Atheists’ Affirmative Beliefs
Your friend has rejected religion. There is not a God, he believes. There is not a Creator of the universe. There is not a Sustainer of it. There is not a God present among us in some way. There is not a God component to our conscious self-awareness. There is not a transcendent basis for abstract ideals. There is not a measure for value outside of what is evolved in man.
A lot of “nots” there. It’s time to figure out what the atheist materialist affirmatively believes, rather than giving him a pass at merely saying what he doesn’t believe.
The project here is to imagine that there is no reality other than material reality. No God, of course, but also no angels, demons, or “fairies at the foot of the garden.” There is nothing in our experience that derives from any source other than matter, time, energy, and the laws of physics acting upon them. This means that all we are is the sum of all the vectors of movement of material, from some unexplained beginning down to the present moment.
A materialist atheist must hold to certain basic principles of truth. His catechism cannot be allowed to stand as merely a rejection of theist doctrines. Atheist materialism is just as much an ideology as any Christian or other theist doctrine. It’s not “nothing.”
The Atheist Catechism
First, an atheist materialist must believe that he has no soul. There is no part of him that is immaterial, therefore no part of him that can be said to be eternal. His only way to live on, after death, is in the memory of those he has encountered in life.
There is no afterlife of any kind. Once a man dies, his consciousness simply ceases. He has no more awareness of any kind, because all of his life-awareness resided in the memory of a living brain, which has now ceased to function. After death, there is only oblivion.
During this life in the body, a person’s conscious self-awareness is largely a mystery. It is necessarily a mystery which resides solely in the workings of the brain, however. There is no basis for explaining subjective experience, and awareness of subjective experience, other than the neural networks of the brain, processing sensory input, making rapid associations, and containing memory. All of our consciousness resides in the living brain, there is nothing on a level beyond that which would assist in understanding how one is not only able to think, but to think abstractly, and to think about thinking, and to exercise imagination, and to contemplate the boundaries of our ability to think.
There is no goal or purpose in life, other than to survive as long as possible, and to procreate, and to provide for progeny.
All of life arose from non-living material, in some as-yet unexplained way.
Life became increasingly complex in variety and constitution, through the passive working of environmental challenges extinguishing some chance mutations and not others.
Increases in complexity of life occurred in defiance of entropic influences through self-organization of organic materials.
The chief feature of biological complexity is that of information storage and passage to progeny. This information also arose and developed in living things spontaneously.
Morality is an evolved thing, essentially internalized rules associated with success at living socially. Our social living arrangements give rise to a sense of empathy for others, and an evolved tendency to reciprocate others’ empathy for us.
Ideals that are not material, like beauty, truth, justice, and loyalty, are internalized results of evolution, resulting from our social nature, as with morality.
Matter, time, energy, and the laws of physics acting upon them arose spontaneously, and from nothing.
Following the Evidence Where it Leads
The evidence is that there is physical existence; it had a beginning; we experience things through sensory input; we acknowledge ideals; we have consciousness; we share a moral sense. Let’s test what the atheist tells us about this evidence. Let’s see where the evidence leads.