Some Thoughts on Life’s Meaning and Atheism


Having killed God, the atheist is left with no reason for being, no morality to call his own, no meaning to life, and no hope beyond the grave. To find their way, atheists must make sense out of a random first cause, profess as immoral all moral claims, express meaningfully all meaninglessness, and find security in hopelessness. If the whole of the universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning. Just like a man can’t call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. Yet, we insist there is no meaning, while we contain within ourselves some idea of what a meaningful life could be. This search for meaning is set in the heart of man.

(Content adapted from Mere Christianity and The Real Face of Atheism)

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15 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Life’s Meaning and Atheism

  1. “Having killed God, the atheist is left with no reason for being…”
    No external reason. No supernatural reason.

    “…no morality to call his own…”
    Actually, the morality I have IS my own.

    “…no meaning to life…”
    …other than the meaning I give my own life?

    “…and no hope beyond the grave.”
    Correct.

    “If the whole of the universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”
    But we have only found 1%, as you say. Why “should” we have found this “meaning” you speak of?

    “Just like a man can’t call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. Yet, we insist there is no meaning…”
    I never have insisted there is no meaning. If there is some supernatural or cosmic meaning to life, I just haven’t found it yet. Until I do, I will just apply to my life what meaning I have formulated…my self.

    1. To make your own meaning you must first admit there is no real meaning, then impose a self-created one. It could just as easily be unmade as made. If you have not previously concluded that there is no real meaning, then you must admit on some level that your own meaning could be a falsehood. That’s not a good way to live.

      1. “To make your own meaning you must first admit there is no real meaning,…”

        The meaning I give my life is “real”. And by applying my own meaning is in no way a statement concerning other possible meanings, like a possible supernatural meaning. So, I do not have to “admit there is no real meaning”. Why are you placing this demand on me?

        “If you have not previously concluded that there is no real meaning, then you must admit on some level that your own meaning could be a falsehood.”

        I do not understand your logic at all. Seems to me you are making some grand assumptions by using the term “real meaning”. My meaning, the meaning I give my own life, is real. If there is a God, and he has assigning a meaning to my life, then that meaning is real…I just haven’t discovered it yet.

        “That’s not a good way to live.”

        Says who?

    2. Basically, I’m saying the Nietzschean superman does not exist without either being delusional (making your own meaning when there is no real one) or lying (creating a false meaning over an actual meaning).

    3. Bob,

      What incentive do you have for being moral?

      Do you have children?

      And if you do, what incentive would you give them for choosing morality over hedonism?

      Do you ever have feelings of guilt?

      And if you do, why? And what do you do with guilt?

      What is the greatest example of love you have ever known?

      1. “What incentive do you have for being moral?”

        I guess my incentive comes from what I have learned from a very early age, from my parents, school, etc. All have added to the moral philosophy that has developed in my mind for the past 52 years. My moral code has been molded from many sources in the society I live in.

        “Do you have children? And if you do, what incentive would you give them for choosing morality over hedonism?”

        Actually, I was a bible believer while my kids were young. So much of the early influence I had on them was biblically based. I really don’t know how to answer your question. Since I enjoy making people happy, I derive pleasure by giving pleasure and I do not enjoy making people sad. I am guessing you find fault in hedonism? I don’t necessarily consider hedonism bad, as an influence on morality.

        “Do you ever have feelings of guilt? And if you do, why? And what do you do with guilt?”

        I feel guilt when I am selfish, if my selfishness causes emotional distress in others. My remedy for that guilt is to sincerely apologize to those affected, and to try to keep my selfishness in check.

        “What is the greatest example of love you have ever known?”

        “Known”, as in heard of or personally experienced? I have read extreme sacrifice by soldiers on the battlefield, but I don’t know if those actions would be considered “love” or “duty”.
        I have heard of extreme charitable actions, one just recently where, in India a chef gave up his job and spends his days, every day, feeding the homeless poor. Is that “love”, I am not sure.

        I guess I am not quite sure what you want to know. Perhaps you could explain your motivations behind these questions?

  2. Bob, were you there when the universe was formed? Did you create it? If not, then you cannot attest to its meaning or lack of meaning. Were you there when humanity came into being? Did you have any say in your birth, or direct your development in any way? If not, you cannot attest to your meaning or lack thereof. If you create your own meaning for your life or anything else in this universe, you have become your own god.

    1. Ok Danial, tell me the “meaning” of the universe and your life, and tell me how you know the “meaning” of the universe and your life.

