Woody Allen: The Honest Atheist

by Mike Duran · 160 comments

There’s probably no more dishonest atheists than there are dishonest Christians. Or dishonest dentists. Or dishonest cattle ranchers. Atheists don’t have a corner on the market of dishonesty.

However, pretending there is a good reason to live while denying the existence of anything eternal is just… unrealistic. Or blatantly dishonest.

Which is probably why I’ve always liked Woody Allen.

The Wall Street Journal’s recent interview with the director, Older, Mellower, But Still Woody, is a great example of Allen’s unflinching appraisal of his own atheistic assumptions. Here’s the portion of the interview where we get down and dirty:

WSJ: Some say your view is that life is pointless, and others say you’re a romantic realist who believes in being true to yourself. Which is it?

Allen: I think that’s the best you can do, but the true situation is a hopeless one because nothing does last. If we reduce it absurdly for a moment, you know the sun will burn out. You know the universe is falling apart at a fantastically accelerating rate and that at some point there won’t be anything at all. So whether you are Shakespeare or Beethoven or Michelangelo, your stuff’s not going to last. So, given that, even if you were immortal, that time is going to come. Of course, you have to deal with a much more critical problem, which is that you’re not going to last microscopically close to that. So, nothing does last. You do your things. One day some guy wakes up and gets the Times and says, “Hey, Woody Allen died. He keeled over in the shower singing. So, where do you want to have lunch today?”

WSJ: So, what do you do to distract yourself from these depressing thoughts? Knicks games? Or is that depressing, too?

Allen: The Knicks are one kind of distraction. For the two hours you’re at the Garden you’re only focused on that… I am a big sports fan, baseball and basketball, everything. People will say to me, “Does it really matter if the Knicks beat the Celtics?” And I think to myself, “Well, it’s just as important as human existence.”

WSJ: Really?

Allen: Really. It may not seem so, but if you step back and look they are equivalent. (emphasis mine)

In the atheist’s worldview, the Knicks beating the Celtics is equivalent to… “human existence.” Translation: Nothing is better or worse, more significant or less significant, than anything else. Mein Kampf and the Bible share the same fate.  The Holocaust, the Black Plague, and the Knicks 1969-70 World Championship (in which they beat the L.A. Lakers) are “equivalent.” Because “nothing does last” Allen rightly concludes “the true situation is a hopeless one.”

Thank you very much.

Which is probably why most attempts by atheists to frame their existence as something other than “a hopeless one” usually come up sounding… dishonest. At least silly. Like this one from About.com’s Agnosticism / Atheism site. Site moderator Austin Cline, in answering the “myth” that “Atheism leads to hopelessness and despair,” writes:

What do I have to look forward to? Life — an enjoyable life doing the things I love and being with the people I love. Why do I live? Because of the people I love and the things I love — basically, because I enjoy life. Does it matter that, eventually, I am going to die and the life I enjoy will end? I admit that that will be unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean that doing what I enjoy now is therefore worthless. After all, every individual action I am doing will end — every good meal end, every trip to an amusement park ends, every good book ends.

Mr. Cline, let me introduce you to Woody Allen, the honest atheist: “…the true situation is a hopeless one because nothing does last.”

“[U]nfortunate” is an understatement.

Of course, atheists can lead “an enjoyable life.” Atheists can be good, kind, and exceedingly happy. The problem is… they have no reason to be. Like the band playing on the sinking Titanic, what does it matter if they’re in key and enjoying it? The icy waters of Oblivion await.

Which could be why there’s so few “honest atheists.”

The honest atheist is one who admits the hopelessness demanded by their worldview. There is no way around it. To allege to live “an enjoyable life” under the shadow of some smoldering cosmic Vesuvius is rather laughable. To pretend that your life — much less your films or art or music — is something more than just a diversion, is simply… dishonest.

Which is why I applaud Woody Allen.

Kat Heckenbach July 4, 2012 at 7:17 AM

“What do I have to look forward to? Life — an enjoyable life doing the things I love and being with the people I love. Why do I live? Because of the people I love and the things I love — basically, because I enjoy life.”

This is what gets me. Atheists using words like “I”. What do I mean by that? According to them, there should be no “I” or “you”–we are a bunch of particles stuck together. Nothing more than molecules and electrical impulses. We are no more “I” and “you” than a DVD player. Which, btw, because of its nature, an atheist would say must have been designed. DVD players can’t possibly come from evolution. But people can. Head-desk.

Marion July 4, 2012 at 7:19 AM


I heard Dennis Prager talking about this on his radio show yesterday. He did it on his Ultimate Issues Hour and challenge atheists to be honest about their worldview like Woody Allen did.

Several atheist callers moonwalked around the topic better than Michael Jackson did in his heyday. LOL!!

I do appreciate Woody Allen’s honesty and hopefully that is something as Christians we can learn as well….to be honest about our religion and not be afraid of the backlash because of it.

Have a Happy 4th!


Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 7:29 AM

Yeah, I caught the tail end of Prager’s show and tracked down the WSJ interview. I’ve always liked Allen’s films and his constant wrestling with existential issues. It’s rather sad to hear him describe his films as little more than “distractions.”

Jay DiNitto July 4, 2012 at 8:31 AM

I’d also like to hear an atheist be honest and say that determining there is no god(s) is just as a-rational as saying there definitely is one (or many). The nonexistent theism-as-irrationality is a cudgel they need to put down, now.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 10:52 AM

@Jay Denitto: As an atheist, I am in acceptance of reality that is not prejudiced by answering the abstract question of whether or not there is an intelligence outside of the system. That is all.

Jay DiNitto July 4, 2012 at 10:58 AM

So you’re an agnostic atheist?

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:06 AM

Atheism is my natural state, because it had not yet occurred to me to ask the question. IF I go through the motions of asking the question, then I could possibly formalize as an agnostic, but I prefer to remain in my natural state: god-free.

Jay DiNitto July 4, 2012 at 11:13 AM

For some reason I wouldn’t label you as atheist. You haven’t determined that god(s) don’t/doesn’t exist, but you don’t have the belief that he/she/it does. I don’t know exactly what that would be, but maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:27 AM

I am existing in my natural god-free state. Wouldn’t that be the simplest, most fundamental definition of an a-theistic existance?

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:28 AM

If I am existing in my natural god-free state ; wouldn’t that be the simplest, most fundamental definition of being in an a – theistic existance?

Lyn Perry July 4, 2012 at 3:47 PM

It’s an a priori assumption that one’s natural state is god-free. My a priori assumption is that our natural state is god-with-us. Since neither can be proved, one must marshall evidence, reasons, witnesses, logic, historical data, etc to come to a conclusion as to which position seems more tenable. I believe the weight of the testimony is for god-with-us. I’m open to arguments from the other side, but it seems that one has to admit that god-free belief is ultimately, as Mike eloquently states in this blog’s premise, hopeless.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Yes, my a priori assumption is god-free, that is correct. ( that was in response to Jay Denitto wondering aloud if I was perhaps some sort of agnostic, which I do not feel that I am) And yet, I do not feel that hopelessness is the logical conclusion to ceasing to exist. From observation, logic dictates that every process will result in cessation. Whether this is good or not, I leave to greater minds. However, it does not fill me with despair. I accept it as part of reality, part of the landscape, part of what I have to work with. Does your model really require me to experience hopelessness in order for me to be persuaded that god exists? Why would that be logical?

Lyn Perry July 4, 2012 at 5:21 PM

I appreciate your response. I think you took my statement one step too far – and in this I’m in agreement with you. I think ‘hopelessness’ (as we’ve been using the term) is an emotional state and my model does not require that you experience it (contra Mike’s nuanced position). That you have already affirmed that all things cease (from a god-less perspective, that is) results in an ultimately hope-less position regarding the eternality of life. Christians, theologically speaking, use the word hope, not in an emotional sense, but as a doctrinal concept. So, of course, as Christians use the word, this life is ultimately hopeless for the atheist. I think this was Mike’s point, although I don’t want to speak for him.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Thank you for your well-measured response. It seems to me that if a Christan lost her hope of eternal life, she would experience hopelessness. For those of us who have never expected that life would go on beyond the grave, we have no expectation, and therefore don’t feel hopeless. Perhaps we attach hope to other things, like relationships or success in life. If these were to let us down, we might experience hopelessness…but I assume that is basically true with everyone to some degree. Why does every Christian accept Woody Allen at his word and question mine? Is it not because Woody Allen’s words have unwittingly aligned with this belief construct’s prejudices? What does this prove? It seems to me, nothing.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 9:32 AM

If faith in god is the mental exercise you need to give yourself hope, then by all means, continue doing so. But don’t uphold one of the most clinically depressed members of the atheist community as best example of acceptance that there is no god causes hopelessness for the rest of us! When I cease to exist, there will be no pain, no ego, no struggle, and that, my friends is more cause for hope than any belief in eternal heaven, my friends!

Jill July 4, 2012 at 9:46 AM

I like what you say. There is no logic in having to be hopeless simply because one doesn’t believe in God. This is a matter of disposition. I believe in God and yet am predisposed to depression and nihilism. I battle that, just as Woody Allen does. I have to fight myself and constantly remind myself of where my hope is supposed to be (as a Christian).

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 11:24 AM

Jill said, “There is no logic in having to be hopeless simply because one doesn’t believe in God.”

So you’re saying that even though all of one’s loves and passions and accomplishments and creations and friendships and experiences and memories will just evaporate, there’s no reason to be, um, a bit down? That doesn’t sound logical at all. Or realistic.

