by C Michael PattonFebruary 21st, 2013 14 Comments
What is the meaning of life for atheists? Searching for such a teleology for atheists is not easy. Atheists don’t really have a message to those who are suffering, especially when there is significant loss involved. Trying to find out why a loved one died, why the cancer spread, or why one lost their job is way above any given atheist’s pay grade. Why? Because asking “why” about anything implies some sort of transcendent reason, rationale, or purpose to life. In order to believe in such, God must be invoked. Therefore, if one were to give some sort of “meaning of life” answer for tragedy, for the atheist this is, at best, only a conventional crutch to help cope with pain. At worst, it is a destructive lie.
Recently, I read a response one atheist gave another who had just suffered great loss. Realizing that his friend, also an atheist, was searching for hope, the atheist did not compromise his worldview for the sake of convention. Staying true to his atheism, he spoke from the heart of his worldview, giving the best he had to offer:
You asked for a logical reason for why and what life is, and I’m going to disappoint you. In my opinion, questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “Why are we here?” (as traditionally asked) only exist when one assumes that there is a deity or some other force behind existence that intended things to be the way they are. As an atheist, I’m sure you would agree that there is no such force, so I would ask you to put those questions aside as meaningless.
Questions about any sort of real meaning and purpose are “meaningless” and can’t be seriously entertained in the atheistic worldview. Like I said, I appreciated the way this guy answered, because he stayed true to the bleak darkness that a world without God ultimately produces. I rarely encounter those with sufficient courage to “stick to the guns” of their worldview, especially when consistent answers will not meet any of the emotional needs of the recipient. For the atheist, there is no meaning to life and there is no reason we are here.
I simply cannot think of anything more tragic than believing this. Not only because it lacks so much rationality, but because it is so emotionally dark and nihilistic. People are on a search for meaning, values, and purpose, but atheism offers them none of these. At least the agnostic could say “maybe there is meaning, maybe there is purpose, maybe this happened for a reason,” but the atheist cannot even offer a maybe. Atheism is a positive belief in meaninglessness.
Now, of course, the darkness of such a worldview has little bearing on its truthfulness, but I would hate to be an atheist counselor whose job it is to come to the aid of such people in need. It breaks my heart that this guy has to be “consoled” with a gospel of further hopelessness.
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