Russ Douthat caused Jerry Coyne to have another tantrum. There is no need to respond to the whole rant, but this part begs for commentary:
Yes, secularism does propose a physical and purposeless universe, and many (but not all) of us accept the notion that our sense of self is a neuronal illusion. But although the universe is purposeless, our lives aren’t. This conflation of a purposeless universe (i.e., one not created for a specific reason) with purposeless human lives is a trick that the faithful use to make atheism seem nihilistic and dark. But we make our own purposes, and they’re real. Right now my purpose is to write this piece, and then I’ll work on a book, and later I’ll have dinner with a friend. Soon I’ll go to Poland to visit more friends. Maybe later I’ll read a nice book and learn something. Those are real purposes, not illusory purposes to which Douthat wants us to devote our only life.
Sure. Neuronal illusions in a purposeless universe can delude themselves into thinking they have some real purpose.
Coyne’s purpose is to write for his anti-religious blog, write on his anti-religious book, read some books, and have dinner with a friend. The purpose for another atheist might be to play some video games, get drunk, and get laid. For another atheist, his purpose of the day might be to make a hateful anti-religious image and try to get it to go viral on the internet. It doesn’t really matter if any of these atheists actually accomplish their purposes. But they are good ways to distract yourself from your beliefs about being a neuronal illusion in a purposeless universe. After all, that seems to be the unifying theme of all the different atheistic purpose-of-the-days – to distract oneself from one’s own beliefs.
BTW, did you notice what was not on Coyne’s checklist of purposes – go into the lab and do some science. Despite all their posturing about science, that doesn’t seem to be a purpose for most New Atheist leaders.