atheism & the underlying assumption of nihilism

In an otherwise well meaning, intelligent and cordial conversation, a particular statement struck me:

… the bigger questions of balance are “What am I doing with my life?”, “Is there a greater purpose?”, “What does any of this matter in the grander scheme of things?”. These questions only matter if you believe that death is not the end, and that there is a God outside this life that might one day call you to account.

What struck me, was an unspoken and quite subconscious assumption made on that last line. The mistake a lot of people make is that being an atheist (or is it ‘Deity Challenged’ in our PC world?) is that they are all somehow magically nihilists.

Speaking for myself – and possibly others – I may not have a belief in any deitic existence, however, I am a humanist and standup armchair philosopher. I still have morals, I review my life regularly and those questions are still relevant, though perhaps phrased ever so slightly differently.

Why? To what end? Cui Bono?

I think those questions which are essentially “What am I doing with my life?” “Does my life provide purpose?” and “What is my impact in the grander scheme of things?” is not unique to those who believe there is something beyond the biomechanics – it is just that the answers are easier to come by with the premise of an answer “coming soon” (to an afterlife near you!)

To one who neither believes in the fact that there is nor that they will will be judged in a second life (eternal or otherwise), the questions lay heavier for we ‘believe’ we are truly stuck with “only one life”.

All that said – your greatest critic is always going to be yourself. If you can look in a mirror and truly stare yourself in the eyes with comfort, then perhaps you are already doing the right things.

Another phrase that was mentioned in the same conversation was  “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” referring to the “new atheism” that is responsible for multi-hundred dollar per day ticket conferences and the “atheist church” rising where the likes of Dawkins et al are the new prophets of reason and, in all frankness, has started smelling a lot like the fundamentalist religions they purport to oppose . This is why I tend to stutter in apprehension before I mention the word atheist because I’m not sure which zealot I am more afraid of – the one who wants to save my soul or the one who wants to liberate my mind.

Anyhoo, that’s all I have to say about that.

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