The Truth About Nihilism and Atheists


When tragedy strikes and credit is misattributed to you by mere virtue of being human, as if you should be punished, but it’s the worst kind of fake-out– someone actually believes it’s true, and this someone has control of your life.

A Nobel Prize-winning non-fiction account of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 includes “Children’s Chorus”, wherein is found the personal experiences of our youngest potential world-savers as they remember the tragedy.

A poignant excerpt:

There was a black cloud, and hard rain. The puddles were yellow and green, like someone had poured paint into them. They said it was dust from the flowers. Grandma made us stay in the cellar. She got down on her knees and prayed. And she taught us, too. “Pray! It’s the end of the world. It’s God’s punishment for our sins.” My brother was eight and I was six. We started remembering our sins. He broke the glass can with the raspberry jam, and I didn’t tell my mom that I’d got my new dress caught on a fence and it ripped. I hid it in the closet.

Via “Children’s Chorus”, Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana Alexievich

It’s quite possible that the grandmother in this scenario believed what she told the children. 

This is a form of nihilism, turned on it’s usual philosophical head. The typical, casual accusation being that atheists are nihilists in believing there is no meaning behind religious or moral values, hence none to life itself, and therefore it stands to reason for some that, to an atheist, there is no meaning in life. The reality is that, it is possible to be nontheistic while subscribing to a moral code of values, which inherently means that “nihilistic” isn’t necessarily a descriptor of an atheist.

The tactics of the grandmother above are the kind of nihilism that erases all meaning of human life, invalidating the reality of the man-made nuclear disaster . . . taking away it’s core truth– that, indeed, many people do not value the individual human; at least, not enough to refrain from actions that directly threaten it. How many churchgoers vote for nuclear science, or for war, knowing of the world’s nuclear capabilities, neverminding the individual woman or man in need of a medical service, for they mean nothing while an entire community of faith in hope and myth means something. This human value fallacy makes it easy to diminish the worth of our fellows when they express themselves or make personal decisions that we don’t personally like.

Nuclear research– a form of the usual science, always in effort to know more because what we know simply isn’t enough. We’re too full of fault, even with religion. hazmat-suit-939720_960_720


We continue to evolve. Ah, but we were given the gift of a new energy resource (hopeful)! But that’s not all there is to nuclear, is it? The birth of nuclear science was based in human interest . . . in finding the ultimate answer, but ultimately in wielding the foremost power. It’s not a thing of nations but of people in a race for sustenance and growth. It’s complicated.

Oh, we’re not bashing science. Without the enlightenment of it, we’d still live in a world of nothing but religion, each one resorting to the use of fear to obtain the ends of a particular society. Science is the concurrent hope of the human, and our curse– much like the God of many.

There is duality in all things. Both a theistic and a nontheistic scientist have moral values and attribute meaning to and believe in things. Each of these scientists also possess immoral values, like any of their human counterparts. Ultimately, they are each human, no matter what they believe. One relies on verifiable Earth science and exhibited behavior, while the other relies on faith in superstitious lore, unexplainable events, and hope. Both may refer to myth and superstition, but only one will rely on these as comforts, alleviating any need for progress or attention to dire matters . . . or, possibly use them as the only out of a dire situation. Again, it’s complicated.

Which scientist is the best exemplification of humanity? It’s impossible to say. Humans are reasoning creatures, each with potential to make the best decision at the most critical time. The aim should be not in oppressing one or the other, but in a lifetime of teaching above both. There is one place this takes us– secularism. The real trouble lays in the worship of our beliefs.

How do we lay so much in simple philosophical thinking, which includes much on religion and people? It must be our greatest human weakness, and strength, one alongside the other at any time. Without free thinking and philosophical excursions and commitments, we could never rise above the status quo brutalities of our time. A true nihilist may be an atheist or a religious fanatic.

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