Daylight Atheism

Adam has written another elegant post over at daylight atheism:

We must face the facts: our lives, in the grand scheme of things, are short. Like the leaves falling from the tree, we bloom, flourish, and inevitably wither. Vast expanses of time preceded each of us, and equally vast expanses of time will follow us. We were not there, will not be there, to know what happens; we will never meet the people who inhabit those times, as they will never meet us. Our existence is, as Robert Ingersoll said, like a narrow vale between two cold and barren peaks.

And yet, in that narrow valley in between, there is a wondrous thing: a creature who exists, who lives, and who is conscious of that life and that existence. —

We don’t need religious nonsense in order to convince ourselves that life is wonderful, that being human is worthwhile. In fact the religious nonsense gets in the way of appreciating reality in its fullness. It throws up a smokescreen, it imposes a fake “holiness”—fake God or gods—between us and the real holiness: physical life itself. Access to this holiness is free: we don’t need to fill the coffers of any religious sect, hop to unnatural moral commandments, or swallow any impossible nonsense. We are bodies, and that gives us direct access to the great reality itself.

Although we know much about that reality, it is true enough that we will never really know what it is. Likewise, we will never really know ourselves, no matter how much we know about ourselves. Our scientific knowledge is built of consistent, useful models of physical reality: the models work in that they are testable against that reality. But they do not lay bear its ultimate nature: knowledge never can.

Yet that doesn’t give excuse for believing nonsense, or for embracing models which long since collapsed under the weight of their inconsistencies and uselessness. Adam says it best,

In the face of our imperfect knowledge, what we need is humility and a candid admission of our ignorance. We do not need anyone pretending they know all the answers and dignifying that pretending with the name of “faith”. The mysteries we confront are far deeper than that, far too profound to admit of such shallow, simplistic, easily disproven answers. In truth, they are not answers at all; they are baubles, little diversions, stories invented for the comfort of children. —

As if hell and a vengeful God could ever comfort children—such nonsense is more likely to traumatize than comfort. But beyond the Pyrrhic victory of believing that by faith you will be saved while others burn, beyond that rather vicious conceit lies the fact that everything which makes life wonderful is physical. All the great emotions are emotions felt in bodies, by bodies, for bodies. All our wonderful sensations, including our most sublime thoughts, are sensations of the body, require a body for existence. Without body, they can’t happen. Without body, we can’t be.

Life is an embodied enterprise. Without body, life loses its magic. And we must not forget that whatever that magic is, it is physical magic. Why then do so many try to separate human life from its reality by inserting this or that religious or spiritual barrier? Why do they seek such a condom? Why throw up so many obvious lies, such nonsense, from so many pulpits? Why shrink from reality?

What are they afraid of? To me, that’s the real mystery.

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3 Responses to Daylight Atheism

  1. John says:

    Unfortunately life on this planet aint wonderful at all. Everybody suffers, disintegrates and dies.
    And if you really observe “nature” it is a horrific universal death machine which is completely indifferent to the well-being and survival of any and every form, especially biological forms.

    Everything that the universe/world gives “birth” to or “creates” is eaten.
    The Hindu image of the Goddess Kali says it all—“she” (the Goddess) that “creates” everything is a blood-thirsty bitch who devours her babies for breakfast.

    These three references give a much more realistic account of what life on this planet is really all about.


  2. Rastaban says:

    John, you’re missing half the picture.

    Unfortunately life on this planet aint wonderful at all. Everybody suffers, disintegrates and dies.

    Being alive is wonderful. Even pain is wonderful — and almost always preferable to non-existence. Don’t forget that our bodies create pain for our benefit — for the goal of staying alive. So no matter what any of us may think about it, our bodies have already determined that life is worth the price of pain.

    Our bodies implicitly know that what lies after death is not preferable to what exists now while we live. The common sense conclusion from this is that death is not desirable for an organism so long as its life is still viable. (There are exceptions, particularly with social species where, sometimes, individual deaths can benefit those who remain. But even in these cases, the evident goal is to maximize life.)

    Yes, everything gets eaten, and that certainly tells us there is no “perfect God”. But we also know that getting eaten is not to be desired. Death holds no value. Only staying alive is valuable. When we get to the point that staying alive is no longer possible, our bodies naturally bring the pain to an end and we die.

    And if you really observe “nature” it is a horrific universal death machine which is completely indifferent to the well-being and survival of any and every form, especially biological forms.

    Nature is not a “universal death machine” any more than it is a universal life machine. Nature isn’t “indifferent” nor is it caring. Nature, as you know, is just an abstraction we use for everything around us. It is not a being, doesn’t have consciousness; nature, as a personification, doesn’t “do” anything. You look around yourself, John, and you see “universal death”. But death is undesirable only because life is possible. If there were no such thing as life, then to complain about a “universal death machine” would make no sense.

    It is only because something valuable and wonderful exists, life, that non-existence can be seen negatively. Life is something remarkable, something above and beyond non-existence, something which did not have to be. And yet life happens and happens only for the living.

    That it comes to an end only ratifies its extreme value. In that sense, death is needed to make life wonderful. Pain is necessary for the same reason. I think you’ve been looking at this all wrong.

  3. Sarah Marie Lapointe says:

    “Unfortunately life on this planet aint wonderful at all. Everybody suffers, disintegrates and dies.”

    Although this is true, the other side is that life is beautiful while living. If you think optimistically you will see that the world can be wonderful and the only reason people dies is to avoid overpopulation.

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