What Are Some Consequences of the Atheistic Worldview?

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Bertrand Russell once said that if atheism was true we’d have no choice but to build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair” (1). Taken on their face, these words would seem to have far reaching implications for human value, life, and significance, and Russell would have agreed.

There is little more the atheist can do but to face the absurdity and despair of human existence and to try to live bravely in the face of it. It is this existence that the atheist philosopher Albert Camus struggled with. He struggled deeply with the idea of the absurdity of life and of human existence, an existence that forced human beings to live within an indifferent universe. Camus wasn’t the only one, however, as a colleague of his by the name Jean Paul Sartre discovered that “If God does not exist… man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon, either within or outside himself” (2). Equally as melancholic was the French biochemist Jacques Monod who in his book Chance and Necessity wrote that man has finally come to a place where he “knows he is alone in the indifferent immensity of the universe” (3).

One can neither forget the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who too had his gloomy but certain views on the subject. Nietzsche saw that when man killed God, so man killed himself too. In his work, The Gay Science, he famously penned that,

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” (4).

Nietzsche obviously did not believe that God actually died. Rather, for Nietzsche, God had never existed, and thus it was only our idea of God that had died, specifically the Christian version which he contended had “become unbelievable” (5). For Nietzsche the implications were severe, and so suggesting that God’s death wasn’t a particularly good thing. Not only did it suggest that the universe wasn’t made with us in mind, but that it also presented a challenge to our moral assumptions (which he referred to as “our entire European morality”). How, having removed God and the transcendent standard that is grounded within him, are we now to hold to a system of values in the absence of a divine order? Nietzsche contended that without God we had to reject our belief in an objective and universal moral law deemed binding upon all people, which led to morality itself collapsing into a smoldering heap. But Nietzsche saw that many would fail to come to terms with God’s death given the fact of our human nature which longs for meaning,

“God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown” (6).

However, the unbearable nature of the loss of any objective meaning and morality tends to result in most atheist being unable to live consistently with their atheism. They often, for instance, vocally denounce the superstition that is religious belief and belief in God. After all, today we have science. Science explains the world and science gives us meaning, so who needs God? The proud narrative within atheistic camps is that science has rendered belief in God irrational and out of date. However, whether that is true or not, it is when probing the carcass of a universe atheism has left humanity with that one wonders if contemporary atheists have really grasped the implications of their atheism.

As the notable atheist philosophers quoted above had observed in their own day, the image atheism paints isn’t a pleasant one.

Who, for example, is happy at the prospect of obliteration at death, and that whatever one has achieved in life, whether that be personal achievement or the helping of others, ultimately comes to nothing? Atheism demands that we come to terms with this, and like the universe, which itself will come to an end, so will human life. If the universe has no ultimate meaning, there is no reason to suppose that human life has any meaning and value within it. At most then our belief that human beings are valuable and capable of living meaningful lives is an illusion merely fobbed off onto us by our socio-biological conditioning. In an attempt to affirm the lack uniqueness of the human being, the atheist will reduce him or her to likes of any other animal. On atheism human beings possess no more intrinsic value than any other animal, and the claimed naturalistic narrative speaking of humanity’s place within the universe proves it. “Value,” in essence, does not exist, but is rather a construction of the human imagination, and not because some deity or God made animals and humans with intrinsic value.

Unfortunately, from the perspective of a human being, we seem to have received the rear end of the stick, for the only difference between the dog and the human is that the human can come to know and comprehend the meaninglessness of his own existence. According to the late atheist William Provine,

“No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there any absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life” (7).

The atheist will not only realize this but too discover that love is nothing more than dopamine and norepinephrine reactions within his brain. This is a hard fact to swallow should the human being have other of whom he or she loves.

As such, atheism paints a gloomy, hopeless portrait for what person is able to live with such a reality on a daily basis?

The Christian philosopher and theologian Francis Schaeffer provided an excellent commentary on the practical inconsistency of such an image. According to Schaeffer, modern man lives in a two-story house (8). On the bottom level is the finite world without God where life and existence is absurd. The upper level, however, is where value and purpose exist. Schaeffer stated that modern man lives in the lower story because he believes there is no God. However, modern man cannot live happily in such an absurd world. Modern man therefore has to repeatedly make leaps of faith into the upper story to affirm meaning, value, and purpose, even though he has no right to, since he does not believe in God. He is thus fully inconsistent when he makes this leap, one that he can’t help but make. He grabs for something that he believes does not exist, hence man cannot live consistently and happily.

And so it seems with atheists and their atheism.

