Being an “atheist” is not a simple matter. When Derrida says that there are “theological prejudices” imbedded in “metaphysics in its entirety, even when it professes to be atheistic”, he means that when metaphysics poses as the supreme authority that pronounces “there is no God,” it simply reenacts the role of God. It leaves the “center” standing and reoccupies it with other metaphysical pretenders to the throne: Man, History, Science, Reason, any version of Žižek’s “Big Other.” That is nothing more than a palace coup that leaves the palace system standing. Such atheism, which a lot of us would call “modernist,” Watkin says, “imitates” theism and is “parasitic” on the very framework it purports to negate. Atheism, he argues, is “difficult,” a difficulty Nietzsche proposed to meet when he said “God is dead,” where “God” meant not just the Deity but the whole system of “values,” of “truth” and the “good,” from Plato to the present, every attempt to establish a center, a foundation of knowledge and morals, including modern physics, which is also an “interpretation.” Watkin thinks this atheism is exposed to a “difficulty” of its own, which he calls its “ascetic” approach, because it calls upon us to make do with the resulting debris or “residue” of lost foundations (the “death of God”), to live with finitude and imperfection, giving up on a satisfying transcendence and putting up with an unsatisfying immanence … It does not really annul the place of God but merely leaves it empty … like Camus’ “absurd man” shaking his fist at the void. This is an atheism that regrets that it is right.
Likewise and during every day of an unremarkable life, time carries us. But a moment always comes when we have to carry it. We live on the future: ‘tomorrow’, ‘later on’, ‘when you have made your way’, ‘you will understand when you are old enough’. Such irrelevancies are wonderful, for, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Yet a day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation of time. He takes place in it. He admits that he stand at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel its end. He belongs to time, and by the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy. Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it. That revolt of the flesh is the absurd.
How could we reproach or even praise the universe? Let us beware of ascribing to it cruelty and unreason or their opposites: it is neither flawless, nor beautiful, nor noble; it could not even wish to become any of these things, it does not by any standard struggle to emulate man. None of our aesthetic or moral judgments apply to it. It has no instinct for self-preservation, nor any other instinct whatsoever, and it does not obey any laws. Let us beware of believing that there are laws in nature. All things that exist are necessities: there is no-one in command, no-one who obeys, no-one who transgresses. Once you realize that there is no purpose to all this, you also realize that there are no accidents; since the word ‘accident’ only has meaning if measured against a world of purposes. Let us beware of conceiving of death as opposed to life. What lives is no more than a very rare type of what is already dead.
The omnipresent cult of the body is extraordinary. It is the only object on which everyone is made to concentrate, not as a source of pleasure, but as an object of frantic concern, in the obsessive fear of failure or substandard performance, a sign and an anticipation of death, that death to which no one can any longer give a meaning, but which everyone knows has at all times to be prevented.
— Jean Baudrillard, America
And do you know what ‘the world’ is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by ‘nothingness’ as by a boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a shape that might be ‘empty’ here or there, but rather as a force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my ‘beyond good and evil,’ without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself—do you want a name for this world? A solution for all of its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?—This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!
Let us for a moment imagine that the act of procreation were not a necessity or accompanied by intense pleasure, but a matter of pure rational deliberation; could then the human race really continue to exist? Would not everyone rather feel so much sympathy for the coming generation that he would prefer to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate would not like to assume in cold blood the responsibility of imposing on it such a burden? The world is just a hell and in it human beings are the tortured souls on the one hand, and the devils on the other. I suppose I shall have to be told again that my philosophy is cheerless and comfortless simply because I tell the truth, whereas people want to hear that the Lord has made all things very well. Go to your churches and leave us philosophers in peace!