Is the world ready for the death of God?
There are casualties in the struggle to answer fundamental questions about the universe. For a long time, it has been powerful religious institutions that have burned, sliced, chopped, eviscerated, and snuffed opposing world views that undermined their own. Some may claim the Inquisition and Crusades were political in nature, but it cannot be denied the strength of the Church’s power and the continued desire to maintain its foothold were the real motives behind these political moves. Their most powerful tool was the use of fear; the terrifying prospect of a world without their order and their mandate was too frightening to imagine.
Nowadays, the hold of Christianity is waning. Without the political control they once possessed, the focus has now been placed on creating fear that without them humanity faces nihilism and dread. It’s been repeated so often that most Christians literally believe atheists are somehow immoral, corrupt and perverse. This notion permeates our reputation, and is a powerful way to keep the flock from investigating the possibility their religion may not be true.
Jesse Kilgore was a young man who struggled to figure out what to believe. After having read Richard Dawkin’s book, The God Delusion, he became depressed and morose. He believed laws and ethics were not sacred but rather products of societal convenience. Without the moral crutch of Christianity, he felt alone, isolated, and ultimately killed himself. His father, a highly religious man, feels it is atheism and Dawkins that are responsible for his death. Little does he understand, however, his entire belief system was a major component of why Jesse took his own life.
Christians like to keep the stakes of belief high. Fail to believe in God, and the whole world falls apart. If human beings are animals, they claim, then all things are permissible. But if this was true, why are atheists on average more law abiding than their religious counterparts? Surely if no law is sacred, then why obey them at all? This false choice is a common tactic to bash atheists. Laws and ethics do not need to be divine to be true, nor do human beings need the threat of Hell to ensure good behavior. What Jesse failed to realize was there is an instinctual need to cooperate, to have friendships, and to love others. His religious upbringing made him feel as though he had nothing to live for if his faith was gone. There was no voice of reason to tell him there is no need to feel nihilistic in the face of a godless universe.
Atheism isn’t a belief. It is simply the denial of god. What a person chooses to believe once a moral arbiter is removed is an individual decision. Most atheists choose to become humanists, trusting that human nature is cooperative and life is both precious and rare precisely BECAUSE it developed and flourished on its own in a universe that is hostile to organic life. Although it is true some atheists can become nihilists, it is a belief that is an entirely self destructive belief system.
It’s sad religious conservatives will use this death to continue to propose having no religion is somehow cancerous to the human mind. If they perpetually raise the stakes in this manner, they may notice their family and friends may be forced into such extremes the only way out may be drastic. I do not claim atheism makes you more or less moral. It is merely a conviction on the non existence of God. I can no more control this instinct than I can control my need to drink water when thirsty. What is certain is some human beings might be so shocked by this finding they may be unable to cope. I would venture to say the deep shock many highly religious people may face would be tempered if they realized ethics and morality are not bound by absolutes. They are the work of fallible men and women who wished only to make the human race more successful and peaceful, and despite what some religious people might tell you, I find this to be more beautiful and touching than any myth.