#48 – Wouldn’t life be meaningless and purposeless without the existence of the Christian God?

IMG_2472Imagine Bob and Betty, a husband and wife living a happy life on a small farm in the countryside. They have a couple of children, and while life is not always pleasant, they find much satisfaction in their relationship and with their work around the farm. Now imagine someone stops by and informs this couple that their land and lives actually belong to a powerful king. Bob and Betty ask for evidence, and the traveler presents them with a book that does indeed make the claim that all they are and have belong to this king. It clearly states that they will never have purpose and meaning in their lives until they submit to the purpose of this king. However, not being inclined to take thing on faith, the couple asks why the king does not stop by himself since the book claims he is always in the area. The traveler berates the couple, telling them that they can never please the king if they do not have faith. Do you think Bob and Betty should trust the traveler and his book? If they reject the the king as their source of meaning and purpose, would their lives then become meaningless and purposeless? Are Bob and Betty wrong about the meaning and purpose they experienced on their farm with their precious children?

Christian leaders often claim that our own sense of meaning and purpose is somehow illegitimate, and that “true” meaning and purpose much come from somewhere outside ourselves. Does this make sense? Imagine a slave girl who is told she can never be happy apart from submission to the will of her master who knows better than she does what her purpose is. Would we not attempt to intervene and tell this slave girl that the only real meaning and purpose comes from within? Consider the many slaves throughout history who actually lived diminished lives under the misconception that meaning and purpose could only be handed to them from some external source.

So, contrary to a life of despair, an individual without externally imposed purpose and meaning is free to behave in ways consistent with their own values and sense of purpose. It is a life of far superior freedom. The shackled slave girl may feel she deserves his current condition, and may feel an unwarranted sense of shame in her desire to be unshackled from the purpose being imposed on her. This slave girl may be told that to think of an unshackled life is arrogant and rebellious. Such have been the tactics of tyrants, slave owners and apologists for various Gods across the ages.

On a pragmatic note, the Christian is encouraged to research the lives of those who have been set free from the shackles of various God-beliefs. Many accounts are available on-line, and those freed have emerged from all types of religious backgrounds. A good place to start is The Clergy Project (http://clergyproject.org) where you can read many heartfelt stories from former Christian leaders who now enjoy extremely meaningful and purposeful lives free from the shackles of belief in the Christian God.

Another great way to assess the claim that life without Christ is meaningless and full of despair is to befriend non-believers. Look them in the eye and honestly assess whether they have any less meaning and purpose than those within your Christian community.


ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Does meaning and purpose somehow become objective when we reach the highest subjective authority there is? This does not follow. The meaning and purpose someone else wants to give you, whether they be a slave, an employer or a God, does not become more objective the more alleged authority the individual has. This holds true even if the authority is the creator of the individual upon whom they are attempting to impose their purpose. It is clear any cruel creator has no righteous claim to a just imposition of his will upon his creation. And even a benevolent creator can not assign meaning and purpose to subjective creatures who have been created with desires and values different from that creator. If the will of the creator and the will of the creation happen to coincide, that is merely a happy accident and not an obligation of the creation to defer to the creator. Meaning and purpose are intrinsically bound to the values and desires of each subject. They can not be forcibly imposed by an external authority, even if that authority claims to have created that subject to serve that authority’s will.

There may, of course, be negative consequences after rejecting imposed purpose. A king may behead rebellious subjects who do not accept the meaning and purpose the king wishes them to accept. An actual God who lays no claim to justice and benevolence might torture humans for eternity. But is is nonsensical for that king or God to claim the meaning and purpose they intend to impose on their subordinates is in any way “objective”. At most we would have a superior subject attempting to impose his own subjective will.

There is sometimes an odd claim made by Christian leaders that, if there is no God-given meaning and purpose, then the logical conclusion is for humans to commit suicide. Does the absence of God-given meaning and purpose somehow destroy the capacity for joy and for wonder and for curiosity and for laughter and for desire and for the simple warm contentment of being with those you love? When filled with your own meaning and purpose and the many wonderful accompanying emotions, why would anyone within a normal context think of ending their one and only life? There are, of course, those who experience physical and emotional pains that make life feel intolerable at times, but there is no legitimate reason the mere lack of a God-given purpose would call for despair.


P1: There is no actual meaning and purpose beyond what the individual finds meaningful and purposeful.
P2: Christian leaders claim actual meaning and purpose lie external to the individual’s sense of meaning and purpose.

Conclusion: Christian leaders are making incorrect claims about meaning and purpose.
{P1 & P2}IMG_2472


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