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June 06, 2013

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That's the real question, as you say: "If this is it, then what meaning is there? Why would you live compassionately?"

I agree that the quote from Kaitlin Moran was confusing and didn't really answer this key question. But there is an answer! If you Christians want to understand atheism and the challenge atheism poses today, then you've got to know about the answer atheists are going with. Don't just throw up your hands and say there's no answer.

OK, here's the answer: It's true there's no ultimate and eternal meaning to human existence, but there is a limited sort of meaning within the context of our earthly lives. We all want to survive and thrive physically for as long as we can.

Christians may scoff and say that's no meaning at all, since it's not eternal, but this is the key difference between Christians and atheists today. Atheists say contingent, contextual meaning is real meaning. Christians say it isn't.

I wish some Christians would understand this key difference and then provide good arguments for their case. You can't just say life's meaningless if it's not eternal. You have to give some more explanation.

The atheists, on the other hand, might say that God can't possibly give meaning to our lives, because if He did it would only be God's meaning, not our own. Atheists want their own meaning. So this is a real difference in perspective.

Notions about Good and Evil, whether atheist or theist are, according to atheism, well, it's just the irrationally conditioned fantasies inside the skull of one guy competing against the irrationally conditioned fantasies inside the skull of another guy. Objective and Immutbale Moral Oughts? Fantasy. We all really believe our own fantasies too.

We go on pretending our own invented Fairy Tales are true. Slavery is evil? Fantasy. Ought not slaughter? Fantasy, and so on. And we actually believe our fairy tale. We actually think: "In THIS context Personhood has innate and immutable value, but in THAT context it does not". Or, we actually believe that it has worth in ALL contexts. Or we actually believe it has innate and immutable worth in NO context at all. And all are statements about the non-existent (Fantasy, or, Fairy Tale) of "moral truths about personhood".

Odd: It is a Moral Truth that Personhood has no innate and immutable worth. Or has it. Or sometimes has it. Or, it is Immoral to believe in Moral Truths. Huh? Well, of course it cannot be immoral to believe in Moral Oughts (and to live and die for them) exactly because there are no Moral Truths. All is simply the irrationally conditioned fantasies inside the skull of one guy competing against the irrationally conditioned fantasies inside the skull of another guy.

And then the atheist will say it is immoral to believe in moral oughts and to then live and die for them, and, even worse, he will then live and die for what he himself claims is his own irrationally conditioned fairy tale that exists nowhere other than inside his own skull.

How odd. And how ultimately self-defeating.

"Atheists say contingent, contextual meaning is real meaning. Christians say it isn't."

Claiming that "contextual meaning" is just as much meaningful as finding meaning based in the eternal sounds to me like a fancy way to get to relativism.

If you Christians want to understand atheism and the challenge atheism poses today, then you've got to know about the answer atheists are going with.

Do you guys have meetings? : )

there is a limited sort of meaning within the context of our earthly lives. We all want to survive and thrive physically for as long as we can.

That’s the answer? Survival? How long was that meeting?

So, meaning = survival?

So, I assume, if you performed a personal examination of the life that is John Moore, you’d have this answer for anything “meaningful” in your life. Very odd.

Atheists want their own meaning. So this is a real difference in perspective.

I think you’re right on, but you’re contradicting yourself. You can’t have it both ways. Is it survival or the atheist's own self-derived meaning? If the answer is “survival” the atheist has no say so.

See, the problem comes when atheists have meaning in their lives that they can’t make sense of. They can’t make sense of it by pointing to survival, self-awareness, etc.

They definitely have meaning in their lives, but it just happens to be there when they wake up in the morning.

Ah, here's a good point: You ask, "Is it survival or the atheist's own self-derived meaning?"

Here's how I answer: Survival is the universal goal for all people, and it's true we have "no say so" about that, but one can pursue many different strategies in trying to achieve longterm survival or prosperity. When atheists talk about making their own meaning for themselves, I think they're talking about choosing their own strategy.

What do you guys think about that?

John Moore,


First of all, all you have is, as noted by another, a fancy way of stating relativism. Secondly, you say we have no choice, and then add, “….choosing their own strategy….” This is incoherent. I have no idea what you mean.


It seems we do have a choice: Suicide.


It seems we do have another choice: Murder.


“Jean-Paul Sartre was likewise struck by the possibility of suicide as an assertion of authentic human will in the face of absurdity. Suicide represents, according to Sartre, an opportunity to stake out our understanding of our essence as individuals in a godless world. For the existentialists, suicide was not a choice shaped mainly by moral considerations but by concerns about the individual as the sole source of meaning in a meaningless universe.”


The Existential guru John Paul Sartre lived for the moment in a "valueless universe" teaching us to create ourselves. His ideology filtered down to the regime of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot in Cambodia where over a million people were slaughtered. His philosophy was used outright by those who engineered that genocide so much so that Sartre, on his death bed, conceded that his own personal philosophy of a valueless universe remained incoherent; it turned out to be contrary to Reality as he now knew it.