Jill July 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM

What you’re talking about isn’t logic at all. It’s emotion. You’re attaching strings to happiness, giving it a basis in the material world. If people rely on earthly constructs carried over into eternity to give them hope or happiness, then, yes, they’re going to feel a bit down w/o a belief in eternity.

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Yes, I’d say happiness has “a basis in the material world.” Absolutely. It is not simply emotional and abstract. It is rooted, in part, in objective realities. If happiness / hope rest completely on a future existence, then atheists have absolutely no reason to be happy.

Also, grappling with the possible existence or non-existence of God must involve logic. If not, then people can rationalize all kinds of nonsense.

Jill July 4, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Yes, that’s what I just said! 🙂 But I would argue that happiness doesn’t rest on hope of the eternal. Some atheists are happy, just as some Christians are depressed. To deny this would be to second-guess the happiness of one and the Christianity of the other.

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Jill, happiness may not rest on the hope of the eternal, but without hope of the eternal, there’s no logical reason to be happy. In fact, there’s no compelling reason to not commit suicide. Sure, some atheists live happy lives. However, there’ no good reason for them to be happy. Unless it’s just to make life more tolerable. But even then, that’s just forcing oneself to “enjoy the band” while the icy Atlantic waters await.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Admit it, your belief construct cannot explain my happiness and it bothers you.

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 4:01 PM

You’re right, I can’t explain your happiness. It is pointless and has no correlation to what you actually believe.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 4:44 PM

It correlates precisely, because I accept what I observe and believe. I am at peace with what I believe is the nature of reality — all processes have a terminus.

Allow me to ask you a question: is it truly necessary for me to experience hopelessness in order to be persuaded that god exists?

Slatt July 23, 2014 at 3:07 PM

No, it is not required that you experience hopelessness (an emotion) in order to be persuaded that God exists. No one can really persuade you to believe that God exists–faith is required for you to believe that God exists.

One cannot know, and never will know, what true happiness is, in this life. Our souls were not created for this world.

Jessica Thomas July 5, 2012 at 8:24 AM

Jill, some (like me) struggle with the idea of living forever. I personally find it frightening. Yet the alternative doesn’t seem too appealing either. So if it’s true that we are eternal beings, or at least that we continue to exist beyond this life (which I think there is more evidence pointing to this than to the contrary…like it or not…) what the h3ll are we going to do with all that time?

Interestingly, I am clinically prone to depression. Clinical depression takes luster out of life…so the thought of “living forever” in lackluster existence is pretty much unfathomable. Nevertheless, I can’t ignore what seems to me the logical conclusion that death is not the end of self awareness.

When I freak out about what I will do for eternity, I just remind myself it’s Jesus’ job to know, not mine, so instead of pondering, I snuggle myself in the warmth of his robe.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 9:59 AM

I have hope in true eternal rest after living my life to the best of my abilities. I too am repulsed by the concept of living forever. I do not struggle with depression as I seem to be a natural optimist by disposition. I feel for those that do, in fact, some close people in my life struggle with depression and pessimism.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Jessica, I’ve had similar thoughts about eternity, and I think you’re on the right track. If we are with the Person who knows and we trust Him, then whatever comes, isn’t scary. When we were little and a parent put us in a car seat, did we worry about getting onto the freeway, all those cars hurling at us, where we were headed, what we would do when we got there? Chances are, no. We trusted our parent.

In addition, the more I learn to know God, the more I realize we have good reason to expect a great adventure. For one thing, God is creative. He didn’t just create the universe and then stop being creative. I suspect whatever home He’s preparing for us will have greater challenges, physically and mentally than we can imagine.

For another, we’ll see Him like He is. I suspect that will spark OUR creativity like never before. What stories might we write? What paintings might we create? What music might we compose?

Nothing lackluster about the future. Plus we’ll have the same kind of cool body as the resurrected Christ.

Isn’t it exciting just to think we won’t have to battle depression ever again? Sort of like Joni Eareckson looking forward to dancing and running after a lifetime in her wheelchair. Gone will be the things that hold us back!


Marion July 4, 2012 at 10:58 AM


I have two questions for you:

1) How do you know when you cease to exist that there will be no pain, no ego, no struggle?

2) Isn’t one of the criticisms from Atheists about religious people.. that there is no consistency and logic from our worldview?

If that’s so….then what Woody Allen said in that interview is consistent and taken to its logical extreme. So what’s wrong that?


Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:10 AM

@Marion: no one takes anything to it’s logical extreme. That is called a straw man. Go build one somewhere else.

Are you asking me if I “know” that life stops at death, or are you requiring that I “prove” that life stops at death? Because you belief construct has the same problem.

I have no expectation that any individual will be entirely consistent in his or her logic.

Marion July 4, 2012 at 12:16 PM


You avoided the questions.

Worldviews have logical extremes…and you know that. It’s not a straw man argument.

I just want to know from your atheistic point of view the answer to those 2 questions.

I prefer clarity over agreement.


Shayle July 4, 2012 at 12:23 PM

I answered the questions, but here we go again:

1) I don’t know, but you don’t know either.

2) I have no realistic expectation of logical consistency from anyone.

Does that help?

Jessica Thomas July 5, 2012 at 8:03 AM

“1) I don’t know, but you don’t know either.”

You hit the nail on the head here, I think. None of us know, so we have to consider the anecdotal evidence of people who have “seen” ghosts, or who have had “near death” experiences, or doctors who have had patients “die” on the operating table only for that patient to be revived and plead for the doc to keep them alive because they’ve just seen hell and don’t want to go back.

So for me, the questions becomes, are those people all liars? Are they making this stuff up or have they truly experienced life after “death”? In some cases, I think they are liars. In others, I think they are speaking truth.

My logic goes like this: if only one of those people are telling the truth (and I think the odds are at least one of them is), that’s enough for me. You may be comfortable with the idea of ceasing to exist, but if you’re wrong, what’s your contingency plan? Mine is Jesus. (After following him for over a decade, it turns out he’s much more than just that, though.)

With the (healthy) fear of God making my bones shiver, I know beyond all doubt that I don’t want to be caught dead without Jesus.**

**har har, play on words, but it’s absolutely, positively, unequivocally true…I can’t stress it enough…obviously…

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM

Your logic, while completely logical, in and of itself, is not compelling to me becaise there is no touch stone in my personal experience to make me think that it might be correct. As I have stated, I am naturally god-free ( a priori) and have never had a supernatural experience.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Jessica, I agree with Shayle that your thinking is logical, but there’s an even greater piece of evidence than the number of near-death experiences or ghost stories. Jesus Himself rose from the grave. If that never happened, then we can talk all we want about this other stuff and it would not matter. There would be no hope or help for our condition–finite, temporal, perishable.

But He conquered death–came out on the other side and showed Himself so that we would KNOW, unequivocally KNOW.


Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Shayle, if non-existence gives you hope, then wouldn’t suicide be a legitimate option?

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:24 AM

@Mike Duran: Yes, given the right conditions, such as the misery of terminal cancer.

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 11:26 AM

But if non-existence is everyone’s “destiny,” we are all terminal. The cancer patient will just get there quicker.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Yes, that is a true statement. Do you know how long you are going to live, or, in fact, what events will transpire along that path? I don’t either, but am along for that ride just like everyone else. Like I said, there is much to enjoy in life. I am not clinically depressed.

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM

You’re assuming Allen’s conclusions are based on a medical condition rather than an outworking of his belief system. Frankly, he sounds quite reasonable. What I don’t understand, Shayle, is how you can chide Woody Allen for not enjoying life more. It’s like saying that our tour bus is heading over a cliff and then frowning on people who don’t enjoy the ride. Sounds… illogical.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 12:03 PM

I assume nothing: I personally might choose to end my life if terminally ill. I can’t speak for Mr. Allen. Even someone who believes in god knows that the things of this life will pass away and become meaningless. For a creative person such as an artist or writer, the contemplation of their life’s work being destroyed and having no eternal existence could be, uh, disconcerting, shall we say. But not every god believer will mire in depression over the temporal nature of this existence, and yet, some will. That is my point.

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 12:37 PM

You said, “Even someone who believes in god knows that the things of this life will pass away and become meaningless.”

Perhaps some people and some gods. However, most Christians believe that our souls will exist eternally and our actions, deeds, beliefs and words, will have eternal consequences. Life is hardly meaningless for a believer, either now or then. The empires we build will turn to rubble, but why we built them and how we managed them will not.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Your books, like Woody Allen’s movies, will cease to exist. This is an essential fact that does not change from christianity to atheism. Mr. Allen is depressed about it and you are not. Likewise, I am not depressed about leaving my contributions behind and I am an atheist. I have a christian friend who obsesses over these issues constantly. She believes she will go to heaven when she dies, but constantly asks what the point of this existence is. I do not share her fatalism. I’m sorry, I just don’t. This reminds me of the European expectation that all native americans have to dress like plains indians in full feathered headdress! How many differential ways can I say the same thing?

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Shayle, you’re inaccurately framing my beliefs and the beliefs of many Christians. The fundamental difference between Christians and atheists is not that their works “will cease to exist,” but that THEY will continue (or not) to exist. Mr. Allen is not just bummed that his movies will be gone, but that HE will. This is a HUGE difference.

Slatt July 23, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Come on, Shayle, now you are not being dishonest. Mike nailed it on the head…what is the point of living?

