Good Question, Got an Answer?

A question often flung at atheists is “If there is no God, how can there be meaning and purpose in life?” The question itself makes the claim “because of God, we have meaning and purpose in our lives.” Typically no one responds asking for a clarification of what this “meaning” and “God’s plan” are.

So, I will ask: what is this meaning and purpose?

For Christians, they often point out that Jesus summarized his beliefs as: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 22:37-40 KJV]

So, there you have it: the meaning and purpose of our lives is to (a) love god and (b) love one another. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not very original, but let’s not quibble.

The first part (a) is a bit dodgy. In essence, to love god, one must participate in worship services, if any of the Christian denominations is evidence (they all have this in common, I believe). So we start with the fact that, according to Christian Scripture, Yahweh created the Earth and all of the stars and galaxies for man to inhabit for the express purpose that the species he created specifically to worship Him, was able to worship Him. Sounds rather sick to me.

Consider how you would feel if your child set up an aquarium in their room to be able to enjoy the brightly colored fish therein. Maybe you would be proud of their achievement in pulling it off. Maybe you would be proud that they were taking the responsibility for maintaining the tank and all of its denizens. But, how would you feel if you discovered your little one set up the tank so that the fish could worship him? How fast could you get him to a psychiatrist?

The other part, part (b), is a commandment to “love one another.” Jesus gave plenty of evidence that he meant this through many loving acts, especially toward the poor and ill. He went about dispensing free health care, he gave away food, he prevented a prostitute from being killed by a crowd of “good citizens,” he scourged those seeking to profit from worship, he encouraged the rich to give away their wealth to the poor (else they not get into Heaven), he preached mercy toward women, children, sinners, criminals, and the poor and even one’s own enemies. All of these would be part of “being as Jesus was,” which modern Christians seem to think is a formula for obeying the commandments summarized above.

So, what do good Christian Evangelicals do today? They oppose giving health care to the poor as they would not want to make them dependent and (more) lazy. They oppose mercy for “thugs,” in that they deserve what they get … well, Black thugs anyway. Evangelicals give their money away, not to the poor, but to ostentatious Mega-church preachers, who pray ostentatiously in public (“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” [Matthew 6:5 KJV]). Rather than mercy, today’s evangelicals offer “three strikes laws” and record prison populations.

So, I must say to those who would ask such a question as the one that started this discussion: if your “meaning and purpose in life” is exemplified by your fellow Christian’s behaviors, I want no part of that. As for the clarification of what “meaning and purpose in life” means and that you do not exemplify, I’d rather stick with the Beatles (“All you need is love, all you need …).

Categories: Christianity

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12 replies

  1. All ‘conveniently’ argued away by the No True Scotsman Fallacy, I’m sure. If there’s one thing theists lack it’s introspection. As for me, I say well written and thank you for sharing.

  2. Do as i say, not as I do. lol. What is it that Ghandi said? “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

  3. The real question is not what meaning or purpose is there to life but rather why would anyone want to worship someone they can’t see? Why desire to worship at all? Why should anyone want to agree with another who wants to _worship_ someone else?

  4. I don’t even agree that it is a good question. “How can there be meaning and purpose in life?” Well, “life” doesn’t have meaning or purpose because it is not the result of intent. The question, then, is just another version of “How can reality be different from what it is?”

    Now sure, we can infuse our own existence with our own intentions, but that’s not really we are talking about. Absent god, what is missing is an existing meaning for the phenomenon of life in general. People are looking for the overarching scheme that they can fit their little private personal purposes into. Job number one is just getting over the fact that there is no higher power and no higher structure.

    • Good point. Obviously, the “good question” claim was a rhetorical device. The question is asinine on its merits. “How can there be meaning and purpose in life without unicorns?” “How can there be meaning and purpose in life without Justin Bieber?” Sounds like a whine from a teenager. A better question is “How can there be meaning and purpose in life *with *God?”

      On Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 7:28 AM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:


  5. The very idea of being commanded to love anyone (a god, your neighbor or anyone else) is absolutely preposterous. It can’t be done. Love is voluntary and cannot be exacted. That’s what makes Christianity (and indeed most, if not all religion) the most ghastly idea ever conceived. Since being commanded to love is not possible, you’ll always be guilty of trying but failing. And when you fail, you must beg forgiveness. How anyone in the world could derive meaning and purpose from a hideous idea like that is completely beyond me. It’s nihilism at it’s Zenith.

    • Hi, Ashley! Depends on what you mean by “love.” Them conservative types seem to settle for obedience, humility, meekness, etc. I don’t think they meant, you know, love love.

      On Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 2:54 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:


      • That’s kind of funny that you mention that, because in my dealings with fundies (on another word press blog like this one), that is essentially how they define love – obeying laws. If you obey god as he tells you not to murder your neighbor, you are demonstrating “love” for your neighbor.
        A very sickly, warped and twisted way to look at love and morality in general in my opinion.

        • Nail, meet hammer. As always, Ashley, you are spot on. I just wish there were more honesty. Like “God has a plan for you women: barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen and bedroom. Feel God’s love!” Where is Monty Python now that we need them?

          On Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 8:31 AM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:


          • I also forgot to mention, that when theists talk in that way – as you worded in your original statement (subsequently paraphrased by me) “If there is no God, then what purpose is there to life?” – they are committing the logical fallacy of the Loaded Question. They have presumed that god is required to have morals or live a moral life, etc and then ask how to do it without him. Or alternately, starting from a position of asserted certainty and then asking your opponent to prove you wrong doesn’t prove anything to anyone and is the logic fallacy of the Burden of Proof.

            • Certainly, a better question is “how can you have morals with a god?” Is God the enforcer of morality? Is morality not something you can take pride in, only something one does while trembling out of fear?

              And don’t get me started on with god in charge, morals are absolutes. These people want an absolute morality! “32 Rules to Live By” by Yahweh … on Oprah, today! Argh!

              On Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 1:06 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:


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