In a contemplative moment, sitting in a memorial garden with the dead, I wondered on the meaning of that last normal Sunday prior to the crucifixion — what it might have meant to the men and women with Jesus who were celebrating it.
I understand the history and influence of Judaism on Christianity and what Jesus and his disciples were actually celebrating that last Sunday. But, if they had known that it was the last Sunday of Jesus’ life, would they have celebrated differently? Would the first Christians have thought about Lent in the way they do now? And if not, and if you believe in Jesus, why choose a penitent Lenten season?
With my dead comrades all around me, I wrote a little musing poem asking exactly that for those of us not knowingly facing imminent death for my Christian friends….
Why Lent? Why would any first Christians (not even called that then) have celebrated this day, this season, in any way that had anything to do with Jesus?
Had they known ahead of time of the crucifixion later that week, Would they have had a special celebration? A “Yay!! You’re going to be dead in a week!” celebration?
If we knew that for any of us, would we have that celebration? Would we want to know, if we could?
Or, would we, lost in mourning and aloneness ourselves, say “No, no. Save the celebration for yourselves. I prefer the garden now.”
Why do we do this Lenten lead up filled with sorrow and ashes? Why a month of penitence before, and only one day to celebrate What has to be for Christians the only thing that Jesus did that could impact their lives today —
This coming back from the dead This defeat of hell?
The only thing that let’s believers say, in the end, “Yay! I’ll be dead in a week! Screw the fasting. Let’s party now!”
Yes, a party. Because isn’t every time we open our eyes a miracle? Every intake of breath a wonder? Is not the last breath as full of awe as the first? And life itself the most unbelievable, jaw-dropping conception?
Would not such a focus be more like the Conqueror of Death? A celebration more like the rocks singing? And, wouldn’t it be the very thing that let’s us wash off these daily ashes and sack cloth and say “Yay! I’ll be dead in a week! Let’s party!”
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
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…
– Love, – Finding happiness, – Taking responsibility, – Charity, – 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!
Atheists and atheism as a psychological construct can and do pit their POVs against any religion. Most atheists construct their belief systems around the idea that science is the definitive and (usually) only explainer of reality which is based on a canon of (largely) proven facts.
Given that debate is a combination of facts and logic, atheists can habitually beat down nearly any theist brave enough to debate them. This is because any religious text a devotee is using is so bulleted with inconsistencies, horrors, and moral, physical, and logical lapses that it falls immediately to any barely disciplined application of logic. Nevertheless, the world is chockablock with believers ready to stand on their sinking islands of theology and myth, even to their deaths. They provide willing dueling mates for any atheist who fancies debate (as many do).
But beating up the bible or the Koran is easy and, imho, a cop out for atheist thought leaders and the rest of us too.
Let’s be clear, this approach to making your case as an atheist is good as an appetizer….warming believers up to the idea that all is not as it has been mansplained. But, if this is your only or even main reason for being an atheist, you’re a lame atheist.
Facts be, you won’t change many peoples’ minds by brow beating the bible with logic. Most people who are willing to believe a text as literal and infallible, after the age of 25, are simply NOT going to be swayed by a litany of secular ratiocination on bible stories from you. And why should they? Look at the current world around you. How much of that makes any fucking sense?
On top of that, thinking believers have an army of
apologists, who, like knights in shining armor, devote their theoretical lives
to the defense of their beliefs by developing painfully convoluted reasoning
for, well, everything. Atheists have apologetic knights in shining armor defending the camp
too, they just do it on different premises and not nearly as often or
painfully. That’s another post.
If you’re new to this, an apologist is a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial.
While it may be fun in a debate—who doesn’t like an easy win
& wild audience applause—pummeling sacred texts on inconsistencies, no
matter how grave, is so futile that I am not going to waste any of my time or
yours on the matter.
But, if this does interest you, you are certainly not alone. There are plenty of YouTube videos, blogs and vlogs of lectures and debates out there that do nothing but pick apart history and biblical minutia. Let me point you to a particularly informative 2-hour, joint lecture by Aron Ra and Matt Dillahunty here.
If you’re not familiar with those two, you will be. They’re atheists who pretty much make a living being arrogant atheists. If you add in Seth Andrews, you get the tongue-in-cheek “Unholy Trinity.” Of course, the “real” Unholy Trinity is the triad purportedly from the book of Revelations and consists of Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet. These three (either set!) are smart, they cover a lot of ground, and they are usually preaching to the choir. (If you want to know what an atheist choir sings, here’s a list of “hymns“.)
Aron and Mat’s talk will get you going with heavy, good-to-know appetizers. And I might weigh in on their talk next time for completely different reasons. We’ll see.
For now, if you don’t believe the bible, cool. If you do, have at it. But if you are an atheist, there’s deeper reasons to dispense with the notion of god, and better, more effective cases to make than bashing 2000 year old (mostly) fake news.
Tell me what you think on the relevance of bible bashing in defense of atheism! Is it the crux of the matter? Is it necessary to the point? And, thanks for stopping by!