Does Atheism Make Life Meaningless?

Does Atheism Make Life Meaningless? August 5, 2009

A Christian’s worldview makes life beautiful and exciting, but an atheist’s worldview makes life depressing and meaningless. At least that’s what Gene Edward Veith says in “Making Atheism Enchanting“:

[The atheist’s] worldview lacks all appeal. They get hung up on the last remaining absolute: Atheism is not beautiful. It is so depressing.

If there is no God and this physical realm is all there is, life is pretty much pointless. A person might believe such a bleak worldview, but no one is going to like it.

I’ve been on both sides now. I was a Christian for over a decade and made arguments similar to Veith. In fact, I have read most of Veith’s books and once agreed heartily with him.

I thought life was beautiful and exciting when I was a Christian. So now that I’m an atheist, do I see life as depressing and ugly? Of course not. Life is just as beautiful and exciting as it ever was — in fact, sometimes I wonder if I feel it is more so.

Depressing Atheism; Depressing Calvinism

Pullquote: I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
Ecclesiastes 1:14

It’s easy and fun to tell other people what you think their logical conclusions should be. For instance, Veith is a Calvinist. Calvinists believe God predestined everything. I could insist that believing this makes life depressing and meaningless. After all, everything will happen anyway. Your actions are insignificant. If you do it, it was meant to be. If you don’t do it, it was meant to be.

That seems to make life depressing and pointless — but Veith wouldn’t agree. He’s a Calvinist and still sees life as beautiful and meaningful. Who am I to tell him he can’t find beauty and meaning in it?

In other words, you can insist that someone’s worldview makes life depressing and meaningless, but that doesn’t make it so.

Beauty and Meaning in Atheism

Pullquote: Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?
Douglas Adams

I find Veith’s assumption that “no one is going to like [atheism]” insulting. I certainly don’t find the other option — that there is a God in this mess of a world — any better. But not liking something has nothing to do with whether it is true or false. After all, I don’t like Ray Comfort, but he and his banana still exist.

I find life as beautiful and as meaningful as I did when I was a Christian. I marvel at the world and the progress we make in understanding it.  I love being with those I love. I cherish good food, good books, and yes, good sex. It is true I do not have an absolute purpose in life — I am not dedicated to “glorifying God” anymore. But I find creating my own purpose thrilling. I am the author of a novel, and the book is my life. The freedom is exhilarating.

Atheism can be depressing for some people, just like Calvinism can be depressing. So what? Riches can make some people depressed, and so can poverty. It all depends on your perspective.

Life is as happy and meaningful as you make it. You can be a depressed Christian or a depressed atheist; you can be a happy Christian or a happy atheist. Some of the unhappiest people I’ve known have been Christians — as well as some of the happiest.

Both Christians and atheists can agree on one thing: there is only one life to live.

Let’s take time to enjoy it. I know I will.

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