An ID advocate, lacking scientific arguments, claims that atheism saps life of meaning

May 2, 2019 • 8:15 am

Intelligent Design (ID) advocate David Klinghoffer, an Orthodox Jew, spends a lot of time attacking me on the Discovery Institute Website Evolution News. It’s almost an obsessive animus, for he regularly trawls this site looking for ammunition. But I pay little attention to the man.

First of all, his criticisms of me have nothing to do with science, but are recycled tropes about how horrible atheism is. That’s because Klinghoffer and his ID cronies have no scientific ammunition against evolution, and so are reduced to ad hominems about evolutionists or criticisms of unbelief or moans about the destructive effects of accepting evolution. He also beefs endlessly about my “tone”.  Sorry, but Liars for Moses—or Jesus—don’t deserve respect. Klinghoffer is irrelevant in any serious scientific discourse.

In the end, it’s almost amusing how desperate people like Klinghoffer have become. It’s now twenty years after the ID “Wedge Document” was leaked, with its timeline proposing that within two decades they would make ID and anti-materialism the dominant paradigm in science. Ultimately, their goal was to bring Jesus into the public schools, although I suppose that even Orthodox Jews like Klinghoffer can piggyback on Christianity. But they’ve failed at both endeavors, and so are reduced to flailing about in their pages.

Here’s one example (click on screenshot). It’s a very short read:

Klinghoffer quotes author and radio host Eric Metaxas, who himself appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show, where Metaxas said this:

Nobody really says this because it’s too ugly, but if you actually believe we evolved out of the primordial soup and through happenstance got here, by accident, then our lives literally have no meaning. And we don’t want to talk about that because it’s too horrific. Nobody can really live with it. But what we does is, we buy into that idea and we say, “Well then, what can I do? Since there’s no God, I guess I can have guilt-free pleasure. And so I’m going to spend the few decades that I have trying to take care of Number 1, trying to have as much fun as I can. By the way, having kids requires self-sacrifice. I don’t have time for that. I won’t be able to have as much fun.”

Klinghoffer adds:

Ugly indeed. To which Carlson agreed:

But what a lie. What a lie. As you lie there, life ebbing away, you think, “I’m glad I made it Prague.” Actually people don’t think that as they die.

And so to the question that Klinghoffer thinks will flummox and destroy Darwinists (my emphasis)

Carlson asks: “Then what’s the point of life? Going on more trips? Buying more crap? Clothes? I’m serious. What is the point?” It’s a good question to ask the next Darwinist with whom you have the opportunity to chat. Or the next theistic Darwin-appeaser who soothes us with the assurance that there is nothing terribly corrosive about the evolutionary perspective.

This is bizarre, and the rebuttals come easily to mind. The idea that being an atheist turns you into an amoral hedonist, too self-absorbed to even have children, is ridiculous. Nonbelievers may have fewer kids than, say, Mormons or Orthodox Jews, but it is the custom of those faiths to propagate. Nearly all of my atheist friends have kids.

Beyond that, the article is circular in its implicit assumption that because true meaning and purpose can come only from accepting God (and presumably following God’s Plan), then without God you are without purpose. And this is somehow supposed to be a reason for us to accept God, even though he doesn’t show himself these days.

And that’s a crock. In one of the most popular threads that ever appeared on this site, “What’s your meaning and purpose?“, I asked nonbelieving readers to tell me what they considered the purpose and meaning of their own existence. Almost all respondents (there were 373) found their meaning and purpose in their jobs, their avocations, their children, and so on, and not in worshiping a fictitious deity. The “Darwinian Perspective,” or at least the atheistic one, hadn’t at all proved terribly corrosive. Indeed, people found it liberating.

The idea that without God life has no meaning is patronizing, bogus, and wrong, and refuted by simply looking at the many atheists (or atheistic areas like Scandinavia) for which lack of meaning and purpose is not an issue.

Worse, Klinghoffer, Metaxas, and Carlson’s views boil down to something like this: “Believe in a god, even if there’s no evidence for one, because without it life has no meaning.”

But can you really force yourself to accept fiction solely on the grounds that it gives you a purpose? I can’t, and I doubt that most readers can. You’re either brainwashed from the get-go, and thereby get an automatic meaning, or you accept that there’s no evidence for a God and come to terms with it—just as we come to terms with our own mortality. As Plato recognized in the Euthyphro Dilemma, people really do get their morality (in Plato’s case, “piety”) not from God’s dictates but rather from non-goddy considerations—in other words, secular considerations.

This is why I find Klinghoffer and his ilk so ridiculous. They’re supposed to be supporting Intelligent Design, but since they can’t do that, they blather on about how Darwinism and atheism turn adherents into selfish, amoral nihilists. But there’s as little evidence for that as there is for ID itself.

109 thoughts on “An ID advocate, lacking scientific arguments, claims that atheism saps life of meaning

  1. If your purpose is to please the God of the Bible, a god who is OK with slavery, a god who who directed his people to commit genocide and murder defenseless mothers and children, a god so inept that his ‘holy book’ is full of errors and contradictions, then I feel sad that is all you have in life.

