Tuesday 18 January 2022

Atheism, taken seriously and/or under external evil pressure, makes people become worse

This is adapted from a comment I wrote at William Wildblood's blog in answer to his question - Are Atheists Bad People? 

From my perspective, of having been atheist most of my life; the badness was in what I wanted rather than what I did (and in many ways, most people would probably regard me as more good - certainly more likeable and friendly - when I was an atheist than after). 

But in retrospect what I wanted was the problem, and I was often trying to overcome my 'natural' and spontaneous ('pagan') goodness so as to be able to be more expedient, experience more pleasure, cease to feel guilty or inhibited about things that I didn't want to do or think - stuff like that. 

I was/am since childhood naturally rather puritanical and easily shocked, and this got in the way of fun. So from early adulthood I was pushing against this; trying to persuade myself that life would me more enjoyable if I was more relaxed about things that felt wrong; trying to desensitize myself against that which shocked me. 

Also, in a 'cosmic' sense, I tended to assume that there was a purpose to life, that something survived death, that truth was real and important. But my atheist metaphysical assumptions told me that there was no purpose to life and I should forget about everything except This Life - and being truthful was an obstacle to this. 

The fact that I just couldn't convince myself that truth was unreal was maybe the factor that broke my atheism - as I observed the whole of science becoming untruthful and corrupting all around me. 

In sum; I think that is the worst thing about atheism from the perspective of people 'being good' is that taken seriously it tends to encourage people to get worse, and not to be worried about this. 

And if atheism is not taken seriously, not thought-about (as is more common) - it makes people cowardly and compliant to external influences because Why Not? - as we see all around us today. 

The de-facto-atheist world (The Global System) now is worse than ever before in recorded history in terms of what it wants; because what the world regards as good and evil are already-and-increasingly inverted; so that we actively seek evil but call it Good. 


ted said...

Bottom line is that atheism makes your life about you. You can still be 'nice' but it is still about you.

whitney said...

I remember one of the atheist arguments about the "delusion of belief" was people just wanted a happy fantasy to think about and when I was in atheist I kind of bought into that but it's so clear to me now that it's the opposite. The people without belief don't want to be judged for their actions, they don't want to believe that that's even possible. Living with thoughts of judgment and knowing that there is life after death profoundly affects how you behave. It's not the easy path and it's not your path alone. It is always being trampled by others around you, some are helpful and pointing out the way but most are knocking you over or pushing you down into ravines. And maybe it's nice in the ravine, maybe there are cool people in it and you want to hang out and stay awhile. And if you're just a cosmic accident spinning around on a rock, why not?

Skarphedin said...

A-theism is at bottom (as Anselm pointed out) a denial of the Law of Non-contradiction and A-thoughtism. It is also the denial of Being in one-self and reality. A-theism is a willfull journey down the Hierarchy of Being. The final act of which is the total refusal of self-Being and other-Being. I myself do not know if this denial of Being is successful or merely creates a false-consciousness. But committed a-theists I have known seem washed out and of blunted affect. Their argumentation also seems hollow and facile.

As one who believes in the Hierarchy of Being and the necessary *fullness* (horizontally and vertically) of that Hierarchy, the existence of a-theists makes sense. Reality must have a non-broken continuum of beings with varying degrees of Being (varying distances from God). A-theists being positioned as far from God as possible or lacking as much Being as possible. But as I said above, I do not know if this is a process and they are stripping away their Being.

The other thought your excellent post brought to mind Dr Charlton was: Universal Salvation.

The current Pope seems to be a believer in this. Specifically, that Christ saved everyone for all time. He seems also to draw the conclusion that The Church is "in the way" with it's ideas of damnation and sin etc etc. Apparently we should all just get on with making material Life better without all the worry about Salvation.

This seems to me a kind of functional a-theism: indistinguishable from it in practice.

Bruce Charlton said...

@S - A major danger of Universal Salvation is that it asserts there is no need positively to choose salvation, which implies there is no need for repentance. It is, at root, a denial of free agency - and indeed a denial of the possibility of Heaven.

