This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Yes, life without God can be bleak. Atheism is about facing up to that

Yes, life without God can be bleak. Atheism is about facing up to that - Comments

Metamag's Avatar Comment 1 by Metamag

I don't get it. How does a celestial psycho, who is capable of creating infinite torture for diversity in opinion, give warm fuzzy feelings?

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 16:29:24 UTC | #925893

Aztek's Avatar Comment 2 by Aztek

"So I think it's time we atheists 'fessed up and admitted that life without God can sometimes be pretty grim."

I don't think there are any atheists who would deny this! In fact, I think the very fact that life sometimes is pretty grim is the reason why some become atheists. But it's not about admitting that life can be grim, it's about recognizing that life is in many ways full of joy despite the fact that it sometimes can be grim.

And life can be grim regardless of whether you believe in gods or not. I can imagine that living one's life fearing hell does not make it more enjoyable.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 17:14:48 UTC | #925900

hemidemisemigod's Avatar Comment 3 by hemidemisemigod

The reason to be an atheist is simply that there is no God and we would prefer to live in full recognition of that, accepting the consequences, even if it makes us less happy.

It's not a preference. When children stop believing in Father Christmas it's because they realise he is a myth. They may have been happier in their ignorance but there's no going back, even if they might prefer to.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 17:16:53 UTC | #925901

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 4 by Zeuglodon

This article feels half-baked, even wasteful. He comes across at times as if he wants us to be cheerless. He's not saying anything that doesn't apply to a theist. Broadly speaking, you get grim moments whether you believe X or Y.

If his message was simply "we atheists face adversity in life and don't have a safety blanket", then he didn't have to make a big issue about the fact that humanist institutions promote happiness in their symbols, nor did he have to describe atheism as if it was a preference. If the institutions were handing out soma tablets or propaganda pamphlets, it would be a different story, but so far the message seems to be directed at the religious people who buy into the straw atheist image.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 17:50:53 UTC | #925912

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

The problem with the "atheist" moniker has been recognised for decades. It's too negative, too associated with amoral nihilism.

Nope! This is only the caricature straw atheist put about by ignorant preachers herding their flocks away from reason!
To the deluded, the very concept of atheism taking away their comfort blankets, is negative and nihilistic! Brrrrrrr!! Shudder at the thought!!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 17:51:42 UTC | #925913

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 6 by Zeuglodon

Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

Spot on as usual. That annoying caricature is long overdue for retirement.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 17:55:47 UTC | #925915

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 7 by Jos Gibbons

The problem here isn't that "atheism" is a "negative" word; "prefix denoting an absence" and "horrid" are very different meanings of the word, and there is here a fallacious reliance on an amphiboly. I also feel Baggini conflates the discussion of whether X makes things suck with whether they do suck. Yes, the world sucks in many ways; but that's not so much because a god doesn't exist as something that is as true as the fact that no gods exist. Of course, while a powerful god wanting to prevent these things would make the world nicer, a powerful god of a more malevolent style would do the opposite.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 18:07:04 UTC | #925918

CleverCarbon's Avatar Comment 8 by CleverCarbon

This reeks of being a concern troll, seems only to reinforce the thing the article is "Supposedly" trying to tackle (constantly going on about how grim life as an atheist supposedly is), and most of it applies just as well to theists as it does for atheists.

Prime example - "Can you really tell the parents who lost their child to a suicide after years of depression that they should stop worrying and enjoy life?". Isn't that exactly the point of telling someone "They're in a better place"? To get them to stop worrying and enjoy their lives? To get them to move past the death?

Besides, what if they're Christian? For all they know he's burning in a lake of fire for all eternity; How comforting! Not grim in the least, Heck If they're catholic suicide is a sin which condemns their souls to hell.

