This post has no intention to refute any belief be it the atheist’s or the religious person’s. Its basic intention is to present the implications of atheism that often go unnoticed and to demonstrate that the atheists - the same way religious believers do - cannot live totally in accordance with their own worldview.
Most atheists do not adopt a harmonic philosophical system and fail to correlate crucial ideas that could change their worldviews and lives.
Anyway these implications I see and present here do not mean that I think atheism or materialism is false nor they advocate for God’s existence. Rather, they point out what is at stake should atheism and materialism be adopted by everyone.
I feel the need to explain some of the abstract concepts that appear in the text because these posts are often read by very young people who have not yet completed studies of philosophy or logic.
So I will break the statement in smaller parts and in the end all the pieces will be put together to form the whole argument.
One of the main implications of atheism is materialism.
Implication: It’s a technical word used in logic. We could describe it as the presence of necessity. But it would be explaining obscurum per obscurius. So let’s say implication means that the presence of one thing means that a second thing must also be present.
Atheism: Simply not believing in any gods.
Materialism: Materialism here does not mean consumerism or the interest for goods and riches. It means that everything that exists is constituted of matter and energy. There is nothing else but matter and everything we perceive is ultimately formed by atoms and its particles.
Maybe we can find exceptions to this proposed rule, – i.e. people who are atheist but not materialist - but it is not very common and therefore not worth to argue in this short text.
Materialism implicates determinism.
Determinism: Every effect, without any exception, has a cause. Theoretically, if we could go back in time we would see every cause to every effect so we could witness how history really was. The same goes if we could go ahead. That is, the future is predictable in every single bit when one have the information about the variables that resulted in its materialization (of course this is possible only as a mental experiment).
Since every event comes from a former one and goes to second one based in the cause and effect process, nothing can be changed. Every event is already set.
It is not likely, but a few people sometimes question the implication of materialism in determinism. I believe that if you disagree about this particular implication, you don’t believe in a pure kind of materialism which may be interpreted by some as a mild concept of a deistic God. So you would not be a pure atheist.
Determinism means there is no free-will
Free-will: Free-will here is not to be understood as the choice between good and evil, but as if any of our choices have the capability to change the direction of events, which means, defeating determinism.
One could reasonably argue that there is the appearance of free-will and that’s enough for guiding our ordinary lives. True, but now knowing that we are all robots-like we could do some things that otherwise we would not do if we did not know this and believed in some sort of soul or absolute values as, for example, absolute value for the human life.
People having in mind this robot theory will have a sort of advantage over those who are limited by their beliefs in absolute value for the human life, for instance.
Someone might refrain from killing an enemy based on his belief in absolute value of life while someone else who thinks that we are just complex natural automatons will certainly kill if a chance appears, and probably for a far weaker reason (in principle).
So I think that in a way the second behavior is one form of realization of what Nietzsche has called Superman.
No free-will means there is not causal effect
Causal effect or causality: If my ideas and consciousness are caused by something else other than myself, of course everything I think and do is a secondary phenomenon. In other words, an illusion. Without free-will there is no possibility of human as an agent of causality.
Just to illustrate, I throw a stone in a lake. The water produces little waves. Did I interfere in reality? Or something in reality previously interfered in my brain and made me have the idea to throw the stone? Absence of causality (determinism) means the latter. In other words: Your thoughts don’t command your body to do anything. Instead the interactions of atoms command your thoughts so that your thoughts command your body. Your actions and thoughts have absolutely no primary causality.
If our thoughts and actions have not any primary causal effect it is a nonsense to go and preach atheism to the world in the first place. You cannot change anything because all is pre-determined. Everything that is supposed to be will be, no matter what you do.
No responsibility no morals
The notion of good and evil has no meaning. For example, the phrase “evils of Islam” is empty of rational meaning. The agent of a terrorist attack for instance could not have behaved otherwise because his actions resulted ultimately from the random unchangeable interaction of atoms.
Finally, we get to a greatly misused word, freedom. There is no room for such a concept as freedom since nobody choses anything even if they vigorously assume they do. This word can be banned from the dictionary. It may seem silly to say that, but it is necessary: The appearance of freedom is not freedom.
Now let’s put the steps together and form a unique statement:
Atheism implies materialism which implies determinism which implies no free-will which implies no causality which implies no freedom which implies no morals which implies no responsibility which implies no good or evil which implies a free for all.
Again, I am not either for or against atheism or materialism if people genuinely believe it. Besides if it is true, literally nothing can be done about it.
But it is not possible to deny that, if true, materialism imply that nobody could be morally condemned of any wrongdoing or crime or that many values most people hold dear in this context are just illusions such as love, friendship, responsibility, rationality, trustiness, etc.
Here are a couple of grotesque illustrations of the implied extreme moral consequences:
If you want to have sex with a woman and she refuses, why not raping and killing her? After all she is just an over complex automaton which accidently appeared in nature and your own thoughts and decisions are pre-determined ultimately by the atoms and energy rather than the result of a true consciousness or soul.
Of course you cannot let society know about it because society by its own nature never behaves as a Nietzschean superman and in many cases it thinks it should intervene in individual affairs.
Killing for fun
Yes we could kill for fun. In what basis can we condemn someone who shots children in a school? Again, there is no free-will, all your thoughts are guided by the antecedent movement of the atoms. So you are not really responsible for the killings. Besides the victims are equivalent to automatons. So there is no substantial moral difference between killing real people and killing robots in a game.
There is no point for an atheist to behave like a Christian would, morally deploring killers and rapists (unless to promote himself to his social group) because there is not absolute value for life and there is no logical foundation left to morally condemn anyone of anything.
Of course the more you expose yourself in doing things contrary to society’s rules the more likely are the chances you get caught. But it does not mean you cannot be a Nietzschean superman once in a while provided that you get away with it.
An interesting way of assessing your personal value would then be by your ability to perceive which are your best opportunities to profitably betray society’s rules or your friends and by how much you were able to accomplish by effectively doing this.
One thing I cannot understand about all that was just presented here is why the promoters of such believes do not focus on these problematic implications very often. Maybe they just don’t fully understand them or worse, deliberately misguide the people who not rarely uncritically take their word for granted. Unfortunately, there is no good options between ignorance and malice.
Finally, in addition some famous atheists authors – who earn a lot of money with this ‘cause’, by the way – do not give Nietzsche’s ideas a fraction of the attention they deserve. Maybe just because Nietzsche’s philosophy is contrary to many beliefs their target audience probably hold dear.