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 …).