Why do we even exist? What’s the point?!
What is the meaning of it all? Why do we even exist? What is the purpose of our lives?
In his late middle age—-after attaining great wealth, fame, and social status—-Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy realized that his rejection of God (and the Christian faith of his youth) had stripped his life of meaning and purpose. In his book A Confession, he laments the profound spiritual crisis caused by the meaninglessness intrinsic to his godless worldview:
“Today or tomorrow sickness and death will come (they had come already) to those I love or to me; nothing will remain but stench and worms. Sooner or later my affairs, whatever they may be, will be forgotten, and I shall not exist. Then why go on making any effort? . . . How can man fail to see this? And how go on living? That is what is surprising! One can only live while one is intoxicated with life; as soon as one is sober it is impossible not to see that it is all a mere fraud and a stupid fraud! That is precisely what it is: there is nothing either amusing or witty about it, it is simply cruel and stupid.”
Tolstoy continues by specifically citing the inability of the materialist worldview (in which atheism is rooted) to provide meaning or purpose:
“One who sincerely inquires how he is to live cannot be satisfied with the reply — ‘Study in endless space the mutations, infinite in time and in complexity, of innumerable atoms, and then you will understand your life…’”
Atheism cannot explain meaning or purpose
In order to be coherent, a worldview must reasonably explain the various aspects of reality which we experience. Aspects of reality which a given worldview fails to account for must be considered as evidence against that worldview. Atheism is grounded in the materialist worldview, which says that all of reality can be explained in terms of inanimate matter.
But a key problem for atheism is that inanimate matter doesn’t have meaning or purpose. Natural phenomena like rocks and thunderstorms aren’t about anything, and don’t mean anything, and therefore, materialism cannot account for meaning or purpose. The belief that life is intrinsically meaningless and purposeless (known as nihilism) is a necessary implication of atheism. This point was frequently proclaimed by Friedrich Nietzsche, arguably the most influential atheist philosopher of all time, such as when he wrote:
“Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead.”
Similarly, the atheist physicist Stephen Weinberg notes:
“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.”
Atheist biologist Francis Crick, famous as the co-discoverer of DNA, remarks in The Astonishing Hypothesis how human life has no purpose because humans are nothing but bundles of inanimate matter:
“The Astonishing Hypothesis is that ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”
Please note how Crick places the word you in quotation marks in order to highlight his belief that human persons do not really exist in any meaningful sense because humans are really nothing more than complex bundles of matter. The existence of personhood is another aspect of reality which atheism cannot coherently explain, and must therefore count as further evidence against atheism. It would be absurd to ascribe personhood to a bundle of matter, or a “vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules,” in Crick’s words. How can a bundle of inanimate matter amount to a person?
Alex McFarland comments on the inability of atheism to explain the existence of meaning in 10 Answers for Atheists:
Darwinism relies on the purpose of survival, but inanimate material things do not have purposes
Regarding McFarland’s above points, atheists frequently cite Darwinian evolution as evidence against God, but Darwinian evolution is based on the survival of the fittest, and survival is a purpose or a goal. How can bundles of inanimate matter be said to work towards a purpose or goal such as survival? Atheists must smuggle the purpose of survival into purposeless inanimate matter in order to do away with God. Theoretical physicist Amit Goswami (as I cite him in There’s Nothing Random About Evolution) comments on this contradiction which is intrinsic to atheism:
“The Darwinian theory of evolution is based on natural selection: Nature selects those organisms that are fittest to survive. In the materialist view, an organism is just a bundle of molecules that are completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among these properties will you find a property called survivability. No piece of inanimate matter has ever attempted to survive or in any way tried to maintain its integrity under any circumstances. But living bodies do exhibit a property called survivability. Now the paradox. A Darwinist would say that the survivability of the living form comes from evolutionary adaptation via natural selection. But natural selection itself depends on survival of the fittest. See the circularity of the argument? Survival depends on evolution, but evolution depends on survival!”
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis incisively points out the problem with denying that life has meaning. If there is no intrinsic meaning to life, then why do humans experience a striving for meaning? Where did humans get the concept of meaning?
“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
Atheism fails as a worldview in part because it must deny, rather than explain, meaning and purpose. Some atheists would have one believe that life has no intrinsic meaning, but that we can inject life with any meaning we wish. But, again, atheism insists that humans are nothing but bundles of matter, and how can one reasonably ascribe meaning to a bundle of matter?
Conversely, Christianity argues that our lives are part of a higher purpose, of which God is the author, and which only he fully understands. The human quest for meaning points to God’s higher purpose.