This reminds me of Michael Shermer, a passionate atheist and the founder of The Skeptics Society. In his book he shares a tragic anecdote from his college days concerning the his girlfriend’s experience of a car accident which left her paralyzed her for life. In that moment of desperation Shermer prayed to God, begging him to heal her. But when his prayers went unanswered he turned his back on Christian belief entirely (9). One is moved by such a story and from the stories of countless others who have suffered similarly.

But on atheism this is the brutal reality of existence, and is it perhaps not this what Richard Dawkins had in mind when he famously declared that,

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” (10)

What Dawkins paints here is Shermer’s world, and the world of every atheist no matter how much protest there is to the contrary. What happens, just happens, and it doesn’t matter how one gets hurt, whether that’s Shermer’s former girlfriend or my own mother.

The clear implication of the enormity and significance that the question of God’s existence has, and what conclusion we reason to will undoubtedly shape us in nearly every possible way.

According to Nietzsche God had died long ago, but what do you say?


1. Russell, B. 1903. The Free Man’s Worship. Available.

2. Paul Sartre, J. The Rebel. p.75.

3. Monod, J. 1971. Chance and necessity: an essay on the natural philosophy of modern biology. p. 180.

4. Nietzsche, F. 1882. The Gay Science. p. 125.

5. Nietzsche, F. 1882. Ibid, p. 343.

6. Nietzsche, F. 1882. Ibid. p. 108.

7. Provine, W. 1988. Scientists, Face it! Science and Religion are Incompatible. Available.

8. Burson, S. & Walls, J. 2009. C. S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century… p. 96.

9. Miller, A. 2012. Book Review: The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. Available.

10. Dawkins, R. 1995. River Out of Eden. p. 131–32

11. Sagan, C. 1994. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.


14 responses to “What Are Some Consequences of the Atheistic Worldview?

      • Nihilism, like atheism and even humanism, seem to stir up both fear and exhilaration, i.e., fear of death, and exhilaration at relying on one’s own discoveries and making one’s own choices in life. I think Christianity stirs up both fear and exhilaration too with its notion of being saved or damned. Certainly many Christians fear for their souls and those of their loved ones and the souls of everyone on earth for that matter, and that viewing one’s self as part of a divine comedy as Dante did, is exhilarating. On the other hand, many Christians also seem to retain a fear not simply of hell, but of death as nothingness, and mourn just as greatly as atheists do when someone they love has died. The thought of anyone becoming a nihilist, including themselves, i.e., accepting that death is the end, also seems to strike a note of fear into Christians. Though ancient Hebrews apparently were able to accept that everyone who died, even the prophets, simply went to the same place as the animals, i.e., Sheol, the shadow land of eternal death, never to return.

        Does nihilism and atheism drive people to commit suicide? Atheists usually point out that they have everything to live for and not a whole lot of things they are eager to die for. Also, Christians suffer depression and even commit suicide like everyone else according to these figures (at the end are some quotations from nihilists on suicide, including some thoughts that one might call, “the lighter side of suicide”): https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/08/christians-or-non-christians-who-suffer.html

      • Camus posed one of the twentieth century’s best-known questions, which launches The Myth of Sisyphus: “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide” (MS, 3).

        But what does a nihilistʼs nihilist think of suicide? Forget Camus for a sec and read these quotations from E. M. Cioran:

        When people come to me saying they want to kill themselves, I tell them, “Whatʼs your rush? You can kill yourself any time you like. So calm down.” And they do calm down.

        It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.

        If death is as horrible as is claimed, how is it that after the passage of a certain period of time we consider happy any being, friend or enemy, who has ceased to live?

        In a world without melancholy, nightingales would start burping.

        What would be left of our tragedies if an insect were to present us theirs?

        Life inspires more dread than death—it is life which is the great unknown. (Or as Bertrand Russell put it, “We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think— in fact they do so.”)

        The Lighter Side of Suicide?

        Suicide is manʼs way of telling God, ‘You canʼt fire me – I quit.’—Bill Maher

        Potential suicides should keep in mind that itʼs a decision they have to live with for the rest of their lives.—paraphrase of something Paul Tillich wrote

        I am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.—David Levithan

        The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.—Friedrich Nietzsche

        There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.—Tennessee Williams

        The only difference between a suicide and a martyrdom really is the amount of press coverage.—Chuck Palahniuk

        I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed but all I could do was to get drunk again.—Charles Bukowski

        If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.—Mahatma Gandhi

        Once I tried to kill myself with a bungee cord. I kept almost dying.—Steven Wright

        Thereʼs no reason to live, but thereʼs no reason to die, either… Life is not worth the bother of leaving it.—Jacques Rigaut

        The New York Daily News suggested that my biggest war crime was not killing myself like a gentleman. Presumably Hitler was a gentleman.—Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