      Have I claimed to know the meaning or lack of meaning for the universe? -no, so why are you chastising me for something I have not done?
      Same for humanity – I make no claim to know “why” humans came into being.
      Same for my birth – if there was a “meaning” to my birth, I have know knowledge of it.

      But, I DO give meaning, place value, and direct a purpose to my life – presently, in the present, here and now. I can see how that, in your view, is me being my own god, but I disagree. That is your religious perspective and has no basis in reality.

      I would be very interested in you answering my question – …tell me the “meaning” of the universe and the meaning of your life, and tell me how you know the “meaning” of the universe and your life.

      1. Bob,

        I’m not ignoring your question. I’m giving it some thought. I have an answer I’m just working on it being well rounded. Although, I realize it will not be the best answer that could be provided. I am, after all, just one person.

  3. Well, I asked a very specific question – “…tell me the “meaning” of the universe and your life, and tell me how you know the “meaning” of the universe and your life.” because you accused me of claiming to know (which I did not claim to know).
    You entire response in your new post is, well, religious. But you really did not answer, nor even attempt to answer my question(s).
    This is why dialogue with believers, (especially those like you who intimate a desire to engage with non believers) is so very difficult. You couldn’t answer even a simple question that you seemed to hint that you knew the answer to.

    You explained to me how I couldn’t know (what I really didn’t claim to know), then when I asked you what you know and how you know it (the meaning of the universe and your life), you give me a long non answer.

    I throw my hands up in despair…

  4. A simple question? Philosophers from every generation have trouble answering that question. I don’t know anything more than anybody else, especially if you have already read the Bible. I don’t think we will ever know the answers in this lifetime.
    However, if I’m going to voice an opinion I’m going to do it standing on my beliefs. I’m not going to set those aside while I answer an important question.
    Any honest answer is going to be vague. I tell you what I do know. I do know that I don’t know, but I’m standing by the one who is the answer and is the meaning, God.

    1. My sentiments exactly, Danial. We seem to be in agreement up until the last part of the last sentence.

      Yet you said to me earlier – “…were you there when the universe was formed? Did you create it? If not, then you cannot attest to its meaning or lack of meaning.”

      I am guessing that your question to me – pointing out the obvious, that since I wasn’t there in the beginning, I can’t give meaning to what I had nothing to do with – that question should be applicable to YOU, since you were not there either.

      In reality, you, like me, admit to not knowing the “meaning” of the universe. Differently, you claim that your God is responsible for any such meaning, but you just can’t say what that meaning is. So, it sounds like you know there is a meaning, you just don’t know what it is, but what ever it is, God is responsible for it.
      I simply admit that I don’t know.

      Danial, I am beginning to suspect that you are dishonest. You pointed out to me – “Bob, were you there when the universe was formed? Did you create it? If not, then you cannot attest to its meaning or lack of meaning.”
      Why you felt the need to point that out to me, I have no idea. I never claimed to KNOW there was or was not a “meaning”. But you graciously pointed out that since I was not there, I CAN NOT ATTEST.
      I have to point out – since you were not there, you CAN NOT ATTEST. You can not attest to the meaning, nor can you attest to whether or not the God of the bible had anything to do with it…for you were not there to see it being done.

      In the end, all you are left with is a belief in the claims found in a 2,000 year old book. It’s that simple. And since YOU WERE NOT THERE, you really should not be claiming (attesting) that any of what you believe (with regard to your God and the beginning of the universe) is true…because you simply do not know. You only believe.
      That would be the honest approach…but I doubt you can see.

  5. Bob, you are right. Simply looking at the beginning of everything we cannot draw a God-conclusion or a non-God-conclusion. However, before I go further let me point something out.

    We are in a game of chess that can never really end with one of us taking the king, neither can we put each other in checkmate. Don’t get me wrong, there has been some damage done. Here and there a pawn or bishop has been taken. And your last argument may seem like a pretty good ending argument. But, there is still more ground to cover. We can just end it here, and agree to disagree, or keep going. So, if you would like to go further, here is my next move:

    The next logical place to go in this argument is whether or not truth exists, and whether or not we can know it. To say that it does not exist presents a logical fallacy. For the statement itself is presented as a truth. Either the statement, “There is no truth.”, is truth itself making the statement silly, or it is false making truth itself a reality. And what are we trying to do here if not live the truth we see and hope it matches with reality. Now, if we are agreed that truth exists, we must also be agreed on its nature. That nature is exclusivity. A rock cannot be a duck. A tree cannot sing the blues. A black car is black and not gray. We call these things truth, for they remain the same to all who perceive them.

