Are theists nihilists?

I’ve just engaged with someone on Twitter and the last thing I said was ‘if we are made in god’s image then his image is annihilation, making theists nihilists’, and this got me thinking about the amount of times theists have claimed that atheism is built around nihilism, and thus deem everything worthless as the universe appeared randomly. The first question that I’d ask here is how does anyone know for sure that the birth of the universe was random. How does anyone known that there wasn’t a natural chain of events that led to the primeval atom? Scientists can go back in time and roughly assert when the universe began, but whilst there are strong theories of why it happened, no one knows how and what led to it. We could get really deep into theories but instead I’m going to focus on creationism and how belief in that can allegedly give life purpose.

Theists who believe that their gods created everything from nothing centre around the Abrahamic faiths, and insist the universe and all life is created by an all-powerful, all-knowing supreme being that created us so that we can serve him. If you can find someone who’s suffered a life of slavery, ask if they felt their like had purpose or meaning by having to fear and obey their master, or upon judgement they’d be treated accordingly to their behaviour. This obviously leads to sin and temptation, and in the mind of the religious to lead a virtuous, sin-free life, then you must obey the rules set out, and resist temptation. Only by following these rules does it give you the illusion of morality as obeying the will of your master potentially leads to reward in the next life, or afterlife. Theists often see this life as a rehearsal for the next, and they don’t care about the state the planet is left in, as this life is just to seek salvation from Christ, or whoever they believe in so they have promise of fulfilment after death. Many theists don’t accept climate change, or many of the other ecological problems we face as they believe god has a purpose and as mere humans we are to serve not to question.

Theists are always saying that atheists believe the universe started randomly and everything we see came from random events. This means that if everything is without purpose, then it’s meaningless. What a miserable point of view to project onto people who aren’t willing to accept god created us. Even if life is random, which there’s clearly no doubt as evolution is only influenced by survival, what makes the birth of life, and the trillions of objects of life on the Earth without meaning? We still don’t know, however likely it is, that we might be the only planet that’s in the right location to harbour life. Just imagine we are alone in the universe, this makes the randomness of Earth building life have meaning, as it’s said that life is precious.

Regarding the title of this article, do I think theists are nihilists? Well, the evidence speaks for itself. We are all allegedly built in the image of god. God is vengeful. He brutal. He’s unforgiving. He’s jealous. He wants everything his own way and be the only god his flock worship. He’s destroyed the planet bar everything that lived on the ARK, yet theists are convinced that what he did in the Great Flood was justified as his perfect creation had gone rogue and he no longer had control over us as he allegedly gave us free will to be whatever we desired. This all-powerful god allows death and destruction spread throughout this world and never prevents any of it. We are in the midst of a pandemic that god could have prevented, but he clearly enjoys watching destruction and his servants lap it up and claim that wearing masks during COVID-19 is an infringement on their rights. If that isn’t a case for theistic nihilism I don’t know what is.

A few musings on the absurdity of religious objective morality

I’ve been thinking about the objective morality conundrum and as it stands it seems to be the non-theistic who accept that morality’s subjective and you always do, when possible, the right thing as that’s what we are meant to do as a social species who thrives to survive. Humans have intrinsically developed emotions through evolutionary processes like natural selection, which is the ability to survive and prosper within their society, ecosystem and environment. Empathy, humility and compassion have come into play, as to live a virtuous life there has to be standards of behaviour and boundaries that shouldn’t ever be crossed: ie murder or rape as they inflict harm against and violate basic human rights.

If you try and adopt a variation of the golden rule where do unto others as you wish done to you, then as long as you make decisions that are within your control that amount to the greater good then virtuosity can be achieved. Religions like Buddhism, Taoism and Jainism are all based on philosophies that attempt to reach spiritual enlightenment where they can be the most virtuous person possible. What’s to be noted is each is a religion, or arguably a philosophy, that has no faith in gods or deities, and their main focuses are to eliminate suffering. Buddhism uses the Noble Eightfold Path as a basis for their outlook on life, and through their idea of moral virtues one should do three things to live a moral life. Say the right thing, do the right thing and live a life without greed, envy, hatred or amoral activities.

So taking all of that into account, there’s no need for the ridiculous notion that only through a spiritual law giver can objective morality be achieved. Objective means fact, that’s presented without bias, opinion or influence. I’m going to use Christianity as a prime example. Many schisms have broken away from Christianity and have gone on to form other sects, like Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah’s witnesses and Baptists. Each interpret their religious scripture differently, and adhere, if they are truly faithful, to the tenets and doctrines that their religion has implemented for them to be righteous under their particular faith in their god.

