Atheism Doesn’t Do Much for Beauty, Art, and Love

If there is no God, and everything in this world is the product of (as Bertrand Russell famously put it) “an accidental collocation of atoms,” then there is no actual purpose for which we were made–we are accidents. If we are the product of accidental natural forces, then what we call “beauty” is nothing but a neurological hardwired response to particular data.  You only find certain scenery to be beautiful because you had ancestors who knew you would find food there and they dsurvived because of that neurological feature and now we have it too. In the same way, though music feels significant, that significance is an illusion. Love too must be seen in this light. If we are the result of blind natural forces, then what we call “love” is simply a biochemical response, inherited from ancestors who survived because this trait helped them survive.

- Tim Keller in The Reason for God, p. 138

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4 comments

  1. So what?

    Is your argument that understanding things make them seem not as special? Or is your argument that you don’t like that the world is this way, so you’d rather not think that?

  2. Ha! I was about to leave a note on this, but you, Mr NotAScientist, already just did it so well. Nothing else to add but a (very) poor one-star.

  3. @NotAScientist: Posing two questions that point toward the way you’d like a conversation to slant is not beneficial to fostering intelligent conversation.

    The “argument” is that if everything in this world is by chance, and hence random and purposeless, then beauty and love have no meaning. You can’t say, “_____ is [objectively] beautiful” if it has no purpose.

    Q: Do you believe that you personally are an accident, born at random and by chance without a purpose?

    1. “then beauty and love have no meaning”

      No meaning to whom?

      They certainly have meaning to me. And I recognize them as my irrational understanding and explanation for emotional and chemical responses to external stimuli. But so what? They still bring me joy and improve, at least subjectively, my life. I don’t particularly care if beauty and love have no meaning to the greater universe. I’m an ignorant, irrational and emotional carbon life-form, not the universe.

      “You can’t say, “_____ is [objectively] beautiful” if it has no purpose.”

      I don’t care if they have objective meaning. And things aren’t objectively beautiful. A mountainside I find beautiful might be thought of as barren and ugly by you. Does that undermine my experience of the scene’s beauty? Not at all.

      You can try and deal with the objective when it comes to emotion and opinion. If we’re talking about beauty and love, I’ll stick with the more subjective collective human experience.

      “Q: Do you believe that you personally are an accident, born at random and by chance without a purpose”

      An accident? Certainly not. I daresay my mother and father knew what they were getting into when they conceived me, especially considering I was their second child. Though there’s quite a lot of randomness involved. Had my parents not coupled at the exact moment they did, a different sperm may have entered a different egg, and a completely different combination of my parents’ genes would have formed, resulting in a completely different person. Still the child of my parents, but no more similar to me than my sister is.

      Any purpose I have are the purposes I give to my own life.

      That’s the good news and the bad news. The universe doesn’t particularly care about me. But it’s not out specifically to get me either. Which is fine by me.

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