    1. It also exposes another evil of the God of the Bible – that it makes people believe that without Him their lives would have no meaning.

      Surely the billions of Christians don’t all have so little imagination that they can see the multiple things in their life that would still give it meaning “if” there were no God. Would they, for example, lose the ability to fall in love and therefore stop loving their partners, children, families, and friends? Would they lose their ability to appreciate art, music, literature etc.? Would they stop enjoying their hobbies? If the answer to any of these questions is, “Yes,” then their God has even more to answer for than the multiple horrendous acts in the Bible.

  2. What the likes of these IDers show me is clearly how empty they are in their own beliefs. They preach tolerance as if it were one of their g*d given talents yet they have no tolerance for ideas other than their own. So they go public to bash and tear down others who do not think like them or look like them. They are a cult, a tribe always looking to lead the herd to their path no mater how troubled and to attack everyone who would think for themselves.

  3. But can you really force yourself to accept fiction solely on the grounds that it gives you a purpose?

    That really is the question, isn’t it? And there’s more than a few faitheists about who hold that pretending that God is present is necessary, at least for the little people.

  4. I actually have little problem accepting the meaninglessness of life. Life is meaningless, so what? Live it anyway. The alternative, as Camus noted, is really no alternative at all.

    1. There was a post on this a while back – it’s very clear to me – the purpose of life is to get one’s genes into the next generation. Full stop. However, there is nothing about it (IMHO) that says there is meaning, or isn’t any. Genes are not meaning, perhaps.

        1. I understand thevidiom – but I’d say Just because someone issues an order does not mean someone is directly following it.

          I order you all to blink your eyes – ha – now you are following my orders!

    2. You are quite correct. There is no inherent meaning to life. There isn’t an iota of evidence that one is born (as part of a plan of a deity) for any purpose whatsoever. The meaning of one’s life is derived from what a person does with it while alive. The religious cannot accept this. For many of them, religion provides them with “meaning” for their lives despite how dissatisfied they may be with them. This effect of religion has served as a boon for ruling classes throughout history. They have been largely (but not totally) successful in convincing the masses that despite the misery in their lives, they should accept their lot (subservience to their “betters”) because there is inherent meaning in their lives (vaguely defined), supplied by the deity, which, if not readily apparent in this life will certainly in the next.

      1. “The meaning of one’s life is derived from what a person does with it while alive.”

        Well put. How this eludes victims of faith is peculiar.

        1. I’d drop the last two words from the sentence. “Doing it” has no alternative to “while alive”. 😉

          1. Oh right.

            Well, it’s a question- can the meaning of one person’s life change after they die? I Think of Samuel Pepys, or Reverend Thomas Bayes – the meaning of their lives has generally bloomed since their deaths, after people discovered their writings.. unless Pepys’ diary was already published, but my intuition says it was an after-death discovery.

            But absolutely it was all meaningless until they were born.

          2. As far as I can tell, “meaning of a life” is not a useful concept at all.

          3. It depends

            Still, there’s something that remains when we say Bayes’ or Pepys’ work is meaningful – does it mean something that, had they not been born, we might not have had the insights they brought? Is it meaningful that the individuals did the work, and doesn’t that mean something, hundreds of years after their death? How is that not one “meaning of life”?

          4. Saying someone’s work is meaningful is different, I think, from saying their life is meaningful. In the latter case we can point to, for example, insights we gain from reading something they wrote, or seeing something they created. We take meaning from that work.

            Someone’s life being meaningful is far less coherent as a concept. Meaningful to whom? How would one assess the meaning once you answered the “to whom” question? These sorts of ambiguities make it a pretty much useless concept… which is why it makes such frequent appearance in the words of the religiously-inclined. Fuzzy thinking makes use of fuzzy concepts.

          5. Yeah. It seems to me that meanings and purposes are rationalizations that humans invent. They aren’t objective features of reality to be discovered. Deity mandated purpose is also a human invention.

          6. Sure, they’re rationalizations but most people who have had phases in their lives with varying degrees of purpose find that they were happiest when they had purpose. There’s an obvious evolutionary reason for that. Clearly people with purpose (ie, active, get things done) had a better survival rate than those that were inactive and depressed.

          7. I don’t disagree, but I’m not sure I understand how my comment inspired your reply. Are you meaning to imply that because purposes, which we invent, can be good and useful to us that this somehow supports the religious view of objective, deity ordained purpose?

          8. I was just responding to “rationalizations”. Most uses of that word have a negative connotation. I was just adding that a life with meaning is a rationalization but a positive one. I have no use for religion.

          9. Ok, I understand. I did not mean to imply anything negative by using the word rationalizations. It seemed the best fit to describe constructing something by using reasoning. I would actually rather imply that this is a positive thing. I think it is a very positive thing to rationalize purposes and meanings for ourselves individually and collectively. Especially compared to having such things mandated by a god like being or even just the universe.

