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alex6704
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The Contender
Geostigma
Con (against)
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Is Moral and Existential Nihilism included in Athiesm?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/7/2018 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 498 times Debate No: 117471
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
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alex6704

Pro

It's widely used as an argument against Atheism that if there is no God, Then Moral Nihilism (that nothing, Either wrong or right, Is considered morally true), As well as existential Nihilism (that there is no overarching purpose to life) is inevitable. I would agree with this statement, And would, With respect, Love to hear an Atheist's viewpoint on this issue.

The rules of this debate are as follows:
1. Con must know what they are talking about
2. Respect must be given from me as well as the opponent
3. There can be no quick-fire answers, But claims backed up by structural support

Thank you, And may this debate be informative and enjoyable!
Geostigma

Con

I accept your debate and will respect the rules you've listed.
I would love to hear your perspective as well and look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 1
alex6704

Pro

Thank you for accepting the debate Geostigma. As said before, I hope for this to be informative and also eye-opening, As we can both add to the other's understanding, An asset to be used in arguments down the road. Let's go!

So, I was browsing the internet a couple of days ago when I stumbled upon a suggested video created by the Youtuber "CosmicSkeptic. " If you don't know who he is, He is a young British intellectual and Atheist who posts videos regarding religion, Atheism, Science etc. And he is very knowledgeable (as knowledgeable as a college student can be) about arguments concerning the Christian belief, And especially his own.

The video was titled "Should We All Be Nihilists? "
In it, He and two other friends spoke about this issue, And it seemed (as stated in the video) that Atheism and Nihilism played hand in hand.
As an atheist, Is it not true that you are required by your worldview to reject objective morality (that there IS a set of moral ruled that exist APART from human feeling or belief) and embrace subjective morality (that morality is set by the society, Influenced by feeling, Opinion, Etc. )?
It would seem to me that if there is no God, There is no Ultimate Morality that holds true above and apart from the human race. Thus, Morality is simply a matter of opinion, Changing from society to society. So a case like the Holocaust and the slaughter of millions by Stalin wouldn't ultimately be wrong, As it's our opinion today that that was a tragedy, And if two hundred years from now murder is legal, Then they might have a different opinion on the matter.
It would seem that subjectivity of purpose fits into the Atheistic worldview as well, As without God there is no definite purpose without human influence.

Thank you again, I am eager to learn about your way of thinking about these things!
-Alex
Geostigma

Con

So, I want to start off by stating that it is completely possible for Atheists to believe that their existence has purpose and meaning. It is also possible for an Atheist to believe that morality is objective. I do not think that Atheism and Nihilism go hand and hand in anyway.

For starters, All it takes to be an Atheist is "to disbelieve or lack belief in the existence of God or gods", Nothing more and nothing less. You can still be an Atheist and believe in the supernatural or higher powers beyond our understanding and those beliefs can influence the Atheist view of their meaning and purpose in our vast universe.


Secondly, To be an Nihilist you have to "be a person who believes that life is meaningless and rejects all religious and moral principles". You can still be an Atheist and believe that life has meaning and as an Atheist you can have a set of morally principals that you live by.

Most Atheist live in accordance to their "Belief Systems" (a set of principles or tenets which together form the basis of a religion, Philosophy, Or moral code). For example, There are many Atheist that follow Belief Systems/Atheistic Religions that influence their sense morality or their meaning and purpose in life and these religions are as follows;
Buddhism, Confucianism, Humanism, Jainism, Satanism, Scientology, Shinto, And Taoism just to name a few.

All of these religions do not have a God type figure head dictating morality or existential meaning to it's adherents and at the same time these religions have moral codes and provide a sense of purpose in life to it's followers without requiring a belief in God.

There also are many Belief Systems or Philosophies that many Atheists follow that help influence their sense of morality and find their purpose in life, These Belief Systems are as followed;
Consequentialism, Existentialism, Deontology, Pragmatism, Hedonism, Utilitarianism, Secular humanism, Virtue Ethics, Stoicism, Cynicism, Cyrenaicism, And Epicureanism and I could gladly go on. And all of these Belief Systems/Philosphies help many Atheist find (what they believe to be) objective morality and meaning without requiring a belief in a God.


