Atheism is an Invitation to an Honest Encounter with Death?

Based on thinking about Albert Camus’s atheism, I think I’ve arrived at the perfect atheist/agnostic bus ad:

“Atheism is an invitation to an honest encounter with death.”

How’s that for something on the side of a bus that would get people thinking!

That’s it.

Such an ad gets right to the heart of the matter. It at once exposes religion for it’s “Emperor has no clothes” pretending that it knows something certain about it (that is, religion is a dishonest encounter with death), and it implies an honest, and even heroic, way through. Once you’ve had that honest encounter with death via atheism/agnosticism, what seemed an invitation to despair turns out to be a space for living in rebellion against death, and in skepticism, freedom, and passion (all the while knowing that the rebellion is probably, ultimately, a vanity).

Here’s how Albert Camus put it in the “Myth of Sisyphus”:

“I derive from the absurd three consequences: my revolt, my freedom, and my passion. By the sheer activity of consciousness, I transform in a rule of life what was an invitation to death—and I refuse suicide.”

I mean why, afterall, does anyone become religious in the first place? To avoid an honest encounter with death, right?

Atheism/agnosticism entails the opposite, with all that implies, which is why people fear atheism. And to say it up front and without apologies gives it a prophetic power. It’s like Jesus telling a person thinking of following him: “Take up your cross.”

That was a successful ad campaign too.

Sometimes the subversion of the expected is what gets people really going in your direction.

In short, here’s what a vital atheism/agnosticism (should) be about:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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