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If There Is No God

I don’t understand the argument below.  Do you?  Please enlighten me.

I’d give Geisler and Turek a hard time about it, but this kind of argument is rampant in all the existential literature (on all sides), and I, for one, am flummoxed concerning it.

The following excerpt is from I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek.

On the other hand, if there is no God, then your life ultimately means nothing. Since there is no enduring purpose to life, there’s no right or wrong way to live it. And it doesn’t matter how you live or what you believe—your destiny is dust.

Really?  My “life ultimately means nothing” if I don’t believe in God?  Seems to me that’s a pretty limited view of life.  Why can’t life be good without God?  Especially the “Christian God.”

Recently, James Wood wrote a review in The New Yorker called “Is That All There Is?”  He was reviewing the book The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for How We Live Now, a new collection edited by George Levine.  Woods begins the article with a variation of the same above sentiment.

I have a friend, an analytic philosopher and convinced atheist, who told me that she sometimes wakes in the middle of the night, anxiously turning over a series of ultimate questions: “How can it be that this world is the result of an accidental big bang?  How could there be no design, no metaphysical purpose?  Can it be that every life—beginning with my own, my husband’s, my child’s, and spreading outward—is cosmically irrelevant?”  In the current intellectual climate, atheists are not supposed to have such thoughts.  We are locked into our rival certainties—religiosity on one side, secularism on the other—and to confess to weakness on this order is like a registered Democrat wondering if she is really a Republican, or vice versa.

Why does everyone assume that without God we’re doomed to live a futile, unsatisfactory life?  Is it because we’re so ingrained with God from day one? Or do we think that an answer to the question “Why?” cannot be forthcoming if there’s no one to give a reply?  But then again, if you believe in God, you’re likely not to hear from Him anyway.  God is not known for his verbosity.

I’ll speak personally.  Whether or not I believe in God does not change how I live my life nor the mission statement (if you will) of my life.  I’m still me.  I still care deeply and am passionate about a great many things.  I still want to help people ask the tough questions, then encourage them on their way.

It’s no small challenge to change people’s opinions on the supposed futility of life without God.  Woods says it better than I can.

To take a central example, many religionists assume that life without God would be life without meaning.  Where secularists cherish autonomy and choice as qualities that make life meaningful, religionists often emphasize self-abnegation and submission to a higher power.  This would appear to be a wide gulf.  But Kitcher [the author of one of the essays in the book] suggests that religionists and secularists actually agree about how to create meaning in a life.  Many believers think of their submission to God not as compelled, he points out, but instead as “issuing from the choice of the person who submits.”  Life develops meaning because someone identifies with God’s purpose….Both atheists and believers are involved in making independent evaluations of what constitutes life-meaning.  They draw different conclusions about what that meaning is, but they go about finding it in similar ways.

I’ve included Sam Harris’s take on it below, if you’re interested.

 

 

Life’s meaning is up to the individual.  If you haven’t found it, it simply means you haven’t found it.  It does not mean you pour God into that space, just to have something to fill up the hole.  But then, that’s another issue altogether.

[Post image: Heroes not forgotten by Mattox on stock.xchng]

4 Comments


  1. Don Rogers
    Aug 23, 2011

    The secularlist view and atheistic view that “without God” life has no meaning is way too narrow a view for me. I am like the analytic philosopher and atheist in that regard. I cannot accept the beautiful in the world wich I see daily and read about without thinking that there has to be an Initiator of all I see. I also have to admit that for the rest of my life I will pursue knowledge of, and a relationship with that Initiator. I have accepted that in my limited understanding, that relationship may well never develop to my satisfaction. But, that doesn’t deter me. In fact, how do I know that I am not already in that relationship; that the relationship is nothing as I supposed it would be? I have accepted the mystery of the Initiator and all that it means. I can never adequately describe this mystery. I will simply pursue it. I will simply use the term: the ground of all being.


    • Elissa
      Aug 23, 2011

      My point was that BOTH sides seem to feel the same way, so it’s not just the Christians saying there’s no meaning of life without God. It’s a nagging suspicion for the atheists, as well.

      My question still remains: suppose we take God out of the equation. Can’t we still make meaning out of our own lives? We don’t have to have God to do so.

      I’ve always liked the phrase “ground of all being,” because it’s vague enough to incorporate lots of thoughts and experiences and definitions. I understand that you’re speaking personally when you say you believe in this “ground of all being,” but do you think it’s possible for anyone (let’s say, Joe Schmoe) to make some sort of meaning out of his life, without God? That’s what I’m asking. If not, why not? I don’t understand why someone couldn’t.


  2. dasephix
    Aug 23, 2011

    I totally agree with this idea that both sides use similar ways to give life meaning. It’s too bad that these similarities do not lead the majority of people on this journey to realize that the aim is similar.

    From this understanding, it would only make sense to create a shared dialogue, where both sides could develop a deeper understanding of the human experience as a whole, in all of its unrealized/realized/bottomless capacity. Sharing these experiences rather than constantly refuting each other would lend to each of our sense of individuality, but also affirm the idea that we are extensions of some kind of collective consciousness, unified in our quest for meaning.

    As the quote by Rainer Maria Rilke may suggest with regards to questions like these, the meaning of life may be no more than the experience itself. Why couldn’t it be? Especially if our lives are temporal like Mr. Harris says.

    I respect that you have created a forum for questions like these. I miss talking about these kinds of ideas without the feeling that I’m trying to be proved wrong because I don’t possess the knowledge of a certain truth. I fear that certain people do not understand the detriment of such reasoning, as they attempt to deny my own personal journey. I know how hard it is to let go of what is comfortable, as Mr. Steven Pressfield acknowledges in The War of Art, but where would that leave me?


    • Elissa
      Aug 24, 2011

      Dasephix,

      Ah yes. This is a place where we all can talk. That’s my dream anyway. And I DO believe that people need a space to explore truth, WHEREVER THAT MAY LEAD THEM. I also believe that many people are shut off from further truth because they KNOW what is true already. Therefore there will be no growth, no learning, nada.

      I also agree that if life is temporal, we’d better be focusing on our experience in the here and now. We are beholden to live our lives well (and mindfully) now.

      Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. I hope your voice joins in often, when these conundrums are raised! 🙂

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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