The Inevitable Consequence of An Atheistic Worldview

Several weeks ago, a gentleman (we’ll call him “John”) replied to a blog I posted at CrossExamined.org. As a skeptical non-believer, John wasn’t responding to what I had posted, but to fellow atheists who had been interacting with Christians in the comment section. John’s post was controversial but honest. In fact, he clearly delineated the problem of atheistic moral grounding. While the comments on the blog aren’t typically all that courteous, John complained they were too courteous, especially given the atheistic worldview of the people who were posting. Here’s what John had to say:

 

“[To] all my Atheist friends.

Let us stop sugar coating it. I know, it’s hard to come out and be blunt with the friendly Theists who frequent sites like this.  However in your efforts to “play nice” and “be civil” you actually do them a great disservice.

We are Atheists.  We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself.  While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not.  Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time.  But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination. They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past.  They got us here. That’s it.  All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose.  Ex: I’ll marry and nurture children because my genes demand reproduction, I’ll create because creativity served a survival advantage to my ancient ape ancestors, I’ll build cities and laws because this allowed my ape grandfather time and peace to reproduce and protect his genes. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die.  That is our bible.

We deride the Theists for having created myths and holy books.  We imagine ourselves superior.  But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc.  Rubbish. We are nurturing a new religion, one where we imagine that such conventions have any basis in reality.  Have they allowed life to exist?  Absolutely.  But who cares?  Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife.  Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me.  Some of my Atheist friends have fooled themselves into acting like the general population.  They live in suburban homes, drive Toyota Camrys, attend school plays.  But underneath they know the truth.  They are a bag of DNA whose only purpose is to make more of themselves. So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen.  Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one.  You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all.  When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife.

I know it’s not PC to speak so bluntly about the ramifications of our beliefs, but in our discussions with Theists we sometimes tip toe around what we really know to be factual. Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may.  At least that’s what my genes are telling me to say.”

John bluntly captured the true nature of morality when it is untethered to a transcendent source. Since posting this comment, I’ve been able to peek at John’s life in a very limited way and I’ve had a brief interaction with him. He appears to be a creative, responsible, loving husband and father. In fact, his outward life looks much like the life you and I might lead as Christians. As an atheist, my moral compass was much like that of the Christians I knew. But knowing what is far different than knowing why. I embraced a particular set of moral laws even though I couldn’t account for these laws in a world without a transcendent moral law giver. I typically attributed morality to some form ofsocial or cultural evolution, but as John correctly observes, our selfish genes are not interested in the welfare of others when their personal survival is at stake. Without a true transcendent source for morality (and purpose), skeptics are left trying to invent their own, justifying their subjective moral rules as best they may. In the end, as John rightly observes, they end up “nurturing a new religion” and creating for themselves the very thing they detest.

When John first posted his comment (and I first started talking about it on my podcast), many of the other atheists who post at CrossExamined were infuriated. Some denied John’s identity as a skeptic and accused him of being a disguised Christian. But in my interaction with John, he told me he was weary of hearing fellow atheists mock their opponents for hypocrisy and ignorance, while pretending they had a definitive answer to the great questions of life. He simply wanted his fellow atheists to be consistent. As it turns out, theism provides the consistent moral foundation missing from John’s atheistic worldview.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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10 thoughts on “The Inevitable Consequence of An Atheistic Worldview

  1. ‘John’ is an atheist, and further he is right. The purpose of life is to eat, drink, breathe, fornicate, sleep, repeat… as often and in whatever order suits your whimseys. Everything else is just playing polite. Reproduction is the purpose of life given to us by genetics and evolution, nothing more.

    In order to survive, I opine, we’ve added many onion layers on top of the law of recirprocity because you have to sruvive to reproduce and care for your young. The many layers all added up are what we call civilization and if it were to disappear suddenly you’ll get to see the morality we really know – survival at any cost. My life before yours and my children before your children…. altruism ends when there is only one edible scrap of food in 50 miles.

    You can ask a lot of people what is most important to them. At the top of the results list you will always find ‘family’ no matter what world view. Why do you suppose that is? hmmmmm

    Note, however, it is not necessary to fully think materialism through to simply not believe in gods. Materialism is a world view, atheism is not. They are separate things despite their seeming compatability and friendliness toward one another. I do not know john, but I share is view of materialism. I also call myself nihilist, monist, atomist materialist, and mechanical atheist. I’ll gladly wear those titles and I have thought those world views through to their conclusions and find them satisfying and honest to my view. My world view does not make me sad or despondent nor existentially depressed…. it makes me honest and I feel good about the world and life for it is what it is, I have as many real and demonstrable answers as any theist does (if not more) and I find that I seem to have better ethics, work ethic, honesty, and contentment than many of the believers I have met or known.

    I know that is scary for some to contemplate but I sit here writing this so that it is not just John who stands and tells the truth. This life is just a ride as Bill Hicks famously said, enjoy it, don’t waste it on make believe ideas that you have no evidence for and more importantly don’t waste my life or resources foisting your dogma and doctrine on my life because you are afraid to die. – that’s not aimed at anyone in particular but is aimed Abrahmic faith adherents in general.

    We are not moral because we fear hell. We are moral because we find this the most effective way to avoid harm and spend the longest amount of time being safe and happy and it helps create a world where our children will be safe and happy, and that is what all parents live for – is it not?

  2. Ah, the Chaos Theory. “Let’s stop sugar coating it. The omniscient deity knows who is saved and who is damned. You can keep pretending that you are following a moral code and succeeding or failing on the merits of your efforts, but it is all predestined. In the end, What God Says is the only moral truth.” Would you give the stated view full credit? John has a quaint view of biology, philosophy and ethics – to be charitable.

  3. “But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc. Rubbish.”

    I’m sorry, but whether or not this John is an atheist or not, he’s just wrong here.

    There are plenty of reasons to obey laws, be polite and protect the weak. He might not like the reasons, but they exist.

  4. Who are the weak, what do they require protection from and what sort of protection do they require? In ethics, generalized questions of this sort are without real content, as are the generalized moral terms lurking behind them. You are asking me to recapitulate John’s mistake in saying that chemistry has no purpose and then claiming that the purpose of DNA is to reproduce itself.

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