Now, To whether or not Morality is subjective. . .
I personally believe that an Ultimate Objective Morality simply does not exist but this belief does not make me a Moral Nihilist. Although this is only my personal opinon and not every Atheist holds the same view.
So even if you do believe in God, Every single individual on this planet has a different view on what's moral and what is not. For example, Just ask Christians for what they believe is moral and immoral. There are thousands of different Christian denominations with different doctrines on the topic of morality. Christians of different denominations debate, On a daily basis, Whether thing like homosexuality, Divorce, Abortion, Or contraception are immoral or not.

Christians can't even agree on where they get their so called Ultimate Morality from.
Anglican/Episcopals get their doctrine from the scriptures, The gospels and church fathers while the Assembly of God, Baptists, Lutherans and Methodists get their doctrine from the Bible and the Bible only and Roman Catholics get it from the Bible, Church fathers, Popes, And bishops and Presbyterians get their morality from the Bible and the confession of faith. . . So not only is it unclear to Christians as to what is and isn't moral but it's unclear where to get that information from.


So even a Christians view of morality isn't "Ultimate" and is completely subjective depending on their own personal beliefs and the doctrines they are taught. If you ask a Christians if homosexual sex is wrong they will most likely tell you that they "believe" it is right or wrong based off of what their interpretation of the Bible is or what they "believe" God intended or what their religious leadership tells them, Which is all subjective reasoning. Everyone has an "opinion" on the matter.
An objective guide to morality does not exist (in my opinon) but that does not mean that morality does not exist and if you believe that all morality is subjective that does not make you a Nihilist. You could be a Moral Realist for example which is includes the belief in subjective morality and is Non-Nihilistic at the same time. The point I'm trying to make is the morality can be subjective/non-ultimate and still be non-nihilistic/exist at the same time.

What we believe to be moral is something that we decide for ourselves and Theist have their methods of determining right from wrong and Atheist have their methods as well. The same can be said for the meaning of our existence. Many Atheist decide for themselves whether their life has intrinsic value/meaning and what their purpose is in the universe. Many Atheist choose to be Nihilist and many don't. But to say that an Atheist must be a Moral/Existential Nihilist in order to call themselves an Atheist is factually incorrect and absurd. You can absolutely be one without the other.
Becoming an Atheist and becoming a Nihilist are not mutually inclusive.
Many Atheist live daily as Existentialist and Moral Objectivists while in the process nt contradicting their lack of faith in a God or Gods.

I appreciate the topic and can not wait to hear your rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 2
alex6704

Pro

Hey Geostigma,

It irks me that I didn"t set this debate"s round count higher. This is a deep and important subject I think everyone should wrestle with. I"d enjoy very much to contend with you in future debates. Increasingly now it seems people aren"t going past surface level issues anymore, And it's becoming even more popular to disrespect and bash your opponent. Thank you again for engaging with me, I will now make my rebuttal.

First. . .
"it is completely possible for Atheists to believe that their existence has purpose and meaning. "
I never stated it wasn"t possible for Atheists to believe they have meaning. If "to disbelieve or lack belief in the existence of God or gods" is what Atheism means, Then I go back to my earlier point. If subjective morality is true, There is nothing ultimately wrong. This would mean that the slaughtering of millions in the Holocaust was not ultimately wrong, It is only our choosing that we see that as wrong. Would you agree with this statement?

"It is also possible for an Atheist to believe that morality is objective. "
How?

"Secondly, To be an Nihilist you have to "be a person who believes that life is meaningless and rejects all religious and moral principles""
But if your view is right, If there is no God and we humans have evolved from animals over millions of years, Then how is logic and reasoning included? If we are animals, How can we have purpose?

It doesn"t matter much about "belief. " You can believe something is true and yet it be wrong. I"m referring to truth. Does truth exist? Can we find out the truth? I"m not saying "Is it possible for you to believe in Atheism and yet believe your life has meaning, Etc. Etc. " I'm really asking "If your worldview, Atheism, Is true, Why aren"t you a Nihilist? If Atheism is true, There is no objective purpose or morality (since for something to be objective it has to be true regardless of human feeling or belief, Meaning it is to be true whether humans want it to be or not).

"So even a Christians view of morality isn't "Ultimate""
Stating the fact that there are numerous sects of Christianity doesn"t mean they don"t all believe Ultimate Authority comes from God. To be called a Christian, You must believe God created the Universe and everything in it, Including morality and purpose.

"If you ask a Christian if homosexual sex is wrong they will most likely tell you that they "believe" it is right or wrong based off of what their interpretation of the Bible is or what they "believe" God intended or what their religious leadership tells them, Which is all subjective reasoning. Everyone has an "opinion" on the matter. "
Again, Belief doesn"t have much to do with it. If the Bible is true, Then certain things are wrong or right regardless of what the Christians "believe" (or even want) to be true.

