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March 18, 2012 12:53 pm

Atheism, Freud, and the “Normal, Wholesome Life”

avatar by Moshe Averick

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The other day, while scrolling through a site for non-believers on Facebook, I came across a post which featured a picture of  Sigmund Freud and the following quotation: “When man is freed of religion, he has a better chance to live a normal and wholesome life.” For any thinking person, such an assertion immediately raises a number of thorny questions: Which religion/s was Freud talking about? What parts of the religion? (“Love your neighbor as yourself?” “You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan?”) What exactly is Freud’s definition of a “religion”? Atheistic propagandist, Bill Maher once opined that the atheistic ideology of Communism was a “state religion.” Does that mean that any ideology, including atheism, is a type of religion? What exactly does Freud mean by a “normal and wholesome life?”  Of course, any attempt to seriously answer all those questions would require a book, not an article.

What I actually posted on the site had little to do with directly addressing any of the aforementioned points:

Sigmund Freud also wrote that “the moment a man questions the meaning and value of life he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence.” Human life then, in reality, has no meaning and no value; is that a good basis for a normal and wholesome life?

Freud, of course, was absolutely correct. If the atheistic worldview is true, then we are here for no particular reason at all and a human being has no more or less value than a field mouse, or for that matter, a piece of  quartz crystal. Evolutionary biologist G. Gaylord Simpson put it this way: “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have a human in mind.” Fellow scientist, Dr. James Watson, concurs: “I don’t think we’re here for anything, we’re just products of evolution.” (It seems to me that the most likely result of inculcating my children with the notion that their lives had no meaning and no value would be a desperate search, on their part, for a psychiatrist!)

A reply to my post was not long in appearing:

Life has no objective meaning? How will I ever live a normal and wholesome life? Sorry, but some things are subjective. I don’t need to invent a sky daddy as an invisible means of support to deal with the fact that the meaning of life is one of them.

In other words, he agreed with Freud and me on the essential point. There is no objective meaning to our existence and of course no objective value to life either. He then goes on to mock belief in God as an artificially manufactured solution to the problem of finding purpose and value in life: “I don’t need to invent a sky daddy…to deal with [this] fact…” What is most telling here is not only the glaring contradiction contained in his reply, but the inescapable absurdity that is reflected in every attempt to form some sort of worldview based on non-belief. Please allow me to elaborate.

Sorry, but some things are subjective.” – This concept is echoed by humanistic philosopher Paul Kurtz: “Human life has no meaning independent of itself…the meaning of life is what we choose to give it.”  Jean Paul Sartre follows suit: “Life has no meaning a priori…it’s up to you to give it meaning, and value is nothing else but the meaning you choose…”  Before going any further it is instructive to define clearly what subjective means: “Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world…existing only within the experiencer’s mind…existing only in the mind, illusory.” (American Heritage Dictionary)

The idea of creating our own subjective meaning and purpose may sound very profound in the university lecture hall but when stripped of its philosophical camouflage it really means the following: Make something up out of your own head that gives your life purpose and meaning and pretend that it’s real. In other words, create a comforting fiction to avoid getting “sick,” as Freud described it. Well then, if we must create some illusory construct to give our lives meaning and value, what’s wrong with the “God construct” or “sky-daddy” as this gentleman called it; if it makes me feel good, why not? It’s no more artificial and illusory than say humanism, utilitarianism, communism, speciesism, etc., ad nauseum. This highlights the absurdity of the atheist position. On the one hand the atheistic philosopher bids us to create an illusory meaning and value for life and on the other hand mocks religion for being illusory.

Of course, it is possible that an individual will choose to embrace reality with no sugar-coated comforting fictions at all. He will simply live life with the clear understanding that nothing he does matters at all and will relate to other people as only having as much value as suits him at any given moment. (If you ever meet such a “realist” I would advise you not to turn your back on him and to head for the nearest exit immediately.)

Dr. Paul Kurtz, humanistic philosopher. He asks us to make up a meaning and value for life and pretend it's real

For all the talk about separation of religion and state, it is obvious that American society could not exist or continue functioning without the religious, God-based principles on which it is founded. The sacred notion of the dignity of the individual that is expressed in the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” is only because human beings stand equal before their infinite creator; it is only because of man’s unique relationship with God that he is inherently more precious than other beasts of the field. In fact, the only possible reason that would obligate us to live like human beings rather than as two legged, upright walking primates is our unique relationship with God. The alternative to a society being founded on the principle that man is created in the image of God is one that is founded on the principle that man evolved – through a purposeless process – in the image of the bacterium. It is the contemplation of this very notion that Freud so incisively described as making us feel “sick.” All comforting fictions notwithstanding, a society that chooses the latter has no hope of ever achieving anything remotely resembling a “normal and wholesome life.”

Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi, a  regular columnist for the Algemeiner Journal, and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website.

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