Philosophy of an Atheist

David Nicholls

People who retain the religious teaching of their families, peers and culture have extreme difficulty in accepting that an Atheist can have a cogent philosophy. I write this to demonstrate that it is they, and not the Atheist who deserves such doubt concerning their world view.

My world view is the result of recognition that cultural indoctrination is a powerful tool that evolution has utilised for the survival of the species. Indoctrination of the young is easily seen in other animals with the observation of differences between wild-captive and born into captivity creatures. They retain their intrinsic nature but behave differently because of influences in their youth.

As an example, a zoo keeper would not enter an enclosure of a lion caught in the wild but may do so with one raised by humans. Care is still needed as the wild nature can come to the surface given certain stimuli.

Young humans are also indoctrinated in a multitude of ways, as is seen very clearly by the scantest of knowledge of other cultures.

The very important point here and one that is extremely relevant, is that mature lions and mature people find it very difficult to alter earlier indoctrination as it takes on an intrinsically instinctive character. What we learn in our mind formulating years is generally retained throughout life. How we hold a knife and fork, our accent in language, our ability to ride a bicycle and a multitude of other tasks we do without conscious thought.

This is an evolutionary strategy to pass on learned survival techniques to younger members of the ‘tribe’. Other higher animals exhibit this characteristic, and that in itself shows that humans have been doing this for a very long time indeed.

From our earliest recorded times, one of these passed on traits has been our world view. Our parents, teachers and the wider culture implant a way of understanding the world as they also were taught.

This teaching does not necessarily and often does not have a basis in rationality but is tooled for the best outcome for the ‘tribe’. Since the year dot, all societies have had world views that are different from all others, some vastly so. That humans have not had a universal world view is irrefutable evidence of their utilitarian nature, designed and honed for individual societies. They have so existed for no other reason than as an aid to survival.

Each culture will fight to the death, and often does, in the name of their world view. Each culture is absolutely sure that they have the correct world view even though none are based on evidence, rather they are all emotional responses instilled in childhood.

Since scientific method took a proper foothold, some few hundred years ago, and science started explaining the universe as the compilation of natural events, many of the world views that have been with humanity for eons have taken a bit of a beating.

But we are talking about an emotively based evolutionary trait. Even though the intellectual assessment afforded by science through the scientific method is now fixed in most cultures on earth, it will take some time for its impact to change existing irrational behaviours.

When the planet had a smaller population and low level technologies, what we thought or did was unimportant, as our encroachment on the environment was a paltry affair. Nowadays, with that situation reversed, we have to change somewhat or we will (are) jeopardise(ing) a brilliant future. The human capacity to use reason, as opposed to the emotions that have nurtured us to this point, has to take a more prominent role in our philosophies.

I have been led by fortunate circumstances in a direction that I am very thankful has happened. I now have a world view that does not rely on conveniently kidding myself with evolutionary produced emotional responses to questions concerning happiness and survival.

Let me explain my world view:

The Universe is mind-bogglingly huge. How it and life on Earth started is at present beyond the limit of our knowledge. My one and only guess is that we most likely are a part of some infinite process that may never be fully explained.

The popular notions of super-normal origins have no basis at all, being the product of evolutionary emotion. There is no solid evidence for super-natural creation or interference. The universe et al is impersonal in behaviour and is controlled by four basic laws and a quantum structure. There is no credible evidence that these laws have ever been altered by an outside force.

Life on Earth is subject to these natural laws for both rich and poor, the aged and  young, the religious and the not so, all suffering its indiscriminate vagaries of good and bad events, the consequence of coincidence and nothing else.

That any of us are alive is the result of an endless chain of random winning that is incalculable. The start of life itself may be a one in a billion universes event. Life continuing beyond the initial spark could be a similar calculation. As a species, we have escaped meteorite impacts, ice ages, environmental extremes, disease and being preyed upon and are now in the fortunate position of existing as an incarnate consciously aware part of the universe. The possibility of any particular person existing is infinitesimal.

No wonder we collectively think our position is a god produced one and that we are special. Of course, thinking it does not make it true!

Our individual lives are nothing but a blink in eternity. Every life on the planet is the same. There is not one shred of evidence that life continues after death. The only life we have is here and now and therefore we must live it with that in mind.

As a human animal I enjoy life immensely and therefore have to presume that other creatures do also. The wonderful thing about being a human animal is that empathy plays a major role in our psyche. Empathy can be used with emotionally controlled whim or it can be used to its full practical limits. I choose the latter.

I am a dot in infinity as is every other life. My dot does not presume special status because it can. My dot looks at the world as the world is, and not as imagined, with no conveniently used and emotionally produced unnecessary complexities in place to cover up actions I would otherwise not choose.

This often leads others to assume that I must be an adherent of the Buddhist religion. Although it may appear that I have Buddhist tendencies because of their logical status, I totally reject the idea of reincarnation, for which there is a complete lack of evidence. Reincarnation revolves around the idea that living an ethical life provides the next incarnation of self with a more propitious state of existence and so on and so forth until ‘Nirvana’, the perfected state is achieved, thus eliminating the suffering of Earth bound identities. This may solve the suffering problem, but it also places the responsibility of a poor lot in life on the recipient because of past life misdeeds. The creation of a sense of calm and a deeper understanding may well promote a principled lifestyle, but, as with religions, it is based on selfishness and not evidence.

The current world situation is the stimulus for the above thoughts. Cultural ‘rightness’ is the problem. It is foolhardy to accept that because one lives in a particular culture and at a particular time in history, that the norms of that culture are beyond reproach. The concept is and always has been humanity’s biggest mistake. It has produced nothing but misery for humans and non-humans alike.

We are alone in the vastness of the cosmos, existing with only imaginary recourse to an emotionally created greater and benevolent power.

I recognise this view as being a worthy template and the only way forward for humanity.

All other ways will only lead to massive unhappiness and to our eventual destruction.