Seriously, why wait for an illness? And now you admit you could not enjoy life if it becomes miserable or if you have terminal cancer? That is ridiculous and you know it. Everything is terminal, as you even said before…so in a way we all have a terminal illness–we’re all just waiting to die so why wait, Shayle? It should make no difference to you.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Mike, I suspect that existentialism and it’s logical conclusion, hedonism, give the atheists “meaning.” The natural conclusion if someone doesn’t believe there is a tomorrow, then you live for today. And by “live” the real goal is to please oneself as much as possible. So if sex is your thing, get all you can get. If it’s some sort of altruistic do-gooder approach (Oprah), go for that. If you want to be the hottest or the best, aim for the top of the charts. Or maybe it’s money and all the comforts it can buy or travel.

Yes, all the things Solomon tried. It’s easy for me to see how someone NOT at the top of the charts thinks it’s still coming, so just work harder. The hope is that my 15 minutes of fame is still coming.

Most people, though, pretty much don’t think about life after life. I just heard a program this morning about this couple caught in a storm some 200 miles off the coast. They really thought they would die. And they said, during the 36 hours before their rescue, they didn’t talk about sports or TV shows or movies or any of the other things we usually use as distractions.

Interesting perspective, I thought.


Shayle July 6, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Most people of faith that I know could be labelled “moral hedonists”, meaning that they pursue pleasure, and materialism, and deny themselves no pleasure unless they consider that behavior reprehensible or immoral. It is a matter of emphasis: their lives are consumed with television, movies, good food, restaurants, parties, vacations, sporting events, mall-shopping, etc. They do nothing that is work or challenge or sacrifice or charity. They help no one. They do not appear to live a different life than somebody like me, who pursues physical pleasures, guilt-free because that is all I accept as reality. They attend church once a week ( if that), pray when they want something, hardly ever crack a Bible, and never serve at the local food pantry. I think these people have absorbed far more secular humanism and hedonism they are willing to admit. This is clearly just my opinion, based on observation. Feel free to disagree, many of you may not fit this pattern in your daily lives.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Shayle, I completely agree with you that many people who claim faith act no differently than those who claim no faith.

Here’s the thing though–isn’t it possible that they have adopted the trappings without experiencing the reality? Think of it like someone who sings, “I’m proud to be an America” but they don’t vote, have never read the Constitution, scoff at military duty, pay no taxes, and in fact have their business overseas. Are they indeed proud to be an American? Perhaps the America they have in their mind–the one that they can manipulate to their own ends. But are they genuinely proud of this nation the way its legal document defines it? They can say they are all day, but it would be hard to believe it without some small action to back up their glib words.

The truth is, too many secular folks judge Christianity based on the pretend Christians as opposed to the “legal document” that defines it.


R. L. Copple July 4, 2012 at 10:47 AM

To have meaning in life. Wow. That is such a huge question and one that the best thinkers in the world don’t have a definitive answer to. By faith we as Christians acknowledge that is in God, and eternal value, because as Solomon put it, if there is no after life, no heaven, and we simply cease to exist, then there is no real purpose or meaning to life, and we are left with living for our own selfish enjoyment like the animals we are, driven by instinct and desires, because what else is there if tomorrow we die and that’s it?

And that’s how I would interpret the atheistic response that there is meaning in enjoying life. Not that life has some meaning in and of itself, but that all you’re left with is fulfilling your own desires, because that is the only thing you have to find any meaning in at all. That’s the conclusion Solomon came to, even though in the end, he realized that such didn’t bring him any real fulfillment as a human. Only living for God did, he finally concluded in the end. Why? Because God was the only thing that lasted. (Sounded like he wasn’t so sure that man himself would last beyond death…there was that strain in Jewish thought represented by the Saducees in Jesus’ day).

But even as a Christian, I seek out purpose, meaning, and hope. I have faith it is there in God, but I have no mental or rational certainty about it all. God didn’t promise us that we would be personally fulfilled. Indeed, that living according to the flesh is contrary to the Spirit. The paradox of fulfillment and meaning and purpose in life. We are sort of designed to want and need it, and we use all sorts of things to seek out such purpose, but like Solomon we find they are all empty in the end, and we are left with God or nothing.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:01 AM

@R. L. Copple: NEWSFLASH: Atheists have ideals, they’re just not attached to deity. The higher ideals are accepted by ALL faiths, not just Christianity, which means that either their god(s) revealed it to them, or it is part of the broader human experience, which is confined to no faith.

R. L. Copple July 4, 2012 at 11:28 AM


You aren’t addressing my point. Ideals based on what? And what do those ideals matter if tomorrow we die, and that’s it? They can only be based on what “I” think is a good thing, what fulfills my sense of well-being. So what gives it or us meaning beyond ourselves? If it is all relative to our self, then what real meaning is that? It matters little in the grand scheme of things whether I raise healthy and well-adjusted children or kill them when they are three. I have the same fate. The only thing in that case is to do what makes me happy, and hope nothing really bad happens to me before I die.

Or go ahead and die before that if I so desire. But when that happens, either there will be something lasting that gives us meaning, or there will be nothing. I’m not talking morals and ideals here. I’m talking about what really gives life purpose and meaning. For me, it is a paradox. And postulating that there is no god only makes the paradox lean more to the conclusion that there is no meaning to life.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Your version of christianity forces you into some weird contortions: because I don’t believe that ideals come from god, then raising healthy children or killing them at age three should be all the same to me. That sick thought came from the tormented recesses of your mind, brother, not mine. That one rests squarely with you twisted logic. Sorry, I don’t choose to live that way, even if that is your concept of me.

R. L. Copple July 4, 2012 at 1:15 PM

It’s not my concept of you. We all have ways of staving off the logical conclusions of our logic that seem quite logical to ourselves. We arbitrarily assign value to things that we feel are valuable, and society by default does as well. Relative values, that can change, and hold no value in and of themselves. Only for one particular individual. Or a group. But nothing with lasting value.

If we die and that is it, then what are we here for? Why hold value/ideal or whatever if after I die, it will mean nothing to me, or anyone else because we die. Then the only value is within this life, finding “happiness” and avoiding pain, not because that brings fulfillment, but because it is all we have.

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 1:45 PM

I disagree. To cease to exist puts the emphasis on a life well-lived. Do I struggle? Do I succeed? Do I live honorably? Do I die nobly? This is what I strive for in life. I choose not to avoid ALL pain, because pain makes me stronger. I surrender some pleasure, because someone I know needs it more. Why is it so hard to understand that ALL of humanity shares these feelings regardless of what god(s) they answer to? Methinks you are enforcing a selective reality in your own mind.

Jessica Thomas July 5, 2012 at 8:37 AM

“I choose not to avoid ALL pain, because pain makes me stronger. I surrender some pleasure, because someone I know needs it more.”

Shayle, now you are starting to sound like a well-balanced Christian. Heh heh. 🙂

I guess, question is then, if you feel all of humanity shares these feelings, why do you think these are intrinsic, and what is your proof that they are intrinsic?

Unfortunately, I don’t see evidence that they are. 🙁 I wish I did, and I’ve tried to convince myself that it is so, but then I see one more instance of “inhumane” cruelty, and I have to shake my head and accept the reality that we are depraved and in dire need of God’s grace to lift us out of this mire.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 9:55 AM

Read the world’s wisdom literature and you will see that it is so. Either all these faiths had true inspiration from a god, or these are values held by all humanity. Conversely, if approximately 85% of all Americans profess a belief in god, and there is a church on every street corner, how is it possible that America, a democracy, fights wars of aggression and kills civilians? There are good and bad people in every population and humanity largely shares the same noble aspirations.

Jessica Thomas July 5, 2012 at 10:35 AM

“Read the world’s wisdom literature and you will see that it is so.”

I came to my belief after studying literature and humanities in college. I noticed what you pointed out above, but it lead me to a different conclusion. I suppose, it’s fair to say I used to be an optimist/idealist but certain things happened in my life that made me question the idea that “humanity largely shares the same noble aspirations”. Now I see a world that’s largely bent on self destruction but for the grace of God. Even unbelievers hear His voice, and reflect Him in their writing.

What our conversation seems to be boiling down to now is the problem of evil. The Bible is the only religious or philosophical text I’ve encountered that’s ever come close to putting evil in proper context. For a compass to work, you need the north and the south pole, right? Pre-Christianity, I had a sincere desire to find God, but it wasn’t until I began to understand evil that my compass finally began pointing to Him. Kind of ironic.

Jessica Thomas July 5, 2012 at 10:39 AM

I should add, I’m still an optimist/idealist, but now I place my hope (we’re back to that word) in Jesus, rather than on anything in this world. This world will pass away. No biggee. I’m on my way to something greater. Maybe angels are reading my unpublished novel as we speak. Ha! (Do they have time for that?)

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Shayla, you said “Either all these faiths had true inspiration from a god, or these are values held by all humanity.”

