Atheism: A Philosophy Without Hope?
WLC has written an article about if atheism is a philosophy without hope. I am writing this as I read each part as I feel this gives the truest reflection of reactions he will get to it.
Moving past, at least for the moment, that many of the atheists online do not see atheism as a philosophy at all and see it as simply non-theism, which is one of the definitions covered in Evolution of Atheism, we can understand the context WLC is using atheism. He is using it in the propositional sense we spoke about before, which is the way I prefer atheism to be defined, and how this proposition is tied to more than simply that one thing too, but the wealth of atheology and other aspects of philosophy that are entailed if atheism is true.
If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope
If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence.Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – Accessed 28/02/2023
I think it is safe to say that Craig is not saying an atheist cannot have hope in general, he is talking about hope in the second life that makes up for how imperfect this life is. This almost seems like a bait-and-switch right away, because it’s not talking about hope in general yet he is saying atheism is a philosophy without hope.
I’d have to question WLC here though and be sure that, even though he is a Christian, he agrees his statement would relate to most forms of theism. Especially something like Islam which has the same sort of afterlife paradigm but even religions like Hinduism with that Karmic retribution eventually reaching enlightenment and joining Brahma.
Whether or not you think these other religions are wrong is irrelevant to this point, they would have this same sort of hope. This isn’t the time for, “ah, but only the Christian hope is valid!” style statements, if anyone was thinking of making them, as any other religion could say the same, and the average atheist would say the same about all of you.
Deliverance from Evil
He goes on to say:
For example, there is no hope for deliverance from evil. Although many people ask how God could create a world involving so much evil, by far most of the suffering in the world is due to man’s own inhumanity to man. The horror of two world wars during the last century effectively destroyed the 19th century’s naive optimism about human progress. If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope for deliverance from evil.Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – accessed 28/02/2023Trending
The most obvious problem I would like to point out here is that the average atheist doesn’t believe in evil in the whole Luciferin demonic hellscape way. To us, it is just a label prescribed to really harmful conscious acts. An intentional act so bad it is ‘evil’.
That’s why, if there is a god, there are these natural evils, e.g. evolutionary suffering, eye parasites, bone cancer and so on, yet if there is no god it isn’t evil in this metaphysical sense, it is just the way the world works.
Either way, we still see the aforementioned as incredibly unfortunate things, and may even use ‘evil’ to describe them even if we don’t mean it in the same way. WLC is essentially saying that we atheists have no hope that these things are going to get better in the next life. That the child dying so young is simply having their life taken away from them rather than getting to the eternal reward of heaven faster.
Ok, we don’t have that hope. It seems like false hope to us. It can even seem like an excuse not to care about people in this world as much, to not do what we can for them because they will be cared for in the next life. This could go further and be an excuse (for some people, not necessarily you) to allow capitalism to continue to ravage the 99% whilst allowing the 1% to thrive because “It’ll get better in the next life.”
If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope
I find the following line especially troubling:
If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope for deliverance from evil.Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – accessed 28/02/2023.
It’s not that there is no hope, it’s that we have to actually rally people and raise folks with strong ethics and critical thinking skills so that they are willing to work towards a better world. We, as a species, whether there is a god or not, should all be working to improve this life, not only for ourselves but for all that come after us.
Or again, if there is no God, there is no hope of deliverance from aging, disease, and death.Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – accessed 28/02/2023.
The more I read, the more I feel this entire premise of hope is based on things that are feared. Yes, it’s not nice that our existence is finite, or at least more finite than many of us would like. Yup, disease is awful, and ageing is a generally unpleasant process too. Science has helped cure or manage many diseases and helped us to live longer lives. Who knows what the future might bring with enough funding being pumped into this avenue instead of being tithed into someone’s back pocket?
