Let’s say that 70 percent of people who believe in God would kill themselves if they didn’t have their belief. What is the moral status of these people from the atheist perspective?
I guess it depends on the atheist. But I can imagine some atheists thinking to themselves “good riddance!”, whereas the others would be forced to admit that it might be better for them to believe in God than to be forced into killing themselves, for lack of a reason to live.
What’s weird about me is that I don’t believe in the common version of God, which, in short, has a plan and knows what He’s doing. And yet I face most of the devastating conditions which would make someone believe in this God.
I have noticed, however, that I carry with me many delusions. They seem to serve the same purpose as the belief in God. My true condition may be far more decrepit than I am consciously able to understand. And in retrospect the delusions do a much poorer job of outwardly masking over the decrepitude than I realize. To my subjective self, they make me look good enough to keep going, and even to be a little bit proud of them. This is arguably nature’s way of preserving the organism, presumably because survival can indeed lead to better prospects later on.
But I’m trying to wrestle with the idea of how depressing it is to carry delusions around simply for the sake of survival. A lot people who believe in God are against suicide and abortion and euthanasia because they believe that the existence of human life is inherently valuable, and that it’s not for a human being to judge when life should stop. In other words, God started it, and therefore only God is morally authorized to stop it. According to this belief, a person who maintains delusions sufficient to prevent him from killing himself is acceptable, whereas one who embraces truth completely and subsequently kills himself as a result of clearly seeing the truth is in the wrong. Our current culture generally embraces this view, while only sometimes acknowledging that it hinges on the idea of God as all-knowing and in control.
But just because our society believes something doesn’t mean it is right. The alternative view is to accept suicide as morally right, provided it is based on reality. This view is immediately imagined by our culture, which knows no way other than its own, as strange, cruel, and unjust. But I can imagine many situations where it is better to die than to live. It is very definitely our culture which is vigorously opposed to these deaths. I don’t see our values as absolute rules, although there are many in our culture who do believe God has imposed absolute rules, and by and large those who object to these divine rules don’t have the moral courage or stamina to fight the people who believe in them.
Therefore we default to: All human life is good.
The price we pay is that any belief is acceptable, no matter how delusional, so long as it prevents human death. Truth, therefore, takes second place to preserving life. It is quite possible that this is the origin of the zombie stories which have only gotten more popular in recent years. The idea of sacrificing truth for the blind preservation of life – no matter how useless – is akin to the zombies’ life “after death”, and their lust for human brains. The mind is sacrificed for the blind preservation of the body.
Anyway, I feel like a zombie. I persist in life without a clear reason, based on some kind of blind faith that it makes sense and is worth the effort. While I might like to be in the social spotlight, receiving thanks and awards, I’m not sure if I’m really doing anything worth thanking or awarding. Indeed, that might be yet another delusion which helps me survive.
A half-severed zombie in the dirt with one arm, thinking it is about to be showered with roses. How many more like me are there?