I still don"t see evidence for why you"re not a Nihilist. Simply stating it is possible for you not to be one doesn"t seem like evidence.

If Atheism is true, Why aren"t you an Existential and Moral Nihilist?
Geostigma

Con

I want to preface this last entry with that I, Personally, Am "mostly" a Moral and Existential Nihilist (But I typically don't like to identify as such, For various reasons. ), So I agree with a lot of what you are saying. Although that doesn't mean every Atheist is a Nihilist and I am debating on the behalf of the many Atheist I know who aren't Nihilist. Again, I don't think that being a Nihilist is a prerequisite to being an Atheist. I also want to state that we may be having a semantics issue. When you say Atheist is seems that you are referring to an individual who values logic and reasoning above all else, A person who believes in the scientific evidence and things that are supported by empirical evidence.
When I say Atheist I mean someone who does not believe in God. Not all Atheists are logical or use reason. For example, There are Atheists that believe in the existence of magic, Which of course isn't a logically sound belief to have. But hopefully you get my point. Logically all Atheists should be Nihilist but that doesn't mean that they have to be.
With that I will give my final rebuttal.


If subjective morality is true, There is nothing ultimately wrong. This would mean that the slaughtering of millions in the Holocaust was not ultimately wrong, It is only our choosing that we see that as wrong. Would you agree with this statement?
I agree with that statement. But if I were to answer (to paraphrase) "Is the belief that life is meaningless and that morality does not exist included in Atheism? " I would still have to say no.

I will refer to real world practical religions. . .
Buddhism, Confucianism, Humanism, Jainism, (Secular) Satanism, Scientology, Shinto, And Taoism are all Atheistic religions. If you practice any one of those world religions it is likely that you are an Atheist because none of those religions claim that a God exists. While these religions don't assert the existence of a God their adherents still live by moral principals and they still have moral codes and doctrines.
For example, There is no God in Buddhism yet the religions teaches its followers that morality exists, Is objective and unchanging. Even though Buddhist are technically Atheists, They aren't running around murdering one another because they believe morality is subjective.

If your view is right, If there is no God and we humans have evolved from animals over millions of years, Then how is logic and reasoning included? If we are animals, How can we have purpose?
I believe that existential meaning is subjective just like I believe that morality is subjective, But not all Atheists believe the same. Many Atheists believe that their purpose is something they "create" for themselves or is something that is given to them by their parents, Society, Government or religion. Many Atheists would rather define their own purpose for existence rather than let someone else or something define it for them. They would much rather create existential meaning for themselves and to those Atheists, The meaning they create for themselves is just as valid as one given from God.

It doesn't matter much about "belief. " You can believe something is true and yet it be wrong. I"m referring to truth. Does truth exist? Can we find out the truth? I"m not saying "Is it possible for you to believe in Atheism and yet believe your life has meaning, Etc. Etc. " I'm really asking "If your worldview, Atheism, Is true, Why aren't you a Nihilist? If Atheism is true, There is no objective purpose or morality (since for something to be objective it has to be true regardless of human feeling or belief, Meaning it is to be true whether humans want it to be or not).
You kind of lost me here because we are debating about "belief" specifically. . . .
We are not arguing about whether or not morality exists or if our lives have intrinsic meaning and purpose.
We are debating if being an Atheist means you must be a Nihilist as well. Nihilism and Atheism are "beliefs" that people can have and you are saying that they coincide with one another, Which I disagree with.

You said that what you are really asking is. . . "If your worldview, Atheism, Is true, Why aren't you a Nihilist? If Atheism is true, There is no objective purpose or morality (since for something to be objective it has to be true regardless of human feeling or belief, Meaning it is to be true whether humans want it to be or not).
Again, I personally am a Nihilist but many Atheist believe that a real, Objective, True morality and purpose exists. Research "Moral Realism". Moral Realist believe that Morality is objective and their Ultimate Morality comes from Science rather than God. It's an interesting philosophy, You should check it out.
I think I should also note that an "Ultimate Morality" can come from things other than God.
Like I said earlier, Atheistic Buddhists believe in an "Ultimate Morality" that's objective, True and real but they
at the same time do not believe in God.