If Mathematical Frequency will be used by you to argue your friend out of suicide or murder, then the Highest Frequency becomes the Highest Ethic. Thus this: Life-Less-Ness is this universe’s Highest Ethic by far. Not only that, it is the final reality.


Of course, this is all nonsense, for the God Who is Love is the Final Regress.

No choice about the goal, but lots of choice about the strategy. Please consider this idea.

There are many paths up the mountain, but only one peak. It's not really relativism, because you can judge whether a path is good by checking whether it leads to the peak. You guys totally misunderstand if you think I'm a relativist.

I disagree with Sartre too. Why do you talk about him?

If you really want to talk about suicide: I think there are two kinds. Some people commit suicide in order to achieve some goal or make a point, but others commit suicide in desperation just to escape intolerable pain, so that second kind is not goal-pursuit. It's like an involuntary knee-jerk.

What is the first kind? Choice?

And murder? Choice?

"When atheists talk about making their own meaning for themselves, I think they're talking about choosing their own strategy."

And yet atheists appeal to a higher authority all the time when another's strategy steps on their own. By appealing to a moral standard that overrides each's own strategic morality gets atheists yet again into familiar territory, obvious incoherency in their worldview. For the atheist, you just cant get there from where you are--this fact should cause concern.

What do you guys think about that?

I think it has major problems.

Survival is the universal goal for all people

It’s true, for most of us, that we try to get through the day without being killed. We try to avoid life threatening situations and don’t take death lightly. But that’s not what we typically attach life’s meaning to.

Put simply, it’s backwards. We seek to live to pursue meaning. We don’t pursue meaning to live. Now, some say it’s just an illusion. That we’ve all been acclimated to this precisely because living is that important. We've been duped. I don’t buy it for a second. No one has ever come close to making the case that 1) living and thriving is important and 2) that the things we find meaning in are fakes.

When atheists talk about making their own meaning for themselves, I think they're talking about choosing their own strategy [to achieve survival].

No. Mostly, when atheists talk about making their own meaning for themselves, they’re talking about themselves first and foremost. They are not thinking about making it to their deathbed at 100 or having won the blue ribbon for survival.

It seems the laws of chemistry and physics which drive the sun of our solar system to have the volition-less experience of growth as it expands and destroys all of the volition-less slaves on a small blue planet upon which those identical laws of physics and chemistry are driving those volition-less slaves to have the experience of slaughter and of defend, of rescue and of ravage, of protect and of harm amid a cloud of other volition-less slaves violates exactly no Laws of Chemistry and Physics. None at all. We find in all these events in this universe just no Law insulted, no Law violated at all either in the sun’s experience of growth nor in its experience of regress and fade nor in the slave’s experience of growth, nor in the slave’s experience of regress, nor in the slave’s experience of rescue nor in the slave’s experience of slaughter nor in the small blue planet’s experience of growing up volition-less slaves nor in the small blue planet’s experience of regress as it melts away. Cascading photons. Reverberating fluxes. The only laws are the laws of chemistry and physics and we all know that Nature can never be free of herself. The Naturalist has the unhealthy habit of auto-hypnosis for he hides his face from all of Reality “out there” in his desperate search for comforting ideas which he can, via ignoring Reality “out there”, invent comforting feelings “in here” and convince himself that by either miracle or magic his Nature “in here” is magically free of that Nature “out there” and thus, by this self-convincing, soothe and calm himself with fairy tales for the dopamine and serotonin rushes thus induced by such fables do self-perpetuate and thus are nature’s reverberations there amid those volition-less photon cascades. He pins all his religion on the contradiction that Nature is free of Nature.

@Brett Kunkle,

Thanks for the extended quote from B. Russell's essay. It compelled me to revisit my own copy of Why I Am Not a Christian (ed. by Paul Edwards, 1957, Simpn & Schuster).

Your usage of that quote is strongly reminiscent of the usage by anti-evolutionists of quotes from Darwin's The Origin of Species, especially the passage about the apparent impossibility that something as complex as the human eye could have come about by the purely unguided interaction between descent with modification and natural selection. This kind of usage is of course the prototypical definition of "quote mining."

The passage you chose from Russell's essay comes at the very beginning, right after an extended quotation of Mephistophelis describing to Dr. Faustus the history of the Creation, which concludes as follows:

... And Man said, "There is a hidden purpose, could we but fathom it, and the purpose is good; for we must reverence something, and in the visible wolkd there is nothing worthy of reverence." And Man stood aside from the struggle, resolving that God intended harmony to come out of chaos by human efforts. And when he followed the instincts which God had transmitted to him from his ancestry of beasts of prey, he called it Sin, and asked God to forgive him. But he doubted whether he could be justly forgiven, until he invented a divine Plan by which God's wrath was to have been appeased. And seeing the present was bad, he made it worse, that thereby the future might be better. And he gave God thanks for the strength that enabled him to forgo even the joys that were possible. And God smiled; and when he saw that man had become perfect in renunciation and worship, he sent another sun through the sky, which crashed into Man's sun; and all returned again to nebula.