I find that I agree with you again. And not just me, but this is precisely what the Bible says. Humanity is this “mixed bag” of right and wrong, of having a sense of nobility and failing to achieve the very thing we think we ought to accomplish. Here’s a pertinent paragraph:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (emphasis mine)


Les July 4, 2012 at 10:53 AM

The thing that always bothers me in atheist arguments is that in a world where everything simply ends in nothingness, the only order is what is given by people, that order is fleeting, and thus everything is chaos. But we can see plainly that everything is not chaos. There is order in everything from gravity to the way our bodies function to the position of planets and countless other examples. Taking away the idea of a Creator is effectively trying to claim that all the myriad levels of order we see around us happened completely by chance. I believe that just considering the statement “2 + 2 = 4” is an argument atheism: this utterly simple bit of math belies order. The statement holds regardless of the person is who says it or observes it. That we can recognize the difference between things that benefit or harm us belies that same kind of order and structure. A person with fully functioning faculties can recognize “good” and “evil” when confronted with hit, even if we, as human beings, often times find convenient ways to twist things to our own ends. I find order all around me. Out of that order, good and evil are plainly visible. All of that informs me on a very basic level that there must be a Creator, a designer of all these interlocking systems and balancing acts because to consider the alternative is to invite the idea that something can come from nothing. When I talk to my children about where everything comes from, we go through this process where everything goes back to this question of “where did THAT come from?” If we take the science as gospel and follow it back through the Big Bang, we’re still left asking the same origin question. The only thing I’ve ever found that can answer that is simply “God”. What one does with it from there is up to them, obviously. For me, I find the most sense and truth in the Christian tradition and faith in Christ. At the end of the day, whether one decides to believe in God or decides to believe in nothingness, it’s still a decision… in my view, I’m thankful to God for giving me the ability and desire to puzzle it out and come to my own conclusion. 🙂

Les July 4, 2012 at 10:54 AM

note: “argument AGAINST atheism”… man, I should edit myself more closely before hitting “submit”. 😛

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Once again, we can go into every argument for/against the existence of a god. However, this is all outside of my original point: the clinical depression of one atheist (in this case Woody Allen), does not give your worldview any traction. Most of us in the atheist world live fulfilling lives working, playing, and raising our families. I know that is hard for people of faith to accept, but that is the truth.

In fact, I find that the harsher realities of life such as depression, divorce, etc. occur in similar numbers inside the American christian denominations, as they do outside.

Sherry Thompson July 4, 2012 at 3:40 PM

This is probably a non sequitor by now. Finally fitting earlier comments to parts of my life…
Les(10:53AM) “Taking away the idea of a Creator is effectively trying to claim that all the myriad levels of order we see around us happened completely by chance…”

I was an agnostic by the time I was 20 rather than a straight-out atheist at least partially thanks to the thought process Les describes. However, granting the probability of an intelligent creator of the universe wasn’t much comfort to me. What kind of intelligent creator? Back then, I seriously doubted any form of life after physical death–meaning I was “serially terrified” whenever I allowed myself to think about my future non-existence.*

In my late teens & very early 20’s, I was in one of 3 states of mind: 1) Depressed, my “default mood”, mostly due to my family situation & to the way many people I knew treated poor or different young people; 2) periodically terrified; 3) unrealistically optimistic about how fulfilling life would be for me someday.
BTW, my anticipated future resembled Austin Cline’s, “What do I have to look forward to? Life — an enjoyable life doing the things I love and being with the people I love.” (Hm. He omitted both good health & being in a place you love.)

R.L.Copple(10:47AM) made an important point when he wrote, “God didn’t promise us that we would be personally fulfilled.”

A good thing this isn’t one of the promises in the Bible! I felt fulfilled on very rare occasions when I was working but much more fulfilled in my early writing days. All through the 1st drafts of Seabird & Earthbow, God seemed to be inspiring me every step of the way. How else could I explain what I felt when I reread my previous night’s words & couldn’t figure out how I came up with them?
Back then, I was sure I knew what God wanted of me and, lucky me, I thought maybe I was even doing it. Now? Not so much. Okay, not even a little bit in recent years. Take my word for it. It’s much easier to feel fulfilled in life if
1) most of society-instilled expectations—long-term relationships, milestone events like children, maybe some extra perks—are coming your way, or
2) you have reason to believe that you’re doing God’s will, i.e. fulfilling His purpose for you to be here. (Notice the different ways of using “fulfilled” vs “fulfilling”.)

Finally, Jill(9:46 AM) wrote, “There is no logic in having to be hopeless simply because one doesn’t believe in God. This is a matter of disposition. I believe in God and yet am predisposed to depression and nihilism. I battle that, just as Woody Allen does. I have to fight myself and constantly remind myself of where my hope is supposed to be (as a Christian).”

Jill, I so sympathize! I also think you have a point. I don’t think anyone -has- to be hopeless because they don’t believe in God. It’s important to remember that we usually don’t know what we’re lacking if we’ve never had it. If you’re raised by atheists or agnostics & are mostly in the company of them, there’s a decent chance that you’ve gotten as used to ultimate entropy as a human being can be. An alternative to it might seem pretty “out there”. Like a person who was born with no legs (well sort of) you deal with death & universal entropy and make the most of everything else in your life.

*God dealt with the remaining “hole” in my faith decades after I began believing in Him. One night, He surrounded me with His love for a few minutes. Yup. That took. 😀

Now if I only knew what He prefers I being doing now-a-days…

Sherry Thompson July 4, 2012 at 4:06 PM

I have a question for any atheists and agnostics who might care to answer. It’s only a curiosity question and isn’t meant as some kind of challenge to your right to free speech.

Why do atheists and agnostics generally write “god” and “christian” in lower case when responding on blogs? To me, it would make more sense to cap “god” when it is being used in the technical sense to reference the deity that theists believe in.

Likewise, I often see “christian” rather than “Christian”. Now I totally get it that you probably don’t believe Jesus Christ was an actual historic person. But characters in novels aren’t typically real people–except in historical novels. In any case, book characters are capitalized when they are being discussed, even if they aren’t real.

I totally don’t believe in the philosophy of Ayn Rand but I capitalize her name and if someone says that they are a Randian, I’ll capitalize that as well.

Democrats usually capitalize the word Republican & Republicans do the same with Democrats. Admittedly, many of us give in to the temptation to nickname a leader in an opposing party. We don’t lower case the name of the school or team our home team is facing in the play-offs. Er… Do we? I don’t keep up.

Even if we’re at war, citizens of one country tend to capitalize the name of the other country–and the name of its citizens. Of course, there are egregious exceptions to this one, especially when it comes to the enemy citizenry.

Well, anyway. Why?
And, BTW, should believers in God be capitalizing “atheist” or “agnostic”?

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 5:29 PM

As an athiest, I do not typically capitalize god which is a generic term for deity unless it refers to the christian god, which I do not believe in. As for not capitalizing the term christian, the reason why I do not personally capitalize it, is because I do not want to show undue deference to a belief system which I do not accept. I apologize if that is an offense. Many of my friends are christians. Perhaps I need to rethink that, to show respect. And no, you do not need to capitalize atheist or agnostic. 🙂

Katherine Coble July 5, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Well, I capitalise Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Communist, Polish, Greek, Hoosier.

When an adjective is also a proper noun it gets capitalised. It is both poor grammar and rude as hooty to NOT capitalise it. It makes you look like a pettifogging hipster doofus to insist on lowercasing Christian.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Well, miz katherine coble: ( did you see what I just did to your name? Yeah, pretty slick.) Perhaps you can explain for all of us what a pettifogging hipster doofus is, because, growing up, I was never exposed to language like that. What kind of language is that, anyway??? (C)hristian swearing? Cursing in tongues? Please enlighten me.

Katherine Coble July 5, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Pettifogging= this is actually a very old word. It’s not “Cursing in tongues.” It means putting undue emphasis on petty details. Hipster and Doofus should be well understood to you. If they aren’t, then it might be a good idea to read more. Essentially, what I’m saying is that by trying to exercise your point about how unimportant all these trivial details (like respecting everyone’s point of view no matter how much it differs from your own) are, you look very childish. By not capitalising words that are grammatically capitalised in English you are saying “Your rules are stupid. I don’t play by them because you aren’t important to me.”

And if that’s your attitude, that’s quite alright. But you can’t honestly expect loads of courtesy and respect in return.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 1:27 PM

Ouch, I think Katherine just sunk my battleship!

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Actually, Katherine, I think Shayle should expect loads of courtesy and respect regardless of how he chooses to treat Christians. It’s that thing in Scripture about not reviling in return that should prompt Christians to act, well, like Christ. Did He or did He not leave us an example to follow?


Sherry Thompson July 4, 2012 at 8:36 PM

Hmmm. Okay, I’ve got a follow-up question.
Anyone else who is an atheist or agnostic, please feel free to jump in!

What do you do with regard capitalizing or not capitalizing the following?



The Great Spirit

well, you get the idea.

Katherine Coble July 5, 2012 at 8:47 AM


Jenni Noordhoek July 4, 2012 at 11:58 PM

While I personally could not live with a Godless existence – I’m 99% certain I’d work up the guts to kill myself – I can imagine people who are not me doing it.

Even in my head, the promise of an after-life isn’t really that… I don’t know. I’m probably defective or something. But I don’t like having a carrot dangled in front of me (heaven) and a cattle-prod behind (hell). What I’m looking for is a personal relationship with a God who cares about me as an individual. Ain’t about escaping hell; ain’t about getting to paradise. It’s about a Person.

So I suspect that the lack of an afterlife isn’t going to be bothering to all atheists because I’m sure there are many who are mentally wired similarly to myself in that an afterlife isn’t appealing in and of itself without Someone there. And if they don’t believe Someone’s there, then… why have an afterlife?

And this post is mainly directed at the comment thread as I got caught up in reading it.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 5:21 AM

Since, an atheist believes there is no God, there are no souls, and we “cease to exist”–and for that to be true, there can be no “we”. There is only matter. Molecules bumping into other molecules, some sticking together, some not. Chemical reactions and electrical impulses connecting one sack of neoplasm encased in a phospholipid bilayer with another.

THAT is where I have a hard time with atheism. You want logic, you want proof of God’s existence. Guess what? If there is no God, there is no “you.” You are a mass of matter, your thoughts and feelings are not thoughts and feelings, they are chemical reactions and electricity. “You” don’t cease to exist because “you” don’t exist now. A body, made up of cells, which are made of up molecules, which are made up of atoms, exists. The same atoms that have been here since the beginning of time, just getting rearranged over the eons, bits and pieces of stuff that existed hundreds, thousands, millions of years ago. You are an amalgamation of tiny pieces of rock, and palm tree, and dinosaur piss.

