It is a childish fantasy to believe that a person can understand a situation fully enough to guarantee something to someone. This is particularly optimistic in the common form of promising a service to someone regardless of future circumstance. When someone makes the commitment of a promise, they claim to have identified with every possible outcome and are satisfied that they would react uniformly, no matter what happened. This is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
To give a common example, people often reassure one another with the phrase, “I’ll be fine – I promise.” Now, unless the speaker has the ability to see into the future, this promise is entirely unfounded. There are so many external factors affecting someone’s life that they have no control of. Technically, every person you meet could be a psychopathic killer with a deep thirst for blood, and you can’t possibly know that you won’t fall victim to this thirst immediately after exiting the door (there are, of course, many other less extreme example… but they’re just not as fun.)
If you’re not yet convinced by this example then let me give you another: “I won’t tell anyone – I promise” What you are saying with this promise is that if someone put a gun to your head and asked you for this precious information, you would politely decline on the grounds of promise prohibition. I don’t know about you, but for me this is a bit of a burden. If you’re the sort of person that lives and breathes promises then I urge you to change your perspective. It is unfair on your fellow man and also yourself to think that people should be bound to their word or else be some sort of horrible moral-less monster. This is just not how life works.
We’ve all told that little white lie occasionally, perhaps our friend looks “absolutely wonderful” with their new life-sized tattoo of a cat’s head on the back of their neck. Or your mother has a “simply beautiful” singing voice when really it takes every ounce of self control not to cover your ears and run – we are just trying to be polite. Unfortunately, we undeniably live in a world where we can’t just go around saying what we think, we often have some fairly hurtful opinions that our minds do not hesitate to put into the clearest of words. Even the least intelligent of people seem incredibly practised in their use of imagery when talking about the new haircut of “that idiot over there;” it can be anything from a ‘dirty mop’ to a ‘dead cat.’ So, quite reasonably it seems, we are prevented from saying exactly what is on our minds.
Role models are an important part of a child’s development, there’s no doubt about it, kids are influenced by the behaviour of the people in authority over them and the people they like. Traditionally, the main role model for a child is their father, for a boy, and mother, for a girl. Parents should behave how they want their children to behave in future, as they are constantly being scrutinised by their offspring, who are desperately trying to form a view of how the land lies – of what’s acceptable and what’s not. You don’t see a father swearing in front of their four-year-old son because that father doesn’t want to endorse this sort of behaviour. Equally, you’ll find that parents try to be polite in front of their children regardless of their mood. Even in adulthood, people are highly influenced by their peers – we have a natural instinct to avoid offending the people closest to us in order to maintain relationships.
As I explained in my “About” post, I used to be a nihilist. To recap, nihilists believe that a person’s consciousness ceases to exist in their death. It all comes down to nothing. To me, this seemed like the only logical conclusion an atheist could come to; in the absence of a supernatural world, death is the absolute conclusion of human life and it is reduced to nothing. Hence, the word nihilism is derived from the Latin, ‘nihil’ meaning ‘nothing’ or ‘zero’.
I think you’d be surprised how many people are nihilists without knowing it. In my experience it is incredibly common to come across an atheist that believes that it is absolutely ‘the end’ when you die. These people tend to be the most emphatic in their arguments against religion and often profess to know a lot about science. Very few nihilists, however, wholeheartedly live by the principles of their faith.
You may be taken aback, or perhaps amused, by my use of the word ‘faith’ to describe a belief in nothing. But nihilism holds a faith equal to that of Christianity or Islam. There is no evidence to support the idea that death is the end, and how could there be? It’s not possible to ask the dead of their experience. It is therefore a completely faith-based belief.