Have you ever been told that atheism is synonymous to nihilism and you can’t be one without the other? I have, and it’s happened more times than I can recall, but is it true, or is it another in a long line of baseless claims by theists? The Oxford dictionary defines nihilism as the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless. But to expand on that, true nihilists have no loyalties, no values as nothing is important, and in extreme cases an urge to destroy. Nihilism originated from the Latin word, ‘nihil‘, which means ‘nothing‘, which appears in the verb, annihilate‘, which means to bring to ‘nothing, or destroy‘.
Many theists use moral, or ethical nihilism to claim that without god then any action is without consequence or justification, as there’s no authority figure to answer to. They argue that from an atheists’ stance there’s no such thing as morality, so no action is preferable to another, so how can we suggest that murder is wrong? And if morality does exist then it’s artificial, and man made; thus subjective and meaningless. Because there are no moral truths without gods then there’s no right or wrong, good or bad, there just is, and something is not wrong, but it’s also not right.
“Error Theory holds that we do not know that any moral claim is true because (i) all moral claims are false, (ii) we have reason to believe that all moral claims are false, and (iii) because we are not justified in believing any claim we have reason to deny, we are therefore not justified in believing any moral claims at all.” – Source
Does anyone really know what’s right or wrong, and are theists correct with their claim that atheists have no moral compass? Moral nihilism claims there’s no natural value of purpose. If this is truly the case, then by definition morality has evolved in the human consciousness, as atheists don’t accept the higher, divine authority, so everything has come about naturally.
What theists tend to disregard in their argument that atheists inherently hold mo moral values is we are emotive, intelligent and social animals, that have to understand the nature of existence to mould into society, so I’d argue all day that despite morality being subjective to an extent, it’s intrinsically related to the human conscience. ‘Emmanuel Kant‘ explains it perfectly when he describes morality as good will, and you do something good as it’s your duty, as the actions of a compassionate human being, not because your actions can lead to promise of reward.
This leads me to the golden rule which can be found it most religions or ethical philosophies, which simply summed up means; ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ This is a great philosophy, but isn’t without flaws.. What’s ideal for one person isn’t necessarily, ideal for all, so objective universal morality must be harmful to some, so we must use empathy and reflect on our experiences to make the most suitable ethical decision that’s most likely to minimise suffering, and maximise happiness.
We as a society must forget about this ridiculous notion of divine authority over morality, and consider the implications of our actions, and to do this the focus must be on reason and honest scepticism. What’s the best way to understand someone’s needs? It’s to ask them, exchange dialogue and use consideration to form a decision that benefits them most of all. In other words you need to use critical thinking as what’s good for you, may be disastrous for another, so ethical and moral decision making is unique every time.
Being accused of being a nihilist because I don’t hold belief in a divine authority is derogatory and a huge insult, as just because there’s no objective meaning of life, doesn’t mean that my life, and the lives of others has no meaning, as if nothing has value, what is the point of living? I have many reasons to live, many interests, a loving wife and amazing dogs that bring me joy every day. I’m passionate about many things, be it equality, science, history, philosophy, the arts and sentient life, and I’m a vegetarian as my compassion outweighs my culinary desires. Don’t you dare ever tell me what I am, as everyone is unique, and what one person values, another sees it as worthless, and vice versa. I cannot understand the idea that humans, like all other life forms, exist just to replicate. If that’s the case, why have we developed emotions and not just remained as empty, instinct driven vessels?