I have no issue accepting that my *body* is that. But *I* am far more. I am not just matter, I am soul. When I die, I don’t cease to exist. My body degrades and ends up recycled. But the “me” separate from my body does not cease to exist. It is the *me* part that is drawn to God, to Christ.

And that’s where it ends for me. I don’t debate Christianity with atheists. If you don’t believe there is actually a “you” then you’ll never believe in God.

Sherry Thompson July 5, 2012 at 5:39 AM

Excellent, Kat!

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 5:56 AM

Thank you, Sherry :).

I do want to add to that thought. Just because one does not believe oneself exists, does not mean that *I* don’t believe there is a “you” in there somewhere. That is why we Christians feel compelled to “share our faith” with people. It is not to coerce you or to force our beliefs on you. It is because we truly, deeply, want everyone to have the same opportunity to know the God we know, to feel His love. It is not to make you feel guilty about what you do or are, nor is it to take away all your fun. It is because we want you to have a peace of the eternal. It’s like finding the best freaking dessert EVER, and saying, “Here, try this! It is wonderful!”

But too many of us present that dessert with a sneer on our faces, our noses in the air, and a whip in our hand. I don’t do that. I may get frustrated over illogical arguments, but if someone comes to me wanting to know about God, they will get a smile, I will pull up chair, I will put that dessert on a silver platter, and hand them a spoon. I will not, however, force them to eat.

It was not the fire and brimstone sermons I heard as a kid that drew me to Christ. Believe me, I pulled away from church for a long, long time because of those. What DID solidify my faith as a child was the love I saw in family members, love that went far beyond us being related. I *saw* Jesus in those people.

I turn to logic, though, and science to put a foundation under my belief. I have a degree in Biology, and I simply cannot reconcile what I learned in college with an atheist viewpoint. I see God EVERYWHERE, in the tiniest of insect eggs and the vastness of the universe. Hence, my argument about the you-ness of you and the me-ness of me. In a purely physical world, “we” don’t exist. Hopeless or not.

Les July 5, 2012 at 6:59 AM

“I turn to logic, though, and science to put a foundation under my belief. I have a degree in Biology, and I simply cannot reconcile what I learned in college with an atheist viewpoint. I see God EVERYWHERE, in the tiniest of insect eggs and the vastness of the universe. ”

Consider this being quoted to my IRL freinds. Beautiful statement.

Now… back to the debate. 🙂

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Thank you, Les!

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 10:25 AM

I experience self (reality). I do not experience god (unreality). What you are saying from your vantage point may be quite logical, however, I simply have no basis in experience to draw the vast conclusions you are drawing. You have and are capable of rationalizing it. I lack faith and am also capable of doing the same.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 10:27 AM

^should say: you have FAITH and are capable of rationalizing it.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 10:42 AM

“I experience self .”

What does that mean? It’s one of those vague, intangible statements that Christians are always being accused of making, while atheists claim we have no logic and refuse to base our beliefs in facts and science.

What I want to know–and what no atheist has ever been able to answer when I’ve asked is–how are you more than your parts? What is the part of you that “experiences self”? Neurons in the gray mass encased inside the spherical bone structure called a skull? The electrical impulses between those neurons? The cells of the muscles in your pinky finger? Those are components. Where is the “you” part? How much of your body must be present for you to be you? Which parts are expendable? And if it boils down to a certain part of the body, or multiple parts, again, I ask–how do electricity, chemicals, lipids, proteins, etc, “experience self”?

The fact is, atheists want us to believe there is no more than the physical world, but then want the right to beliefs and emotions that are “self”-generated, without being able to explain what “self” is, what consciousness is, what makes us more than just the physical. Either we are just physical or there is more, but it can’t be both.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 11:32 AM

Do you deny that I experience “self”? I have experienced myself on some level every day for all of my recollection. I have NOT experienced god. I do not know from whence the ego emanates, anymore than I know where this reality ( or the perception thereof) comes from. But that is my point: you don’t know either. That is why we have religion and philosophy: to explain the unknowable.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 11:36 AM

I should say explore and explain. Not everything in religion and philosophy is an explanation. Some concepts are presented as mysteries.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 11:41 AM

No, I don’t deny you experience self. I believe we all have souls, we all have something that makes us “more” than the sum of our parts. I am saying that if–according to what *you* are saying–that is there is nothing more, that the world is *physical only*–then there is no “self” to experience. It is *your* parameter I’m working in, not mine.

But now you say there *is* such thing as “ego” or whatever, and you have no idea where it comes from, or from where reality comes–so then how do you know *you* cease to exist when your body dies?

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 11:47 AM

How many times can I beat this dead horse: I don’t know but you don’t either.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 11:56 AM

“When I cease to exist, there will be no pain, no ego, no struggle, and that, my friends is more cause for hope than any belief in eternal heaven, my friends!”

That is what you said. *When* you cease to exist. You make a statement, as if of fact. Yet you say you do not know. Which is it? Will you cease to exist or not? How do you know till you get there? What if you don’t? Gonna be one mighty big “oh, shit” moment. However, if I am wrong and you are right, I’ve lost nothing.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Are you asking if I “know” or if I can “prove”? Because your belief construct has the same weakness. I *observe* that ALL processes have a terminus, therefore I can rationalize my belief that life is the same or “in kind”. All things end, therefore life will end. But, no, I cannot “prove” what to me seems obvious from experience. Besides, if you convince me to “hedge my bets” merely to avoid hell, how would that be a true faith that saves according to your belief construct? For one the motive is inherently selfish, and two, I have not really put my faith in a deity, I am just trying to avoid a perceived negative consequence.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Now, we’re back to where we started. You are saying all things must come to an end–because of observation of the *physical* world. Therefore, if all there is is physical world, there is no “you” outside the physical; there is only the molecules that make up your body. Therefore there is no “you” to cease to exist.

So, again, explain “self” in this context of nothing *outside* the physical. How do you experience it?

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Oh, and of course I don’t think you should “hedge your bets” in order to avoid hell. That would be ludicrous, and it doesn’t work that way. I’m just making an observation–that if you don’t cease to exist it will be quite a surprising experience for you.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Do the higher order of mammals have self-awareness? They appear to; dogs and monkeys for example engage in some interesting behaviors that would be hard to explain if they had NO self awareness. Do they have “souls”? Or are they running biological programs?

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 1:15 PM

I’m not entirely sure of the relevance of that. If dogs and apes have souls, then we most certainly do.

If not, and we don’t either, then we are simply all biological processes, and still proves the point that there’s no “you” in that scenario. You are simply describing behaviors–biological reactions to physical stimuli–there is no “self” to be aware of.

Jessica Thomas July 5, 2012 at 1:32 PM

My two cents. Depression feels like an erosion of the “self”, definitely so when it falls into the clinical depression category. Extreme depression like I experienced post-partum with my first child very much feels like the boundaries of the self have dissolved.

Anyone is can suffer depression, because it is indeed chemical. A person who says “depression is all in your head” or “you can heal depression with positive thinking” is plain wrong. When chemicals are that out of whack, it becomes a disease and no one is exempt or 100% immune to it anymore than they are to cancer.

For those who view the self as merely physical, I don’t know how they endure that level of extreme depression. My guess is, they don’t. They commit suicide.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 2:47 PM

You are trying to get me to go from experiential knowledge to theoretical knowledge that you believe you possess. There are theories that explain the existence of ego, but none that I have found very compelling based on my experience. Sorry I can’t be of more help on this one; it is certainly a compelling study, I just lack the conviction of having taken a firm position on this one.

Slatt July 23, 2014 at 4:40 PM

You have not experienced God because you have not taken a leap of faith, which is beyond human reason or human intelligence but is of a higher order. If you want to experience God, or experience any person for that matter, you must open up and acknowledge that the other person is real. And then you will not only experience God, but you can have a relationship with God. But it starts with humility and a leap…of faith. It’s really that simple.

Sometimes people in general are afraid to begin relationships–fear of rejection. Their false reasoning or inaccurate reasoning might tell them the other person would never be interested. I am not intimating that God would reject anyone, I am simply explaining a leap of faith here. With faith, one acts against his/her irrational thoughts (or in the case of an unbeliever, against his/her lack of faith, I suppose), and makes an attempt to meet someone new. Faith requires humility.

Slatt July 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

The only way to experience God is to have faith in God. One chooses to have faith in…whatever. Everyone is capable of having faith in God simply because humans are created to experience faith. I have faith that the Earth will continue to spin in its orbit even though no scientist can, with complete and utter logic, explain to me how it continues to do so, or when and if it will stop.

Generally speaking, you will not experience God unless you say…”Yes” to God… out of pure, blind faith. It may sound too simple, but that is the answer and, yes, faith is not logical, in the sense that it is beyond human intelligence…it is of a higher order than human intelligence.

In any relationship, one must communicate…I mean both sides must communicate. Think about it, a married person has to say…”Yes” to his/her spouse..has to acknowledge the “significant other”, or else the “relationship” does not exist. One can’t sit on the couch while his/her spouse runs around the house doing everything while the other fails to reciprocate. To know and experience God, one say “yes” and takes a leap of faith, which is beyond human reason, but this leap begins a relationship God.

Sherry Thompson July 5, 2012 at 8:37 AM

And again, excellent, Kat!I would hate to be “courted” for anything in this world via the methods used by some Christians. As a Christian who has experienced God’s love & absolutely knows it & He are real, I cringe when I hear certain types of Christians pointing out everything that non-believers are doing & saying & thinking that’s W-R-O-N-G!
Excuse me, but Christian doctrine says that we’ve all of us screwed up about something, probably a whole slew of things. But, guess what, God loves us anyway. He even loves people who simply cannot believe that He exists.

