Christian Answers has this list of questions up and while I appreciate the fact that they have attempted to use inviting language and a reasonable tone, what most Christians asking similar questions don’t understand, is that sometimes it’s the very question itself that’s insulting, not the tone or extra ad-homs. Some of these questions are just completely unreasonable and makes it near impossible to answer them. Let’s give it a shot though.
1. “If all of life is meaningless and ultimately absurd, why bother to march straight forward, why stand in the queue as though life as a whole makes sense?” —Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
I hate this question. You know me. You know I want to be able to say that the asker and myself are on the same intellectual level. You know I don’t think believers are stupid. But this question is dishonest and childish, like the neighbour kid asking, “I know you are, but what am I?”. It’s literally just as silly.
Well before we answer that, I’d like to point out that there are two ways to look at the meaning of life. One, is on an objective level – what is the meaning of there being life at all? Two is a more subjective way of looking at it – what is the meaning of your life, to you and to those around you?
I’m just going to go ahead and assume that the asker is referring to the objective version, because I’m pretty sure there’s not an atheist who doesn’t find meaning in his or her own life, myself included. Given we’re talking about the objective way of looking at the meaning of life, the question becomes even more absurd, though. It assumes that the existence of life ought to have a meaning and that we ought to be able to understand that meaning at this point in our collective human knowledge. That, to me, is an arrogant and absurd assertion: that somehow, we’re owed some kind of explanation.
Taking that a step further and making up our own explanation for which there is no evidence, is even more inane. For me, I don’t need the explanation, nor do I feel we are owed one. There is no explanation that we have evidence for as of yet, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I fail to see how a lack of an explanation for why the universe showed up in the first place is a reason to give up on life completely. In fact, it’s the opposite. The unanswered questions about life and our universe are what drive many people to push on.
I give my own life meaning, subjectively, and that’s all I need to want to move forward. It’s a shame some people need more.
2. If everyone completely passes out of existence when they die, what ultimate meaning has life? Even if a man’s life is important because of his influence on others or by his effect on the course of history, of what ultimate significance is that if there is no immortality and all other lives, events, and even history itself is ultimately meaningless?
It simply does not bother me that there may not be any “ultimate” meaning to life. So long as my life means something to me and the people it touches, I do not need more. I guess my question for theists who ask this is, why do you need there to be a meaning to life beyond us, beyond our species and our environment? I mean, if we found out there was some great meaning that exists beyond our world, I’d be happy to find out but as it stands today, none of us know. Making stories up to fill that gap is just weird. Give your own life meaning. Focus on the people and places in front of you. If they are not enough for you, perhaps some changes in your life are called for.
3. Suppose the universe had never existed. Apart from God, what ultimate difference would that make?
None. It would make no difference. Does that make you uncomfortable?
4. In a universe without God or immortality, how is mankind ultimately different from a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs?
We’re not. Again, wanting to be more and better and superior does not make it so. Something I learned when I was 8 or 9 years old and I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. I learned that it’s not enough to just want something. You can’t wish something into truth.
5. What viable basis exists for justice or law if man is nothing but a sophisticated, programmed machine?
Consequences. There are consequences for doing certain things. We have a conscience, first of all, that prevents most of us from doing horrible things. We’ve been hardwired through evolution to feel guilt. It stops us from doing a lot of things or righting things we may have already done wrong. The strong emotions we feel drive us to enact laws to protect each other and society from those whose conscience may not be fully functioning. I don’t need some threat of eternal damnation to know there ought to be a law against murderin’ folks. It’s concerning that this question insinuates that some do.
6. Why does research, discovery, diplomacy, art, music, sacrifice, compassion, feelings of love, or affectionate and caring relationships mean anything if it all ultimately comes to naught anyway?
