Comments on “Atheism: a good first step”


Hopefully not too banal an issue

LPalmer's picture

God(s) is a boring topic in place of a more interesting and pressing one. God(s) most likely came about as a response to the inherent weirdness we seem to find in us and everything else being here, present, apparent. The hoary old ‘why something and not nothing?’ question. Posing this question, which all the others supposedly lead towards, seems guaranteed to make us anxious and miserable. We’ve set up this is/ought dichotomy where what we do in this weird situation we find ourselves in has to be justified, and can only ever be justified eternalistically by bridging this gap with God or a Goddish substitute, which in turn can only be done by basically answering this question. In this mode of thinking, the mere existence of something, for its own sake would never appear to be enough.

Most physicists pragmatically dismiss the Most Fundamental Question as a useless one for what they do and get routinely booed by philosophers and laypeople alike in response. But should a Complete Stance also reject it on pragmatic grounds, that it doesn’t lead anywhere except nebulosity’s dark underbelly, groundlessness?

Why something and not nothing?

I guess I’m not convinced that almost anyone cares about that question! It was invented and promoted by theologians who wanted there to be some question for which the answer was “God,” but I doubt they convinced many people that it was worth asking.

How many people care about this, and how much, is an empirical question, of course; and I have no actual data, just impressions.

I think other questions for which an answer is “God” are more often pressing—moral ones, for instance, and “what happens after I die?”

Bracketing ontology

LPalmer's picture

I guess that ontology is an important component of eternalism and also a key player in the emotional comedown that results from its failures, because of the imagined link between where everything’s going and how things began. If we know how - and why, if there is a why - things came to be, we’ll know exactly what to do in that reality - whereas your meaningness account (rightly) brackets this. Things just are, who cares, let’s focus on something else.

That might be difficult for a few people, though. I personally admit it can be strange and disconcerting to suddenly really experience reality as reality, as the only thing that there is and we can know; as all we have to work with. And being human, that (which is one of the most meaningful sensations out there, by the way) can very quickly turn to “what’s it all for?”, pushing out questions that can come across as more mundane in comparison like ethical ones, but which are at least answerable and can be addressed practically.

The shock of the real

it can be strange and disconcerting to suddenly really experience reality as reality, as the only thing that there is and we can know; as all we have to work with.

Yes, I think I know exactly the realization you are describing!

FWIW, my guess is that this is somewhat unusual. It only can happen for people who are sufficiently theoretically-minded that some abstraction from reality can become lived experience—and then it can collapse into a less-mediated experience. Which is indeed shocking!

Supernatural meaningness

Dan's picture

You say that naturalism is a necessary prerequisite to the complete stance. I’m not so sure this is true. And it would be great if it weren’t, because people who are unwilling to leave their religion could also get the benefits of the complete stance.

For example, you can allow arbitrarily powerful gods/demons/spooks, and even ones willing to talk to us, as long as they don’t have ultimate answers (which don’t exist anyway!). From a Christian perspective, this could mean keeping the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-benevolent God, but for a better definition of “all-.”

Not a prerequisite

Right, I agree with that entirely. I didn’t mean to imply that naturalism was a prerequisite (and didn’t actually say so, although I can see how what I did say might suggest it). Rather, that adopting naturalism (or atheism) is not sufficient to dispel eternalism, which I think is a much worse and more basic problem than supernaturalism.

Thank for pointing out the misinterpretation; when I get a chance to turn this stub page into a real one, I’ll have to make sure it’s clear about that.

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This page is in the section Non-theistic eternalism,
      which is in Eternalism: the fixation of meaning,
      which is in Meaning and meaninglessness,
      which is in Doing meaning better.

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