I have never, and will never, understand how people can say that living under tyranny, where you're very likely to end up being tortured mercilessly for all time after you're dead, is a comfort. Oblivion is preferable.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 18:18:54 UTC | #925921

AtheistAtItsBest's Avatar Comment 9 by AtheistAtItsBest

"Life without God can be bleak " .Oh come on! Life without 'imaginary' Santa claus could be bleak..!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 18:46:45 UTC | #925928

Billions and Billions's Avatar Comment 10 by Billions and Billions

Comment 8 by CleverCarbon :

I have never, and will never, understand how people can say that living under tyranny, where you're very likely to end up being tortured mercilessly for all time after you're dead, is a comfort. Oblivion is preferable.

But for those that believe they're destined for heaven there is a comfort in death. My brother, a devout Christian, at age 36 died of a brain tumor, but in his final days he was seemingly at peace with it and was convinced he was going to a better place. I am envious of this. Many years ago I began telling myself that it is better to know the truth -- no god -- than to live without it, but this doesn't provide much comfort when facing our mortality. However, it is my love for science and the mysteries of the unknown that offset the bleakness. As well, my atheism does remind me to appreciate each day of life more. Hopefully by the time I'm on my deathbed I'll face it with the kind of strength and dignity that Hitch did.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:03:29 UTC | #925933

Duff's Avatar Comment 11 by Duff

I have a proposal for a new, positive name for atheism. "Adult".

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:13:34 UTC | #925935

marshall621's Avatar Comment 12 by marshall621

I liked the article. It might be a bit premature since his only two examples are Dawkins 'Bright' label and an advertisement. But I'd hate to see the movement degenerate into some kind Joyce Meyer cult of the inspirational and sell people BS on the realities of life. That whole 'If you can't change your situation, change your attitude!' mentality is annoying.

I probably should stay out of marketing.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:14:51 UTC | #925936

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 13 by Mr DArcy

I can't believe I'm the first here to say that atheists sholuld always look on the bright side of life!

Always look on the bright side of death

Just before you draw your terminal breath!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:34:39 UTC | #925939

Corylus's Avatar Comment 14 by Corylus

Then there were the atheist bus posters telling us that we should stop worrying and enjoy life.

It is important to remember that the atheist bus adverts were a direct response to posters with veiled threats regarding an afterlife - anything is cheerful in response to that. Also, the term 'bright' is (rightly) a dead duck.

Those points aside, I don't have any particular factual problems with this article. Life can be grim and ethics (particularly meta-ethics) is difficult. Moral realism in particular invites reification from a naturalistic viewpoint. So what of it? We may - with justification - imagine Sisyphus happy. If we do not find that convincing then that is fine too. For to demand as rational, or even required, a specific emotional response to a given stimulus is a mugs game.

This is why I do quibble with the emotional tack this piece takes, for many people do find atheism a more cheerful alternative and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity. The twin alternatives of 'charlatan' or 'gravely mistaken' at the end - while referring to people who make promises that they cannot keep - could easily be read as referring to any individual who finds an atheist viewpoint liberating and is happy as a result. It would have been better if Dr Baggini could have made this distinction clearer. Oh well, he might just have wanted to end with a stirring phrase.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:35:50 UTC | #925940

The Truth, the light's Avatar Comment 15 by The Truth, the light

You could probably sum up the whole article with:

Shit happens!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:38:20 UTC | #925941

EtotheiPi's Avatar Comment 16 by EtotheiPi

My proposal is to replace atheist by anti-dogmatist. I know it's too long and too negative, but consider this: We could no longer be put in the same set with tyrants like Stalin or Kim-Yong-Whatever, who were atheists, or new age or conspiracy crackpots, who may be atheists. And most definitely, the intersection with the set of all religious people would be empty, because there is no religion without dogma. Just imagine a debate with a believer, who has to rail against wicked anti-dogmatists and defend the need for dogmas to make you happy and moral.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:57:58 UTC | #925945

Harps's Avatar Comment 17 by Harps

Comment 16 by EtotheiPi :

We could no longer be put in the same set with tyrants like Stalin or Kim-Yong-Whatever, who were atheists

Was Stalin definitely, categorically an atheist? And the Kims kinda were/are gods, whether they believe it themselves, we'll probably never really know.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:25:15 UTC | #925951

Daryl 's Avatar Comment 18 by Daryl

Whenever the inevitable comes up: you know, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, now the Kims, I point out that Hitler is actually one of theirs, and then do they get to take credit not only for Adolf, but for Torquemada, 9/11, Bosnia and the Salem witch trials?