I had a sad experience yesterday. A dear Christian friend & fellow fantasy author had written a couple of blog entries this week. One was very conservative politically. The other extremely religiously fundamentalist. I knew nothing about them until he posted links to both on a very neutral writers’ list–and got bonked by the list owner with a reminder that political & religious discussion were not permitted there.

He emailed me, bewildered, saying he had been careful not to say anything too extreme or provocative–that he had edited & re-written several times.

ell, I went & read the entries. And blinked. And sighed. And couldn’t think what to say to him. Both entries were wildly provocative based on my limited experience. In my opinion, neither would ever convince anyone of his beliefs. Rather some parts might well persuade readers to never consider any views even remotely like the ones he had written.

But my friend couldn’t see that. He just couldn’t see the anger & defensivness–and the lack of love. I’m so sorry for him & for anyone who read the entries & came away with wrong ideas about Christians as a group.

To the atheists reading, we’re not all like that. Nor do many of us believe that God i like that. As the saying goes, Lord save me from your fan club!

Katherine Coble July 5, 2012 at 8:49 AM

Mike, I understand what you’re trying to do here. But I honestly think you’ve got to let go of trying to “logically” persuade people that their cherished assumptions are bull. Because sometimes your logic is flawed, and sometimes their logic is flawed.

Ultimately people have cherished assumptions for a variety of reasons…not just logic. To call someone the equivalent of “stupid” for clinging to those assumptions is not a good way to persuade them of the rightness of your position.

Mike Duran July 5, 2012 at 9:56 AM

Katherine, I believe logic and evidence are powerful apologetic tools. Yes, sometimes my logic is flawed. And, yes, people often arrive at their conclusions without pure logic. But in the marketplace of ideas where Christians are often portrayed as anti-intellectual buffoons — especially by atheists! — I’m not sure non-aggression is always the best approach. Perhaps we can agree to play Bad Cop / Good Cop. I’ll continue to point out what I consider are holes in other belief systems and you can offer them the grace that I so often lack.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 12:59 PM

First off, let me start by saying that many of my friends are Christians(that was for you@kathrinecobble), as there are not many professing atheists in my geographical area. They run the gamut on an intellectual scale as you would probably imagine. That being said, most Christians’ logic is impeccable, within the confines of their belief construct. Here I refer to those things which are truly unprovable and unknowable which we choose to believe anyway. Take Creation for example. I believe in a god- directed act of creation of the universe, therefore…..and then we proceed to make all kinds of rational, logical, reasonable, and ultimately unprovable statements, such as “belief in Jesus will save you”. What I accept as reality will be questioned by people of faith where it comes into conflict with their belief structure. What to do with a happy atheist?? In reality, my happiness and Woody Allen’s depression don’t affect a Christian belief construct very much. Stop having such an inferiority complex over whether Christians such as yourself are considered “intellectual”. Atheists on the whole will never consider you to be a rational logical person, not because you aren’t. But because they DISAGREE with your premise. It’s not a winnable argument, which is why I have sought to not debate arguments for/against the existence of a god on this forum too much, but have rather tried to discuss the ramifications of Allen’s depression and my happiness. They don’t change your essential beliefs, but they also don’t form persuasive, compelling arguments…

Katherine Coble July 5, 2012 at 1:17 PM

you have issues with your shift key, don’t you? and also issues with reading what is right in front of you. for example–the correct spelling of my name. for the record, none of this is convincing me to abandon my first impression of you–that of a person who is so convinced of the rightness of his/her position that they refuse to even behave in a considerate manner toward others. you may have noticed that i am trying to write this is your method so that perhaps you will better understand me. nothing is capitalised. who cares if it creates a mishmash of hard to read things. people should have to work hard to decipher my thoughts because they are worth it. damn all convention to hell. except there is no hell. as for some of your best friends being christian, bully for you. do you want a medal. i hope you do realise that type of statement is the first tip off to a person’s prejudice. sombfa has long been considered the sort of thing after which you can expect a very anti-black/jewish/gay/whatever statement to follow.

i personally associate with and interact with people i like regardless of their faith bias. christians, jews, pagans, atheists, muslims…it doesn’t matter to me what they believe. i respect who they are and how they got to that place even if we disagree. and i certainly don’t spend hours of my time pondering how completely stupid they are for not agreeing with me.

as far as considering someone a rational person, it shows a great failing in your thinking process if you can only consider a person rational if they agree with you on everything. one might almost say that was an irrational assumption you’re making.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 1:25 PM

I like the term “faith bias”. Is that not the basis of our disagreement (other than the side issue of me not capitalizing Christianity).

Katherine Coble July 5, 2012 at 2:23 PM

My ONLY issue with you is the not-capitalising Christian(s/ity). I have no issue with anything else you’ve said. You’re just stating your faithless bias. As others are stating their faith biases. These things rarely change the minds of those in the conversation, especially when done from a position of argument. Ultimately I have no direct proof of God beyond my interpretations of events, interpretations that are as informed by my faith bias as yours is by your faithless bias. It is the ultimate issue of choice.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Katherine Coble: i doff my cap to thee! We shall live to fight another day!

Bobby July 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM

I would submit that atheism is a uniquely first-world mindset. When one has the kinds of opportunities and material creature comforts that wealthier civilizations possess, becoming one’s own god is easy. I doubt you’ll find many atheists in the poorest parts of the world. Granted, this isn’t any kind of argument to be presented for analysis, but it’s a fascinating note. Consider the main proponents and bodies of atheism are commonly found in developed parts of the world.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Atheists exist in the intellectual ranks of any society. Some societal structures foster free thought more than others. The further you get away from a hunter gatherer society that is involved in subsistence living, the more you will see this manifest. Also, tribal society imposes strict taboos with stiff penalties, making it almost impossible to innovate or be outside the norm. So, yes, I think your observation is correct. Where have you seen more innovation than in modern western society that puts a premium on the individual over the group! I guess for conservative-thinking members of such a society, it has it’s good points and bad.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 1:48 PM

I just realized what bugs me about this comment. Bobby was talking about wealth, but Shayle transferred that over to intellect. One has nothing to do with the other. There are plenty of very rich stupid people, and plenty of highly intelligent poor people. And there are atheists and religious folk of all intellectual levels.

What Bobby is saying is, when you have so much “stuff” and so much ease of life, it’s easy to feel you don’t need God. NOT that the smarter you are the more likely you are to be an atheist.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Non-intellectual wealthy persons may, in fact, be quite conservative in their thought lives. I was speaking of the constraints placed upon members of a traditional society that keep thinkers who differ from the norm from emerging. In the first world western societies only vestiges of these former constraints still exist. So one would expect more out of the box thinking and non-traditional behaviors such as gender role reversals to emerge, which is what we see. That is what I meant.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Yes, I agree–“first world western societies” do have more free thinkers. But that is not how you opened your comment. You framed your idea by pairing “intellectual” with atheist. Oh, and in this one, you pair “non-intellectual” with conservative thinking. Remember, you’re debating not just with Christians here, but writers, and we look for nuance of language.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 2:57 PM

I am not saying that there are no intellectual conservatives. They exist and have well-reasoned arguments for their positions. I was saying that someone who does not spend a lot of time thinking will tend to mirror the mores of the society that that person exists in by default. I don’t think that’s too ground-breaking.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Thank you for clarifying.

By that definition I’m definitely an intellectual because I don’t “mirror the mores” of the society I’m in–a society that teaches atheism and evolution at every turn in public school and college. Rather than blindly assimilate my teachers’ and professors’ beliefs and teachings, I thought for myself. 😉

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Just because we have taken over education in this country does not mean that we are in the majority or that we represent the mores of society. I see us as a minority that has a loud voice and is trying to redirect the course of society to a more secular and scientific operational mode. It is a monumental task to shift a population away from their traditional view points. Remember the pagans in Roman society? They were the country folk who were too conservative in their views to adopt the new religion, Christianity. They were considered backwards country bumpkins by a society that had moved beyond their old-fashioned notions about the gods.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 4:46 PM

And there we have it, folks.

“I see us as a minority that has a loud voice and is trying to redirect the course of society to a more secular and scientific operational mode. ”

Yet Christians are the ones always being accused of forcing their beliefs on people. The fact is, you aren’t content letting us keep our beliefs as you started off claiming here. You see us as wrong, and backwards for not being enlightened like you are. I read it between the lines in most of your comments here, but now you’ve spelled it out plain as day.

I have experienced entirely too much of being looked down on by atheists and seen as dumb (despite my documented IQ), and I promise you that I DO see the world through scientific eyes. Biology degree, magna cum laude. But I believe in presenting BOTH options. Not shoving one out the door because I’m afraid people might choose my opposition. Schools don’t teach the THEORY of Creation alongside the THEORY of evolution (and yes, scientifically it IS theory) because, why? Because there is no control that way–the kids aren’t allowed to be presented with all options, weigh and discern for themselves. How is that free thinking? Open ANY science text that is not written specifically for a Christian school and tell me you are in the minority. It is one reason I homeschool my kids. Because *my* beliefs are not allowed in schools.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 5:00 PM

You may be bitter, as a person of faith who also possesses a high IQ and is has scientific training, but this is just progress, as a secularist measures it. I have a normal IQ and NO scientific background, in fact, I am more instinctual by temperament and enjoy philosophy and mythology and the admittedly soft science of psychology. That being said, it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that if people of faith, particularly Christians, keep sending their children to our institutions for training and instruction, what the inevitable result will be. It becomes strictly a “numbers game” at that point, in which the secularists have the upper hand. Way off topic, but interesting, none the less. BTW, these people are not being forced or coerced in any way. They choose this inevitability.

