Time to Think. 2. Why Life without God is Untenable, if not Absurd

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Man is the only creature that asks ‘why’- questions about his existence. If we are no more than the by-product of nature, the result of matter, time, and chance, and there is no reason for our existence, the answers might just be dark and terrible. (Loren Eisley) If God is left out of the equation, the only prospect is that we will all end up, with the universe, in a purposeless death.

Modern man thought when he got rid of God, that he freed himself but in killing God, he only orphaned himself. Without God, man and the universe are doomed to nothing more than a dark cold purposeless death. Science tells us that the universe is running out of energy and eventually everything, the entire universe, will end up in death. In Sartre’s words ‘the universe is marching irretrievably to its grave, there is no hope, no escape’.

If each individual will pass out of existence when he dies, what ultimate meaning could there be? Does it matter that he/she lived at all? Consider the average person that lived a thousand years ago, in the Middle Ages. The vast majority of these people are completely forgotten by everyone. What they did as individuals, good or bad, makes no difference to anyone today. Their actions while they were alive bore no significance relatively soon after their deaths. And so will our life and actions have no significance within years after our death, once we are forgotten as individuals. ‘We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.’ Ecclesiastes 1:11. If there is only death, there is no ultimate meaning. Everything will be forgotten as if it never existed – our final destination would be unrelated to our behavior. So, we can live as we please.

Without God life becomes ultimately absurd with no ultimate meaning, no ultimate value, and no ultimate purpose. Just today’s pleasures for today.

If all is doomed to die anyway, what difference if one has ever existed? Mankind is in the doomed race of a dying universe – it will cease to exist, and it will make no difference. Each individual will die, the human race will stop to exist, and the universe will die; just a cold, dead, lifeless, lightless chaotic conglomeration of stars swallowed by black holes. And no one to remember anything.

This is the horror of modern man: in reality, because he ends in nothing, he is ultimately nothing. And doomed to purposelessness in a forgotten vacuum of nothing.  

Life might be significant relative to now but ultimately there is no significance to anyone’s life. What is the ultimate difference between the life of a Hitler and a Mother Teresa, if they both and their actions will be forgotten in a thousand years from now?

If there is no God, there is no ultimate meaning. People live as if their lives have meaning, but it is inconsistent with their worldview. A self-delusion really to ‘create’ your own meaning.

So does the concept of morality lose its meaning without God? If there is no God there can’t be objective morality, no objective right or wrong. Without God, who can say whose values are right or and whose are wrong? Hitler, Mother Theresa? Morality becomes an expression of individual taste, of personal subjective feelings, and relative judgments. With the implication that means it is impossible to judge war, suppression, crime, evil, love as bad or good. It becomes only the bare valueless facts of existence, personal opinion. I will soon do a talk on morality in this series.

If death is the only and final outcome of existence, what can the goal and purpose of life be? All for nothing? We are here to know purpose and humans seek it all the time!
If not, we are no better than a dog or an insect. Without God, there can only be despair if we are honest with ourselves. If God is dead, man is dead.  For atheist Friedrich Nietzsche the implication is that atheism equals nihilism, the belief that nothing is real, that it is impossible to know anything, that all values are based on nothing, especially moral values, believing that life is inherently and utterly meaningless. Without God, there is no goal or purpose for the universe. And man is merely a biological electro-chemical machine, controlled by altering genetic codes and cannot have a free will and neither have rational thoughts.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s solution holds ‘two possibilities: face the absurdity of life or live valiantly with courage and determination’. Or atheist Bertrand Russell ‘build your life on unyielding despair’. Albert Camus ‘come to terms with the absurdity of life, then learn to live in love with one another’.

Without God, you are in a desperate position and have to try and make the best of reality. But it is impossible to live consistently in despair and with incessant attempts to deal with the situation.

Francis Schaeffer illustrates this concept in the Two-Story Universe – model a ‘two-story division of knowledge’. The first level is the finite world without God: a life without ultimate meaning and purpose. Absurd. The second level is life with meaning, purpose, and value because of a belief in God that created the universe and us for a purpose. It is impossible to live happily and consistently without God, on the first level. Without God, you can either be consistent and unhappy being stuck on the first story or inconsistent, in what you believe and jump to the second story and be happy. Modern man, the atheist, is living in this two-story universe. He lives in the lower story because he believes there is no God. But he cannot live consistently and be happy. He makes leaps of faith into the upper story to affirm that life has meaning, value, and purpose, but he has no right to do it. He is inconsistent if he does that.

Three areas that show that life is absurd without God and that you cannot be consistent and happy. To be true to yourself, to be true to truth, and be consistent with a materialistic worldview one cannot be but unhappy. To be happy you have to be inconsistent with one’s materialistic worldview.

  1. Meaning

Without God life has no ultimate meaning because everything is ultimately on its way to death and all will be forgotten as if never existed. But people continue to live if life has meaning. You can ‘create’ meaning by freely choose to follow certain actions – Sartre. This is utterly inconsistent. If life is meaninglessness, because there is no ultimate meaning, then to ‘create’ meaning is meaningless as it will also end in death and be forgotten.  Man is trapped in the lower story. To ‘create’ meaning represents a leap of faith into the upper story. Sartre has no basis for this leap of faith – without God, there cannot be any objective meaning. This is only self-delusion because each person can’t give the universe its own meaning. The universe without God is ultimately meaningless irrespective of how the individual sees it. So, you have to pretend.

2. Value; ethical values and human value.

Represents the most blatant inconsistencies in the materialistic worldview.

Bertrand Russell confessed ‘I do not know where ethical values come from. Dostoevsky, ‘All things are permitted but man cannot live this way. Everything in him cries out to what is wrong but does not know why.’  Sartre admitted that the Holocaust was wrong but he could not live with his denial of absolute ethical values. Moral compatibility – an atheist cannot live consistently with this.

Feminism. If God does not exist, then women have no value more than a female goat. In nature male is dominant. But nobody can live with such a dehumanizing view. Francis Crick (Watson-Crick-DNA) concludes that man is no better than a laboratory specimen. If so, why was the holocaust wrong? We can only protest consistently if we believe in God.

No God and humans have no value. Inconsistent if you say they do

3. Purpose

You have to create a purpose. It is self-delusion without God. You cannot reach a logical conclusion.  Ernest Bloch, ‘the only way modern man lives in the face of death is by subconsciously borrowing the belief in immortality that his forefathers held to, even though he himself has lost and has no basis for believing it since he does not believe in God.’ He believes that life ends in nothing. It is hardly sufficient to keep the head high and to work as if there is no end. He makes the leap of faith to confirm but it is inconsistent. If God does not exist, then nobody has any value. And if you say that humans do have value, you are inconsistent. Live as if immortal.

The dilemma. Postmodern man denies God’s existence and results in absurdity of purpose, meaning, and objective moral values. Life is ultimately without meaning or purpose. If you are consistent in believing and living this, you will be profoundly unhappy. To live happily demands a lie. Man, desperately try to escape this. L D Rue. The ‘Noble Lie Option.’ We deceive ourselves means by some noble lie thinking that we exist in the universe that has meaning. Our quest for personal wholeness and self-fulfillment becomes only relative to the individual. No social coherence – relativism. In order to live modern man must live in self-deception. But once you see this lie, it doesn’t work anymore like a placebo, and atheism fails.

Biblical Christianity offers meaning, value, and purpose. Not proof but spells out the workable alternative. The existence of God makes sense of morality, the moral force behind the moral law, shame and guilt, equal rights, human value.

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