Then comes the, "why don't you kill yourself?" Because of heaven, you know. So all you have to do is point out that if heaven is so much better, then why not kill yourself and get there faster. Well, suicide is bad, so ask if sacrificing oneself is a ticket to heaven. They will generally agree, and worry why. That's when you suggest they offer to walk ahead of the troops in Afghanistan and find roadside bombs. I even offer to pay for the ticket.

Remember to tell them you need a letter explaining why they are going, so Homeland Security doesn't flag it because it's only one way.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:35:42 UTC | #925955

inquisador's Avatar Comment 19 by inquisador

Life is better when you don't need to spend your valuable time on your knees.

Life is taught to millions to be a mere preparation for the next life; which is far more important.

This leads to the prolific waste we see of the lives of those who follow this logic by spending their only life worshipping their mythical gods; neglecting their chances and responsibilities in this life; blowing themselves up for allah and a coveted place in heaven.

Let's withdraw the privileges of religion until they prove the claims they make. Better still let 's proscribe the cults that cause the most active harm. Especially that one that is the worst of the lot. Does anyone not know which one I mean?

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:44:54 UTC | #925959

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 20 by Alan4discussion

Comment 16 by EtotheiPi

And most definitely, the intersection with the set of all religious people would be empty, because there is no religion without dogma. Just imagine a debate with a believer, who has to rail against wicked anti-dogmatists and defend the need for dogmas to make you happy and moral.

They can twist words and issues, with double-talk in a much more devious ways than you can imagine!

http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/644684-bbc-focus-magazine-s-letter-of-the-month There is, in any case, nothing rational about the smart alec posture of atheism, which is after all just another dogma - in this case, the dogma of scientism. I am personally against all forms of dogma, whether religious or scientific, and should like to point out that there are many distinguished, rational scientists (list available on request), who do not claim that science has all the answers and who have ably defended the view that there is a non-material, spiritual dimension to the Universe.

Have a look at some of the archived discussions.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:48:34 UTC | #925961

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 21 by Border Collie

In my opinion, atheism simply "requires" that one develop a much larger, more profound, clearer, deeper view of life, reality, the universe. It allows us to grow our perspective as large as we want as opposed to having a tiny, narrow reality imposed on us from an outside source. If your outlook is bleak, it's time to start growing. Once religion is gone, there is nothing standing in your way but your own self-imposed limitations. If we choose to stay small, that's about us, not atheism.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oBijAiO1VY

Go, Richard!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:53:18 UTC | #925962

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 22 by Alan4discussion

Comment 18 by Daryl

Whenever the inevitable comes up: you know, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, now the Kims, I point out that Hitler is actually one of theirs,

If anyone tries to tell you Hitler was an atheist, I suggest they look at these! - http://nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm - and you could make a note of the link for future use!

A picture's worth a thousand words!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:56:15 UTC | #925965

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 23 by AtheistEgbert

Which would you rather? Firstly, that you went through life believing in a God that demanded obedience, and if you did not obey, you were to be tortured forever in a burning pit, or secondly that no such God existed nor any such hell?

I'm pretty sure for most of us non-masochists, that the latter would be preferable. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in God, but the consequences of turning away from religion is that life will become much better.