Kat Heckenbach July 5, 2012 at 5:09 PM

I am not bitter. I simply don’t appreciate being talked down to.

You have no idea how this reads, do you:

“…if people of faith, particularly Christians, keep sending their children to our institutions for training and instruction, what the inevitable result will be. It becomes strictly a “numbers game” at that point, in which the secularists have the upper hand. ”

Your institutions? The secularists have the upper hand? Wow.

xdpaul July 5, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Everybody’s missing the bigger issue about why Woody Allen is so off base: the Celtics beating the Lakers is as important as human existence. Knicks beating the Celtics is merely proof of a merciful God with a heart for the poor and downcast.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 5:19 PM

@Kat Heckenbach: Again, totally off-topic, but: You have churches, we have schools. I don’t see how that is such a big deal. I don’t go in your church and you don’t have to come in our schools. Am I wrong?

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Shayle, I’m with Kat on this. “YOUR schools?” I thought they were public schools, as in, we the public who pay taxes get to send our kids there with the expectation of an education that promotes thinking, not indoctrination. Kat’s absolutely right to point out the inconsistency of claiming on one had that you don’t know and then denying any exploration of possible answers.


Shayle July 6, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Of course, they are not *my* schools in the sense of ownership. We all own the schools as you say, but they are secular institutions by definition. I think to imagine otherwise would be naive. Churches teach and instruct according to a religious world view; schools teach and instruct according to an agnostic, secularist world view. If you accuse the school system of indoctrination or brainwashing, then I can accuse the various religions of doing the same thing. That is my only point.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Shayle, the “secular institution” isn’t by definition. In my lifetime and at my schools (differen ones, in different states), people (student people) led in prayer. And held Baccalaureate services and taught (yes, a science teacher) that studying the heavens reveals the existence of God. The secularization of education is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of the US.

But the point is, in favoring one theory over another, and calling the one “science” is disingenuous. There is observation and conclusion, with only one option presented, and that unprovable. That’s not the way the public schools I went to taught me to look at science.

I understand what you’re saying about churches, but there’s no pretense when you go to a church that you might actually be getting something other than connection with the supernatural. It would be a pretty poor church that said, Today we are not going to mention God.

Not to mention that churches are private as opposed to public. In other words, the two don’t make for a good comparison. Atheists get the public schools and Christians can only speak in the private arena?


Shayle July 6, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Most church denominations are entities created under IRS tax code. They receive tax exempt status in exchange for not pushing a political agenda from the pulpit. They also have access to certain tax monies under “faith-based initiatives”. To call churches “private”, I think begs the definition.

As far as institutions of learning are concerned, I acknowledge your historical account, but you are living in the past…those times are long gone. Educational programs were federally standardized under ” No Child Left Behind” and it cannot be easily reversed now. As a person of faith, you are not pleased, but religion in schools does not make us more competitive in global markets.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Most church denominations are entities created under IRS tax code.

Shayle, up to this point I haven’t read anything from you with this kind of exaggeration. Most Christian denominations were created long before the tax code came into being.

But speaking to your point, corporations receive all kinds of tax breaks. Are they, therefore, public? Farmers and oil companies receive subsidies. Are they public? (If so, I want some of the latter’s revenue! 😉 ) This is one you may not like, but churches are private and public schools are, well, public. So there ought not to be some idea that schools belong to people with no faith because those with faith have their churches.

As far as public schools are concerned, I don’t want anything reversed. In that school I mentioned, where students prayed? I opted out. I didn’t know any of the rhymes the other kids called prayer. As an adult I look back at that and think I probably should have really prayed so that the other kids would have seen the difference. But I was a cowardly twerp back then. But that’s off topic. My point is, the prayer that was going on was “pretend prayer,” for lack of a better term. I don’t think “re-instituting prayer into our schools” will mean we’re actually connecting with God.

Rather, what I’d like to see is some free speech–where kids hear more than one view and debate issues and challenge each other and the teacher.

Why, I ask you, are atheists so set against discussing as a hypothesis the possibility of God as the creator of the universe? Creation makes as much sense as the accidental evolution of intelligent, sentient beings, who happen to be the only creatures on the planet with opposable thumbs.


Shayle July 6, 2012 at 6:38 PM

You are correct that most Christian denominations existed before the IRS tax exempt status. However, that being said, most of the churches operating in America today have opted to become a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. There are a few “rogue” churches out there, but not many. I do still grant you your distinguishing between public and private in the manner in which you are defining it. I was making a slightly different point about how government has inserted itself into America’s institutions. In both examples, free speech and first amendment rights have had limitations placed upon them. Since I believe in separation of church and state, I don’t have a problem with this interpretation of law. I can, however, see that a person of faith might not like this. I just don’t see it changing anytime soon. Christians wanted civic prayer, so now they have to listen to islamic imams get up on stage and pray to a god that they don’t believe in at public functions. Not quite what they had in mind, but that is what they got. If a Christians wants religion back in the public forum now, they also have to allow Hindus and Muslims and Mormons and Pagans to participate. We are a pluralistic multi-cultural society. If you go this route, what “false religions” will your child be exposed to at the “public”schools if we allow religion back in? I don’t even see why you would want to do this.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 7, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Since I believe in separation of church and state, I don’t have a problem with this interpretation of law. Shayle, I believe in the non-establishment clause–that which says the government isn’t to establish religion. But allowing people to speak (freedom of speech) about their religion, isn’t establishment of it. It’s allowing the free flow of ideas.

I don’t know the people you have talked with about these issues before. You mentioned that you’re friends with some Christians, I believe, so maybe you’re referring to them. I’m not in any way afraid of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or any other group voicing their opinions because I believe Christianity has something that neither they nor atheism can offer–an accurate worldview that makes sense of life.

All these other religions–add in Judaism, Taoism, whatever–there is a striving to be better in the face of failure. Even in your existential view of life, there’s a level of accomplishment–have you lived today to its fullest, enjoyed it as best you could?

The Christian worldview makes a stark statement about truth that no other religion reaches–Mankind can’t live up to our desires. We want to be better, do better than we can. Consequently, no matter how much or how little good we think is necessary, no person can achieve it.

Same with atheism. No matter how much or little you believe is necessary to do to make you happy day in and day out, you can’t pull it off. How do I know this? Because we all accede to the saying, “Nobody’s perfect.” As long as nobody’s perfect, then whatever we hope for will fall short.

So only Christianity comes right out and says, Hey, nobody’s perfect, so there’s no point in trying to be what you can’t be.

I’d take that discussion with anyone from another worldview any time.

I just saw part of a TV special last night (rebroadcast) about Heaven. Here were all these people from all these walks of life saying the same thing–you get to heaven if you do enough good stuff. That from people who know they aren’t perfect.

Hmmm. It’s such an ironic twist. According to you, here is where happiness lies, and to those who believe in heaven, there is where happiness lies, but in either case, imperfect people have to figure out a way to live perfectly to achieve what they want.

Christianity takes a different view, and it’s one that I’d like to see discussed freely in the marketplace of ideas.


Shayle July 7, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Becky, if you support the non-establishment clause of the first amendment in the manner in which it sounds like you do, then why would you support churches voluntarily surrendering some of their free speech to obtain a tax- exempt status. Wouldn’t that be the definition of a state-established religion, one that has agreed to not speak out politically in exchange for money?

Other than that, I think you and others on this forum are exercising your first amendment rights just fine, competing in a free market of ideas. However, that being said, it is completely an unreal expectation for people to not be insulted or mocked or laughed at once they enter the public arena. Many on this site consider themselves to be intelligent, well-educated debators, yet they have really thin skin. They will definitely have to toughen up to hit the mainstream. I’m not justifying personal attacks, I’m just being a realist.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 7, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Shayle, I haven’t thought enough about the issue of tax exemption apart from the fact that I don’t think it establishes a religion since any religion is free to make use of the same opportunity. And since religions aren’t the only entities receiving tax breaks of one kind or another.

As to free exchange in the marketplace of ideas, you are absolutely right that it is not for the easily bruised. I’ve been in a couple discussions where invectives were almost as common as reasoned arguments.

I love the Internet for the very point that it lets us have these kinds of exchanges.

I was actually still thinking about schools, however. It seems to me that schools and universities are becoming less places to teach children and young people how to think and more places to push what to think.


Jessica Thomas July 5, 2012 at 7:03 PM

@Shayle, you’re the most intellectually honest atheist I’ve run across on the interwebs thus far. I’ve had some debates with atheists that turned very brutal, got quite personal and ugly. I may not agree with your worldview, but I appreciate your objective, non-emotional approach.

Good discussion here today. Thanks for hosting, Mike.

L. Ann Guzman July 6, 2012 at 5:07 AM

Isn’t it interesting that atheism abounds in a rich country like ours, where an “enjoyable life” is ostensibly possible without too much dependence on God? But step foot in a 3rd world country, rife with widespread poverty, astronomical crime rates, corrupt governments, few educational opportunities, and short life expectencies, and the incidence of atheism plummets. It’s completely counterintuitive. And it’s also why I think the new atheists are so rabidly hateful toward Christianity (obviously not all atheists are this way, but certainly the majority leading the public discourse are) – they equate it with lack of progress and and education. But faith is not a product of being uneducated, or illogical, or hopeless, or poor. Faith is undefinable and inexplicable to anyone lookin for concrete answers because that is the very nature of faith – the evidence of the unseen. It will never be rationally explained, as hard as that is to accept to intelligent Christians.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 1:28 PM

It will never be rationally explained, as hard as that is to accept to intelligent Christians. The thing is, Ann, the Apostle Paul was all about explaining and arguing. Take for example Acts 17:17: “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.”

