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Stalling: The Death of God

“What does nihilism mean? That the highest values devaluate themselves. The aim is lacking; “why?” finds no answer.


The Elephant in the Universe

Now, the elephant in the existential room known as the universe here is God.

It’s not uncommon to hear atheists deride the idea of God while failing to see the very real psychological security faith provides. It does. Religious people suffer from depression and anxiety in far fewer numbers than non-religious people.

The truth is God was an ingenious solution to what Buddha called the big problem of consciousness.

The big problem of consciousness isn’t simply the knowledge we will die. It’s what happens when we take the question of why to its natural conclusion. The eventual death of all things. Because nothing lasts forever. That includes the human race.

Our cultures give us a sense of permanence that we crave, but that’s all it is. A sense. (A sense, I might add, that is being increasingly uprooted during a time of accelerating change.) When you take the question of why to a cosmic level it finds no answer. Meaning falls away, and all we are left with is a cold, indifferent, truly absurd universe.

This is what follows atheism: a confrontation with nihilism. It sits like a dark storm cloud gathering strength on the horizon.

This is where we run the risk of throwing out the baby with the holy bathwater in the modern age. This is something that greatly concerned Fredrick Nietzsche when he prophesied about the death of God.

Something that holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl subsequently called the existential vacuum. 

The Existential Vacuum

Fredrick Nietzsche famously said, “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” That’s what God gave people. A why to their lives. Not just any old why. God provided people with the kind of necessary meaning that their lives meant something as a whole.

It was encompassing. 

The big issue that nihilism presents is this: the meaning of our lives has become contingent. It’s contingent on us becoming a super successful CEO with billions in our bank account. It’s contingent on us curing cancer and changing the course of human history.

Even with less ridiculous expectations – it’s contingent on us being valuable members of our family, community, country, etc. Of course, these things are important. They do provide our lives with a huge amount of necessary meaning. 

But what happens when we lose our job, get divorced, or a loved one passes away? What happens when our health fails us – when we suffer a debilitating disease – then what? 

If you can’t fulfill your role as a valuable member of your community, then what? 

This is when the existential vacuum sucks the life out of us. This is when the worm eats whatever lift we have left for breakfast. This is when we ask what the meaning of life is. This is when we have an existential midlife crisis and decide to write a book about it… (Ah, shit.) 

But seriously. 

The instinct is to then assign the greatest meaning possible. We look to the stars in search of some cosmic significance. In doing so, we unwittingly set the bar for what a meaningful life should be so high that only God Himself can reach it. 

If you don’t believe in God, that’s a big fucking problem. 

Our Cosmic Insignificance

People often spin this the other way.

They employ a bit of cosmic insignificance therapy. They use the knowledge – the sheer improbability of their existence – as a potent reminder of how incredibly precious their life is. If you understand that deeply this is a powerful thing. 

But there’s still a danger with this line of thinking. For many people, this one life is brutal. The idea that this reality is all there is can be a lot to stomach. Then there’s the added pressure of knowing all you have is this one shot at getting it right – to find your ultimate purpose or whatever.  

Then what happens if (God forbid) you make a big mistake? What happens if you fuck up, then what? 

God didn’t just provide us with an encompassing meaning – it was independent of ourselves. God always loved you. God always had your back. But now there is no God to save you. There is no God to forgive your mistakes. There is no God to tell you that everything happens for a reason. 

You’re stuck with yourself.

People often talk about living with the fear of God. The real fear is living without Him. I say all of this as atheist.

And there’s another name for living with the fear of God. It’s called your conscience. You have no choice but to live with it. If you act against it, it will torment you. You do this enough times you will find yourself in hell. It isn’t a place reserved for you after death but a deep, dark hole within your psyche.

This is the trap that nihilism sets. It will send you down that hole if you’re not careful.

There’s Something Missing

Even when we are flying high at our optimum cruising level, when, on paper, we seemingly have everything, many of us can’t escape the feeling that something is missing in our lives.

It’s just we can’t put a finger on it. The existential grumblings beneath the surface torment us. We don’t dare sit still for fear of having to confront it.

Instead, we reach for the all-to-convenient devices in our pockets. We numb ourselves to the point of addiction. We desperately seek to fill the existential void in our lives through any means necessary – to keep the worm firmly at bay.

But we can’t outrun the worm forever. Our attempts to do so only make it stronger. Eventually, we must confront it.

The good news is, we’ve got it all the wrong. As it turns out, the worm holds the fucking key.