And, if moderate Baggani were to become progressive Baggani, he would begin to understand that life might be harsh, but being progressive means making life better for ourselves and for our friends.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 21:24:46 UTC | #925973

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 24 by Schrodinger's Cat

I know this would not be all that popular to hear....but one of the biggest problems I always had with atheists, particularly those claiming their world view is entirely based around rationality, was that of seeing someone deliberately devoid of emotional content. That is because many atheist arguments against religion are precisely of the ' its all just feelings' type......which then leads to the impression that atheists don't have any feelings.

I think the almost Spock-like appearance of devoidness of emotional response, which I have seen more than a few atheists manifest in order to demonstrate how rational they are, is actually a huge mistake. It really needs to be gotten across....without losing the rationality.....that atheists can be touchy-feely people too.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 21:33:56 UTC | #925974

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 25 by Mr DArcy

S Cat:

It really needs to be gotten across....without losing the rationality.....that atheists can be touchy-feely people too.

Well I suppose it takes all types. Personally, I'm looking forward to the heat death of the universe, and a meal at the restaurant at the end of the universe! Hopefully the great Prophet Zarquon will make an appearance before Hotblack Desiato's spaceship is hijacked.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 21:56:19 UTC | #925979

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 26 by Mr DArcy

Allow about 5 minutes for dinner at Milliways

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 22:15:27 UTC | #925983

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 27 by aroundtown

Prefer to live without blinders and wide-awake as opposed to living life under the boot of a made up myth.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 22:51:14 UTC | #925989

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 28 by aroundtown

Comment 21 by Border Collie In my opinion, atheism simply "requires" that one develop a much larger, more profound, clearer, deeper view of life, reality, the universe. It allows us to grow our perspective as large as we want as opposed to having a tiny, narrow reality imposed on us from an outside source. If your outlook is bleak, it's time to start growing. Once religion is gone, there is nothing standing in your way but your own self-imposed limitations. If we choose to stay small, that's about us, not atheism.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oBijAiO1VY

Go, Richard!

Thank you Border Collie for stating very clearly what the possibilities are when you live a life without delusion. I sometimes think my life is that much clearer and sweet because I suffered the delusion of religion in my life so I have been on both sides of the fence so to speak and know the difference. Your post conveys the truth I live by, every day is a day for discovery to be lived in the here and now. I can look at the clouds on my walk, as I did today, and ponder the condensation/evaporation that affected the clouds or the gases mixing in the atmosphere and countless other conditions without the bleak prospect that some sneak is spying on me to see if I am being good or bad. How disgusting the affliction of religion, I will remain the atheist I am and reap the benefits to the full.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 23:08:38 UTC | #925993

Fouad Boussetta's Avatar Comment 29 by Fouad Boussetta

I actually liked this article. I identify with the author's stance because like him, I get irritated by overly "positive" people. Religious or not, they're irrational wishful-thinkers. "Life is beautiful"? Well, sometimes...

[The philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville once said in an interview that people believe in God because they basically want three things above all else: "not to die, find again those they lost, be loved"... Most believers in God I know don't believe in Hell, by the way, so they rest assured of a happy ending. They feel protected and cared about by a loving superbeing. Very comforting bullshit indeed, I must admit.]

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 23:09:01 UTC | #925994

AlexP's Avatar Comment 30 by AlexP

Giving up religion and ideas of salvation and paradise may seem like a loss for many, but it is not.

Paradise, a loving god and eternal, blissful life are like a panacea that cures all sicknesses without side-effects - as wonderful as it may sound, it is simply is not true. Abandoning the constant and - eventually futile - hope for it doesn't cost you anything when you realize that paradise existed only in your imagination in the first place. You can't lose what you never really had.

The "joyful" aspect of atheism is not that it provides you with a replacement of loving gods and meaning - but rather, that it allows you to spend the time and resources available to you for what really matters to you - and not waste them on superstition and false hope.

Just like giving up the dream of a panacea doesn't cure your sickness - but it allows you to spend your money on something that might actually help you - rather than on empty promises that, in the end, won't do anything at all.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 23:25:13 UTC | #925996