Occasionally I will run across a statement by an atheist that is refreshingly honest. This isn’t to imply that all atheists are somehow intentionally or necessarily dishonest, but rather they simply don’t honestly assess the implications of their own claims. Occasionally this occurs (as happens here, where PZ Myers acknowledges how atheism reduces humans down to mere biology) but more often than not they try to put a happy face on the nihilism and despair inherent in atheism.
Jerry Coyne made such an honest assessment recently when discussing the possibility that chimps are aware of their own mortality, and the fact that humans have knowledge of their inevitable deaths:
Although many atheists see our knowledge of death as a blessing, making us realize that life is ephemeral and we should live it to the fullest, I see it as a curse. It takes a certain amount of courage to face the fact that one day we will lose everything we have. Few of us, I think, are enough like Socrates to accept our mortality with equanimity. Yes, our consciousness is gone when we die, and yes, we don’t agonize about our absence from the scene before we were born, but I for one would choose immortality or, barring that, at least merciful ignorance of my finitude.
The reality is that it is a hallmark of humanity to want to prolong life beyond it’s limits, and we are unique amongst creatures in this respect. Whether through plastic surgery in modern times, or by building pyramids in ancient times, humans universally attempt to ameliorate what is supposed to be ‘natural’. There is no good explanation or remedy for this condition in atheism – there is only the bleak prospect of the abyss and the fact that our existence doesn’t ultimately matter in any real sense to an indifferent universe. The Christian however knows that the reason we fear death is because we were not designed to die and cease to exist – we are inherently eternal beings, and death is not natural to us, it is an aberration. Of course, we also have hope in eternity, and the assurance of the life Jerry Coyne can only dream of – a life without end.