Is David Benatar’s Anti-natalism Rooted in Atheism?

From this article on Big Think:

Welcome to anti-natalism, a small but lively corner of philosophy that, in our time of climate change, prospects of nuclear war, and divisive populist politics, has been growing of late. Though David Benatar, one of the chief modern architects of this philosophy, may or may not have coined the term “anti-natalism”—he’s done “intellectual archaeology” to figure it out, and his jury of one is still debating—his recent appearance on Sam Harris’s Waking Up podcast further solidified his stake in this long debated topic: Is life worth living? Benatar says no, at least for the unborn.

According to Benatar, head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town and author of Better Never to Have Been, being born is “not always a harm, but always a very serious harm.” Summating his philosophy, he continues:

We ought not to bring new people into existence, but I think the view is broader, that we ought not to bring new sentient beings into existence. It’s not just the view that it’s harmful to come into existence, but a further view that it’s wrong to bring beings into existence.

The article then notes,

Harris finds a correlation with Buddhism. According to a translation of Buddhist texts by Sir Hari Singh Gour, Buddha claimed that men are ignorant of the suffering they unleash; existence is the cause of old age and death. If man would realize this harm he would immediately stop procreating.

Harris does try to push back against Benatar’s views, but, judging from this article, doesn’t come across as being all that successful.

The question that interests me is whether Benatar is an atheist.  For this “better to not have ever existed” position is the nihilistic culmination of atheism.  It’s also where the Argument from Evil leads. A reality so evil that it supposedly negates the existence of God is a reality so evil it would be better if it had not existed.

To test my hunch that this anti-natalism is so nihilistic that only an atheist could propose and spend a lifetime advocating for it, I searched Google, but could not only any place where Benator either self-describes as an atheist or is described as an atheist.

But then I found this New Yorker article which explains how Benatar is immensely private (explaining my difficulty).  Yet during his interview, he let the cat out of the bag:

Some people argue that talk of pain and pleasure misses the point: even if life isn’t good, it’s meaningful. Benatar replies that, in fact, human life is cosmically meaningless: we exist in an indifferent universe, perhaps even a “multiverse,” and are subject to blind and purposeless natural forces. In the absence of cosmic meaning, only “terrestrial” meaning remains—and, he writes, there’s “something circular about arguing that the purpose of humanity’s existence is that individual humans should help one another.”

And there it is.  Humans as cosmically meaningless entities living in an indifferent universe subjected to blind and purposeless forces is the very perspective of atheism.

After all, it is the atheistic view of Richard Dawkins

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

And, as icing on the cake, we can also note the analogy:

Like everyone else, Benatar finds his views disturbing; he has, therefore, ambivalent feelings about sharing them. He wouldn’t walk into a church, stride to the pulpit, and declare that God doesn’t exist. Similarly, he doesn’t relish the idea of becoming an ambassador for anti-natalism. Life, he says, is already unpleasant enough.

So the evidence does indicate Benator’s anti-natalism is ultimately rooted in atheism.

It is interesting to take in the various moral perspectives of different expressions of atheism.  Whether it’s Singer’s advocacy for bestiality or infanticide, the determinists insistence that serial murderers and rapists are helpless victims, or Benator’s belief that it is immoral to have children, there is a dark place that atheism leads to.

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11 Responses to Is David Benatar’s Anti-natalism Rooted in Atheism?

  1. notabilia says:

    Not a bad post – about as much praise as you could ever hope to get from this side.
    Strange how the true “anti-natalists” have been your crowd all along, though – witness the abhorrence of all the remaining pleasures of life from you unreconstructed theists. Anti-sex and anti-love from the Pope’s grumbling legions, anti-science and anti-humanism from the Christian hordes, anti-fun and anti-modernity from Muslims, anti-women and anti-child forms of social abuse from the Christians, who deserve another anti-natalist citation, anti-secularism and anti-humanity from Judaism, anti-secular humanism from Hinduists. It’s as if religious dogma is a rejection of life – hence the applicability of the label to you.
    Keep up the good reading!

  2. Notabilia, watch Billy Madison, or the scene therein where Billy is reprimanded for his rambling answer about business ethics. That is how I feel about your comment, on all seriousness.