    Now, there can’t be a God and not a God at the same time. One statement is true and one statement is false. But, can we know the truth? If we can find truth in our day, we must look for clues that point to that truth. As I said before, it is not the job of science to either point to the existence of God, or the existence of evolution. It is our bias that we are stating if we say that it does. We attain our bias through choice. So, before we even see the evidence, our perception is already guided in a direction of our own choosing. It would then follow that what we perceive and how we do it is very important.

    Some people look at the world and see order. Others see chance. Although it is your right to hold either perception, one of them is wrong and one is right. I can do nothing about someone else’s perception, but I can make mine as reasonable as possible. I think you already know my position. I see order, and therefore perceive that this order points to a Creator. I’m sure you can pick up the argument from here.

    Before, when I wrote the post about meaning and my Uncle’s death, I let some of myself come out to be displayed on the computer screen. I also wrote to you and endeavored to be honest in the reply. You said to me, “And since YOU WERE NOT THERE, you really should not be claiming (attesting) that any of what you believe (with regard to your God and the beginning of the universe) is true…because you simply do not know. You only believe.” I let this statement bother me. It wouldn’t have bothered me if I hadn’t put myself out there a little. I was thinking emotionally and not logically. However, I say to you, that what I believe, I believe to be the truth. I do not come to on a whim. I’m not brainwashed. I have a reasonable mind as you can see from our conversation. If I did not, we wouldn’t be talking. And since you took a crack shot at me with your statements, let me just say, that I think sometimes what I say upsets you. It is not my intention to miff you. Also, since you were once a Christian and left, I can only assume that you carry some hurt inside because of it. Please, if at all possible, don’t take it out on me.

    And stop calling me Danial. It’s just annoying. The name is Daniel.

  6. Daniel,

    Sorry for misspelling your name. You will probably notice that my spelling and grammar is atrocious. I have been that way all my life.

    I will address your post that you addressed to me as soon as I can. I just want to touch on a couple of your comments above.

    “I say to you, that what I believe, I believe to be the truth.”
    I know that. But I am perplexed, not just at you, but at every other Christian, my former self included, who seems to confuse what they KNOW to be true, and what they BELIEVE to be true. I often think that if believers could some how come to understand that, even though their belief (in the existence of God, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Genesis flood, etc, etc,) even though that belief…perhaps “feels” like knowledge, it isn’t knowledge, it is merely belief.
    I guess I hold out hope that Christians will come around to understanding that, and will come to see that it is, for lack of a better word, dishonest to present beliefs as actual known facts, which is how most Christians I encounter think with regard to God, Jesus, heaven, hell, Satan, etc. They present these as truths, even though they don’t KNOW them to be true.

    “I do not come to on a whim. I’m not brainwashed. I have a reasonable mind as you can see from our conversation.”
    I hope my observation is not offensive to you, but I think most Christians tend to suspend their reasoning abilities when it comes to their religious faith. I say this because so much of what they believe in, if similar beliefs are held by members of other faiths, Christians can easily point them out as…absurd.

    “And since you took a crack shot at me with your statements, let me just say, that I think sometimes what I say upsets you.”
    I have been nothing but honest. Perhaps a tad to blatant. I have not intended for any of my comments to be “crack shots”, what ever that is. My only intent is to let you know what I think about your beliefs. That is really it.
    And no, nothing you have said has upset me. I may get aggravated, I may wonder why you won’t simply answer or address my question or comment, but you have not angered or upset me. I have found you to be a perfect gentleman.

    “Also, since you were once a Christian and left, I can only assume that you carry some hurt inside because of it.”
    I harbor no resentment toward any of my former Christian associations. No one was ever hurtful or disrespectful toward me. For 25 years I was a bible believer. My only regrets are that I wasted so much money and time propagating, as fact, what I now consider to be a myth. I actually aided in the act of convincing people that they were “lost in their sins” and that unless they “repented and accepted Jesus as savior, they would spend eternity in hell”, and the whole while, I didn’t realize that I was attempting to pass off my strongly held BELIEF as if it were actually TRUTH, yet I had no KNOWLEDGE of whether it was truth.

    “Please, if at all possible, don’t take it out on me.”
    If you would quote me it would help me understand why you would say this, because I have no idea what I said that gives you the impression that I am “taking it”, what ever it is, out on you. I honestly have no idea.

    More later.

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