Does Atheism Promote Progress?

NoProgressAtheism is not a monolithic worldview perspective. Many atheists will even balk at my calling atheism a “worldview perspective”. I honestly cannot see how it is a not a worldview. It matters not what shade of atheism one affirms, all manifestations of atheism by implication make claims as to the nature of reality. A worldview is a network of presuppositions not verified by empirical methods, in terms of which all reality is interpreted. If one affirms as part of their network of presuppositions the non-existence of God, or the low probability of God’s existence, or the non-relevancy of the question of God’s existence, they will in turn, interpret reality in a particular fashion. Hence, whatever form of atheism a person holds, they all have the characteristics of that which constitutes a worldview.

Now to our question: Does Atheism promote progress? Since not all atheists are the same, it will really depend upon the particular person holding to their shade of atheistic thought. Atheism as a perspective does not promote anything. There are loud and proud atheists and there are the silent, mind my own business atheists that really almost never speak of their atheism. Atheism, as many atheists describe themselves, is merely a negative position or a “lack of belief” in a God or gods. Taken in this fashion, this brand of atheism does not promote anything positive, but rather, it is a lack, and in some cases a denial of the existence of a deity or deities. On the other hand, in popular culture, atheists are usually associated with science. It is often presented as a perspective that is concerned with scientific progress and a move towards freeing oneself from the superstitions of religious belief (again, this is not always the case). However, are there particular atheists who feel compelled to promote “progress”? Of course.

But herein lies an interesting conundrum. In a world where there is no God, in a world where there is no objective and ultimate purpose and meaning, what is “progress?” Can an atheist affirm his/her atheism while also affirming the notion of an objective “progress” or “moving forward” of society? If a creator God that creates and gives meaning and purpose to all things does not exist, then it seems to follow that the idea of objective “progress” is an illusion. On atheism, there is no purpose. What does it even mean to “progress?” What does humanity progress towards? Who gets to decide what constitutes progression and digression? If one person’s conception of genuine progress conflicts with another person’s conception of progress, who is right as to what genuine progress truly is?

It seems as though the notion of progress only makes sense in a world in which God created and gave purpose, meaning, and direction to the world such that there is an objective standard by which to measure true progress and digression. Progress is moving towards God’s intended purpose for his creation, and digression is moving away from God’s intended purpose. If God does not exist, progress is a subjective opinion of man. Now granted, if progress is merely subjective, it does not disprove the atheistic outlook, but it should definitely give one pause. Atheism is proven false by other considerations, but if anything, the implications of atheism as described above should make one consider whether or not one is being consistent when they affirm atheism while also affirming the notion of objective progress.

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