Tract #18: Isn’t Atheism Depressing?

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Isn’t Atheism Depressing?

Some theists feel that atheism is a depressing philosophy. Some even go so far as to ask questions like, “How can you believe in something that is so hopeless?”

There are two mistaken beliefs at work here. The first is the belief that whether a philosophy is depressing or uplifting is somehow an indicator of whether it is worth believing. This only makes sense if we are choosing a philosophy based on how it makes us feel instead of based on whether it is true or not.

Atheism might have components — like lack of an afterlife — that some people find depressing, but that does nothing to prove that atheism isn’t true. At best, it proves that reality is depressing.

But is it depressing?

The second mistaken belief is that atheism is a negative world view. It is true that atheism does not incorporate a chance at eternal bliss, a divine power watching over us, a guarantee of ultimate justice, or a divine plan for humanity, but the lack of these things does not imply that life is depressing, pointless, or hopeless.

Atheists understand that life ends, but this does not make atheists fatalist. Rather, it gives life that much more importance. Life is a thing to be treasured and used wisely.

Knowing that there is no protecting divinity or guardian angel watching over us does not make the atheist feel insecure or hopeless. Instead, it emphasizes how well we must care for what we have, carefully consider our actions, and master our own fate, so far as that is possible.

A lack of guaranteed justice impels atheists to create a just world instead of relaxing in the knowledge that punishment is supernaturally meted out to wrongdoers for eternity after they are gone.

That humanity was not created for some grand metaphysical purpose does not make life pointless, but rather shows us that we need to create meaning in our own lives.

Are atheists sometimes saddened by the thought that there are no guarantees and that life will one day come to an end? Yes. But atheists would rather face these realities head on than believe something that, though comforting, may be nothing more than wishful thinking or fairy stories.

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Anonymous
    on October 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Now what fool told you that atheism didn’t have a chance of eternal bliss? The chance we have is in this life. Death will not reign eternal. The failing of our biological bodies is an engineering problem, to be conquered in time just like any other. Life expectancy increases, and as we learn more it will increase faster. Once it increases faster than we age, we’ve reached the tipping point where nobody ever need die.
    It will require a lot of hard work to get to that point, but that is our burden and our duty and our honor — we are born into the early universe, when sentient matter has not yet come into its full power. Death is one of the things you have to live with if you are one of the unlucky few to be born into the young universe, before sentience takes command of its own form. It gives your life ultimate meaning, you who are one of the lucky few to be born into the young universe, when there is still so much darkness to be fought.
    We are yet the faintest ember, but our universe is dry kindling soaked in fuel. And as we travel the galaxies in the blind and unfathomable eons to come, reigniting the oldest fading stars in our wakes, death will not still be our constant companion. Our children’s children’s children will ask us where we came from, and it will not be until they are older and can bear the sorrow, that we will burden them with the knowledge that there was once a place called Ancient Earth where people fought and got sick and died, and we will be ashamed to admit that we were ever so impotent that we couldn’t even save ourselves.

  2. Written by Anonymous
    on March 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm
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    Until the energy death of the universe hits you, Anon. I’d say live in the moment, and not worry too much about it. Dance. Play. See what comes next.

    Also get a cryonics contract and set up a monthly donation to SENS. But mostly the other stuff — because a few thousand, or million, or whatever years of dysthymia due to inactivity and endless metaphysical speculation is nothing compared to a few decades of lighthearted and peaceful fun.

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