Here’s a post about it from Aaron Brake, writing on Please Convince Me blog.
The question of God’s existence is the most important question we can seek to answer. If God does not exist and we do not survive the death of our bodies, life is ultimately absurd. J.P. Moreland provides an illustration which helps bring this truth home:
Suppose I invited you over to my house to play a game of Monopoly. When you arrive I announce that the game is going to be a bit different. Before us is the Monopoly board, a set of jacks, a coin, the television remote, and a refrigerator in the corner of the room. I grant you the first turn, and puzzlingly, inform you that you may do anything you want: fill the board with hotels, throw the coin in the air, toss a few jacks, fix a sandwich, or turn on the television. You respond by putting hotels all over the board and smugly sit back as I take my turn. I respond by dumping the board upside down and tossing the coin in the air. Somewhat annoyed, you right the board and replenish it with hotels. I turn on the television and dump the board over again.
Now it wouldn’t take too many cycles of this nonsense to recognize that it didn’t really matter what you did with your turn, and here’s why. There is no goal, no purpose to the game we are playing. Our successive turns form a series of one meaningless event after another. Why? Because if the game as a whole has no purpose, the individual moves within the game are pointless. Conversely, only a game’s actual purpose according to its inventor can give the individual moves significance.
As Moreland articulates, if the game of Monopoly as a whole has no purpose, the individual moves within the game have no meaning or value. The only way your moves within the game of Monopoly have significance is if you discover the purpose of the game and you align yourself with that purpose.
As it is with Monopoly, so it is with life. Like the game of Monopoly, the only way our individual lives have any ultimate meaning or value is if life has purpose behind it, and real purpose requires both God and life after death.
My experience with atheists is that they are not really concerned about letting their life be accountable to facts. In atheism, the desire for happiness comes first, and the facts have to be massaged to justify it. For example, if there is a fine-tuning argument, they invent the multiverse. If there is a cosmological argument, they invent the eternal universe. If the origin of life is a problem, they invent aliens to seed the Earth with life. If the resurrection is a problem, then Jesus never existed. The main thing is that no God is there to suggest any other purpose to the atheist than what he wants to do himself.
Some atheists object at this point: “But I do have purpose in life. I do have meaning.” In a 2010 debate entitled “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?” skeptic Michael Shermer offers four things that allow people to feel more happy, fulfilled, and purposeful in life, regardless of whether or not God exists:
- Deep love and family commitment
- Meaningful work and career
- Social and political involvement
- A sense of transcendency
Later in the debate, Shermer goes on to say,
Don’t you think even if there isn’t a God that you should find some purpose?…Maybe there’s a God, maybe there’s not. Either way, don’t you think you ought to roll up your sleeves and see if you can figure out some useful things to do to give yourself purpose outside of God? Don’t you think that’s worthwhile?…Shouldn’t I be doing these nice things for other people? Shouldn’t I be finding love and commitment to somebody, a meaningful career, helping my social community and being involved in politics, trying to transcend myself and do something outside of myself? Shouldn’t I be doing those things anyway?
But notice that Shermer here completely misses the point, which is this: if there is no God, then there is no ultimate, objective meaning, value, and purpose in life. Sure, you can create subjective meaning and purpose if you so desire. You can live for any personal, subjective cause or reason that makes you happy. You can even do nice things regardless of whether or not God exists. But Shermer offers no account or explanation as to why if there is no God any of these things are objectively good, or why any of these things are objectively meaningful, valuable or purposeful, or why we should pursue these ends as opposed to others that may make us more fulfilled and happy. In the end, it makes no difference, objectively speaking, whether or not you pursue these goals or not because in the end, everything winds up the same anyway: you die, I die, the universe dies, and that’s just all there is to it. Christian theist William Lane Craig offered this rejoinder both to Shermer and Richard Dawkins in the debate:
There has been a major shift in the last two speeches in this debate. Did you see what it was? We’ve argued tonight first of all that if God does not exist, then the universe has no purpose. Our atheist colleagues admit that. But now what they’ve been claiming is, “But look, we can construct a purpose for our lives,” in Richard Dawkins’ words, or in Michael Shermer’s words, “We can develop ways to make us feel better, feeling like we have a purpose.” Now you see this just is to say that we can pretend that the universe exists for some purpose, and this is just make-believe. This is the subjective illusion of purpose, but there is on this view no objectivepurpose for the universe. And we of course would never deny that you can’t develop subjective purposes for your life. The point is on atheism they’re all illusory…But you cannot live as though your life were purposeless and meaninglessness and therefore you adopt subjective illusions of purpose to make your live livable. And that’s why I think atheism is not only irrational, it is profoundly unlivable. You cannot live consistently and purposefully within the context of an atheistic worldview.
The problem with atheism is that they can’t prefer Stalin’s purpose to William Wilberforce’s purpose, on their view, because people just choose their own purpose and everyone’s purpose is as valid as anyone else’s. On their view, BOTH Stalin and Wilberforce’s purposes are equally rational to choose because the criterion for choosing is happiness and satisfaction in this life. An atheist can claim that such and such is “meaningful” or “good”, to try to sound reasonable in front of a Judeo-Christian crowd. But the problem is that on their view, any purpose that anyone might choose for themselves is equally justified because they are all SUBJECTIVE. If there are no rules to the game, then any arbitrary choice of how to play it is as justified as any other.
What you find when talking to atheists is that they tend to very much favor the rights of the strong over responsibilities to the weak. You won’t find too many atheists in favor of chastity, right to life or natural marriage. Chastity, right to life and natural marriage exist to provide children (who are less powerful) with what they need, at the expense of selfish adults. How would you ground that in an atheistic universe. Give up my sexual rights for some weak child? No way. What Shermer says sounds so good until you think it through a little more and realize that he is pushing for relativism.