This week’s question: “Doesn’t atheism lead to a belief that nothing has any meaning?”
No, atheism does not necessarily lead to nihilism, fatalism or absurdism.
[media-credit name=”Justin Ma” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Nihilism is a rejection of all meaning and value. It is a position that states that we are not able to know anything and that we cannot communicate anything at all. It is a very radical form of skepticism which argues that there can be no objective meaning, intrinsic value or real purpose to our existence. Similarly, fatalism is the philosophical belief that all things in life are already fated to be and that there is nothing that can be done to change them. Absurdism argues that the mere attempt at finding inherent meaning in life is not possible for the human mind and is therefore absurd to pursue.
In my case, I happen to accept atheistic existentialism, a view that rejects religious, metaphysical and transcendental belief, and instead attempts to create meaning from the individual himself. The goal of atheistic existentialism is to construct one’s own meaning, which is the only real way that we can acquire meaning in this life and the only way to get rid of the angst associated with existential anxiety.
While there are many different positions on the questions posed by existentialist philosophers, for the most part, being an atheist does not force one to accept any one of these four philosophies.
David Urzua is a fifth-year philosophy major.
This question is not about atheism directly, but about the implications thereof. It is a tragic example of people deciding that because they do not like something then it cannot be true. Right off the bat, I’ll say that atheism is not necessarily a fatalistic or nihilistic position. An atheist could certainly decide whether that — as a fatalist would conclude — free will does not exist or acceptance of the inevitable is appropriate, or whether that — as a nihilist would conclude — judgments of value are groundless and absolute knowledge cannot be held or communicated. But so could a theist, because nihilism and fatalism are the endpoints of one’s philosophy, whereas one’s theism or atheism is simply a component of one’s beliefs.
Atheism is not a prerequisite for these positions. As an example, many theists believe in predestination (Calvinists then, Jehovah’s Witnesses now) which could be said to logically lead to fatalism in terms of a worldview that disallows the existence of free will.
But back to the root of the problem, which is disregarding something because one does not like the implications. Let’s replace “fatalistic” with “allows polygamy” in the question. Doesn’t atheism allow polygamy, which is something I think is icky? Doesn’t atheism allow questions about absolute knowledge and free will, and value judgments, which I also find icky? What do the implications of a position have to do with its validity? Well, I’m very sorry that you don’t like the real world, but that doesn’t make it unreal.
Connor Oakes is a third-year political science major.
You know what? I think that it does imply that. It seems pretty intuitive, doesn’t it? I mean, if there is no God, no higher purpose — nothing of the sort — then there’s probably no meaning for us in life.
I would say that, yes, there is no purpose in life. Not only does nothing matter, but we’re all going to die and everything we have ever done will be forgotten. We are specks of nothing in a dark sea of emptiness. I can sympathize with this stance completely. However, it probably sounds morbid and negative, and that’s where the problem with this assumption lies.
I have a nihilistic view of the world, but I think I am an extremely positive person. I absolutely love life and I appreciate every second of it so much that it bothers me when other people don’t. Nihilism does not imply negativity or depression at all. The idea itself is just so beautiful — that the world is just there, simply and purely. It expects nothing of you and it has no direction or intent.
Only in a world like this is anything truly possible. How sad would it be if the universe had a fate, a wound-up car on a defined track with rules and restrictions? The very idea of freedom necessitates that we have an option. There is an elegance within nihilism that is completely different from fatalism, and I wish that more people could recognize the beauty behind it.
Cameron Moody is a second-year computational biology major.