I just finished reading a very thoughtful post by Elisa from Culture War Reporters. I started to write a comment, but it was too verbose for me to post on the site. Instead, I’m writing a brief response here.
First, I want to say I found Elisa’s post both incredibly thoughtful and thought-provoking. I enjoyed reading it. I don’t mean to try to turn the focus to atheism, but our own backgrounds inevitably shape our thoughts about things, and I want to share my thoughts.
I wasn’t raised as an atheist – instead I was vaguely Christian. I figured out what I believed (or rather didn’t believe) when I was 12 or so. The thought I had while reading Elisa’s post is that there is a lesson here, perhaps, that can be learned from atheists. Many atheists (or perhaps more appropriately, humanists) focus on life and being a good person. Not holy, obviously. A lack of belief in any sort of afterlife certainly tends to instill an appreciation for the life you are living.
We get a lot of comments along the lines of, “If you don’t believe in God, what’s there to live for?” There are many variants of this question, and I’ve always found it odd. If you don’t believe in an afterlife or a soul or a god, there’s that much more to live for. With only one chance, ever, to live your life, many of us develop a greater appreciation of that chance. Of course there are more nihilistic individuals for which this isn’t true, but I would guess that most humanists aren’t nihilists as well.
What especially struck me about Elisa’s post is that this is the first time I’ve read such a considerate post from a theist on the subject. A good quote:
“I’m arguing against the notion that the only reason to live is for what we believe we get after death — this is, I think, imbued in the current culture; in the unthinking things we say about other doctrines and the assumptions we make about our own. And I think that it is ultimately destructive.” (emphasis mine)
There are so many more reasons to live, and the majority of them have nothing to do with supernatural beings or religions. I found Elisa’s perspective to be humble and fair-minded, but also humbling.* I hope you appreciate it as much as I did.
*Also, very well articulated.