My thoughts on “The Absurdity of Life without God”

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.

Why?

I do this to try and better understand where people like The Closet Atheist are coming from.

Why?

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…

Catholic

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.

Why? Because:

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.

I disagree.

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.

Image result for etch a sketch art

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).

Image result for samwise gamgee there is light up there

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…

Image result for saint john bosco boys

…and the people whom Stalin considered his enemies:

Image result for russian gulag

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

hqdefault

…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.

Image result for alaskan bull worm spongebob

*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.

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8 thoughts on “My thoughts on “The Absurdity of Life without God”

  1. I believe that Craig’s argument is that a person need not believe in God to be “good” . But if God does not exist there is no such thing as “good”.

    1. Craig seems to make many arguments in his article.

      For example: He argues that a person can’t be good without God when he says “Since one’s destiny is ultimately unrelated to one’s behavior, you may as well just live as you please,” and he argues that life is meaningless if one doesn’t have Heaven to look forward to: “As the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre observed, several hours or several years make no difference once you have lost eternity.”

      1. If there is no God, we are all finite entities. We differ from fish and trees only in that we are aware that we will end. We ascribe meaning to fish and trees. They cannot ascribe meaning to themselves.

        So if people do not exist, does the life of a fish have meaning? Does a tree have purpose?

      2. I would say “Yes, fish and trees have purpose even if people don’t exist.”

        It’s just that that purpose, to quote Fury Road, is “reduced to a single instinct: Survive.” i.e.: Without humans, trees and fish would still live and make more of themselves.

      3. You are still ascribing meaning to reproduction. If you did not exist, the meaning would not exist. Trees and fish cannot ascribe this meaning.

      4. “You are still ascribing meaning to reproduction.”

        I don’t see how.

        All I’m doing is pointing out what reproduction is: The continuation of a species.

        “If you did not exist, the meaning would not exist. Trees and fish cannot ascribe this meaning.”

        I could call it something other than “reproduction,” but regardless of what I call it, and regardless of whether or not I or anyone else existed, reproduction would go on.

        For example: If all of humanity died tomorrow, acorns would continue to fall off trees and into the ground, creating new trees.

  2. It’s hard sometimes as an atheist to not see things from a nihilist perspective, but that is a very destructive worldview and way of living. Yes, we believe that we cease to exist when we die (as part of the naturalist worldview), but that doesn’t mean that our lives don’t have meaning. What we do benefits the generations to follow us, and we have to give our lives purpose while we still have them. I believe that the idea of no afterlife gives our time on earth even more meaning, because it is the only life we have, and we only get one shot to do what is right and meaningful.

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