This past spring Why Evolution is True did an analysis of Richard Weikart’s article in the Federalist titled: “Study: Atheists Find Meaning In Life By Inventing Fairy Tales.” (sorry I’m so late, but, hey, I just got here!) This is a response to his analysis:
Snide believer says atheists make up fairy tales to find meaning in life.
I will attempt to add to a couple points that Why Evolution is True makes. But my main concern is to address the couple holes in the atheist fabric of rationale that Why Evolution is True leaves un-mended.
Why Christians Lob Nihilism Around
When it comes to accusing atheists of being nihilistic and lacking meaning in their lives, it seems like Christians barely take a breath. Why? Remember that theists get told what their meaning is from someone else—their god (their theology). It’s easy and convenient and they don’t have to think much (unless they want it to be truly meaningful).
So, when someone says “Dude, there’s no god,” suddenly the floor drops out from under the table that meaning was sitting on. The resulting hole naturally looks and feels empty, and without another foundation at hand, emptiness quickly interprets life nihilisticly. But just because theists may experience those feelings and make those conclusions, then project them onto atheists, does not mean that there is no meaning or basis for meaning outside of their god. It means they don’t know how to think about it yet.
Meaning Meaning When You Mean Meaning
Weikart contends that atheists redefine what the word “meaning” means in the meaning debate, saying atheists “invent” meaning, which is presumably less valid than being handed one. Why Evolution is True states that Weikart’s main error is “thinking that there’s something fictious, “fairy-tale-ish”, about divining one’s own meaning and purpose from our individual preferences, tastes, and secular beliefs.” I disagree.
Weikart’s most serious error is also Why Evolution is True’s error. Both ignore (or lack knowledge or understanding of) the role of human psychology. Meaning is, in fact, always self-derived. No atheist can find meaning unless they look for something within themselves and their existence and accept it.
No religion can provide meaning unless that person looks for it there and accepts it. The process is exactly the same. Meaning is the same. The results of true meaning seekers are the same. There’s no debate over the meaning of meaning. The argument is solely, in my opinion, over the “where” — the source — of inspiration lies which is creating that meaning.
When properly understood, both Christians and atheists experience meaning and suffer lack of meaning in the same ways. The process of developing (finding) meaning in anyone’s life is the same: it’s internal and individual.
The Meaning Experiment
Why would any self-respecting atheist take on airs of moral superiority because one person’s meaning comes from using a god as a focal point and guide that provides them inspiration? Because the atheists’ inspiration came from using themselves or something else? One might make the case that theists actually have a better time of it in this regard. Someone already did the experiments and published the results.
The point is…To be psychologically healthy, humans need a sense of meaning.
One would think atheists would be quick to acknowledge the workings of the human mind, human needs, and human temperaments, but I haven’t found that to be evident at all…yet. A self-confident atheist would say “Who the hell cares where that came from? You found it, YAY! Live long and prosper!”
God versus Bible
Atheists, even the most well-known ones, almost always succeed in confusing belief and meaning in a deity with belief in a book. Yes, they are certainly closely related (and I am not minimizing the mental ties that Christian’s have here as well), but a mind of reason should be able to see that they are not precisely the same. This is why atheists rarely succeed in convincing any theist to change their views by endlessly bashing the bible. A theist still has their god. And, this is precisely why I made my first blog about exactly that.
To the atheists that Why Evolution is True claims as reporting no meaning in their lives, I say
do some serious THINKING on life (aka self-reflection).
Atheists don’t get a free ticket to meaning any more than theists do.
Any intelligent, introspective atheist who thinks past the end of his/her nose…would naturally think to his/her own future and the future of their children and grandchildren, their function in society and the state of the one world they actually know for sure they get to live in… and would LOGICALLY come to very similar meaning results as those of theism…
– Finding happiness,
– Taking responsibility,
– Kindness, and
– Serving other people, among others.
An atheist who has done their inner work ends up at the top of the moral mountain, too, with no more moral superiority because of his/her process than any theist who has done the same work.
I sure do appreciate Why Evolution is True for the great analysis and topic. I know there are multiple strands here that I did not pick up myself.
Do you think it is harder for atheists to generate meaning in their life? Do you think that Christians experience meaning differently that atheists? Please comment below.
And, thanks for stopping by!