Does anyone agree with philosopher Thomas Nagel's reason for being an atheist?

I saw the following quote from philosopher Thomas Nagel on HuffPo:

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

I couldn't think of a single atheist who rejected religion because of wishful thinking. I need to know if anyone here agrees with Nagel's reason for being atheist.

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It almost sounds like the "rebelling-against-god" school of thought, rather than the thought-out, dispassionate, no-evidence-no-god, which I vastly prefer.  I refuse to be frightened by the thought that, somehow, there COULD be a god when all the data out there says otherwise.  There is no more logic in being cowed by the far outside possibility that there MIGHT be a god than there is in the equally far outside possibility that I might be hit by an asteroid.

Nagel's take seems to lack backbone, and no, I am not down with it.

"when all the data out there says otherwise."  

The data doesn't disprove the existence of god -  it's the lack of data in support of god's existence that's completely missing.

My wish is that wishful thinking can't affect reality.  Unfortunately, I don't get my wish, as evidenced by massive ongoing slaughter, willful intellectual & emotional abuse of children, and perversion of political processes.

I perceive nearly every person who wants to communicate about their non-belief as wishing there was no God.  I don't think there is a God, and I don't want there to be a God, but I think most atheists are much the same, and as desiring not to admit it.  When I look at my childhood and see how angry I was because of those who believed, how alienated I felt, it seems ludicrous that I don't have a personal biased interest against there being a God.

I empathize completely with the statement, yet despite that empathy I believe I don't favor theism because I it violates empiricism and I value that.  

Even a casual observer of this site must admit that people here are quite often militant or passionate about their opposition to religion.  I often wonder, does Atheism necessitate being against other people being religious? It seems here that this is so, but maybe the litmus test is that an Atheist who is generally okay with other people believing whatever they want is unlikely to signup.  That being said, I think it more likely then that those who would signup for this site are then more likely to want God not to be true.

To be biased is human, to be biased and aware of that bias is science.  To perceive oneself as not biased is usually delusion.

I have mixed emotion about this quote. On one hand, I can respect the desire to not have a universe that is controlled by some omnipotent creator. I think if this statement is made from the point of view of a speaker that would be unhappy in a world created by a being, then I can see the validity of this desire. It makes me uneasy to even consider that all of existence could be the contrived project of one (or more) entity(s). Nagel's phrasing "I want atheism to be true" leads me to believe that this is not the case though.

It seems like Nagel is leaning more towards an agnostic theist view, with a fear of what that belief may mean for the universe. I could be completely off on this one though. Either way I think, after having thought it through, that I cannot agree with this reasoning. Beliefs should not be based on fear, or any other emotion, in my opinion.

No, I agree with him. I don't think he's an atheist because of wishful thinking. He adds it as a secondary thought. He says 'it isn't JUST that I don't believe in God' . . . 'I hope there is no God! . . . I don't want the universe to be like that!'

To me, this says nothing any different than the Atheist video 'Afterlife', which compiled a bunch of Atheist bloggers' views on the afterlife, and it included them speculating over what they'd think if Heaven was actually real. One of them puts in perspective how Heaven would be torture (laying out exactly how long eternity really is), and basically saying 'I hope that's not the case! It would be torture!' - I don't think he's saying anything at all different here. He doesn't believe in a god, but he's going further in saying that regardless of whether his belief is right or wrong, he actively hopes (not just believes) that one does not exist because of how more messed up our world would be if it was governed by some crazy monotheistic deity. 

That's what I pulled out of what he said, and I'd totally agree with it.

I completely agree with that statement. I say stuff like that nearly every day. Like Ava I don't think he's claiming it as a reason or argument for his non belief - it's simply an added opinion. And one that I share. I really don't care for arguments for or against believing. I simply don't believe in the fairy tale. That is all I need. But it's an interesting point to mull over for a while. Deep down would you rather it were true? I wouldn't.

I think you bring up an interesting point. I could not help but follow it up in my mind with a whimsical question though. Are there any versions of theism that you, or any non-theist for that matter, would feel comfortable with? For the sake of discussion, I'm assuming that version would be true.

I have serious problems with the Abrahamic religions. But...if there were a religion that involved massive quantities of high end beer and chocolate, all non-fattening, I would seriously consider Sunday school, Bible study, retreats....

I am with you when you say you don't believe either extreme and that's enough for you. I take the same stance and argue that's all we have so why try to insist on anything more. My life could not be lived in a more "atheistic" fashion.

No, I reject religion because—when closely examined—religious statements do not make sense, they cannot be justified as describing the real world.

It's not really a reason for atheism, just a statement of preference. In that regard, I completely agree. Even the thought of a deist God bothers me in a way that's hard to describe.


Our preferences and "wishful thinking" do in fact drive and motivate our reasoning. Without emotion we'd be paralyzed by all the little commonplace decisions we don't notice.

And yes, I've encountered people with the inverse of Nagel's position, who know that they want to believe in a god, and know that that's shaped their thinking.

It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God!

He is hardly any different from an agnostic who does not want to believe in a god and is waiting for a proof that there is no god.




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