This is part five of a series of posts on the subject of stalling in life.

Part 1: Stalling: The Aerodynamics of Life

Part 2: Stalling: Why We Lose Lift

Part 3: Stalling: Why We Lose Lift (2)

Part 4: Stalling: The Paradox of Meaning


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36 thoughts on “Stalling: The Death of God

  1. You’re brilliant. And you’re almost onto something. Some of the greatest Christian philosophers began as atheists, endeavoring to disprove God’s existence.

  2. God is a substance consisting of infinite attributes, which express eternal and infinite essentiality.


    I Gîkûyû I don’t know. It’s only God who knows; all I know is the worlds are His, properties and peoples are also His. I call him Father, the creator of heavens and earth.

     No one spoke after Gîkûyû, for he didn’t say who God was but only spoke of his relationship with Ngai. 

    And probably there lies the key to uncovering the great mystery.

    An admission that we do not know.

    1. I like the Spinoza quote. “And probably there lies the key to uncovering the great mystery. An admission that we do not know.” Food for thought. Thank you for taking the time to comment 🙏

  3. I wanna say ‘shut up and tend your garden’ but that is not exactly helpful to someone who is desperately looking for a meaning trying to survive his or her existential crisis. And yet something is still missing even when you are in your garden working your ass off, saying your daily prayers, doing the right thing. At the end of the day, it’s just ‘dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind’…

    1. Hi Milena. These are just thoughts. Views taken form the tiny peephole I see the world from. I mean no offence. But I do mean to challenge people. Myself included. I guess that’s all I feel I really can do as a writer. I’m not desperately looking for some meaning. I feel much more content recently. I just genuinely like to think deeply about these things. I think there are dangers to atheism and certain nihilistic outlooks on life. But like you say. What does it matter. We’re all just dust in the wind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙏

  4. You have brought up some very deep, essential to life questions.

    I myself cannot live without a sense of God in my life. Having come out of 2 very strict fundamentalist and evangelical churches, my perception of God became skewed over time, and I came to be brainwashed into believing a wrathful, hard, vengeful God was sitting in judgement of me. Only after I left churches did I discover God’s true nature which is ALL love. This changed my perspectives so radically that I never wish to go back to organized religion which uses a twisted, mishappen form of God to incite deep fears and to be able to control their congregations.

    After all I went through, I now see I need to believe in God, but I need to believe in God in the purest form and essence, and not accept man’s teachings about who they think God is. Having this new belief has helped my mental health, for I feel grounded and stabilized. whereas before I was a mess.

    1. I believe God is unknowable. That gives me some comfort but I find it hard to accept the concept outright. Probably a product of my upbringing/education. I completely understand why people maintain faith. I don’t judge one way or the other. I only wanted to highlight the potential pitfalls as an atheist. I think if I did believe I would be in line with your thinking on it for the reasons you say. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tamara 🙏

      1. I get what you are saying. I’ve had so many serendipitous things happen and far too many coincidences that I believe that there is a power behind it. After I left the churches I was introduced to Native American spiritual beliefs and ceremonies where I learned about spirits. So now when I pray prayers of thanks and gratitude, I thank God, my Angels and Spirits, for they’re all invisible, yet energetic, and work together for the greater good. That brings me comfort and helpsmy mind to feel that I can understandmore aboutthisworldif there is an energy that helps those who seek it. It won’t just intervene in everything that happens, for much needs to play out. I had 4 psychics approach me (in different cities, in a span of 2 years or so) and tell me that I chose my troubles before I came into this world so that I could learn the spiritual lessons that I needed to, and otherwise wouldn’t be able to had I not experienced those things.

        When I questioned further, I was told that this is true for each of us.

        The truths you choose may well be exactly what your spirit needs to be able to grow the best, and so on for each of us!

  5. yep, believing in imaginary nonsense certainly can make you feel less anxious, etc.

    That makes it a pretty lie to yourself.

    “People often talk about living with the fear of God. The real fear is living without Him. I say all of this as atheist.”

    ROFL. Oh dear, sorry no fear at all.

    1. The literate would back me up. Religious people suffer from rates of depression and anxiety in far fewer numbers than non religious people. There’s a good reason for that. I think the idea that this is all we get lies at the heart of it.

      1. unsurprisingly, you can’t show that any god is real or that it is the reason that religious people are less anxious, etc.

        as I said, a pretty lie is all theists have.