It seems to me the Internet might be the marketplace of today.


L. Ann Guzman July 6, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Becky, the point I was making was not that we shouldn’t have discourse. My point was that in that discourse, at some point, the Christian must concede that he or she believes in something that cannot be proven through rationalism. But since you brought it up, as for Paul, he was trained in debate and in all things related to the law. Very few people entering the discourse with atheists have been trained in apologetics or in methods of debate, resulting in overly emotional responses, as this very thread demonstrates, and it hurts the cause of Christ and does not show a single fruit of the Spirit.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Well, I actually think Christianity is extremely rational, Ann. I think it can be proven in the same way that we can prove President Lincoln lived and died or that there was a group of Spartans who battled at Thermopylae.

Is there “scientific” proof? Since spiritual things are beyond the limited view of scientific investigation, only to a point. There isn’t an absence of evidence, but not “proof.” But as I mentioned to Shayle, there isn’t proof that satisfies the scientific method for a Big Bang either. The fact is, there is no conclusive proof for the origins of the universe. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t proof that God is God.

And honestly, except for one or two posts, I thought this was a fairly courteous discussion. Maybe I missed the general tenor. At any rate, I agree with you–when Christians address these issues in less than respectful terms, it does no one any favors.


Robert February 11, 2013 at 12:57 AM

I know this is an old thread, but I’m commenting anyway because this REALLY grinds my gears: just because something will not last forever doesn’t make it meaningless.

Moreover I say that the “atheist worldview”, which is a stupid thing to say by the way. Atheists are a diverse group with different beliefs and their is nothing about not believing in god that would make my non belief in an afterlife mandatory. For that matter the ancient Egyptians believed in multiple gods! But they didn’t believe in an afterlife. Or at the very least the afterlife was held for the select few that where worthy. Namely the pharaohs and those that served them.

Anyway, this “atheist worldview” in which life is finite in my opinion is infinitely more valuable then an theist one. It is a basic economics: scarcity. Its what gives thing their value: in infinite want with a fixed amount of resources. If you could will gold to appear in your arms at will then gold would quickly lose value to you because it would be so readily available.

You sound like a brat throwing a fit in the mall because he isn’t getting ice cream. Self centered, immature, and ruining everyone else’s mellow.

Mike Duran February 11, 2013 at 7:34 AM

Robert, let me get this straight: Something is valuable because nothing lasts??? If nothing lasts, including the something you think is temporarily valuable, then the value you place on anything is utterly arbitrary, based on transient beliefs. Your values, as well as the things you value, are dust in the wind.

Robert February 11, 2013 at 12:00 PM

I find value in the things I find valuable because I know that I won’t always have them. I better spend next Friday hanging out with my girlfriend because at some point in the future that relationship will cease to be. If I knew that I was ALWAYS going to be with the same girlfriend there would be PLENTY of Fridays for us to spend time together.

I find value in those things because I personally like them. Through what ever process led me there, and why should it matter if they last forever. It might seem bittersweet at times but thats life. You can wade in sorrow and believe that life is meaningless because it doesn’t last. Make up/believe in fairy tales to believe differently TELLING you that life has meaning and/or lasts forever. Or you can accept what is and be happy knowing that nothing if forever.

I choose the last option.

Mike Duran February 11, 2013 at 1:23 PM

You’re welcome to place value in things that are cosmic accidents and plummeting towards the Void. From my perspective, that is pointless and illogical. Sort of like enjoying the band on the Titanic as the icy Atlantic looms.

Robert February 12, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Could you possibly stop being a disingenuous for just one sentence? When you babble on about “cosmic accidents” (which I assume is you inaccurately describing the big bang) or “atheist worldview” you are engaging in straw man fallacy.

BUT lets run with your theory here. Just because something is an “accident” doesn’t mean its not worthwhile. French Dip sandwiches? You ever have one? I hope so because those suckers are TASTY. The first time they where made was by complete accident. But I’ve said my piece. Like I said you can react in one of three ways. If you want to lie to yourself about how everything last forever, then you are welcome to it.

Adam July 23, 2013 at 11:55 AM

I think Woody’s point-of-view in terms of the meaninglessness of life would be much more accurately described as in line with nihilistic philosophy, not atheism.

As an atheist I resent the implication that life is meaningless and hopeless. Life is full of meaning, it is meaningful in every moment-more so due to the fact that it is my belief that this life is the only one I will have. That knowledge mixes in hope and the acknowledgement of the preciousness of life, along with a kind of Woody-esque existential despair. What is the meaning of life without an after-life? It’s subjective. For me, there is meaning and value in great literature, music, friendship, loved ones, film..the list is full of things that give life great meaning.

I also find that my notion of human solidarity, the idea that I am connected to my fellow human beings by the very fact of our consciousness and condition, is hugely positive and humanistic ideology. We are literally part of the natural order, and I find myself humbled by the fact that without exploding stars we could not exist.

Atheists are far from depressed, mechanistic, immoral beings wandering aimlessly around the planet awaiting the moment of death because “nothing matters”. That couldn’t be farther from the truth and is a simplistic and silly notion. If Woody Allen really believed it, down to his core, why would he continue writing and making films? Why wouldn’t he have committed suicide long ago? The fact that he has continued living his life and creating art is as good a repudiation of what you make out his philosophy to be as any.

Adam July 23, 2013 at 12:05 PM

“Of course, atheists can lead “an enjoyable life.” Atheists can be good, kind, and exceedingly happy. The problem is… they have no reason to be. Like the band playing on the sinking Titanic, what does it matter if they’re in key and enjoying it? The icy waters of Oblivion await.”

This is the kind of theistic drivel that infuriates me. Why does an atheist choose to be good, kind and happy? Perhaps because one can choose to be a good moral actor without divine permission or the threat of coercion. Maybe a human being like myself has the ability to recognize that human solidarity and the desire to live in a civilized society is a strong enough impetus to respect my fellow human beings.

It’s an insulting and stupid proposition to assert that an atheist cannot live a meaningful, happy life.

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Shayle asked: “is it truly necessary for me to experience hopelessness in order to be persuaded that god exists?”

Absolutely not. There are far more evidences for the existence of God than an experience of hopelessness. However, the fact that you believe Everything will end and there’s no real Meaning to your life, and you DON’T feel hopeless, is evidence of naivete, dishonesty, or self-denial.

Lyn Perry July 4, 2012 at 5:34 PM

Or compartmentalization (which you might categorize under self-deception). That is, on a temporal scale I know my job might be terminated at any moment, and yet I operate under the assumption that – as long as it lasts – I’m going to enjoy my work. It is not naivete, dishonest, or self-deception, in my opinion – it is taking what I know at the moment and letting myself experience the “now” for what it is, which is really all any of us can do with life. Might this analogy work on a grander scale? Can we simply enjoy the grand “diversion” for what it is? Yes, ultimately theologically hope-less, as defined by Christian doctrine, but not necessitating a hopeless attitude. Compartmentalizing my life into the here and now is a pragmatic approach that we all utilize, don’t you think?

Shayle July 4, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Lynn, you understand me and my feelings toward life!

Mike Duran July 4, 2012 at 5:48 PM

The job analogy doesn’t work for me, Lyn. One reason you could “operate under the assumption that – as long as it lasts – I’m going to enjoy my work” is that if/when you lose it, you can go get another. You still have the future. A better question would be, If you were going to be vaporized by an atomic bomb next week and suddenly realized that everything you believed about God was wrong, everything you worked for, and everyone you loved were going to be jettisoned into Oblivion, could you really continue to “enjoy your work” for that last week? It might be a pragmatic approach. But if someone chose to flip out and go postal, that too would make sense.

Bobby July 6, 2012 at 4:51 AM

I think this is very easy to do in theory, which is the playground of atheists. A playground, I might add, resting on the supports of a nation that knows little of discomfort.

The “now” of an American (or other developed nation) is very easy to enjoy. The “now” of others in the world is perhaps not so easy to embrace.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 2:21 PM

I assume, that if such a person, an atheist, had such a crisis in their belief construct as you are describing, they would modify their belief structure ( possibly coming to some form of faith), or they might commit suicide. That being said, many a person of faith, having a crisis of faith, has modified or given up their beliefs, or killed themselves in despair. What we are asking here is how a human reacts when his or her worldview is no longer possible given a major shift in perception of reality.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 1:35 PM

It might be wrong-headed (as Lyn said, filed under self-deception) but I think he has explained the “happy atheist” position well: “Can we simply enjoy the grand “diversion” for what it is?” It’s the existential approach to life. Sort of a, “I’m not dead yet,” approach.


Katherine Coble July 5, 2012 at 2:29 PM

In such cases people generally react according to modes predetermined by their lives up to that point. Studies of individuals in major catastrophic circumstances show some reverting to bestial action, others honouring further paradigms of civilisation. There hasn’t been a real marker discovered as to what causes one person to go one way and another the other. Generally, though, I tend to believe that _Lord Of The Flies_ is more common than Peter and Paul staying in the open jail cell and singing. You can’t make a case for the efficacy of faith by pointing to the reaction of a flawed human being to tragic circumstance. That opens a dangerous door.

Shayle July 5, 2012 at 3:04 PM


Rebecca LuElla Miller July 6, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Which, I just realized, Mike, as I hit reply, is why you’re saying “honest” atheists have only despair, not hope.

But the question is, are people who are self-deceived less honest because they don’t know they are fooling themselves?


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