I have been writing this blog for over a year, and I see countless others doing the same, and these are the questions that are answered repeatedly by numerous godless people. To those who believe in one or many gods (theists and deists alike) it’s as if being without God is not so much about needing to follow a doctrine, but that it is a physical need for survival like breathing. The only problem is that so often the answers are given without anything to back them up.

These questions only come from people who believe in an interventionist god. If the god someone believes in is not interventionist, then the idea of “hope” doesn’t come into the picture at all, except on a personal level. So let’s look at these ideas one by one shall we?

You are an atheist?

Yes, I live my life without constantly think that there is a need for, or any logical proof for; a. a magical creator of the universe, just because some people think that the way the universe exists is too perfect for it to be happenstance based on preexisting laws; b. A magical omnipotent omniscient creature that looks down exclusively on the earth, and especially on me, and watches everything I do; c. a magical sky creature who will judge me on the day of my death as to whether I have been good or bad, according to some set of arbitrary laws as set out in the bronze-age texts of religion, and will punish or reward me accordingly. Everything else, my disdain for organised religion, my outspokenness against moral and ethical injustices, my striving for the betterment of humanity and the world and my interest in science, this is all unrelated to my atheism.

Where do you get hope from?

I get hope from the same place as everyone. I look around me, I see the things I care for, and I hope that these things remain safe and well. I see the injustices served by people (mostly upon other people and the planet) and I hope we come to our senses and start treating everything with a little respect. I then back up my hope with my actions, I do things to help make my hopes realisable, tangible and possible. I don’t sit around thinking “Oh well, there is a God, so everything will be OK.” Hope is in everyone, but doing something about what you hope for is different to hoping there is a God.

How can you have hope if you don’t believe in God’s guiding had?

As I have already said, I don’t spend my time hoping there is a God or afterlife. Even if there were a God, do you really think a guiding hand would come down from the heavens and nudge me in certain directions? If it’s all part of a divine plan, and has been pre-ordained, then it doesn’t matter what I do, I have no say in it whatsoever. So we have the ultimate futility of life, that it has been decided for me already, so why bother doing anything? What is the point if it has all been mapped out? Surely if it has been all mapped out then everything, no matter what happens is “for the better”. People use this use this idea, that it is “God’s will” when things go wrong, but say that “god has answered prayers” when things go well. You can’t have it both ways. Either it is all mapped out, or it’s not. The argument of “the guiding hand” is actually more nihilistic in a lot of ways than the life without a purposeful God to guide it. At least in my situation I can have my own purpose without having to fall into line with a position that I don’t agree with simply based upon the idea that something “might exist”. I take responsibility for my actions.

My hope springs from what I can feel, see, measure and experience in life, not from some selfish wish that I will see my dead dog in heaven some day. My hopes come from my human nature and from my empathy for others.

How can you not see life on earth as futile?

As I have already said, the value of your life on earth comes from what you make of it. But if we really get down to the nitty-gritty, both the positions of “god’s guiding hand” and “no god” are equally as futile. The former states futility in the idea that if all is pre-ordained then nothing we do matters because ultimately God has already decided. The latter supposes that if there is no god, therefore no heaven, that our lives are a one-way street with no “bonus-round” at the end. While I feel that the latter position is true, to state this is to miss the point.

There is no “bonus-round”, and after you die, that’s it. This is the key to hope. Hope without action is just like sitting on your hands. You have the power to do something, but you don’t do it. It’s from this idea of a very final ending that I can draw the strength to get up off my hands and try to make a difference in the world. And it’s precisely because every human being on the planet has this same fate whether you believe or not, that it is worthwhile doing something about it. I’m hoping to help the planet by trying to make you think. What are you doing to help people?

Without God, you must hate humanity.

No, without God I see humanity as my brethren, without presupposed divisions based on sex, race, religion, geography. While I am aware that some of these divisions are the result of religious doctrine, it is the self-centeredness of the belief in a human focused God that made these doctrines in the first place. First we say humans are god’s focus. Then we say one type of person is god’s focus. then we exclude all others, causing false boundaries, false hatreds and false beliefs about others. I say, rather than me, without god hating humanity, it is you, the one with god that has a disdain for all things outside yourself and your god.

Without God, your life is useless and has no purpose. How can you go on living like that?

Like what? Without living in constant fear that i may be breaking an arbitrary law created by men to control people? Or living without hopes of an afterlife and making the most of my time on earth by remembering to not be a dick to others, even if they themselves are being dicks? How can I go on living without the hopes of living again, in the “real show”, the afterlife, where all my worries and suffering will be gone?

I ask you, how can you go on living focusing all your attention on the afterlife and forsaking your one and only shot at being alive? And don’t tell me that it’s not the case. Those who believe in afterlife have less regard for the living, because what does it matter if they die or not? If they believe, they will be fine. I just cannot understand the logic of this situation, and I’d go so far as to say that there is none.

In any case, I’d rather be a “hopeless” atheist, whose hopes and desires are based upon the real, tangible, and the only provable universe we will ever know than to stake all my interests on the selfish hopes that there may be a god who cares about me.

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  1. What really frightens me about these questions (and I get them myself, and see them everywhere, as you do) is that the folks asking them are apparently only a crisis of faith away from being hopeless, remorseless, amoral, and feeling like they have nothing to live for and nothing to lose. Scary.

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  2. Well said.

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