  3. Regual Llegna says:

    notabilia says:
    “Not a bad post – about as much praise as you could ever hope to get from this side.
    Strange how the true “anti-natalists” have been your crowd all along, though – witness the abhorrence of all the remaining pleasures of life from you unreconstructed theists. Anti-sex and anti-love from the Pope’s grumbling legions, anti-science and anti-humanism from the Christian hordes, anti-fun and anti-modernity from Muslims, anti-women and anti-child forms of social abuse from the Christians, who deserve another anti-natalist citation, anti-secularism and anti-humanity from Judaism, anti-secular humanism from Hinduists. It’s as if religious dogma is a rejection of life – hence the applicability of the label to you.
    Keep up the good reading!”

    – Sex is about carnal desire only, don’t have any value outside materialism or carnal desire himself.
    – Love is subjetive (especially with stances like atheism).
    – The current Pope is very humanist, to the point i says is not a catholic.
    – Science is only a group of methods, is not a form of authority.
    – Humanism is an ideology, that is being corrently used to promote globalism with political goals of control, is not altruism.
    – Fun is subjetive (especially with humanism in mind).
    – Modernity is subjetive and is not about technology alone (especially for people that have
    certain resources) .
    – Muslims are not christians.
    – Women have equal rights and are protected under the law in all mayority christians nations, just, don’t ask for especial rights.
    – Child forms of social abuse are selective, especially for atheists who favor anti-theism, misotheism, autotheism and maltheism brainwashing that should not exist in atheist circles but it does.
    – Anti-natalism is about being against birth, christians don’t like the idea of abortions.
    – Secularism is about a form of goverment, a principle, if you convert a principle into a law then the priciple will become a obligation or worst a mere convenience.
    – Who says what humanity is? You, big brother govermnet or an hard idelogy. Nobody can be anti-humanity and being a human. Are you accusing christians of not being human?
    – Chistians are not jews.
    – Secular humanism add forced oligations into secularism and then become a crazy mess about emotion (like being offended) that is easely controlable by evil people. Never push for a forced idelogy into goverment policy.
    – Christians are not hindus.
    – You believe that not dogma exist out religion? what about science and its dogmatic adherence to mothodology to the point no method = no science, what about politics and its dogmatic adherence to power to the point no power = no rulling, etc. Dogma is simply the base of the throught.
    – You believe that religion is anti-life, like this guy preach who is abviously and atheist and probabily anti-religious?
    – This post is about a guy that is anti-natalist, he don’t want let people be born and he see this subjetive (is about his feelings about suffering) denial as a form of altruism (for the common good, probabily).

  4. TFBW says:

    Allow me to translate what notabilia said from Smug to English: “theists are the real anti-natalists because they’re dumb and boring.” Contrast that with David Benatar, who is anti-natal only in the strictly literal sense.

  5. Kevin says:

    notabilia,

    I’m assuming that you believe your post was factually accurate. Allow me to shed some light on what you apparently don’t understand.

    Christians are not “anti-sex”. We are “anti-promiscuous sex outside of marriage”. Teen pregnancies and other unwanted pregnancies, abortions, STDs, the current ridiculous crisis involving sexual harassment and college rape cases, all could be almost completely solved if people were raised to save sex for marriage. Christians are the intelligent ones here.

    Christians are not “anti-love”. That’s just stupid.

    Christians are not “anti-science”. There is a certain segment of Christians that doesn’t accept all aspects of evolution, geology, or astrophysics, but that doesn’t make them “anti-science” since the vast majority of science, they accept.

    Christians are not “anti-humanism” unless you equate humanism with people like Richard Dawkins, then of course they should be against this form of humanism. Humanism as in caring for people, this does not define Christians in the slightest.

    Not going to comment on Middle Eastern Islam, but I have no idea what “anti-fun” means.

    Christians are not “anti-women”. That’s just stupid.

    Christians are not “anti-child”. That’s just stupid.

    Not going to comment on Israeli politics or Hinduists.

    It’s as if Christians are thoughtful, caring people who sometimes make mistakes, and atheists run around the internet lying about them because apparently sex is all that matters!

    I’d suggest you keep reading, but what you’ve been reading has not done you a single favor yet.