        “If the pain was constant and unbearable, or I was struggling for every breath and unable to sleep, I might consider suicide. I donʼt think Iʼve ever been the suicidal type because I have lots of addictive interests including making music. If the question is metaphysical, then I would add that metaphysics is sometimes full of bullsh*t. The thought of everything eventually perishing can create angst but not necessarily suicidal thoughts.”
        –Cecil Wyche [agnostic, non-Christian, though interested in religious philosophy]

        Devout Mormon Threatened to Harm Himself Unless His Brothers Stopped Cursing, Leaps to Death Rather than Endure Listening to Any More Profanity—(KSL News) Police now say an argument caused a 21-year-old man to jump from a moving truck. “Tyler Poulson was riding with his brothers last night when he became offended by one of them using profanity. Poulson, who recently returned from an LDS mission, threatened to get out of the truck if he continued. One of the men, not thinking he would, told Poulson to do so. Police said the car was going about 35 miles an hour when Poulson opened the door and jumped. He was pronounced dead on scene.” Posted Nov 12th, 2005

      • Major changes (or even minor challenges) to one’s well-entrenched philosophical, religious, political, sexual views often fills people with nausea, dread, sometimes terror.

        Also, even theists who believe this cosmos was created by and overseen every instant by an absolutely moral God, such theists are still stuck with the fact that people still hurt each other, and nature still hurts people, in horrible ways, and sometimes unexpected ways, and neither God, nor claims of having an absolute moral code, stops such things from happening. Of course judging by attempts to organize and regiment human behavior, you squeeze too tightly in one place, and some other kind of behavior appears that is making people upset for some other reason.

        As for absolute moral lessons derived from nature, we see microbes feasting on humans or their crops. We also see people (or their crops) drowned, crushed, frozen, seared in varied and unexpected ways. As for lessons in morality derived from nature there are hermit species and social species; herbivores and carnivores; some that mate for life, others that live to mate, and some that eat their mates. Plus, there are species in which sons mate with mothers, newborn children mate with each other, fathers kill other father’s children, mothers eat their children, daughters eat their mothers, and fetuses devour each other in the womb.

  1. You’ve come upon the heart of the matter, James. I’m glad, as an atheist, that I’ve followed your blog long enough to read this piece. Though I don’t necessarily subscribe to every supposition, particularly regarding the meaninglessness or unhappiness of the atheistic position, I’ll refrain from critique. Nevertheless, this may be the most astute and sensitive exploration of the nature of the question I’ve read here. Thank you.

  2. The statement, “if atheism is true. no matter how much we beg for a miracle, for a sign, for anything, there is no God on the other end to hear us. We are trapped on a rock that is no more than a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Karl Sagen

    I believe Mr Sagen was right, so why not make the best of it and try to better life on this “mote of dust”

    I **REJECT** the BELIEF in the EXISTENCE of any god or gods. There are NO facts or scientific evidence to support this supernatural belief system. There is no proof of an after life, or a soul, or of miracles, or Heaven or Hell, or that prayer doesn’t do anything except build up false hope(no one is listening), or any of that silliness Churches teach just to get your money.

    The “belief of a god is dying” is because the nones are “freethinkers” and becoming more secular. They are asking questions and receiving NO sensible answers. They are gathering evidence and facts from their I-Phones and discussing this subject with their friends. They are reading the Bible and that does it for many as it did for me.

    Is god dead? The god that was the father of Jesus(if there ever was a Jesus), IS dead because he only existed/exists in the brainwashed minds of his blind flock. In order for something to die, it must be alive to begin with, like be of flesh and blood, a heart, a body, etc.

    Religion is so silly, however, there are many who consider themselves religious and do many good things. On the contrary there are many and have been MANY MORE in the past who have murdered for their religious leaders.

    In my opinion, the World “EARTH” would be a MUCH< MUCH better place to live if there was no religion.

  3. Well said, and bravo for referencing Schaeffer. Truly NO ONE lives out the atheist belief system with “integrity”–I would recommend to you J Budzewsewski’s chapter in Why I Am a Christian edited by Geisler and Hoffman. In it he describes his own journey into and out of atheism. It’s brutally honest.
    Anecdotally, I know a few atheists, and I know a lot of serious Christians. If I were to make a decision about which to be based solely the apparent results of each choice…I certainly would not choose to be an atheist.

  4. The human condition consists in answering that question – why are we here? As countless philosophers have put it, rejecting a transcendent purpose rather than liberating us actually leads to despair and absurdity.

