Why do you do the things that you do? What is the end goal? What is the purpose of your life? What is the point?
We live in a time when disbelief is growing rapidly. The uncommon, mostly philosophical atheism of times past has been replaced by an increasingly popular, often vitriol atheism (often referred to as “New Atheism”). Proponents of this worldview range from the influential academics who spread disbelief in the classroom to the angry amateurs who fill the internet with derisive and mocking comments aimed at believers. Even though most in our country still self-identify as Christians (and actually that number is falling!), the far reaching influence of New Atheism is seen in the secularism that dominates our modern society.
But what does atheism and agnosticism offer us? What do we as individuals and as a society gain from atheism? What is our purpose and goal as individuals and as a society if the atheist worldview is correct?
The truth is that the atheists’ worldview, when applied consistently, offers us no hope, no future, and no purpose. If there is no God and no spiritual reality, then each of our lives ends in hopeless and irrevocable death. The agnostic philosopher, Robert Ingersoll said this at his own brother’s graveside service: “And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death…Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry…”1 No matter who you are or how much you’ve “accomplished” in life, if there is nothing after death, then what is the point? We could argue that we do the things that we do so that those we love and leave behind will have a better life, but what is the end result of their life? Death. If atheism is correct, then there is no “better place” we go after death. There is, in fact, no hope of anything at all beyond death. And if the future is nothingness, then the present is meaningless. Why work hard? Why obey the law? Why love? Why not hurt others to get what you want? If there is no future to hope for, then all that we are left with is the fleeting, meaningless pleasures of the present. Why hesitate to pursue those pleasures at the expense of others?
Some would object and say that there is purpose and meaning to life. They would argue that the purpose and meaning is found not in our own individual advancement (because we all die) but in the advancement of society and the human race as a whole. An individual may live for a short time and die, they say, but if society has been “advanced” in some way as a result of their life, then it had purpose and meaning. In other words, our purpose rests in the advancement of those we leave behind.
However, if the atheistic worldview is carried to its logical conclusion, then there is no hope, no future, and no purpose even for the human race as a whole. Consider the words of Bertrand Russell, one of the most well-known atheist philosophers of the 20th century: “…all labour of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”2 In other words, Russell believed that there was no future for individuals or for the human race as a whole (because eventually the entire race will vanish in the collapse of the solar system and/or universe). It is only on this foundation of “unyielding despair” that we can build our lives, he says.
That is the hopeless, meaningless, futureless reality that the atheistic worldview leaves us with when it is carried to its logical conclusion.
Yet, no one lives as if this is true! No one, not even atheist philosophers, live as though nothing matters. We all live as though our lives have meaning – as if our actions have some lasting purpose. Why is that? Why do human beings seem to universally live as if our lives matter?
Could it be that we are created with hope in our hearts?3 Could it be that there is a divine Creator who did not intend for you to merely live a short time and then die? Could it be that you were meant to live forever and accomplish truly meaningful things?4
There is no hope, no future, and no purpose to be found in disbelief. It is only in the God of heaven and Jesus Christ our Lord that we find meaning and purpose and hope. It is only in him that we discover our future and our purpose.
Are you living with purpose?
1 “A Tribe to Eban C. Ingersoll” (1879)
2 From “Free Man’s Worship”
3 Acts 17:26-27
4 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10