Why does it need to come to more? You take someone like Nikola Tesla, who was driven by the questions in his head. He wanted to know more about electricity, so he woke up, day in and day out, with the aim of figuring it all out. The questions and curiosity he had were enough for him to get up, get dressed and seek answers. Why does there need to be more than that? Mark Twain was driven by a similar passion to my own. He loved the shape and form of a story coming together under the clacking keys of his typewriter. He was driven by his love for and desire to write. Should he have needed more? He’s passed on his stories to generation after generation, millions of people have enjoyed them. Does there need to be a bigger meaning to what he did than that? I’m curious to know why? What does it suddenly render it all pointless if there’s not some magical being out in eternity somewhere nodding in approval?
In order for this question to have any merit, you must first assume there is someone or something outside of our universe to whom “ultimate” difference must matter. Without that, why does there need to be an “ultimate” difference? We know the difference between a good guy and a bad guy within the bounds of human history. Why do we need a god for that? We know that losing our loved ones hurts, ergo, we can piece together the fact that genocide creates whole lot of hurt and is generally something we might like to avoid. We don’t need a god to tell us it hurts. We know it does because we have empathy. Minor note: I would have chosen someone like Bill Gates or Jose Mujica as the good guy because Billy Graham is a douchecanoe.
8. If there is no immortality, why shouldn’t all things be permitted? (Dostoyevsky)
Um. I see no connection between the two parts of this question, but for the sake of argument, I’ll indulge this idiocy (pardon the pun… get it? Dostoyevsky? Sigh… I’m a nerd). All things should not be permitted because harm. Our emotions, our guilt, our conscience, our empathy, and our compassion are all good enough reasons to say crap like, “Hey kids, probs should not kill a fella” because we are able to understand it causes harm. We know it sucks because it would suck if it happened to us. We don’t need the prospect of eternal life to understand this.
9. If morality is only a relative social construct, on what basis could or should anyone ever move to interfere with cultures that practice apartheid, female circumcision, cannibalism, or ethnic cleansing?
On the basis that we know what causes harm and what hurts people and the world around us. We have compassion. We have empathy. When people are hurt and are caused great pain by certain actions, those actions should be fought and eliminated. Imaginary lines drawn in the sand should not matter. It’s like watching someone get kicked hard in the crotch. We cringe. We almost feel the phantom pain as the foot connects with the junk. We know it hurts and none of us had to pick up a Bible to be able to empathize with that pain.
10. If there is no God, on what basis is there any meaning or hope for fairness, comfort, or better times?
People. People have consistently worked to create a better world and have succeeded. We live in a better world than the one that existed 1000 years ago. The fact that legislation is worked on and fine-tuned every day in most countries, is an indication that most people feel it’s a good thing to continue, unendingly, to find better ways to be fair. As far as comfort goes, I am comforted by my family, my dog, my passions. I am comforted by my home. As human beings, we should and do work together to try to make sure that all people in the world can have those comforts.
Further to this, however, a mere need for comfort does not force the existence of a God. Just because you need something to feel comfort, doesn’t make it real. You cannot need something into existence.
11. Without a personal Creator-God, how are you anything other than the coincidental, purposeless miscarriage of nature, spinning round and round on a lonely planet in the blackness of space for just a little while before you and all memory of your futile, pointless, meaningless life finally blinks out forever in the endless darkness?
Removing the words “futile”, “pointless” and “meaningless”, the answer to this is, I am not anything other than that. I’m totally okay with that. In fact, the knowledge that I am only here for just a little while makes me value this life even more. It means I have to put my all into this one and really make it count because there are no do-overs. It means that every moment spent on bitterness and anger is a moment wasted I will never get back. It gives me every reason to seek out the best life has to offer and really live.
But pointless, futile and meaningless? I have no trouble finding meaning and purpose in my life without God. It’s truly a shame that you cannot.
These questions are completely dishonest and jump to conclusions without any evidence for said conclusions. As ridiculous as they are, however, the fact that they keep popping out of the mouths of believers means that these are actual questions they want answers to. So, why not answer them yourself as well? Write up your answers in the comments. I’d like to see how all of you answer them.
Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay