Patheos Explore the world's faith through different perspectives on religion and spirituality! Patheos has the views of the prevalent religions and spiritualities of the world.
One of my favorite authors is philosopher Dallas Willard. He once said that, “meaning is one of the greatest needs of human life, one of the deepest hungers, and perhaps in the final analysis, the most basic need in the realm of human experience.”Human beings are driven by a deep sense of meaning and belonging. The early Greek philosophers taught that all human beings are telic creatures. “Telic” comes from the Greek word “telos” or “telikos,” which means “purpose.” They believed that we are all purpose-driven, meaning-seeking creatures. In my most recent book, Reflections on the Existence of God, there is a fascinating essay on the life of Albert Camus, one of the most celebrated atheists in the twentieth century. I tell the story of how he changed his mind about atheism. I have had people tell me how shocked they were to learn this. I am sure many of his fans were shocked as well. Camus could not live with his atheistic worldview that believed life is ultimately empty and meaningless. Below you will find the essay from the book.I remember in my freshman year in college, back in the 1970s, in an introductory philosophy class, one of the required books to read was Albert Camus’ The Stranger. I recently listened to a sermon by Tim Keller, and he said that when he was a college student in the 1960s, he took a course where Camus’s book The Myth of Sisyphus was required reading. Author and scholar Nancy Pearcey studied in Germany in the 1970s. She said existentialism was wildly popular among university students in Europe. She said all of her classmates were avid readers of Albert Camus. Clearly, he was quite the popular author on college campuses during these turbulent times, and his philosophy filtered down and shaped the lives of many of these young people.MUMMA: Albert, I congratulate you for this. I think that I want to encourage you to keep searching for a meaning and something that will fill the void and transform your life. Then you will arrive in living waters where you will find meaning and purpose. CAMUS: Well, Howard, you have to agree that in a sense we are all products of a mundane world, a world without spirit. The world in which we live and the lives which we live are decidedly empty. MUMMA: It does often seem that way, I concede. CAMUS: Since I have been coming to church, I have been thinking a great deal about the idea of a transcendent, something that is other than this world. It is something that you do not hear much about today, but I am finding it. I am hearing about it here, in Paris, within the walls of the American Church. After all, one of the basic teachings that I learned from Sartre is that man is alone. We are solitary centers of the universe. Perhaps we ourselves are the only ones who have ever asked the great questions of life. Perhaps, since Nazism, we are also the ones who have loved and lost and who are, therefore, fearful of life. That is what led us to existentialism. And since I have been reading the Bible, I sense that there is something—I don’t know if it is personal or if it is a great idea or powerful influence—but there is something that can bring meaning to my life. I certainly don’t have it, but it is there. On Sunday mornings, I hear that the answer is God. At the very end of the book, Mumma is explaining to Camus God’s forgiveness of sins and the necessity to have your slate washed clean in order to have a relationship with God. Mumma then says: “I don’t know what the French term would be for a bond or an encumbrance, but the person who accepts forgiveness now believes that there is no mortgage, no encumbrance on you. The slate is clear, your conscience is clear. You are ready to move ahead and commit yourself to a new life, a new spiritual pilgrimage. You are seeking the presence of God Himself.” I was nervous and intense. Albert looked me squarely in the eye and with tears in his eyes, said, “Howard, I am ready. I want this. This is what I want to commit my life to.” This was in the summer of 1959, just before Mumma returned to the States. Camus met the minister at the airport, and as he was about to board the plane they hugged and Camus said to Mumma, “My friend, mon cheri, thank you…I am going to keep striving for the Faith.”Four months later, on January 4, 1960, Albert Camus died in a car crash. At the time, he was one of the most famous Frenchmen alive. He had a huge following. However, most of them never knew, nor probably would believe, that he turned from the meaninglessness of atheism to a life of purpose that is found in Christ.