Life is Meaningful Here and Now

Believers, especially those who make their faith the cornerstone of their lives, have a tendency to think that life without God is meaningless. They claim that, in an atheistic world, living would be absurd and that nothing would matter at all. They sometimes even view atheism as an irresistible cause for despair and a reason to commit suicide. The consequence of this opinion is that it can discourage those with serious doubts from pursuing them for fear of where they will lead. But I believe that it’s a terrible mistake to think that belief in God is necessary to find meaning in life, and I believe that theism no more helps answer existential questions than it helps answer scientific ones.

If God’s existence can have meaning without other beings, then so can our existence have meaning without other beings. But if other beings are indeed required for meaning, then we have other people and don’t necessarily need God for that purpose. Alternatively, if God assigns our otherwise meaningless lives meaning with his plans, then so can we can with our own plans. People find meaning in their familial roles, in their friendships, in their careers, in art, in science, in politics, in their hobbies, and in many other aspects of their lives, including in their religions. But not only does meaning need not be assigned from on high, it really cannot be, for one has to adopt God’s plans as one’s own for them to be meaningful. Meaning isn’t objective, existing in the abstract, independent of persons. Rather, in order for something to be meaningful, it has to mean something to someone. If my life has meaning, then it’s because it means something to me. The plans of another being, even my alleged creator, are irrelevant unless I make them my own. And whether the plans originate from one’s creator, another person, or from oneself is also irrelevant as long as they ultimately become my own. It is we who give our own lives meaning, though we rarely ever do so consciously. The non-existence of God negates only one potential source of meaning for us, leaving us a great number of other excellent candidates.

But believers often argue that, without God, our existence will eventually come to an end, and that at least from our perspective, it will be like we never even existed, so nothing we do in life matters. But if something cannot simply matter here and now for its own sake, then it cannot matter because of some future here and now or even an unlimited series of future heres and nows because they all in turn would depend on points even further in the future, ad infinitum. If nothing matters, then an eternity of nothing doesn’t help and so belief in God doesn’t help.

Theism doesn’t provide meaning to life. All it does is push the problem back, either to another being or to a future you, neither of whom are any more prepared to answer it than the present you. There is room for a lot of debate about whether life has meaning, but believers should understand that belief in God doesn’t make the difficult questions simply disappear. In fact, believers already address them implicitly, and if they were to discard their faith, they would probably feel the same about the meaningfulness of their lives as when the believed. Atheists aren’t miserable people constantly considering suicide, and for good reason: life is worth living for its own sake, here and now.

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