      2. I didn’t say anything about god being real. I said people who believe in God typically demonstrate lower levels of anxiety and depression. There are a huge number of studies that show this. Here’s one:

        “Most of mental disorders that result from psychological distress and bitterness of life are observed among non-religious people”

      3. So, you think god isn’t real. Good for you.

        Yep, there are indeed studies and they show that humans need interaction, not religion. They happen to get interaction during their religious participation.

        and nice quote from a set of lies from the Iranian journal of public health, Iran is quite the sad little theocracy. It’s a shame you run to other ignorant theist who also must lie.

      4. and funny how the original paper cited was from Biola University, a christan university. The study was of 45 people, that’s all, which makes the “study” essentially worthless.

        “This study investigated the relationship between spiritual well-being and anxiety in at-risk adolescents. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Spiritual Well-Being Scale, a revised version of the Allport-Ross Religious Orientation Scale, and the Social Provisions Scale were administered to 45 male and female high school students who were considered to be at-risk. The research found that the higher the spiritual well-being, existential well-being, religious well-being and intrinsic religious orientation were among males, the lower the anxiety. Only lower existential well-being was associated with lower anxiety among females. Spiritual well-being and female gender were found to be the best predictors of anxiety from the variables studied.”

      5. Dude. Let’s relax ay? Just an opinion man. And yes, it’s not black and white or across the board. I never said that. Only that – in general – religious people suffer from depression and anxiety in far fewer numbers than non religious people.
        I was merely making an argument in an attempt to understand why that is.

        By the way that was a peer reviewed paper that has cited many other sources. And sure it has its limitations. Perhaps it wasn’t the best one to quote. I did a quick google search. So sue me. They are loads more. Here are a couple.

      6. My post was opinion – at least partly – but it was based on evidence that I have showed you. Something you have failed to do in turn. All you’ve done is assert an opinion and claimed I’m lying. Show me the studies that refute it. Prove what I’ve said is wrong. I’ve no doubt some of it is on some level. I’m all ears. I’ll keep an open mind. Did you read those studies I sent you? They are fairly conclusive. That statement: that religious people suffer from depression and anxiety in far fewer numbers than non religious people – that bit of my argument isn’t opinion. That’s empirically backed – not by theists – but by scientists. I find it deeply ironic that you would deride people for believing in something for which there is no evidence, all the while stubbornly refusing to accept anything that challenges your own strongly held views even – especially – when that evidence is provided. You’ve been caught with your pants down and you can’t stand it.

      7. You’ve shown no evidence. You’ve made baseless claims that are not supported by evidence.

        Yep, I read those studies adn nope, they aren’t conclusive at all. A study of a couple of dozen people is not conclusive at all.

        Again, you have yet to show that religion is the cause of the lack of anxiety. Since these studies don’t have the same religion in each case, all we can draw from them is that social interaction is what causes a lessening of anxiety depression.

        Christianity is demonstrated as nothing special at all. Anyone can get the same benefits from any group interaction.

        Happily, my pants are not “down” at all.

      8. “No evidence” “Not conclusive at all” Really?

        “At least 444 studies have now quantitatively examined these relationships. Of those, over 60% report less depression and faster remission from depression in those more R/S or a reduction in depression severity in response to an R/S intervention. In contrast, only 6% report greater depression. Of the 178 most methodologically rigorous studies, 119 (67%) find inverse relationships between R/S and depression.” –

        By the way, what you’re talking about is one of the possible reasons religious people *on average* suffer from fewer rates of depression and anxiety. But the statement still stands.

      9. again, those studies have not shown that religion did anything, only that social interaction is the factor.

        and here is where you claim atheism leads to nihilsm, with no exceptions, just the usual ignorance of a theist who needs to claim his religion has some use:

        “This is what follows atheism: a confrontation with nihilism. It sits like a dark storm cloud gathering strength on the horizon.”

      10. These studies show that lots of factors contribute to the reason religious people suffer from far fewer rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction etc.

        Here’s some more evidence that you will likely ignore:

        “A majority of the nearly 350 studies of physical health and 850 studies of mental health that have used religious and spiritual variables have found that religious involve- ment and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes.23”

        “Studies have shown that religious involvement is associ- ated with health-promoting behaviors such as more exer- cise,52-54 proper nutrition,52,53 more seat belt use,52 smoking cessation,54 and greater use of preventive services.25 In addition, religious involvement predicts greater function- ing among disabled persons.55 Finally, religious involve- ment is associated with fewer hospitalizations and shorter hospital stays.56”

        “Greater depth of spiritual perspective is associated with greater sense of well-being.61 Studies58,62 also suggest that religiously involved persons at the end of life are more accepting of death, unrelated to belief in an afterlife. Fi- nally, intrinsic religiosity63,64 and religious involvement65 are associated with less death anxiety.”

