Fearing Atheism

Atheism
Atheism (Photo credit: atheism)

When I was younger, although I claimed to be Christian, I was in some cases, a functional atheist. That is, I lived parts of my life as if God did not exist while saying that he did.

I had little plans for my life. I would graduate from secondary school, go to the university, and get a job, a husband and kids. That was the height of my ambition. However, a few months into my college life, I began to wonder why the heck I was there. What was the whole point of life anyway? Why do we do all the things we do and why do they matter? Part of this was because life was not as easy any longer. I now failed some tests and was under more stress. My goals in life were pretty simple. I was looking for things that would make me happy – a marriage and children – but I had begun to realize that even with those things, I would still have bad days. I would still get hurt. And I didn’t want that.

That’s a part of life I started to see. You can go through each day if you think it’s going to turn out alright. But once the idea is planted in your head that it might not, if you realize that your entire family might die in a plane crash, and you might flunk college, things change. And if you look around you and see all those things happening, if you think your life sucks, well the question of why you go on with it appears. “Why does my life matter?” becomes a very important question to answer. “What difference does it make if I die now versus if I live through all the garbage that is the rest of life and then die?”

I confided in a friend that I felt my life had no purpose to it and her reply was “But it does!” And she was right. Christianity teaches God has jobs he has prepared for us to do. It also teaches that what we do in this life has effects in the next. I hadn’t been thinking like a Christian. I had been thinking as if life ended at death. In that scenario, it didn’t matter for me whether I died now or later. In both cases I would be dead but in the first, I would suffer less hurt. Heck, the same probably applies to the rest of the human race. Even the world is going to end eventually. Whatever I contribute to society would end up in the cold dead world that was the future. It might matter now to some people, but in the end, not so much.

And that was how, even though I was a Christian, I formed views about atheism. My life is a lot less than perfect. There are things in it I would rather not go through if I didn’t know it was going to end well. I cannot stress that point enough. I do not care for all the ice cream and park rides in the world. They do not make up for the pain and they are meaningless. Unless their effects last on into the future, they are unimportant. My life is the same in the end with or without them.

If I have effectively communicated my thoughts about life if God does not exist, then you have a picture of what I think of atheism. Perhaps it is possibly true, but I cannot believe it. Note that this does not amount to saying that God exists because I dislike the consequences of his non-existence. It is saying that even if it were true that God does not exist, I could not believe it without slitting my wrists within a week. That of course rules out atheism for me. My options are believe God exists or die.

I know that lots of people do not think about it this way. In fact, there are probably atheists who don’t think their lives are pointless. I would love to hear their justification for that if it does not involve the simply stating it as if it were obvious.

As you can imagine, this causes me a lot of distress. It means that there is at least is one factual claim in the world which I cannot believe regardless of its truth value. I do not know what that says of my claims to rationality. It is also a problem for a different reason. You would think that given what I think of atheism, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. It’s practically a potential death sentence. But I can’t stop studying. I can’t stop trying to make sure that I have reasons to believe that God exists and I can’t shake the conviction that I ought to seek the truth however unpleasant it might be. I realize that this might possibly lead me to what I hope is not true, but that is the price to be paid.

Jesus claimed to be the truth and from that it follows that whoever finds the truth finds him. In that hope I feel safe because I know that while I sincerely and relentlessly seek the truth, I draw closer to him. I can read atheist literature and have no fear of finding that he is not who I think he is because the truth is his. He is the truth. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter if I fear atheism and can’t believe it. It’s not true anyway.

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Published by

Tracy

I’m Tracy

20 thoughts on “Fearing Atheism”

  1. Only those who claim to be undecided have no possibilities that they refuse accept. Of course, the “fence” is more like a sword that will destroy them if they stay on it too long.
    I’d like to recommend a ministry for you to listen to that is very honest in facing these issues. Ravi Zacharias has been working in worldview/apologetics ministry for decades. He’s amazingly smart and understands all the consequences of the things we choose to believe. He is also very compassionate and understandable (although his vocabulary is quite large). Here’s the link to his free resources. I listen to his “Let My People Think” podcast regularly:
    http://rzim.org/resources.aspx
    May God guide you into all truth as you grow in your trust in Jesus!

    1. Thank you very much. I know of Ravi Zacharias but I’ve never heard him speak. And I do think that everyone does have possibilities they refuse to accept. This has to be so if you believe some kinds of things. I doubt anyone could live in this world otherwise.

      But a completely different problem is when you can’t believe something even if it were true.

  2. May I make a suggestion? Pray. That’s all. Just pray two or three minutes every day for a month. Say the truth. Say, I don’t know if you exist, but the idea of you not existing makes life meaningless. Just pray the truth. At the end of a month of doing this, you will know: He’s real.

  3. You didn’t know what the purpose of life was so you turned to Christianity. But what was their answer? What (in your current view) is the purpose of life?

    I am an Atheist and my life has just as much meaning as it did when I had faith. Just as when I found out Santa wasn’t real my life didn’t become meaningless, so I kept hope after I found out god didn’t exist.