Now, some churches do some amazing charity work too and are not the tax-free businesses like the mega-churches. I would like to see more atheists and atheist/humanist organisations equally representing the positive work done by churches, but I feel so much of the positive works are ruined by folks like Joel Osteen with their $10.5 million mansion, and secondary home worth $2.9 million, the money shoved into walls… he reportedly generates about $55 million a year (https://wealthygorilla.com/joel-osteen-net-worth) and spends that money on homes and sports vehicles and the like.
Money generated through the church should go to things that the church stands for. Helping neighbours, both those close to home and around the world.
But why help people when they’ll be ok in the next life? Why improve this finite existence when there is an eternity ahead?
Atheism is thus a philosophy without hope.
In fact, reading on, he much confirms my suspicions up to now:
There is no afterlife beyond the grave. Atheism is thus a philosophy without hope.
Notice that I’m talking about the shortcomings of our finite existence. I identify two in particular: (i) evil and (ii) aging, disease, and death. It seems to me that atheism is hopeless in these matters.Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – accessed 28/02/2023.
Atheism on its own can be said to be just as hopeless as theism in these matters if you are just taking them at their core. It is either a belief a god does or does not exist (at least in how WLC and I are using the terms) – It is the logical entailments and additional worldviews that come into play.
You’re not making a fair comparison by comparing a religion, one with doctrine, beliefs, and rituals to an ontological position. A better comparison might be something like secular humanism, though arguably this is still quite infantile in its development.
Is that Ironic?
Sartre, Camus, and many other atheists have eloquently expressed the despair to which atheism leads. In this sense atheism is hopeless.
Ironically, Christianity, by contrast, not only provides hope of deliverance from evil and from aging, disease, and death, but it also furnishes the hope which you yourself cherish: deliverance from the hands of a just and holy God.Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – accessed 28/02/2023.
Ironically, I feel you’re using irony in the way Alanis Morisette did. Now isn’t that ironic?
If this particular aspect of atheism seems hopeless to you, then that is fine. We atheists do not have the hope of an afterlife. I think it is an awfully hasty generalisation to say atheism as a whole is hopeless.
And you seem to forget that not just Christianity, but other religions have many of the same offerings. Isn’t that ironic, don’t you think?
Whilst I agree that perhaps false hope might be better than absolutely no hope at all, I think the lack of hope in an afterlife enables us to focus on there here and now, and put hope in things that, whilst not perfect, have a demonstrable positive effect on this world.
“My hope’s better than your hope”
Thus any hope the atheist might entertain is enjoyed many times over by the Christian, for we enjoy, not merely escape from judgement, but positive salvation.Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – accessed 28/02/2023.
We’re going into what you believe you have here, but Christianity is not the only religion, and it could easily be offering false hope. Therefore, your hope will not be enjoyed many times over, and in fact, you will have wasted your life planning for a life that never comes.
So, what if your hope is ill-founded? What if you’re wrong?
WLC gets a little preachy in the next but and then repeats what I have already addressed in the tweet section on page one, but he finishes like this:
But the atheist’s hope is by his own admission without strong foundation. So, what if your hope is ill-founded? What if you’re wrong?Atheism: A Philosophy without Hope? | Reasonable Faith – accessed 28/02/2023.
There are plenty of things I hope for that I feel I have a strong foundation for. In fact, the hope I have for science, technology, medicine etc is based on the continued improvements throughout the millennia.
The hope I have is grounded in things from this world. Inductive and deductive reasoning combined with various forms of evidence is what my hopes are grounded in.
You feel your hope has a strong foundation, just like any other theist in any other religion does, but when you peel back the layers, it does not have the same sorts of foundations. In fact, quite often the conclusion is started with, and the foundations are slipped in at the end after working top down.
Your question at the end can easily be said back to you, “So, what if your hope is ill-founded? What if you’re wrong?”
Except, I would go as far as to say that even if you are right, which I strongly doubt, your hope is ill-founded. It seems to be based entirely on fear and desire instead of anything sturdier.
I really think your time could be better spent focusing on improving this world and setting a good example for other Christians to follow than making posts like this which seem to be way below your ability.
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