There’s a new “Note to atheists” by Sidney Callahan in the National Catholic Review online. Callahan is not as critical of atheists as even some other atheists are (viz., Julian Baggini or Alain de Botton), but at the end she brings up a modernized version of Pasal’s wager:
When atheists realize they are accepted and understood they can take on some heavy lifting for the culture. They can work on ways to help people without faith to progress to moral understanding through reasoning and accrued human wisdom. Our society needs to be convinced of the value of the common good. Tasks of building caring communities outside of churches also await. Many people are so alienated from religious institutions that faith based moral appeals are no longer viable.
Well, the assumption here is that people with faith already have good ways to progress to moral understanding. But leave that aside:
And surely atheists can do better than to offer the solace(?) that death signals nothingness. Why not at least turn to the unsolved scientific mysteries of human consciousness or potential mult-verses? Appeals to the creative wonder of art, music and poetry would be helpful. When Dosteovsky said that the world would be saved by beauty, perhaps he foresaw future debates over reductive materialism..
I’m not optimistic to think that cosmology or consciousness will replace heaven, and I think that Callahan knows that. What will replace heaven is a better life on earth, and that means not Rembrandt or Donne, but universal medical care, more income equality, and less crime. But leave that aside:
When I debate at home with my beloved Catholic atheists, I finally end with the remark that the only outcome for our argument is that they will be surprised on dying. If they are right and nothingness prevails, then none of us will exist to continue the conversation. Thank God I can’t believe that for more than a minute.
Now that’s wishful thinking: Callahan simply can’t entertain the possibility that her consciousness will be extinguished at death.
I must confess, though, that I too chafe at the thought that the religious people will never learn they’re wrong. And I sometimes wish that the faithful could be resurrected for a few brief minutes after death—just so I could tell them, “I told you so!”