    I personally don’t see how the religious view is inspiring. If we are put on Earth to worship God, then we should spend our lives in a monastery. I personally would find that very depressing and quite meaningless.

    Without Christianity it perfectly possible to have morals (as numerous individuals and nations have demonstrated) and live a happy life. Atheists are often referred to as Humanists because we put the needs our fellow humans first, rather than those of God. I can still live an enjoyable happy life and help others without God.

    1. I’m sorry, your comment got marked as spam. No, I did not turn to Christianity because I thought atheism provided no purpose to life. I was already a Christian. I just found myself thinking as if I were an atheist sometimes and stumbled across the problem that my life has no meaning on atheism. My life will end, and so will the entire human race and the universe at large. Things will end the same way regardless of what I do. All my achievements, all my hopes and dreams, will be nothing in the end.

      Why do you think your life has meaning, despite that?

      “I personally don’t see how the religious view is inspiring. If we are put on Earth to worship God, then we should spend our lives in a monastery. I personally would find that very depressing and quite meaningless.”

      That’s funny. No, I can glorify God from where I am. I do not need to be in a monastery to tell and show people his goodness, power and greatness.

      “Without Christianity it perfectly possible to have morals (as numerous individuals and nations have demonstrated) and live a happy life. Atheists are often referred to as Humanists because we put the needs our fellow humans first, rather than those of God. I can still live an enjoyable happy life and help others without God.”

      I’m not going to disagree with that.

  4. I’ll take your challenge here too. Ultimately, as far as the universe is concerned, my life will be pointless. The starts will burn out, and the universe will run down. There will be no trace of my existence.

    That doesn’t matter, though, because I am not an objective observer. I experience my life, and that makes it important to me. My life has meaning for me and for those whom I love. I make a difference in people’s lives, and I hope that the things I build will carry on after I’m dead and gone, improving the lives of even people I don’t directly know–this idea gives me hope.

    1. I think I understand that perspective. Your life is definitely important to you, even if it isn’t important in the end. Some sort of subjective meaning. I feel like that too when everything goes well. But when you feel like crap, the statement becomes untrue. In other words, life only seems important to you when there’s something nice about it.

      I’m still trying to understand that view. It also sounds like “My life is not really important, but I think that it is” which seems to be an exercise in self delusion. Or maybe it’s “from an objective point of view, my life is unimportant, but from my point of view my life is important”. Yes, I think that’s what you said. That sounds different, but I don’t get how something can be true in one frame of reference and untrue in others. If I were to say, “from an objective point of view, my cupcakes are red, but from my point of view, they’re green”, it’ll just mean my cupcakes are actually red and I’m either color blind or deceiving myself.

      No, that doesn’t sound right either.
      My seeing my cupcakes as green when they are objectively red means that it is not true that my cupcakes are green, right? So my thinking that my life has meaning when it objectively doesn’t means that my life has no meaning. I merely think that it does. Of course. Because if not, then if I start thinking that my life has no meaning, my life will stop having meaning, which is ridiculous.

      Oh, I think I have it. Maybe meaning is something that is only true relative to something else. For instance, my life might be meaningful to me, but not to someone else. Oh, but that’s not right either. I’m thinking about importance, not meaning. You already said that our lives have no objective meaning in the end and that’s not relative to anyone.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting. I apologize for using your comment as an excuse for introspection.

      One other point: Sure, your actions might live on after you and improve people’s lives. I like that. They might impact the world for a time, until the end of the world, and then there won’t even be that. How does one keep hoping knowing that?

      1. Even when I’m having a bad day (or a series of them), I know that I can (and do) still contribute positively to the world. And even if this weren’t true, I would still have the *potential* to resume my attempts to make things better for myself and for everyone else.

        As to keeping hope, everything ends. I don’t see any point in dwelling on it. Indeed, that just makes the relatively short time we have here on Earth all the more important. A resource is only seen as valuable when there’s a limited quantity of it, and life is certainly limited, so life is valuable. Life in a finite universe is therefore all the more valuable, even if it will all eventually end.

      2. Yes, when I’m having a bad day, I still know that I can contribute to the world. And I know that what I do ultimately matters because its effects go on to eternity.

        When I have a really bad day, my life doesn’t feel important to me. If I were an atheist then, I wouldn’t be able to say “well, what I do doesn’t matter in the end, but it is important to me”.

        I won’t go into the valuability of life, but I will say that it’s good for you that you don’t think too much about it. True, all your actions will be meaningless in the end, but at least you can focus on the now. You can contribute to whatever you like until you die, and it all crumbles to dust.

        I like to think these things through. Which means the future is not something I can just ignore. No, I take that back. I don’t really think it’s good for you.

        But you didn’t answer my question. Sure, everything ends, but what about hope? I really want to know. Don’t give an answer if you don’t have one.

      3. I don’t understand how something having an end can lead only to despair. When you go to see a movie, you know that it’ll be over after two hours; don’t you still hope that it’ll be a good movie? We build houses to live in, but they can’t last forever. They eventually come crashing down, but they still had utility and value to us before that point.

