“Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life’s hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don’t; not if we are sane. Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer, warmer, human ambitions and perceptions. To accuse science of robbing life of the warmth that makes it worth living is so preposterously mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my own feelings and those of most working scientists, I am almost driven to the despair of which I am wrongly suspected.”
- Richard Dawkins 'The Selfish Gene'
There is a strain of belief that is charmingly referred to as 'Wittgensteinian fideism', (and among its proponents is non other than uber-sceptic Martin Gardner), that argues that it is legitimate to believe in God, not out of any rational enterprise, but out of nothing else than that it simply 'feels good to believe'.
This fideism presents an interesting challenge to atheists because the objection to atheism isn't reason based, but rather an attack on atheisms 'killjoyness' - to the fiedeist, the atheist seems to be resolutely focussed on being a pessimist and cynic (conversely, to the atheist the fiedeist seems hopelessly polyanna, but I digress).
Dawkins hits the nail on the head with his quotation, the correct response is not that atheism substitutes nihlism for god, but that he substitutes cold hard truth for religion, and I sometimes share his despair that people would rather believe in fairy tales that make them feel better, then grapple with the world as it really is.