2. The belief in annihilation necessarily leads human beings to concentrate all their thoughts on their present life; for what, in fact, could be more illogical than to trouble ourselves about a future which we do not believe will have any existence? And as those whose attention is thus exclusively directed to their present life naturally places their own interests above those of others, this belief is the most powerful stimulant to selfishness, and they who hold it are perfectly consistent with themselves in saying: “Let us get the greatest possible amount of enjoyment out of this world while we are in it; let us secure all the pleasures which the present can offer, seeing that, after death, everything will be over with us; and let us hasten to make sure of our own enjoyment, for we know not how long our life may last.” Such as these are, moreover, equally consistent in arriving at this further conclusion—most dangerous to the well- being of society—”Let us make sure of our enjoyment, no matter by what means; let our motto be: ‘Each for himself;’ the good things in life are prizes for the most adroit.”
If a few are restrained, by respect for public opinion, from carrying out this program to its full extent, what restraint is there for those who stand in no such awe of their neighbors, who regard human law as a tyranny that is exercised only over those who are sufficiently wanting in cleverness to bring themselves within its reach, and who consequently apply all their ingenuity to evading alike its requirements and its penalties? If any doctrine merits the qualifications of pernicious and anti-social, it is assuredly that of annihilation, because it destroys the sentiments of solidarity and fraternity, which are the sole basis for social relations.