It's relative to the above account that science presents a scenario "even more purposeless, more void of meaning."

You have diligently left out the "punch line" (which actually comprised the rest of the essay) - i.e. the humanist's refutation of the futility so thoroughly described and understood in these opening passages.

You focus on the phrase "unyielding despair", and ignore the concept of "safely" building the "soul's habitation". You ask "if this is it, then what meaning is there?", which suggests that you either did not read the rest of the essay, or else you read it without comprehension. You only need to sustain your attention span and reading ability a couple more pages to find Russell saying this:

... Let us admit that, in the world we know, there are many things that would be better otherwise, and that the ideals to which we do and must adhere are not realized in the realm of matter. Let us preserve our respect for truth, for beauty, for the ideal of perfection which life does not permit us to attain, though none of these things meet with the approval of the unconscious universe. If power is bad, as it seems to be, let us reject it from our hearts. In this lies man's true freedom: in the determination to worship only the God created by our own love of the good, to respect only the heaven which inspires the insight of our best moments.

If you're paying attention, there's a lot there that is fairly compatible with concepts that are readily found in things that Jesus said. Likewise for things said by Buddha and Zoroaster. The value stands independent of anyone's guesses about personal existence after death. To call it "meaningless" is to admit that you have failed to understand it.

Otto,


Yes. You have just opened the door, that is to say, all your philosophy as just described has just defended, given validity to, suicide as an expression of a man’s resistance to absurdity via the act which so affronts conceded ultimate meaninglessness through the force of one’s own temporal meaning. “Jean-Paul Sartre was likewise struck by the possibility of suicide as an assertion of authentic human will in the face of absurdity. Suicide represents, according to Sartre, an opportunity to stake out our understanding of our essence as individuals in a godless world. For the existentialists, suicide was not a choice shaped mainly by moral considerations but by concerns about the individual as the sole source of meaning in a meaningless universe.”


scbrownlhrm,

Whatever/whoever you were quoting is irrelevant to anything that I or B. Russell have said here. You are again showing a willful ignorance regarding the vital importance of mankind's dependence on social structure, and all the meaning, value, purpose, bonding affection, devotion and altruism that our social nature entails. In other words, everything in your reply can readily be demonstrated as wrong on the basis of firmly established naturalist / humanist / secular grounds. Thanks for keeping it brief.

Otto,


“all the meaning, value, purpose…”


You mean all of our fantasies about good and evil that exist only inside our skulls? On what grounds do you tell us that your push against meaninglessness is any different in source and destiny there inside our skulls to that of the Man who thus pushes via suicide?


Otto,

"...firmly established naturalist / humanist / secular grounds..."

You mean like natural selection's valuing of all the selfish and slaughter sort of things too?

Or are you going to ignore those?

Otto,


"...there's a lot there that is fairly compatible with concepts that are readily found in things that Jesus said."

Actually, Otto, there is nothing at all which agrees with the trio of [Mindset, Action, Philosophical Necessities] that is the A to Z of [Ultimate Actuality Is Love] which is found manifest in God’s Eternally Sacrificed Self there within Christianity.

Because you have no real idea what Everlasting Love must look like you make these sloppy philosophical attempts at connecting dots which just do not exist.

As Man pushes to invent the god of his own liking we find he truly is the sole source of meaning and relativism’s inherently open door to the liking of any and every Man finds Man staking out his own claims against absurdity through the force that is his own temporal meaning and herein we find the validity of suicide as an assertion of authentic human will in the face of absurdity.

We’ve seen in another resent post here that the trinity of [Mindset, Action, Philosophical Necessity] that is Athe-ism (Naturalism) has no necessary contradiction to all sorts of violations against personhood nor love and in fact makes of both irrationally conditioned sets of neuronal reflexes. The same trinity which houses “God is Love” (Ultimate Actuality is Love) has nothing in common at all with any of that. The trio of [Mindset, Action, Philosophical Necessity] which is born of the God Who is Love finds itself necessarily within an everlasting and immutable embrace amid the trinity of Love’s I-You-We and such topography manifests necessary outcomes where personhood is concerned, where love is concerned, where good is concerned, where evil is concerned, and where meaning is concerned and the fabric of all of these are wholly foreign to all your (Naturalism’s) appeals to mutable whatevers. One’s Mindset, Actions, and Philosophical Necessities (that trio) can be all over the map and thus incongruent and incoherent but such is not the sort of sickly logic we should be concerned with here.

You have given us nothing at all here other than an appeal to man making his own gods as he creates his own meaning. And therein lies your philosophy’s embrace of suicide as a valid push against the universe, Otto. As Man pushes to invent the god of his own liking we find he truly is the sole source of meaning and relativism’s inherently open door to the liking of any and every Man finds him staking out his claim against absurdity through the force that is his own temporal meaning and herein we find the validity of suicide as an assertion of authentic human will in the face of absurdity. We create our own gods. Every last one of us.


But, of course, the Truth of the matter is in the reverse direction. -Tis Love Who creates us.......

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