atheism and immortality

According to atheism (at least, a widespread understanding of atheism), the world cannot have a beginning and an end, for it would imply a cause by which the world begins.

So, atheism has to state that the world is eternal. But how can it reconcile this view with the fact of change? It must state that time is cyclical. The evolution of the world is followed by a time of «involution», so that the world must be thought of as pulsating.

But atheim also holds that we are not immortal. Not only there is no heaven or hell, but once we die, we will never live again.

These two views, however (pulsating world and mortality) are incompatible. If all that happens will happen again and again in agreement with the view of a pulsating world, so my life, which is an event amongst others, will happen again in some billions of years, in the same way it happens now.

And we can believe that, since there is no awareness between death and re-birth, the chasm of time between my death and my rebirth is not subjectively perceived. It implies that, subjectively, as soon as I die, I come back to life.

THEREFORE, atheism has to hold that we are immortal.

This fate, by the way, will be a nightmare for those who have a wretched life. But it is mere logic. :wink:

These two views don’t need to be in disagreement with each other. “Change” can be said to happen at the most superficial level----the common level of observation of things: Us perceiving change in matters, objects (including us), and our environment. But what about the most elementary particles, i.e. quarks and gluons? Some things remain the same—the baryons, the mesons? The protons, the neutrons?

However superficial change may be, the same logic applies.

Hi Samkhya,

If logic must be applied, it must be applied uniformly. If there is at least one contradiction to the assertion, then it falls apart. Change must be defined, since there are changes occuring at different levels, and then there are also things that remain the same. The problem is, we are talking about the same universe (same world), yet at different levels of this same universe, some things remain the same, and some things change.

P.S. got to go for now.

So, within the atheist framework, what remains remains forever, and what changes changes in a cyclical way (evolution followed by involution)

But the word “I” does not always apply to the same me. “I” am a very different person from “me” when I was 5. So to say that the person I am now is immortal is unfounded. Because billions of years from now when my childhood happens again, it will in no way be a continuation of my current life.
Compare it to a movie. I can watch a movie, then rewind it, and watch it again. I can do this infinitely. Is this movie, then, infinitely long? It seem obvious that it is not, and in the same way we are not immortal, at least not in the traditional sense. For one thing, there is a long period of time for which we are in fact dead.
But I agree that, in some weird way, our life is never truly over in a cyclical universe so construed.

Ah, It is precisely the point.

I was answered in «Van Steenberghen’s argument for theism» that if the time is cyclical, it is infinite in a certain sense.

An atheist ontology implies some form of endless life, interrupted only by times of sleep called «dead».

You could object: someone LIKE me will live later, he will have a body like mine, thoughts like mine, personality like mine, etc., but he will not be ME.

If you think so, you are saying that the time is not perfectly cyclical but looks like some kind of spiral. But in that case, you are saying basically that the time is linear.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in god or gods.
The end.

Yeah thats pretty much what I have always viewed, and seen Atheism dipicted as. Under this definition of Atheism I would say that a large part of the scientific community are Atheist’s, and that they do believe in a beginning , and an end, and also even a cyclical view of the universe. By no means does the big bang imply a creator, and yet it doesn’t completly factor out a creator, but no common sense logic in the world will ever convince religious sects that belief in god is absurd. Anyways basically, I don’t think that Atheism implys that the world cannot have a begining or an end.

Dr Satanical, Rounder,

       I am concerned with the consequences of atheism. Nolens volens, the denial of god entails [b]positive[/b] beliefs on the nature of the universe. 

In other words, I would say that an atheist, if he is logical, has to hold the immortality of the individual.

anyone, if they are logical, would realize the futility of inductive reasoning and not try to predict future events… the next moment need not logically appear…


That doesn’t make a lick of sense, no offense meant. You’re reading into atheism what isn’t there and as a consequence you’re endlessly chasing your tail. As much as it pains to me ever have to agree with Dr S ( :wink: ), atheism is just so very simply a lack of belief that God exists. Even the “life” that most people think of as so unique and precious could simply be viewed as an electrical curiosity. Once a batterie goes dead, we don’t wonder “where it went”- we throw the husk in the trash and replace it. There’s no mystery in it.

For that matter, it’s a leap not really supported by the evidence to assume flatly that time is cyclical. If the Big Bang really created our universe, it’s still not universally believed that one day it will collapse in a “Big Crunch” to one day start again. Recent estimates of “Dark Matter/Energy” and the rate of cosmological accelleration suggests a very strong likelihood that the universe will continue to expend indefinately, eventually fizzling out into darkness.

So often the limited nature of human existance leads to preconceptions that aren’t borne out by facts. We see the seasons change and we think “everything’s a cycle.” However, I think that most of the places we see circles there are really straight lines.

I really don’t see why at all. If you accept science as logic, then by no means does that mean you have to accept immortality as logic. Science shows us that we are not immortal.

Impenitent: I do not claim to predict future events, I think of the consequences of a point of view. Doing so is not inductive reasoning, but deductive reasoning, and it does not purport to say the truth.

Phaedrus: of course, you can say that atheism is just a lack of belief. In that sense, trees and rocks are atheists :wink:.

But I do not share completely this view of atheism.

There is a philosophical atheism, which tries to account for the phenomena and the world as a whole without resorting to supernatural causes.

It is the atheistic philosophy which I am aiming at.

Within the atheistic philosophical framework, we are immortal in the sense defined above.


to “hold” immortality (will not ever die in the future) is predicting future events…


There is no atheistic philosphy. Aside from sharing a lack of belief in god or gods, there need be absolutely no similarity between the philosophies of any two atheists.
Trying to explain the world without resorting to supernatural causes isn’t atheism, it’s realism.

So are you actually an atheist, Sâmkhya? :wink: That’s fine, but you’re introducing an artificial distinction that’s not real. It virtually goes without saying that without God there’s no “supernatural” influence in the world. Speaking as an atheist (or possibly a very skeptical agnostic on a day when I’m in a charitable mood :wink: ), I view human life as something that arose purely out of the mechanics of the way the universe runs. Partly “chance,” if you will, but a better way to veiw it would be that’s it’s likely an inevitable by-product of the the laws of physics.

Let me illustrate it like this: imagine a light bulb being lit up by electricity. We might view the emitted light as what it essentially is, but our understanding of physics tells us that light is simply the by-product of passing electricity thru the filament. The point is that, like us, the bulb is a physical object, and the light is a product of it, not the other way around. I’m merely saying that for an atheist, life is chemical and electrical process, a product of the “machine” that is our body. And just like a bulb that’s been switched off, I don’t view it as a great mystery “where the life goes” when we die. The process of life simply ends, and our body breaks down into simpler compounds.

Impenitent: It is a «prediction» which follows from a hypothesis (that God does not exist) instead of an «absolute» prediction, which purports to be true in itself.

The prediction of the immortality is as sound as the hypothesis which this prediction follows from (and some other ontological principles which are supposed to be evident or proven).


It seems that you have some difficulty in understanding what I mean here by «immortality».

If the time is cyclical, we are born, live, die, and after the cycle has elapsed, we are born again, live again, and die again, and so on ad infinitum.

The gap between one’s death and one’s re-birth is like a time of sleep.

So, I do not see any disagreement between your materialism and my statement.