I recently discovered the website for an organization called Ratio Christi, a Christian student group that I’ve never heard of. Apparently it’s very focused on apologetics. One of their most recent blog posts was by a student named Farris Johnson, and it details the story of his conversion. Right off the bat, Johnson says this:
As an atheist, I realized my claims about God, immortality, & morality was rendering a certain meaninglessness over life – however this is certainly not how I lived. I lived for political and social projects, I used language like “progress” and “injustice” while simultaneously knowing that if I were pressed to provide a definition to such things, I couldn’t give an honest answer for why I believed they existed or even what they meant. Life was lived in two realms: 1) I knew there was a meaninglessness, non-absolute, subjective, and as far as I knew, possibly incoherent habitat for my ‘existence,’ but 2) I put this knowledge in a box in order to proceed with my own personal meaning. I realized that essentially, I was using some Grand Lie which ascribed unintelligible significance to my relationships and passions and work. As unstoppable meaning-makers, I think a secular person’s difficulty is in eventually accepting that any meaning they create is nothing more than a very serious game of make-believe.
This is a major theme of Johnson’s post – that atheists have meaningless lives. This also seems to be a standard talking point of a lot of Christian apologetics, so I thought I’d address it here. I have three responses to this assertion. First, that it’s incredibly insulting to imply that everyone who isn’t a Christian doesn’t have a purpose in life. Saying that life is meaningless without the (Christian) god insults Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and every member of every other faith, as well as atheists.
Second, I would like to point out that even if life is meaningless without God (it’s not), that wouldn’t make Christianity true. It could very well be that life is meaningless, and wanting it to be different doesn’t make it so. Lots of things happen that we don’t want to happen, but not wanting them to happen doesn’t make them go away.
Finally, even for people who don’t believe in God, life is far from meaningless. Speaking for myself, I find meaning in the company of my friends and family, and in the good I do for others. I’m in school, learning to become a physicist, so that I can spend my life unraveling the mysteries of the universe. I hope to make important discoveries that can someday help people and make life a little better for everyone. I also care about social justice, and I believe that society can be improved to make life easier for the less fortunate and less privileged. One of the reasons I write this blog is to try to reach people who may have never thought about social justice issues before, and try to change their minds.
I certainly don’t think of all these things as meaningless. I hope most people would agree. I actually find it incredibly offensive that a person can look at all of my accomplishments, all my memories, all my friendships, and everything I’ve ever thought, said, done or cared about, and call them all “meaningless” because I don’t believe in a magic man in the sky. My life has meaning. Everyone’s life has meaning, and just because someone else’s meaning is different from mine doesn’t make mine any less important.
Life may not have an intrinsic purpose, and there’s probably no god to say what people should find meaningful in their own lives. But that doesn’t stop anyone from finding their own meaning, and just because mine doesn’t involve God doesn’t make it any less valuable.