        “Those who received religious psychotherapy ex- perienced a significantly more rapid recovery than those receiving standard therapy alone.
        A recent review48 of nearly 70 cross-sectional and pro- spective studies found that religious involvement is associ- ated with less anxiety or fear.”

        “A recent review80 concluded that there is strong evi- dence that religious or spiritual involvement is associated with decreased risk of substance abuse, persons with addic- tions are more likely to report a lack of religious affiliation and involvement, and spiritually focused interventions (ie, focused on meaning and purpose, not necessarily on spe- cific religious beliefs) and practices (eg, prayer) may facili- tate recovery.”

        “Several large ecological studies have found that belief in God,89 attendance at religious services,90 self-reported religiosity,86,90 and religious upbringing90 were inversely related to national suicide rates. Finally, several prospective stud- ies26,35 have found that the risk of completed suicide among religiously involved persons is less than the risk among nonreligiously involved individuals.”

        The evidence isn’t just conclusive it’s overwhelming. But listen, I can show you all the water in the world. If you refuse to drink it I can’t help you.

        By the way, I didn’t say nihilism follows atheism only that a confrontation with it does. There’s a difference. That doesn’t mean an atheist will necessarily adopt nihilistic beliefs, only that’s it’s more likely. Given the overwhelming evidence I’d say that’s a fair deduction. But you’re right to point out that that is a generalisation. Perhaps it needs rewording. “What typically follows atheism.” That’s something I’d be willing to debate and change my views on.

        Can you say as much?

      11. Yep, just as I said, and not one concludes that some magical being does anything at all.

        Unfortnately for you, your claim that nihilism is More likely” is also false. Nothing supports that either. Nihilsm isn’t depression or anxiety.

        If you are willing to debate that, fine. Go ahead. Why should I change views that aren’t wrong?

      12. “not one concludes that some magical being does anything at all.” – That was never my argument. It really is like banging my head against a brick wall.

        And of course Nihilism follows from Atheism. Nihilism can’t grow out of a belief in God! The conclusion that there is no God leads to the conclusion – for many -that life is inherently meaningless. And from there, the rejection of all religious and moral values. That does’t necessarily happen for all atheists of course but that’s a danger for atheists – far more so than for religious people. I think it’s particularly shortsighted to ignore that danger as an Atheist.

        You’re right Nihilism isn’t depression or anxiety – but, let’s be honest – of course nihilism is going to be associated with greater rates of depression and anxiety. It breeds the idea that everything is ultimately futile so why bother. It’s hopelessness at its core. The idea that all the suffering and death in the world is for nothing is enough to play a number on anyone.

        “Why should I change views that aren’t wrong?” – I’ll tell you why. Because that’s as dangerous an assumption that anyone can make. It’s that view – that you are right without question and without evidence – that makes your reasoning equal to that of a fundamentalist.

  6. There are some misspellings here. That’s not a good sign. For the very important but non-existent as a noun “conscious,” you must mean the “conscience.” Worms eat “lift”? “All-to-convenient”? “Nietche”?
    Worms can’t run. Worms have no gripping digits, hence they cannot “hold the key.” Elephants, dark storms, too many competing metaphors.
    Life has to be made comprehensible and enjoyable, else we atheists are wasting our fossil fueled time.

    1. May have rushed the editing on this one. I appreciate the feedback. I’ll have a think on the use of metaphors in the future.

  7. Interesting. I don’t know how to comment. With or without religion the truth is we live in a world that creates mental problems. Yes, some are born with problems that develop further. I am not denying this. What I mean is that it is always about our behaviour and there are those in the name of religion who commit atrocities just as faith for others gives them the will to survive.

    1. Indeed. I don’t believe the issue is a lack of faith. Equally, I don’t believe those who have faith are more likely to commit atrocities either. Extremism exists across all walks. Of course the topic is far too complex to adequately cover in a book, let alone a blog post. But I do believe there is a danger as an atheist. That’s what I mean to highlight here. We need a purpose. A set of values to hold us straight whatever the weather. We need to feel we are living a meaningful life. Otherwise nihilism lurks in the corner. I believe this has a lot to do with the modern mental health crisis we find ourselves in today. Faith provides an answer for many good people. For those who don’t believe in God, I believe it’s very important to have some greater cause and community to serve. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙏

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