Recent conversations with The Closet Atheist got me thinking about atheism.
Specifically, I was reminded of this article: The Absurdity of Life without God, by William Lane Craig.
I am a Catholic. I have been all my life. And, so far, nothing has persuaded me to give up my faith.
That being said: I’m going to post excerpts from this article, and give my thoughts on them, explaining as best as I can why life without God is not as absurd as William Lane Craig believes it is.
I do this to try and better understand where people like The Closet Atheist are coming from.
Because empathy is one of the foundations of my Catholic faith.
For example: “And the King will answer them, ‘Whatever you did to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.'”*
~ Matthew 25:40
Here I go…
If God does not exist, then both man and the universe are inevitably doomed to death.
That doesn’t sound so bad to me.
If death is like falling into a dreamless sleep that you never wake up from, that sounds better than potentially going to Hell.
“Does it… does it hurt? Dying?”
“Quicker than falling asleep.”
If you give a person a choice between 1) Maybe going to a place of eternal happiness or maybe going to a place of eternal suffering (because, hey, what Christian knows with certainty what place they’ll end up in?), or 2) Certainly falling into an endless, dreamless sleep, I understand why people would choose the latter.
Even though I would rather take my chances and believe that places like Heaven and Hell exist, because the possibility of eternal bliss sounds better than the possibility of eternal suffering or the certainty of nothing at all, I fail to see how being doomed to death is a bad thing.
Whether you believe in God or not, you will die eventually. It’s just a question of “Where do you want to be after you die?”
As the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre observed, several hours or several years make no difference once you have lost eternity.
Just because a person isn’t living with eternity in mind — a person isn’t living with the mindset of “When I die, I’ll end up in Heaven or Hell.” — doesn’t mean they can’t live a meaningful life.
Think of life as an Etch A Sketch: No matter how amazing the drawing (no matter how amazing the life that one lived) the drawing will eventually be erased.
But: Just because that drawing is gone doesn’t mean that it never existed in the first place. Just because the drawing is gone doesn’t mean that it did not, and is no longer capable of, filling a person with a sense of wonder and hope.
Wonder: Wow, that drawing/life was amazing.
Hope: Wow, I want to make a drawing/live a life just like that.
If all the events are meaningless, then what can be the ultimate meaning of influencing any of them? Ultimately it makes no difference.
To that I say: If you knew you were going to die in your sleep tonight, would it matter to you how you went to bed — whether you went to bed with a smile, or crying? I would think that, yes, it would matter.
Just because everything in the universe will, like a picture on an Etch A Sketch, eventually cease to exist, doesn’t mean that it never existed at all, or that the manner of a celestial body’s existence didn’t effect, positively or negatively, the existence of still-living organisms (i.e., human beings).
If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint.
It does make a difference, though: It makes a difference to the people who lived under that Stalin or that saint.
There is quite an obvious difference between the quality of life for, for example, St. John Bosco’s boys…
…and the people whom Stalin considered his enemies:
Since one’s destiny is ultimately unrelated to one’s behavior, you may as well just live as you please.
But: What if you don’t want to “just live as you please”?
If I believed that this life was it — there was nothing else — I would be even more committed than I already am to not making another person’s life a living hell for the sake of doing as I please.
Why? Because: This life is all a person’s got.
And: Belief in an afterlife can delude a person into thinking that another’s actions aren’t as bad as they are:
“The person who supposedly counseled me told me if I reported a person like that to the police, I was damaging the cause of Christ, and I would be responsible for the abuser going to hell,” another victim reported.
~How Christian conservatives blame victims and let rapists walk free
…if there is no God, then there can be no objective standards of right and wrong.
Actually, there can be.
All human cultures — regardless of their religious beliefs — praise certain virtues and scorn certain vices.
It is upon universally praised virtues (love, bravery, self-sacrifice, etc.) and universally scorned vices (deceit, cowardliness, malice, etc.) that one can have standards of right and wrong.
A culture of atheists isn’t going to praise the man who lets his wife and kids die in a fire, or scorn the woman who takes a bullet for her best friend.
…if atheism fails in this regard, what about biblical Christianity?
Name me a culture that does not honor the man who dies in defense of his wife and kids?
Name me a culture that praises the coward?
My point is: You don’t have to believe in the God of the Bible to say “___ is right, and ___ is wrong.”
As Pascal said, we have nothing to lose and infinity to gain.
But, if you’re an atheist, and you don’t believe in “infinity” — Heaven — than what’s the point in gaining something you don’t believe in?
I don’t believe there are Alaskan Bull Worms on the Moon, so I’m not concerned about about attaining a Moon-based Alaskan Bull Worm.
Besides: Everyone knows that Alaskan Bull Worms live under the ocean.
*I don’t quote this verse to say “Atheists are the least of God’s people.” I quote this verse to say: “In God’s eyes, all people are deserving of respect and love.” i.e., All people are deserving of empathy.