An atheist’s despair at the universe’s apparent lack of purpose—and a plea for meaning?

Some of the lyrics:

Give me something

to believe.

Cause I am living

just to breath.

And I need something

more to keep on

breathing for.

So give me something

to believe.

Is atheism a dead end that leads to anxiety and angst?

Fyodor Dostoevsky, in his Brothers Karamazov, suggests that the path of freedom (and atheism) is simply intolerable for most human beings. What people crave is miracle, mystery, and authority—something (outside themselves) to believe in.

If you don’t find yourself going into the manufacture of plastics as a career, the priest and magician biz still has lots of openings.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to An atheist’s despair at the universe’s apparent lack of purpose—and a plea for meaning?

  1. Arius says:

    Bruce Calvert once said: it is easier to believe than it is to think–hence, more believers than thinkers.

    Fiction is generally the best seller for inspiration–so much for boring reality huh;)

    Loving your satire.

  2. santitafarella says:

    Arius:

    I like that more believers than thinkers idea. I’ve never heard that.

    —Santi

  3. Michael Todd says:

    I would like to comment, amicably of course, on that Bruce Calvert quote.
    Suppose for a moment that the Cosmos is all there is. Our thoughts, memory, emotions, and personality are therefore ultimately and merely electrochemical reactions within a Great Cascade of matter/energy fluctuations. While the atheist may regard the Christian as timidly hiding behind the skirt of religion refusing to face the chilling truth of the futility of his existence, he (the atheist) with resolute courage accepts that stark reality and finds it liberating to be unfettered from notions of an Almighty God.
    Yet if that Great Cascade of matter/energy is indeed one’s Ultimate, then categories such as correct/incorrect, right/wrong, or good/evil must be admitted as conventions that man has superimposed on the great cosmic flux. At the base of it all there is in actuality no correct or incorrect since all conscious activity is an illusion, a lifeless outworking of physically predetermined impersonal forces. There is therefore no epistemological basis for a belief in the uniformity of nature, empirical proof, or rational thought. The atheist, in accordance with his professed beliefs, cannot know anything, whether it is two plus two equals four or whether he himself or God does or does not exist.
    This is obviously not a comprehensive defense of the Christian faith. I wish to elaborate, perhaps later. The heart of the matter is this, it may seem audacious but it is nonetheless true: only by presupposing the truth of Scripture, consciously or subconsciously, can any person know anything.

    • santitafarella says:

      Michael,

      I was almost with you, until the last paragraph. Your initial argument is Nietzsche’s, and in this I agree that nihilism is the proper conclusion to draw from atheism. But epistemic failure does not follow, nor does the arbitrary selection of scripture to believe in help you in any way know whether you’ve picked the right book of scripture, or discovered the correct intepretation of it.

      Also, I don’t think being religious lets you off the hook concerning nihilism. Does God, for example, follow the moral law because it is moral or because God declares it moral? Even God, you see, chases his tail.

      Does God have a tail?

      —Santi

  4. Arius says:

    Santi; your reply, the last paragraph to Michael implies a dangerous trend to traditional Christian thought: Euthyphro’s dilemma-an argument that forces the acceptance of insidious behavior; formidably so. I wonder if Michael has considered that all are atheistic towards competitive belief systems; an inescapable aspect of theist alike.

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