Just watched in interesting video where a couple of guys answer the questions that they think (some) Christians believe are knock down arguments against atheism. The so called “gocha questions”.
It’s fronted by an atheist and an alien/polytheist. Actually, I think he’s joking. The joke being that the crazy stuff he is making up is just as valid as Christianity.
So what’s the first one?
Gocha No.1: “What happens when we die?”
Atheist answer : “Nothing”…and that is “not scary” because you were once nothing and that was ok. So they believe that you come from nothing and go to nothing, and rather than empty life of meaning, this makes you value every second of it.
Me: I used to argue exactly that and it did feel reassuring. But now, I struggle to see how objective meaning survives if we one day wink out of existence. What is the ultimate point of anything if we all go to nothing? The axe murderer and the charity worker both wink out of existence. That does not mean that people believing this will necessarily do bad things. Many do good things. But it does mean that no matter how relatively good or bad a person is, they might as well have acted in an entirely opposite way for all the good it does them in the long run. In fact every decision we make is of no consequence to us in the long run because there is no “us”. We all end up in nothingness. The book of Ecclesiastes considers this and concludes “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless”.
Now, in practice we don’t always live our lives based on deep philosophical thought, rather we act out of feelings, beliefs and desires. If it feels right, or good to help someone rather than harm them, we do that latter. The philosophical question still stands behind us though asking if there is any actual meaning to our actions if one day we will cease to exist. For us, nothing we ever do will make any difference.
It might make a difference to those left but if I also think that universe is headed for heat death and everything ending up as uniformly spread energy, then it seems there is no point in anything. Like a picture that was once drawn and then complexly erased. If there is nothing left to say that it was ever there, it might as well not have been. It had no meaning or purpose.
I agree that there is nothing to be feared in non-existence. How could there be? The belief that we cease to exist at some time in the future could though have a massive effect on our lives now. They might want to make the most of it, others might want to just end it. I still find it hard though to get into the mind of someone (or even my younger self) who thinks that everything they do is entirely pointless in the long term. Maybe I just think too much.