Atheism seems to be the belief of choice these days and appears to be the encouraged or logical view presented by much of mainstream media. It is also clear to see that the Western world is developing a culture where religion is to be neither seen nor heard, something outdated and old-fashioned, perhaps something that was used to explain the unexplainable before science unraveled all of the answers. But science can never tell us everything we can possibly know about the world. This is partially because there is such a great volume of ‘knowledge’ out there, partially because of the philosophical concept that this knowledge is an illusion and partially because there are some (or ‘all’ if you are comfortable with the former point – I’ll do a post about it another time) things which just cannot be proven.
Agnosticism was where I found myself after seeing the error of my ways, which seemed the logical step to take from my rather depressing nihilism. This is the view that you should see many scientists taking, as it is really the only belief that all evidence supports – the idea that we cannot ever fully know what the answers are. The term is thought to be coined by British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, an avid supporter of the work of Charles Darwin. He writes:
“I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it… Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not?”
That seemed to make sense to me, because it does make sense. We don’t have enough evidence to prove anything. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying to find some for yourself. There are a great many religions out there that claim that a lack of faith grants you eternal damnation and as an agnostic you accept that any one of those religions could be correct. If you really take this concept seriously then I challenge you to tell me that you wouldn’t want to try your best to find the truth out for yourself.
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.