It also misunderstands that many/ most people nowadays actively reject/ loathe the idea of Heaven - it is not that they are blocked by particular aspects of theology/ doctrine/ church practice - they really don't want Heaven but seek annihilation at death.

BTW I am taking a 'revealed preference' view of atheism, which has it that 'atheism' is normal and a very large majority - including a majority of church members of all major religions, and Christian denominations.

Thus, 'atheist' includes agnostics, and people whose religion is trumped by their politics (i.e. all leaders of all large Christian churches are de facto atheists).

Skarphedin said...

For what it's worth, I agree with what you say, Dr Charlton.

This probably means I don't understand you fully or wrote clumsily.

I have never been one to think about Heaven or even why I don't think about Heaven for that matter. Your writings have started me thinking however.

I suspect I have not caught up to your thinking re: time either.

Francis Berger said...

"The fact that I just couldn't convince myself that truth was unreal was maybe the factor that broke my atheism - as I observed the whole of science becoming untruthful and corrupting all around me."

That is one of the most elucidating refutations of atheism that I have come across, and it mirrors what I experienced during my Christian-in-name-only spells of atheism earlier in life.

During these periods, I still considered myself a Christian, but from a mostly cultural perspective. Otherwise, I was more than happy to go along to get along with leftism, for many of the same reasons you have outlined. Unsurprisingly, I was a far nicer and far more popular person back then. For a while, I even managed to convince myself that atheism was a better, more fulfilling mode of life.

What ultimately pulled me away from atheism was truth. I couldn't get over how truth could ever be considered unreal - and I couldn't get over how easily most moderns made this compromise. No matter how hard I tried -- and I tried, believe me -- I just couldn't get past the inherently foolish and malicious manner in which atheists shrugged off truth with a callous "who cares" or "what difference does it make"?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - I don't know if you have already seen this - but it is a partial account of my conversion published in the Church Times (a Church of England newspaper) which focuses on the science/ truth aspect; its interest is that it was written within the first year of my conversion, when events were fresh.


En route to Christianity, for (I think) a couple of years, I had a phase of affirming a kind of Platonic transcendentalism (deism) - that truth/ beauty and virtue were really-real.

The trouble was that deism did not provide any reason why I personally should *care* about what was true, why I should make sacrifices for truth (make my life, and career) suboptimal for truth.

And the fact was that this was a burning - almost everyday - issue in my work. There were considerable and increasing pressure forget about what was true, to accept bureaucratic directives and consensus instead of my personal conviction of transcendent truth. To ignore the reality of truth was obviously, increasingly, expedient.

And yet I did not want to do the expedient, and I felt there were real reasons why I should care about truth, and pursue it - despite the adverse consequences.

I had similar experiences in relation to morality, as I was continually shocked by the way that my own morality drifted into selfish expediency - I shocked myself at some of the things I was thinking were OK/ morally neutral/ nobody's business but my own.

I saw morality as expedient means towards happiness - ostensibly of 'people' but then why should I care about anybody except myself (and those people who made me happy). This idea, again, shocked and appalled me - yet from the atheist perspective... why not? This is what I mean by atheism made be try to be worse than I even naturally was! To be consistent with my atheist assumptions, I would need to be a lot worse than 'normal' - or esle I was making myself miserable 'for no good reason'.

Indeed, to my atheist way of thinking, to be utterly deluded, even insane! - would make better sense than to be sub-optimally happy or miserable because of truth or morality. This belied was expressed in Samuel Beckett's novel Murphy (whose hero tries to make himself delusionally insane, to become a patient in a madhouse, to be happy), and I found the idea impossible to refute from my assumptions.

agraves said...

The world has become deaf, dumb, and blind. People cannot see God in the world because all they see is themselves, like blind men groping about in the darkness. Most notions of love, morality, caring, etc. are more sentimental than providing an anchor in life. And yet the anchor exists at all times and places and is staring at you when you look in the mirror. It is all really unbelievable.