  5. Wow you really hit on some things I have been thinking about lately as an atheist. Non-existence scares the you know what out of me, not because I think I will care when it happens but I just can’t imagine it. I know the common response is you didn’t mind existing before you were born but that doesn’t seem to help. I believe unlike other animals for whatever reason our minds evolved to understand this fundamental truth but then we used religion as a coping mechanism.

    You know the other thing that hit me hard was the idea of justice, Hitler committed suicide … as a Christian I believed he was going to get what’s coming in the afterlife… now I realize he has the same fate as the most moral person on Earth. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we have to remember life is the way it is, not the way we want it to be. The matrix has it right … ultimately it comes down to the Blue or Red pill.

  6. The mere fact that there are atheists makes me wonder if belief in God and eternal existence of consciousness are even necessary for peace and joy, since atheists manage to have fulfillment believing there is no purpose to anything, and therefore literally nothing to hope for if everyone will eventually not exist to remember and experience anything. So many of them adamantly affirming that they are not afraid of death despite that, since you can’t know it if you don’t exist, and so can’t be harmful, makes me wonder if us theists, and specifically Christians, just believe what we do because we hate the idea of not existing anymore, and just use evidence that seems consistent with God and the bible to us to justify it, even though it might not be conclusive evidence and possibly evidence for something else. Even being convinced of the evidence, I wonder how most of it could matter, if after this life most of it will be irrelevant because we won’t need to know any of it, because the living conditions would make that knowledge useless. Not knowing it if we don’t exist is exactly what makes it hopeless, because everyone we love and what we love to experience would never be possible to be a part of again. It’s difficult to perceive how atheists suppress the truth that they are without excuse to ignore, as the bible says, if they so willingly believe something so hopeless and are adamantly affirming that they are convinced of that idea because of logic, and believing that there is evidence that contradicts the bible. I’m a Christian but have always been unsettled by the paradoxical feeling of eternal life. The idea of something never ending for us should be joyful, but I’m constantly horrified by the thought of there being only a limited amount of things one could possibly do for eternity, since there can’t be an infinite amount of them. At some time everything possible to exist will, and there will be no new things to experience. How could anything stay satisfying forever? It would seem then that no matter what one believes there is little or no hope to have without ignorance.
    It doesn’t make any sense to be annoyed by the belief in God or the afterlife. It is the only way there could be a hope to have. If there were no eternal continuation of life, there would be no reason for anything to exist and no reason to care about anything. But people and animals have love and care for others and what we experience in life. There would be no point for any of those feelings and the will to live to evolve and be inherited if all will eventually die and that be the end of it. There would be no advantage for anything then if it’s all literally for nothing. And most people in history have been theists and believers in eternal existence, then if we evolved, then that being the norm must have been advantageous to have the joy necessary to be fit to survive and reproduce, so hating belief in God and the bible makes no sense even from an evolutionary perspective.
    And I also, a few weeks ago, discovered Frank Turek, and his argument that no one can reason anything if we are subject to the workings of our brain, and have no choice what we believe then. As he puts it we wouldn’t be reasoning, merely reacting, so no one could factually deduce anything then if atheism is true and would make it self contradictory. That’s something I had never considered and helped me gain more peace, but the other things still concern me and make it difficult to maintain that peace.

  7. I have read literally hundreds of peoples dissertations arguing for or against the existence of a God. Each one exhibits one critical lack of consideration, and that is the psychology of our personality development. In my experience, I have found most so-called atheists to have a depressive type of personality. Basically what that says is that they subconsciously feel worthless, life is not worth living, and certainly any afterlife would not be eagerly anticipated; it probably would be worse. On the other hand those of us ( the majority) accept a concept of God, because we are more up-beat as a defense mechanism for our inadequacies, and therefore look to the future, even eternity. However, I also have noticed over the years (I’m 84), a near total irrationality regarding consideration of such a “Supreme Being”. The world has been at war from the beginning of recorded history over one group trying to impose its ideas on the rest of the world. With that observation, combined with my understanding that no one is allowed philosophically to attempt to speak definitively about any entity he/she cannot define, compelled me to define the “essence” of a Supreme Being. That I did in no uncertain terms. That essential definition erased all the mystery and contradiction seen in the thousands of world religions. I easily am able to define God (Allah,Yahweh, Buddha and all deities) under one heading; “a rose by any other name is still a rose”. In so doing, I developed a philosophy never before promulgated which easily removes the blanket of guilt from us and guarantees eternal happiness by virtue of God’s Perfect Love. Amazon calls it A REAL EYE OPENER. It is titled Wilderness Cry- a Scientific and Philosophical Approach to Understanding God and the Universe. All major book retailers. You may want to check it out.

  8. Pingback: RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS PART 149 WW Sir Bertrand Russell once said if atheism was true we’d have no choice but to build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair” and that ties in well with other m·

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