Everyone Is Religious - Moral Secularist or The Nihilist - BVAQ

Sermons & Study MaterialEveryone, Atheists Included, Is Religious (Part 2)

Everyone, Atheists Included, Is Religious (Part 2)

Moral Secularists

The vast majority of secular people are moral secularists. Let me ask you question: Do you believe in human rights? Do you believe that it’s wrong to torture babies just for the fun of it? If so, you are a moral secularist living by faith. I will explain why.

To quote the philosopher Charles Taylor:

“To be a secular person—to believe, for example, that there is no God and yet there are nonetheless human rights—is to base one’s view of the world on a combination of reason and faith, just like religious people do.”2

Why is that? Because it is impossible to prove that human rights should exist, other than by faith. For example, you might say you don’t believe in a god—at least not in the Christian God—because you don’t believe someone has the right to tell others how to live their lives. You may believe everyone should be able to decide for themselves how they live, providing they don’t hurt others, but where do your beliefs come from—that nobody has the right to tell people how to live, and that people shouldn’t hurt others? Can these beliefs be proven to someone who disagrees with you?

[Discussion: How could you prove to someone this is how the universe actually works—that nobody has the right to tell others how to live their lives, or that people shouldn’t hurt others?]

As nice as your beliefs sound, you can’t prove them nor can you prove that’s how the universe works or should work. Your position is a leap of faith, a deep belief this is how the universe should operate, but there’s no proof for it. You have faith you are right without having any proof. You would be hard pressed to prove your position to a nihilist philosopher, which brings us to our next group of people.

Earlier on, I asked you if you believed in human rights and if you believed it’s wrong to torture babies just for the fun of it. Most likely, you answered yes to both questions. However, there is a small group, usually nihilists, who would have said there is no right nor wrong, including torture of babies. Does this mean nihilists do not have faith?


According to the Oxford English Dictionary,3 nihilism is the rejection of all religious and moral principles, the belief that life is meaningless. Many notable philosophers, such as Nietzsche,4 Bertrand Russel,5 and Richard Dawkins, appear to be nihilists, at least in part. In his book, River out of Eden, Dawkins writes:6

“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference…. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is.”

It says something when the atheists, who spend the most amount of time thinking deeply about their atheistic worldview, end up with a nihilistic worldview.7

[Discussion: Who lives his life more consistently in alignment with their worldview: the moral secularist or the nihilist? Why?]

One could argue that, among the people groups who do not believe in God, nihilists perhaps have the most logical and consistent worldview. If there is no proof of the innate special value of human beings—that instead we are here via evolution, survival of the fittest—why not help nature advance by getting rid of some burdensome weaklings who, from an evolutionary point of view, are a relative burden to society and “contaminating” the gene pool? Can the secular moralist prove to nihilists this killing of the weak would be wrong? With a major premise of evolution being “survival of the fittest”, you could argue it would be more logically consistent for a believer in evolution to argue against human rights than for them.

If we are just stardust or groups of atoms and this life is all there is, why not do what makes you happy, regardless of any rules about right or wrong? Who cares! You have one life to live, then you cease to exist.

If there is no God, there’s no afterlife, and this life is all, then why not live it to your full enjoyment? What does it matter if you abuse other people, because, in the end, rocks, trees, birds, sticks, and people are just a bunch of atoms grouped differently. A nihilist might ask why killing a person should be treated differently than cutting down a tree. Since nothing matters, maximize your own joy as much as you can, cut down trees for your warmth, eat animals, and take advantage of humans.

Even nihilists can’t escape that they are religious and live by faith. Nihilism, like all other worldviews, falls under the first part of the characterization of religion, which we read earlier: “Religion may be defined as a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, world views, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics…”

Nihilism relates to behavior and ethics, since nihilists claim behavior and ethics don’t matter. Thus, like all other skeptics, nihilists live by faith and must deal with doubts. Like the moral secularist, a nihilist has no proof that ethics don’t matter.

Nihilists, like the moral secularists, are betting their lives and existence on an unprovable belief that there is no god who would hold them accountable for their beliefs and behavior. This may or may not be true, but, again, it’s quite a leap of faith. The difference between the atheist who is a moral secularist and the atheist who is a nihilist, is the nihilist lives more consistently with his worldview. The nihilist lives, at least in theory, like there were no ultimate truth nor moral law.

The moral secularist denies God, yet lives like there were some ultimate truth and/or moral law. Thus, the moral secularist’s life is not consistent with his worldview. Now, the moral secularist may object by saying they have a different source of ultimate truth and moral law other than God.

Regardless of the source, that source is the god of the moral secularists. It may not be the God of the Bible, but it is a god of their own creation. Furthermore, they are living by faith that they are right, and that the nihilist and believer in the God of the Bible are wrong. In the end, the Christian, moral secularist, and nihilist all live by faith.

If we all live by faith, how does doubt fit into this?

Stay tuned for part 3.


[2] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 22; Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (p. xvi & location 144/4761 Kindle Edition).

[3] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/nihilism

[4] Nietzsche: “My demand upon the philosopher is known, that he take his stand beyond good and evil and leave the illusion of moral judgment beneath himself. This demand follows from an insight which I was the first to formulate: that there are altogether no moral facts…. Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena—more precisely, a misinterpretation…. Moral judgments are … never to be taken literally: so understood, they always contain mere absurdity.” https://genius.com/Friedrich-nietzsche-twilight-of-the-idols-chap-6-annotated

[5] Russell: “That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes, and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve the individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system…. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.” https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/654503-that-man-is-the-product-of-causes-which-had-no

[6] Dawkins: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/22201-the-total-amount-of-suffering-per-year-in-the-natural

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_nihilism;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism

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1 year ago

Thank you for sharing this article about atheists and faith. So only very few people in the world are actually truly atheist when their actions follow its true meaning?


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