Despite Judaism having the mitzvahs, and Christianity having the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), there are still grey areas that their alleged moral compass doesn’t cover, as society has changed in the last few thousand years and we’ve developed dramatically, and the world is a radically different place than it was when Jesus allegedly walked the Earth and presented the people of Israel with the gospels. Areas like slavery, animal cruelty, racial equality, religious freedom, freedom from religion, secularism, liberalism, same sex and LBGTQ rights, gender equality are all areas that religious teachings don’t even brush the surface about, so how can any religion claim to have objective moral standards?

So not only do different sects of faiths have different ideologies, rituals, dogmas, tenets, doctrines, traditions, worship, beliefs and expectations, people still attempt to claim that religions that are following the Christian god observe objective morality. Put so simple a child could understand, if two religions have different viewpoints about an ideology then it’s opinion based, or influence based, and it’s subjective. This isn’t even taking in to account that for a law giver’s moral code to be valid, there must be evidence of their law giver’s existence and this isn’t universally accepted. If something isn’t universally accepted then it can’t be objective.

Emanuel Kant came up with the Kantian Ideology which briefly summed up means so that a person could do the right thing because it’s their duty, and as soon as the motivation of reward comes into play, the action cannot be considered moral as it’s fuelled by agenda. The idea of Kant’s ‘Good Will’ is a rational basis for trying to lead a moral, ethical and virtuous life. Doing something that you think is good doesn’t make it good, it’s the intent behind your decision to take action that determines if it’s an act of good will. If there’s incentive to follow a code as it’s expected of you because your Holy book says so, and if you don’t obey, you could upset your god and upon judgement you could be punished, that’s not even remotely a basis of morality.

Is murder wrong?

I could just say of course it is and it’s a ridiculous question to ask, and I fully agree, but most non-religious people have encountered a wannabe theistic philosopher who challenged you to explain how without god in your life, how can you explain that murder is wrong. First off, let’s assert what murder means. Oxford dictionary describes murder as:-

“the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.”

The important word there is premeditated which means that you’ve considered the action and decided to act on it, often involving some kind of planning. Let’s say that you’re attacked in the street from out of nowhere and you have to defend yourself and unfortunately your reaction causes the death of your assailant. Is this justified to take the life of another human being? If it means that you could potentially be a homicide victim then what choice do you have?

In Exodus 20:13 KJV it clearly states that ‘thou shall not kill’, and it clearly doesn’t define what you shouldn’t kill. The Geneva Convention of 1949 suggests that it’s unlawful to wilfully kill, especially someone who is unarmed. The U.S.A is predominantly religious nation, yet 30 out of the 50 states still have the death penalty for the most heinous crimes. How is this justifiable in the eyes of their god? Leviticus 24:20 says:-

“Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.”

This suggests that whatever someone does to another should be done to them. Doesn’t this directly contradict the thou shall not kill law? What gives a human the right to take the life of another human, even if that human took the life of another? Killing that person as a result of their crime doesn’t cancel the crime and bring the deceased back to life. Take Islam as a prime example of using execution as a punishment for disobeying the religion. In countries that have adopted Sharia Law, there are a multitude of alleged sins that can result in execution to this day in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Mauritania that include; apostasy, homosexuality, rape, drug smuggling, treason, blasphemy, adultery, murder and witchcraft. I’d love a Muslim to justify how being a homosexual as an example is worthy of execution. The punishment is extremely severe and inhuman for the alleged crime.

So back to the initial question. Is murder wrong, and how can it be justified without god in your life? To take a life without justification is robbing someone of their future experiences and affects those around them who have to grieve the loss of a loved one. Religious people claim that they have the moral high ground because their god is an unequalled law-giver, and because atheists don’t have this guidance they have no justification as to why murder is wrong. Murder is inherently wrong whatever way you look at it because it causes suffering, and to cause another person suffering is amoral.

From my perspective being an atheist, murder is wrong for many reasons that include observing the golden rule which is essentially don’t do to others that you don’t want done to you. Many societies through history have loosely adopted this philosophy. If you take a life it’s irreversible. That person isn’t ever going to return and the murdered is denied any future happiness. Most societies deem murder to be wrong as it goes against the rules of a society, and if a society constantly has rules disobeyed then it breaks down and becomes a lawless state where anything goes, and no one wants that.

Would you want to be murdered? No, of course you wouldn’t, so surely the distaste of imagining being a murder victim is enough to prevent you from committing an act of murder against another, especially if you understand the emotion of empathy. Murder is perhaps the most harmful and destructive action that one can do against another human being. We all have just one life, and it’s irreplaceable. We value our own lives and the lives of our loved ones, so this logic should be applied to the rest of humanity. We have rights as a human, not only lawful rights but ethical rights and life is precious. I could argue that all life is precious but that’s an article for another day.