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Why Are Believers Willfully Ignorant About Atheists?

When believers talk about atheists, they often don't bother to talk to any first. What are they afraid of?

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But that is not the same as saying they are false. It is not the same as saying they are illusions. It is not the same as saying they have no meaning.

In fact, for many atheists, the fact that consciousness and love and grief and such are physical products? This actually invests them with more meaning. Many atheists -- I'm one of them -- look at the fact that consciousness is a physical construct, and are filled with wonder and awe. We look at the fact that, out of nothing but rocks and water and sunlight, this wildly complex bio-chemical process called life developed, and then evolved into forms with the capacity for consciousness, and then evolved into forms with the capacity for communication and compassion, ethics and altruism, love and grief... and we are gobsmacked. Four billion years ago, the Earth had rocks and water and sunlight -- and now, it has not only consciousness, but consciousness which is able to step out of itself, and to connect with other consciousnesses, and to suffer when these other being are lost -- as much or more as we suffer any direct injury to ourselves. That is wondrous beyond my power to express in words.

What's more, many atheists look at the idea that we create our own meaning, not as a loss of meaning, but as a gain. We feel that life and love, morality and grief, have more meaning -- not less -- because we create that meaning for ourselves, instead of persuading ourselves that it was handed to us by an invisible creator who's mapped out the meaning of our lives and handed it to us wholesale. And for many atheists, the fact that life is finite makes it more precious, not less. It makes us value it more highly -- and it makes us grieve its loss more deeply.

Yes, atheists think that life and morality and love and grief are all part of the physical world. But that doesn't make it less real for us. That makes it more real. The physical world is the one we know really exists. Atheists aren't the ones insisting that the true source of life and morality and love and grief is an invisible, intangible, supernatural being that nobody can agree on and that we have no good reason to think exists. Accusing us of seeing these things as illusions is the height or irony.

The Parthenon is a human construction, too. That doesn't make it an illusion, or meaningless. That's one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard.

But after I'd thought about all this for a while, my urges to both blind rage and line-by-line demolition gave way... to a baffled irritation, focusing on one big question:

Couldn't he have asked us?

Couldn't Dunbar have gone down to his local atheist organization and asked them, "You know, I don't get it about atheist grief -- if you don't believe in God or the soul, why do you value life and grieve over death?"

Couldn't he, at the very least, have spent 10 minutes Googling the phrase, "atheist grief"? If he had, he would have found: the Grief Beyond Belief support network, several news articles (including one by me) about the Grief Beyond Belief support network, an atheist grief support group on the Atheist Nexus social network, an article titled "Grief Without God" on the Web site, a book titled Godless Grief... I could go on and on. If he'd pursued any of these abovementioned avenues, he could have been directed to any number of other essays, journal entries, blog posts, works of fiction, pieces of music, pieces of art, and long, thoughtful, heartfelt conversations about this exact topic, and answering his question about why atheists grieve before he'd ignorantly bloviated about it.

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