An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

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An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by Guest on Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:40 am

In his new book, The Big Question: Why We Can't Stop Talking About Science, Faith and God, Alister McGrath argues that "we need more than science to satisfy our deep yearnings and intuitions." That something more for McGrath is God, specifically, the Christian God.

As he develops this argument, again and again McGrath characterizes atheists who embrace science but not God as stuck in a place devoid of full understanding or meaning. There's a "richness" in the Christian engagement with nature that atheists miss, for example.

McGrath understands the foundational atheist perspective to be this: "Since science discloses no meaning to the universe, the only reasonable conclusion is that there is no meaning to find."

Here, yet again, is the unkillable myth, the persistent blind spot about atheism that apparently no amount of explaining can make go away. No matter how lucidly atheists explain in books, essays and blog posts that, yes, life can and does for us have meaning without God, the tsunami of claims about atheists' arid existence rolls on and on.

Where does this persistent (is it also willful?) misunderstanding come from?

McGrath offers some quotes from atheists that may seem, at first glance, to support his stance, as in this excerpted passage from The Atheist's Guide to Reality by Alex Rosenberg: "What is the purpose of the universe? There is none. What is the meaning of life? Ditto." Yet, to conclude from these lines that atheists' lives suffer from a lack of meaning amounts to conflating two very different things.

First is the understanding, emergent from evolutionary theory, that neither the universe as a whole, nor we humans within it, have evolved according to some plan of design. Cosmic evolution and human evolution unfold with no guiding hand or specific goals. Most atheists do accept this, I think.

Second is to embrace as a logical next step the idea that our own individual lives have no purpose or meaning. Do you know of any atheists who believe this? I don't.

Nor do I recognize the scientific communities of which I am a part — both online and offline — in McGrath's insistence that a "sense of cosmic pointlessness haunts many today, particularly within the scientific community."

An anthropological perspective teaches us that we humans are a quintessentially meaning-making species. We create love and kindness (hate and violence, too), and also work that matters. We recognize and protect (or, too often, harm) our sense of connection to other animals, to plants and trees, to all of nature's landscapes. What are those acts if not ones of meaning and purpose?

Another new book, this one published just last week, takes up questions of meaning and purpose. Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir by a physician confronting, at age 36, a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer, made all the more poignant because we readers know at the outset that Kalanithi died at age 37, before he could fully complete the book.

Lurking within passages that speak to creating meaning in the face of death — passages beautiful enough to cause me to recommend the book to anyone and everyone — is a version of the unkillable myth. Kalanithi writes:

"To make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning — to consider a world that is self-evidently not the world we live in. That's not to say that if you believe in meaning, you must also believe in God. It is to say, though, that if you believe science provides no basis for God, then you are almost obligated to conclude that science provides no basis for meaning and, therefore, life doesn't have any."
Kalanithi describes the "sacredness" of his work as a neurosurgeon, the burdens that make medicine "holy." His view, though powerful and rewarding to read about, doesn't render his equation — science provides no basis for God = life has no meaning — into a truth.

Let's return to McGrath. His central theme in The Big Question revolves around "the ultimate coherence of science and faith." I'd like to say that open dialogue about the interweaving of scientific and religious narratives that McGrath champions — dialogue asking if that interweaving is really a possible, or even a desirable, goal — is the way forward. At the same time, I find intriguing and persuasive the perspective of physicist Sean Carroll, who explains why he takes no money from the John Templeton Foundation by saying it is because its underlying goal is to further this very notion of consilience.

It's a real irony that McGrath spills a lot of ink in his book railing against Richard Dawkins' reductive judgments about people of faith — which I, too, have questioned — while McGrath himself makes reductive judgments about atheists.

I'm yet another atheist voice chiming in to say that my life, thanks very much, is full of meaning.

Now, how to make this unkillable myth about atheism into a moribund myth?

Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, often writes about human evolution, primate behavior and the cognition and emotion of animals. Barbara's most recent book on animals is titled How Animals Grieve. You can keep up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape


http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/01/21/463837966/an-unkillable-myth-about-atheists

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Re: An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by Lord Foul on Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:04 am

hmmmmmmm.....


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Re: An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by Guest on Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:07 am

Lord Foul wrote:hmmmmmmm.....


Slight off pitch, a tad flat of A

Laughing

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Re: An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by Lord Foul on Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:13 pm

Laughing

gotta have a think on this


the meaning of life eh?

does it HAVE to have one?

I mean, individually we each make our own "meaning",
but universally??

meh...

life is mearly over enthusiastic organic sludge slithering about on various space rocks....

all that matters is how near the bottom of the sludge pool you swim.....


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If at any time in 2016 I have annoyed you, pissed you off or said the wrong thing....Suck it up buttercup, cause 2017 AINT gonna be any different

There are those who's opinion I value, there are those who's opinion I neither value or scorn, and then there are those who's opinion I just ignore as insignificant...I can assure you the latter outnumber the first two combined by a whole order of magnitude


Difficile est meminisse officium paludes siccare , cum de nocte surrexeritis et asinus tuus alligators ....(It's hard to remember that the task is to drain the swamp, when you are up to your arse in alligators)
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Re: An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by Guest on Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:22 pm

Lord Foul wrote:Laughing

gotta have a think on this


the meaning of life eh?

does it HAVE to have one?

I mean, individually we each make our own "meaning",
but universally??

meh...

life is mearly over enthusiastic organic sludge slithering about on various space rocks....

all that matters is how near the bottom of the sludge pool you swim.....



Interesting views Victor

Do you know I actually only thought about the meaning of life when religious.
Now it does not seem to play on my mind at all, as I think we are just part of a very long cycle of life on earth where that time span is a very small part of it.

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Re: An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by Ben Reilly on Mon Jan 25, 2016 5:45 pm

It's entirely possible to find meaning in life without forgetting that it's really just your own subjective meaning. I don't think its subjectivity detracts from it at all, and when you admit that it's subjective, you can work on making it better. Think how much better we could make every belief system if we admitted they're subjective, created by us and imposed upon others.

Personally, I find meaning in life by trying to help make things better. That means buying food for food banks, helping people finish tasks they can't complete on their own, anything I can do to help. If I can know that I did something to help someone else's day go a little better, I feel I've earned the spot where I stand and can be proud of myself.

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Re: An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by eddie on Mon Jan 25, 2016 5:55 pm

The meaning of life to me is to enjoy it all. Embrace everything and everyone, see things as a child sees them: with no expectations and no prejudice.

You have to be able to say, on your death bed "I've tried what I wanted to try, they all, each and every person I've touched, know how I feel about them and I've made positive differences in people's lives. I have fucking lived and loved it!!"
You do this cheers then you snuff it.

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Re: An Unkillable Myth About Atheists

Post by veya_victaous on Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:51 am

eddie wrote:The meaning of life to me is to enjoy it all. Embrace everything and everyone, see things as a child sees them: with no expectations and no prejudice.

You have to be able to say, on your death bed "I've tried what I wanted to try, they all, each and every person I've touched, know how I feel about them and I've made positive differences in people's lives. I have fucking lived and loved it!!"
You do this cheers then you snuff it.

how does that apply to a tree?
if Life has meaning it should be the same for all life...
similar to Victor's post Rolling Eyes



I suspect the meaning is simple.... 'spread'

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