Humanity

“God is the reason most religious people use to feel significant where we otherwise wouldn’t be, and losing that can be a frightening prospect.”

Question from Evelyn:
From what I have read you have a major interest in our humanity and how we can be be significant in an otherwise insignificant world. Why is this important for an Atheist to feel this way?

Answer by SmartLX:
I think it’s important to a human being to feel this way. That’s why I get tons of arguments along the lines of, “If there’s no god then nothing we do matters.” God is the reason many religious people use to feel significant where we otherwise wouldn’t be, and losing that can be a frightening prospect.

What I’ve written on the subject is generally ways to claim significance without referring to an absolute authority, which is necessary to fill that gap. It’s easy, really, because we humans are tremendously significant to each other.

Ultimately I think we are insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe because besides us and any aliens who might come along, there’s no one out there to be significant to. And because of this, it shouldn’t matter to us in the slightest.

6 thoughts on “Humanity”

  1. As it turns out, the question is paraphrased from page 143 of The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog by James W. Sire. It’s from the section on “atheist existentialism” as opposed to atheism itself, and it’s not focused on the atheism part: “Existentialism’s major interest is in our humanity and how we can be significant in an otherwise insignificant world.”

    Sire is a fundamentalist Christian who from all accounts
    1. admits this bias at the start of the book,
    2. undertakes to keep it from affecting the content too much and
    3. utterly fails, such that non-Christian and especially non-theistic worldviews are severely criticised.

  2. Since this question was posted, it appears that many people have come across it by Googling the above sentence from the book, verbatim, together with a standard study question: “Why might it be/is it important for an Atheist to feel this way?”

    My guess is that the book is course material for a “Divinity” qualification or the equivalent, and we’ve had a group of its students through here. If anybody knows more, do fill me in.

  3. This question comes from a discussion question from a class that is called Christian Worldview and that is being given at Grand Canyon University.

  4. Thanks so much for that, Student.

    We’re still getting continuous traffic from it because, now that I know its name to search for it, apparently it’s a widely available course that many Christian colleges have picked up.

    Here’s the site where schools and individuals go to buy the course. Sure enough, The Universe Next Door is in the list of course texts.

  5. When I was younger I always had one response to “What is the meaning of life?” It was always “to be happy”. I still think that is an appropriate definition. Even if I analyze it a bit more.

    What is the ideal human state (the state that you enjoy being in the most)? I’d argue happiness. As an atheist, I don’t see a “this is why we are here” purpose. Instead I see my own unique perspective of the world. I experience life and I experience what brings happiness, and what brings sadness, and what brings other emotions. I have my own definition of happiness, and so do you. Since the only body I have is this one, and the only mind I have is my own, I don’t see any reason to focus my life’s purpose away from myself. Now this isn’t saying that I don’t believe in doing good for others, or dedicating yourself to a greater cause. Because those things can be part of happiness, if those things make you happy. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t do, just because others do, or because others expect it of you. You shouldn’t be what people want you to be. You should never live a life you might come to regret. Of course you may partially break those rules above if your survival or well-being depends on it.

    So in general my significance is my own happiness, which is a great thing. Also the happiness of those around me and those I care about, which in turn brings happiness to me. Also the well-being of humans across the world, which brings happiness to me. My significance will be whether or not the moment before I die I say “I’m glad I lived the life I did” or “Gosh I wish I would have….”. Personally I try to keep it simple. I can tell you right now that I’m happy :). I will continue to work to maintain this.

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