Atheism leads to This, Christianity leads to That

Your philosophy does not necessarily lead to anything. It especially doesn’t lead to anything if you don’t know how to get where you’re going.

I want to articulate a problem I have with these correlations people posit between a worldview and its subscribers’ behaviour. A couple examples, if you haven’t already called them to mind, are:

“Atheism leads to immorality and nihilism”

“Christianity leads to fear and guilt and shame”

The first response that you get, if you post a statement like this anywhere, will from someone writing in capital letters to tell you that he or she happens to be an atheist (or a Christian), but certainly doesn’t behave that way. In fact, life is overflowing with milk and honey for this person. They’re as pious as Gandhi and as happy as… (I can’t think of any happy people to use in a hyperbole; is that bad?). If they met you in person, they’d kiss you right on the lips, as soon as they were finished tearing a strip off some guy with a nasty anonymous Internet comment.

In any case, there’s one problem here: just because you claim to espouse a philosophy doesn’t mean that you understand it. It doesn’t mean you live by it, or that it’s even possible to live by it. It doesn’t mean you grasp any of the relevant implications, aside from the ones that best serve your needs.

All that is required to call oneself an atheist is a lack of belief in God. All that is required to call oneself a Christian is lip service to belief in Jesus. Even your best attempts at living according to the principles of the latter (and whatever most arouses you about the former) will not necessarily put you in a state of mind that grasps the logical consequences of your position.

One of the logical consequences of Christianity is being extremely concerned about people burning in hell. This doesn’t mean that Christians accept the implications of this belief at any deep level. A part of their minds simply doesn’t believe it, or isn’t sure about it, or doesn’t want to think about it. This is the part that’s running most of the time. So a Christian doesn’t get to say “Christianity doesn’t lead to fear” just because he or she is unafraid. The lack of fear is nothing more than a lack of thinking about it. The lack of guilt is simply a lack of reflection upon the gravity of one’s sin in the face of an angry, angry, red-as-a-beet God.

Atheism (and these kind of statements always catch at least one drifter into an argument in my comment thread) does lead to some pretty depressing and terrible conclusions. But only if you think about them enough. Just because you’re happy–and no Sky Daddy can tell you what to do–doesn’t mean you get to pontificate. It doesn’t mean you get to sit there lazily disliking Youtube videos made by other atheists who are critiquing Christianity (but, having employed thinly-veiled sarcasm, are mistaken for the real thing). How atheists are doesn’t say anything about what atheism really implies. You may be a seemingly altruistic and non-nihilistic person, but that’s how most of us are when we’re raised in a good family with pleasures to look forward to in life, no reason to rob anyone, and no reason to worry too much about anything.

I’ve thought long and hard about both Christianity and atheism (at different times), and only in the moments where I really focused in on them, really thought about them–sunk every last one of my metaphysical poker chips into them–did I feel the overwhelming things associated with both. The rest of the time I felt pretty happy and moral (including this particular moment), just like all the other aloof forum-dwelling weasels of the world.

Who’d expect that thinking less (or not at all) would turn out to be the straightest path to the right answers?

It isn’t. In a contest between people who are affected and unaffected, I side with the affected. I don’t side with the one says: “I don’t smell anything, that noise doesn’t bother me, this isn’t spicy, I don’t feel a thing, I don’t see anything.” I side with the ones who can smell, hear, feel and see. It is more often the case that the unaffected simply lack the ability to perceive what is there, than that the affected falsely conjure something from nothing.

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3 Responses to “Atheism leads to This, Christianity leads to That”

  1. I agree with you. I’ve been on both sides of this “thinking” thing and I seem to be happiest when I don’t think about it too much. More than “Christianity leads to this” or “Atheism leads to that” I am coming to the conclusion that behavior such as nihilism and immorality associated with Atheism or fear or guilt or shame associated with Christianity have more to do with personality and upbringing than with a particular belief system.

    When I think too much about the possibility of there being no God I get depressed about the ramifications of that and if I think too much about the possibility of there being a God I get depressed about the ramifications of that as well.

    I know people who are Christian who seem as happy as clams (I couldn’t think of a person either) and I know some that mope about because they know what being a Christian means for those who aren’t which is somewhat nihilist. I also know people who call themselves Christians who are as immoral as they come. Then again, I know Atheists(online only because I don’t know any in real life) who seem to know where there are going and have a real purpose in life and those with devilshly fiendish ideas and behaviors.

  2. “It is more often the case that the unaffected simply lack the ability to perceive what is there, than that the affected falsely conjure something from nothing.”

    The exception being people who claim wind turbines cause headaches.

  3. Thanks.

    Wabasso: you do implicitly raise the (valid) objection that people can work themselves up over nothing. However, when a person is worked up over nothing it’s usually a question of whether X causes Y, or whether merely the beliefs/ideas about X cause Y. Is the turbine really affecting you, or are you just imagining that it is? In religion and philosophy there are only ideas, however, and there is no such thing as falsely imagining that a belief is affecting you.

    In my nihilistic moments I have become quite worked up over nothing.

    Ha.

    Ha.

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