  6. Ilíon says:

    God *is* life/being. When a man rejects God, necessarily he is rejecting life/being. It’s no accident that ‘atheists’ routinely assert that “Consciousness is an illusion” (i.e. that you do not exist), and it’s no accident that this one asserts that “It is better not to be than to be”

    As God *is* being, so God *is* truth. And, so, it is no accident that ‘atheists’ routinely lie about “theism” and “atheism”, as ‘notabilia’ has done above.

  7. It truly is fascinating how atheism does indeed lead one quite directly into a culture of death in nearly all its aspects.

  8. Dhay says:

    I see that in his Maverick Philosopher blog, Bill Vallicella has made a series of thoughtful posts on David Benatar’s anti-natalism:

    http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/benatar-david/

  9. hikayamasan353 says:

    I highly agree with Kevin. However, let me replace the “that’s just stupid” with the better arguments.

    Love is the biggest lesson that every religion, especially Abrahamic, can teach. One of the commandments in the Bible is: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39). Even Prophet Muhammad has said: “None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself”, “Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and to enter Paradise should treat the people as he wishes to be treated as” (from Sahih Muslim), “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you” (from the Farewell Sermon). Love is not just all about romance or sex, it is all about kind treatment of people. Nowadays people are simply putting themselves too much into sexual scope of romance, which creates unhealthy relationships and doesn’t lead to a good happy life together. My ex-friend (and a sworn enemy) says she had a lot of ex-boyfriends and they were even having a lot of sex throughout their lives. When I was in my late teens, I felt like by loving my little brother, I might be a “gay”/”homosexual”. I think that, the biggest lesson the LGBT community can teach people, is that we should put the love for the neighbor over everything else, especially their gender identity. Any gender can love each another. In Abrahamic religions, the inclusion of non-binary gendered people was apparent – look at eunuchs/mukhannathun…

    Rights of women and children were heavily suppressed in Pre-Islamic Arabia. Baby girls were buried alive to prevent unwanted relationships. Women were also exploited, used as prostitutes (belly dancing was one of their ways to sexually tempt men), female genital mutilation was very apparent and common (Islamic theology denounces it). In times of St Nicholas, girls were not allowed to be given out to marriage if they had no dowry, otherwise they were killed or sold to prostitution.

    It’s not about atheism itself, since atheism is simply lack of belief in God. It’s about modern atheist activism, a.k.a. “New Atheism”. I used to be a militant atheist myself, and I thought that believing antireligious myths bought in by the atheist activists would make me more “smart”, “intelligent”, “rational” etc. It was study of the history of science and religion that led me away from the atheist activism. While simple a-/non-theists would just keep doubting, atheist activists main agenda is not related to doubt or skepticism in any matter. They assert the opposite message. Even skepticism and doubt are different things: while doubt is negative, skepticism is neither affirmative nor negative – it’s interrogative in nature.

    Yet I do agree that God – especially Abrahamic God – is life/being itself. He is the Primary Creator of everything and everyone. The creation hypothesis is very compatible with the Big Bang and stellar evolution, because both of these scientific facts and theories have the beginning.

    I believe.

  10. Isaac says:

    “Anti-sex and anti-love from the Pope’s grumbling legions, anti-science and anti-humanism from the Christian hordes, anti-fun and anti-modernity from Muslims, anti-women and anti-child forms of social abuse from the Christians, who deserve another anti-natalist citation, anti-secularism and anti-humanity from Judaism, anti-secular humanism from Hinduists.”

    Let’s see.

    Wrong, wrong, the exact opposite is true, the exact opposite is true, sometimes, sometimes, completely wrong, completely wrong, not really, definitely not, and usually.

    This post is far below the level of discourse here or any other intelligent forum. Complete drivel.

  11. Dhay says:

    That’s a common reaction, apparently; here’s a footnote from Notabilia’s blog:

    ** NOTE: This social treatise from FSN is written, designed, and produced to be a “ONE-VIEW” showing. All other forms of viewing will cause the dissolution of the process. “One-View” viewing is only possible because FSN has been precisely calibrated to elicit these common reactions and anti-reactions from possible viewers:

    C. “What kind of jackass keeps writing this kind of crap?’

    https://mjosefw.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/the-slow-car-movement/

    His A. and B. are similar to C. As regards D., fulsome in praise of himself, see C.

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