Friday, February 22, 2008

Why do atheists bother getting up in the morning?

Q: Why do atheists bother getting up in the morning?

A: Because we can't reach the &@#! alarm clock!

Ahem.

In a nutshell, what this question really implies is that the questioner believes that all meaning in life comes from God. If you don't believe in God, therefore, your life can have no meaning, so why bother?

Let's turn the question around, however, and see how it sounds then. "If as a Christian your whole goal in life is to die and get to Heaven, why wait? Just off yourself now and cut out all those pointless years of mortal existence." I can hear the spluttering now, but the original question is just as silly to an atheist as this one is to a Christian.

Atheists find meaning in all kinds of things. We have families to feed, bills to pay, causes to advance, friends to see, lessons to learn, achievements to attain, and mountains to climb, just like theists do. Giving meaning to something yourself, instead of having it imposed by a "higher power", doesn't make that meaning less real. Is the love someone feels for a spouse they themselves chose less powerful than the love someone feels for a spouse their parents chose for them in an arranged marriage? Does it matter that the feeling is self-assigned rather than other-assigned? As long as it's sincere, it doesn't seem to me that one is better than the other. Just different.

3 comments:

OJ said...

Atheists have even more reason to get up in the morning than theists do. This is the only life we get! Time's not going to stand still for us while we lie around in lethargy. Life is fun, and I am curious to see what happens next to the world. That's why I wake up in the morning.

reasonabletheist said...

fair enough... but God doesn't 'throw' some meaning at you to use... it is the whole idea, the reality that, without a higher power present or a more meaningful dimension, your spouse is only the physically vulnerable and basically pointless fluke of the cosmos... you are simply a joke, the cars you buy not really there, passion just electricity etc etc. Sure scientifically that is the case undoubtedly for rational theists and atheists alike, however "GOD-SHMOD teacup in the sky" or not, this existential problem does not simply remove itself. One must then ask oneself why and how to live life seeing that it is all just really, tragically futile and utterly bereft of all long term joy or fulfillment. Our lives are like a play without an audience, or a reality behind the last row. Sure you can act. Sure you can act well and feel good. But it is just kinda flat and pointless... any ideas? just looking for some mature friendly arguments to come back to me :) long live mature theist-atheist debate without nutters.

Jeff Hebert said...

reasonableatheist: God doesn't make the argument you're making go away. What is the "point" of a finite life in the face of eternity in Heaven? Nothing -- which is why Jesus told his followers to sever all human relationships, give away all their worldly possessions, and wander the desert waiting for the Second Coming. That sounds like pretty much the same problem.

Meaning is where you make it, whether that's in a magical sky-daddy or in the love of your partner, the regard of your community, and the reality of human suffering in the here and now.