Stating the fact that there are numerous sects of Christianity doesn't mean they don"t all believe Ultimate Authority comes from God. To be called a Christian, You must believe God created the Universe and everything in it, Including morality and purpose.
The point of me addressing the many different sects of Christianity was to show you that even though these Christians get their Ultimate Morality from the same sources, They still disagree on what is and isn't moral and how they decide morality, Is through subjective reasoning. For all we know a true, Objective morality may in fact exist but how do we know what that moral code is?
If God is real and dictates morality how do we find out what he thinks is wrong or right? We can't. Christians have argued for centuries as to what God does and doesn't want for us but no one knows for certain which leaves peoples beliefs up to subjective opinions.


Belief doesn't have much to do with it. If the Bible is true, Then certain things are wrong or right regardless of what the Christians "believe" (or even want) to be true.
The Bible may be true but people debate on it's interpretation all the time. Some radical fundamentalist Christians think that Christians shouldn't discount the old testaments laws and punishments like stoning people for adultery for example. While other Christians wouldn't dare stone someone to death for being unfaithful. You have an opinion on the matter just like every other theist and you could very well find yourself in a debate with a fellow Christians because your interpretation of the bible (your ultimate morality) is subjective and if the Bible is subjective then it cannot be infallibly true.

All of this comes down to
"belief" because no one knows what is true for certain. That's why all Philosophies and Religions are labeled as "beliefs" because no one has empirical evidence to back them up.

Simply stating it is possible for you not to be one doesn't seem like evidence.
If Atheism is true, Why aren't you an Existential and Moral Nihilist?
Again, It all comes down to faith and belief. If tomorrow, Hypothetically, I had a spiritual experience where I astral projected through time and space, Saw the creation and end of the universe in one moment and learned the purpose of the universes existence in the span of a millisecond, That doesn't mean I would cease to be an Atheist but that experience could change how I view my existence. People believe all types of things for all types of weird reasons.
Also, If what you are claiming is true that means in order to believe in Objective Morality and to be an Existentialist you must believe in God. . .
All you have to do is a quick Google search of the terms Existentialism and/or Objective Morality to see many different philosophical thoughts as to why God is not a requirement and you'll find people who explain it a lot better than I do.

I appreciate the topic and wish we had more rounds as well. Hopefully we can debate again in the future.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by alex6704 1 month ago
alex6704
Hey Whispering, Thank you for you're feedback. I am absolutely new to the world of philosophy, And I believe the Lord has given me a passionate fire to obtain more knowledge concerning the field. In order to polish any argument (or worldview) you must consider and question every claim, Most essentially the view that outright contradicts your own. Your comment was helpful to me, Thank you again.
Posted by Whispering 1 month ago
Whispering
great debate, Gang! I'd like to note a couple things.

I think it would be a bit careless to say there is no relationship at all between atheism and nihilism. It would also, As already mentioned, Be mistake to say there is a direct correlation between the two. I think the best way to phrase it would be there is a rather common tendency for Atheists, Especially newly pronounced Atheists, To develop and harbor varying forms of nihilism; again not a direct correlation or causation, Just a tendency or reasonable likelihood. This may simply be the result being in the process of developing a belief system of the world for one's self and until having a personal understanding of the meaning of one's life, It is believed to be meaningless. Same goes for morality.

My second point, Is directed towards alex and it is more subjective and personal to me and speaks to my rather secular humanist belief system. This notion of "if we are just animals, How can we have purpose? " bothers me. It is to say we only have meaning if God exists. Actually we can't argue this without defining meaning. Also I would say choose your words very carefully when forming questions, Especially, Existential ones. By utilizing the word purpose, You are asking what function, Or produce is created as the result of humans doing the ONE thing they are DESIGNED to do; already by asking that question, You are invoking monotheistic answers. If you were to instead ask "What meaning do our lives have as animals? " or even more personally "What meaning do our lives have as humans? " it would conjure much different answers which I suspect would have much more reasonable implications in one's life regardless of existential beliefs.

As for the definition of meaning; honestly, It can be really abstract to communicate and i only have 190 characters left. I'll gladly discuss it but I'm not yet sure if anyone is going to actually read this or be interested. Pardon my rudeness.
Posted by Geostigma 1 month ago
Geostigma
Thank you Alex and I really enjoyed the debate as well. In the future, If you make another debate make sure to keep me in mind as a potential opponent. Debating you was fun.
On a side note, I just wish people voted more often on this site though. I was highly interested in seeing the results. But regardless I enjoyed the experience.
Posted by alex6704 2 months ago
alex6704
This was great! Thank you for your responses and rebuttals. This has been wonderfully interesting. I SO wish to continue debating with you in the future.
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