        Existence being ultimately pointless on an objective level is irrelevant because we’re subjective creatures. I disagree with your implication that houses, personal relationships, art, and music are all pointless because they’ll be gone one day.

        Your objection rings hollow. Why would you expect me to be incapable of hope?

      4. I didn’t say that if something ends, we should despair. My life on earth will end and I’m pretty happy about that because I know it will usher in a new life. The situation I think should upset us is the situation in which everything ends, in which not just our actions, but the results of our actions are temporary so that the world in the end is the same as if we had done nothing. That is depressing. It is also not something I am inclined to argue about because I think it’s quite obvious. You did agree to it in your first comment.

        I don’t except you to be incapable of hope. You’re a human being. I simply wonder how you hope knowing how all you have done will come to nothing. I would feel helpless and despair if I believed that.

      5. “Do not go gentle into that good night.
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

        Though the light will surely go out, to burn as brightly as one can is a noble thing. As I’ve said, the ultimate fate of the universe has no bearing on my life. I will not live to see the end of everything, nor will any of my descendants. All any of us can hope for is to shine brightly enough to illuminate the paths of those who come after us. That’s good enough for me.

  5. Tracy: In fact, there are probably atheists who don’t think their lives are pointless. I would love to hear their justification for that if it does not involve the simply stating it as if it were obvious.

    Theo: Perhaps this is not the answer you are expecting, but for me, a happy atheist, life does not have to have a ‘point’. Like you, I was born with a mind, That mind allows me to think and work many things out but, so far, it has not enabled me to discover a reason for my existence. In the absence of such a reason – and I don’t need to invent a God as a reason; that merely pushes the question one stage farther back – I simply live my life.

    My life has been been very pleasant at times and moderately unpleasant at times. The pleasant times have been rather more pleasant than the unpleasant times. Had that not been the case, I would simply have ended my life, I do not fear death. One of the few hard facts about life is that it ends in death. That’s it. End. I don’t need to invent a fanciful eternity in heaven to help me through this life.

      1. Not quite. The logical part of my brain has to say that my life is pointless. The only point in life seems to be ensuring that life goes on. Some forms of life die as soon as the next generation appears; the purpose of their life has been fulfilled. However, this does not answer the questions as to why life was there in the first place, and why it is necessary to ensure that it continues.

        These question are part of the reasons that people have, throughout history, invented religions. The belief that life was created for some divine purpose seems to give a reason for our time on this earth, no matter how miserable it may be. Such beliefs have brought comfort to countless millions of people, but a belief in Father Christmas has brought pleasure to millions of people. They grow out of that belief, and life goes on.

        I do not know the ‘point’ of my life, but that does not make me feel the need to invent an artificial reason. As a thinking being, I have derived immense pleasure and satisfaction from interaction with other people and from my personal interests. Some time in the not too distant future, my life will end. In the infinitesimal possibility that ‘I’ will continue to exist in some form after my death, I may find out the point of it all. However, I don’t think that will happen. So, I just accept the fact that I am living, and make the best of it.

      2. So, you have seen no evidence of a point to your life but you believe there is one – even if you may never find it.

  6. A few things I think need to be said.

    1: An objective purpose in life is not necessary to live a purposeful happy life. Biologically we are driven to reproduce. But we have self awareness and can then decide what we will do outside of biology. To say that someone else has given you your purpose is an attack on free will and exploration and belittles the accomplishments you might make along the way.

    2: An atheist’s point of view is not that life is meaningless. Buddhists are atheists. Just so we are clear. Atheism is the rejection of a claim about a god or gods (or goddesses don’t want to leave anyone out) it is not a dogmatic view on life and all that life means. To put it into words, if you knew that this was all there was to life. You only get this one brilliant but ultimately short moment to have experiences wouldn’t you want to get all that you could out of it. If you were to only have one meal ever in the time that you lived. Wouldn’t you chew ever bite for all the flavor that you could?

    3: To all the commentators out there misconstruing agnosticism. You can be an agnostic theist. I believe there is a god but i don’t know for sure. gnosticism relates to knowledge theism and atheism relate to belief or the lack thereof.

    So those are the points i wanted to touch on. Tracy your instance that without god providing you a purpose your life is purposeless is diminishing the achievements of all the people that hold no belief in god but still take action to try and change the world around them.

    You asked about hard times. How does an atheist deal with hard times when life seems to be kicking you while you are down. The response for me at least is easily. I never feel that way. I have a truck load of problems(not going to list them otherwise this will turn into a rant (CURSE YOU LOST GLASSES)) but i don’t see them as oppressive (accept the glasses i think they are hiding) i see them as just another moment that i have to handle. I deal with problems individually and take my time to sort out my life as it tangles. There is nothing depressing about things going wrong. I learn from them and learn often how to avoid them in the future.

    Most problems are self induced. So better yourself and you will have fewer problems. What drives me to do so is that i am currently breathing and food tastes good and my family is wonderful and being around them is better than not. If all of that ended tomorrow I obviously wouldn’t notice and it would be cosmically meaningless but in the moment and if tomorrow comes what i do has an effect and that effect is meaning.

    Don’t need to make a masterpiece to enjoy finger painting Tracy.

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