The Reality of Life if There is No God

by Max Andrews

If God does not exist then man lives in Bertrand Russell’s world of scaffolding despair.  Man is merely the product of pointless cause and effects with no prevision of the ends being achieved.  All the labors of the age, devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vase death of the solar system.  Man’s achievements are destined to be buried in the debris of the universe.  Only within the scaffolding of these [teleological] truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.[1]

If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide.[2]  Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory.  Absolutely nothing can be a positive or negative act for the individual since there is nothing to determine a differentiation.  One is forced to face Nietzsche’s abyss and face the reality that no rope can scale the depth of nothingness.  One is only left with despair, guilt, and angst.  If one can determine that despair, guilt, and angst are not preferred then his only option is to eliminate such emotions and thoughts (if the implication, by any means, can be determined to be better).  If there is no God, the only remedy for absurdism is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness:  suicide.

(As a note, I want to emphasize that I am not advocating suicide.  I completely disagree with the starting premise that there is no God.  I believe the logic is sound but since there is a God, there is objective purpose, value, and meaning to life.  If you are struggling with the thought of suicide please tell someone.)

            [1] Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1917), 47-48.

            [2] Here is where Sartre, Camus, and others disagree.  Because of absurdity, man’s only option is to choose suicide.  Death is the only means by which it can be overcome.  In a Christian context, God recognizes that death is the only way to overcome man’s absurdity.  The means by which God provides teleology is by means of death.  God becomes incarnate and overcomes absurdity by means of his own death, which may be imputed to humanity.  Here we find a paradox.  In order for there to be a genuine sense of teleology and becoming there must be death.  There must be death to bring about life, a life of becoming, relationships, and of teleological existence.


13 Comments to “The Reality of Life if There is No God”

  1. Anytime I feel myself being confronted with doubt, I simply remind myself of the impossibility of an atheistic universe and then how the Apostles sacrificed their lives in the proclamation of the gospel that gave them only pain, suffering and no worldly gain. Then I go, “Yeah, He IS the way, the truth and the life. The alternative is simply illogical.”

    • My faith was founded by argument and the rational order of a theistic universe, so mine is quite similar to yours. Though, I won’t deny the existential need and reflection like I’ve posted here and with Nietzsche (and I have Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard scheduled for noon and 1 today, so come back and check those out). The existential need of purpose and meaning is what drives my life and what also slows me down.

  2. As someone who does struggle with depression and suicide, I can tell that atheism is definitely not that bad. In fact, it’s rather enjoyable by comparison. There’s no reason to apologize and ask for forgiveness just for being born. And as for meaning, why must meaning be handed down from a more powerful being? Sartre and Camus both thought that one created meaning out of life’s struggles. And as for absurdity being a reason for suicide, the Myth of Sisyphus is a direct reply to that notion. Rather, Camus says we find meaning in our toils and travails, not through it being bestowed.

    • James,

      Do you believe you have meaning in life? If so, what is it?

      • It is your site Max, so block me any time. However, I was at least trying to make a serious point. You argue despair for naturalists; I was reporting joy and wonder. If you do not want to air views contrary to your own, you of course have the power to surround yourself with sycophants and adoring fans.

      • You are presumptuous that I only allow “fans”. Well, you’re already wrong because prior to your comment making that assumption I’ve already engaged with a person contrary to my position. Additionally, how many other posts have you read of mine and read the disagreeing views? I host guest blog posts by people addressing subjects I disagree with. You’re simply wrong here, dare I say a hasty conclusion? How about you get the chip off of your shoulder and simply engage in substantive dialogue educated on the issue you’re talking about (the topics I host and that I actually host a variety of disagreeing perspectives) or leave so I don’t need to make a disclaimer on the blog about trolling.

        Additionally, if you were actually serious (and that’s the best way you can portray your seriousness), then you’ve equivocated joy and wonder with teleology. They aren’t the same. Is your meaning, purpose, or value in life objective? If so, what is the object or substance of the object?

        I am more than willing to engage in substantive dialogue so please, prove me wrong on this point, that is, that you want to do this.

      • I’m not sure of my meaning in life. I could offer some platitudes, but right now I’d go with a Camus style interpretation and say that it’s my travails that define what gives meaning in my life. Trying to overcome bipolar disorder is a big one, so I’d say that the struggles against it gives meaning to my life rather than rolling over. To paraphrase the idea of Sisyphus, one can either have a meaningless existence and not roll the boulder up the hill, or one can have a meaningful task and try rolling it regardless of the outcome.

      • I appreciate your consistence. That is certainly a subjective meaning, do you believe in the objectivity of it? (Purpose, value, meaning, whichever one is easiest for you to discuss).

  3. Au contraire dear Max.

    That we find ourselves sentient, does not confirm purpose. That we find ourselves assembled, does not prove design. Intelligent design need not be conjured; it is not prerequisite to joy and wonder. Self termination is in no way a rational choice despite our natural, yes material, circumstances. Read more Lucretius and Polybius, less Plato and Augustine. Any sentence starting with “man is merely…” is suspect. If you have always fed on scripture, James Dobson, his Truth Project, and William Paley, then Hume, Darwin, and Dawkins can seem less grand (if more real), and contain less confection yet be more succulent. Just like you relinquished Santa Claus, you can live well without angels and Judgment Day. The Golden Rule works as well for Darwinists and libertarians as it does for Christ followers.

    • You have a Darwinian chip on you shoulder. This post wasn’t anti-Darwinism or pro-ID. At no point did I say you can be ethical and still be an atheist. You’e confusing ontic grounds and epistemic grounds. You missed the whole point of the post. If you don’t start making substantive contributions you won’t be making any.

  4. Assuming that life without God leads to despair and rudderless absurdism lacking in objective meaning is your conflict with teleology, not mine. I do not presume end purposes and design. You do.

    Souls, objective meaning, purpose – these constructs to which you subscribe are your noumenonal scaffolding subject to collapse. Many of the rest of us rise with each new sunrise wholly capable of cooperating together to build anew what singularly would escape us, to enjoy the changing natural world at the end of our noses. That we are content with phenomenon and leave the unknowable noumenon to others is your despair, not ours.

    • Ah, thank you James, for your excellent response. It’s not necessarily the case that teleology is foundationally a priori when considering such a concept; however, I carry it into other considerations like theology and science. I think teleology may certainly be an a posteriori conclusion (a la Dostoevsky). I love Dostoevsky’s take on it. In a nutshell, if objective values, duties, purpose, and meaning exist then God must exist. If God does not exist then the aforementioned do not exist (objectively). Do you deny these as being objective?

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