April 27, 2022

Mere Atheism vs. Positive Philosophy

Atheism means almost nothing. It’s just a negation—a rejection of the notion that a god exists.

A person’s rejection of the existence of a god says nothing about what he accepts as true, why he accepts the ideas he accepts, how he arrived at his conclusions, or how he and others should and shouldn’t act.

What do you accept as true—and why? These are the questions that matter most.

What are your thoughts on the nature of existence? Do things that exist have a definite identity? Is a rock a rock, a person a person, a trade a trade, and theft theft? Or can a person be a rock? Or theft a trade?

Must things act in accordance with their natures or identities? Can a rock make a choice? Can a person turn into a pillar of salt? Can a thief have high self-esteem or acheive long-term happiness? Why, or why not?

These are metaphysical questions—questions about the way the world fundamentally is—and your answers to such questions underlie and have consequences for everything else you think, accept, and do in life.

Likewise, what are your thoughts on how you can know what is true? Do you know by observing reality with your five senses and mentally integrating your observations into concepts, such as “rock,” “person,” “trade,” “theft,” “self-esteem,” “happiness”—and generalizations, such as “rocks are inanimate” and “people need certain things in order to live” and “self-esteem is essential to happiness”? Or do you know what’s true by consulting your emotions or feelings in disregard of such observations and integrations? Or by deferring to the claims of a leader or the consensus of a tribe?

These are epistemological questions—questions about the nature and means of human knowledge. And your answers to such questions underlie and determine everything else you think, accept, and do.

Similarly, what are your thoughts on how we determine what is morally right and wrong? How do you decide what you should and shouldn’t do? Do you ask yourself: What are the factual requirements of your life and flourishing given the kind of being you are, and then answer that question using reason, observation, and logic? Or do you disregard such facts and consult your emotions or feelings? Or do you turn to other people, a leader, or a tribe to see what they say you should and shouldn’t do?

These are ethical questions, and your answers to them have profound consequences for your life.

So, being an atheist? Not believing in a god? Sure, it means something. But not much. It doesn’t even say why you reject the existence of a god. Do you reject it because you see no evidence to support his existence? Or do you reject it to be a nonconformist, or to piss off your parents, or to fit in with a group or impress other atheists? Only one of these reasons is intellectually responsible.

And even if you reject the existence of god for that reason, your atheism still says nothing about whether you hold—as a matter of principle—that evidence and logic are the only proper standards for accepting ideas as true.

Atheism is just no big a deal.

Your positive philosophy on the other hand—what you do accept as true and the means by which you accept it—this is a big deal. This is something to think about, talk about, check for accuracy, hone, and refine. And the reason all of this is worth doing is that an observation-based, logically integrated philosophy is your means of keeping your ideas connected to reality so that you can act successfully and achieve happiness in reality.

The philosophy you embrace determines whether your ideas are derived from reality and thus useful in reality. It determines whether you live a wonderful life or something less.

Atheism is relatively trivial. Your positive philosophy is profoundly important.


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