      2. Not only is there no inherent meaning to life, there’s no inherent meaning to God, either. Assuming God exists, It has abilities and characteristics which have no intrinsic value, but may be valued by God or others. Without agents who can choose goals, the entire concept of {meaning, purpose, worth, and value} is a nonstarter.

        Religion doesn’t provide people with meaning; some people find religion meaningful. That’s a significant difference.

        1. “Religion doesn’t provide people with meaning”

          The way I see it is that organized religions try to keep the faithful in a state of emotional immaturity. A large number of believers react like children who are afraid to quit the nursery.

  5. Where does one start

    It’s stuff like this that has something to do with the potency of religion. I dint know what, but the threatening ideas that life has no meaning, that enjoyment is shameful- and the only solution is not-necessarily-Jesus-but-yeah-its-Jesus – Iits depressing.

  6. I think the idea that life should have an ultimate meaning might be a problematic axiom in and of itself. One that has a lot of superficial appeal, absolutely, but I don’t know that it’s the best way to look at things in the wrong run. In a strange way I see this more as a byproduct of modern society (where we are very task oriented) than older religious ideals, but perhaps it has always been around.

    “Meaning” is, so far as I understand it, a natural consequence of any kind of goal-oriented action. (I think you could also use it to mean “a feature that makes something comprehensible vs. inscrutable”, but I don’t think that’s the way it’s used in these conversations.) If one’s life has an ultimate meaning then it has an ultimate purpose in terms of task completion. But this doesn’t really jive with religious philosophy, to my mind – an omniscient God who wants for nothing would not really need you or I to live life as a dutiful servant in order to feel fulfilled, for example. What could our insignificant doings as humans possibly add to the existence of a being already in a state of perfection at all times?

    I see meaning as more of a scaffold in the process of learning how to be happy (whatever that means to a particular person). If you do away with it all together, you’ll be left with nihilism and random actions that lead to increased ignorance and suffering. If you see it as the ultimate brass ring, however, you’ll be disappointed, as no meaning can be infinite and ultimate (If you think the meaning of life is to serve God, for example, then what happens to that meaning after death? Either a) It’s gone, at which point you switch from ‘meaning’ to the ‘experience’ of heaven – leaving one in a ‘meaningless’ state anyways or b) You keep on serving God in heaven, at which point, again, one hopes the experience is heavenly and satisfying, otherwise one would lead a bot-like existence.)

    1. Back in the time of the Black Death there were workers, warriors, and priests. Each had their role in life within the world that God made. Behaving well to earn a nice life after death was really important.

      After the Black Death (which struck all people regardless of caste) the simple faith of one’s place in God’s world no longer seemed so convincing.

      So I guess the remaining religious people who still hanker after a god-given Purpose dread the idea of there being no Higher Purpose at all, no gods plan, no place for them after death. It’s Pascals Wager, with those who don’t wager not joining in.

      1. I think at one point Christianity put much more emphasis on “accepting God’s will” (from the little I know about it, there is still more of a focus on this in Islam, but that could be incorrect) vs. “the purpose driven life”. Eastern philosophy would frame that as trying to find the middle ground between eternalism and nihilism, I think – it is a very difficult middle ground. Further compounded by the idea that heaven happens “later” or “after this life” but is also “outside of time”, so presumably if one experiences it, it was never “later” at all… these things always end up being koan-like.

  7. No meaning is an improvement over being a lab rat for the trickster god. Meaning, schmeaning.

  8. The fact that you’re constantly attacked by people like Klinghoffer means you’re doing something right, so well done 🙂

  9. If you add up all the hours that the self-proclaimed “righteous” spend praying to, thinking about, and proselytizing for, an imaginary being you soon realize whose lives are devoid of meaning.

  10. Just a general observation about selfishness. I wont go into details but the most unselfish people I have encountered in life are atheists and non believers. Whilst some of the most selfish are orthodox and believers. The ease of bombast often comes from turning the truth on its head. Its the first lesson they learn in their trade.

  11. whether or not ID is right, it is undeniable that evolution states that you are the accidental by-product of time+chance+matter and that all you face is death. Life has no meaning for you if it has an end such as going in the dirt. But if there is something after, this life has the utmost meaning because what you choose in this life affects the next. Woe to the one who ignores this reality for his eyes are blind. I hope you realize it in this life and not the next.

    1. Ignores this reality you say? I’m sorry but I missed that reality, could you provide evidence? My eyes must be blind.

    2. I don’t understand what meaning it gives a person’s life to have been created by another being, and then placed in a situation where they could fail, and then face everlasting torment. What’s the meaning of that? Existential terror? And if the meaning of life is to do whatever this creator tells you to, isn’t that slavish? I think that the idea of “meaning” in this life is a priestly rationalization for the continued existence of evil, by saying it’ll be better by and by. What didn’t the creator just make it better now?

      1. I welcome friendly skepticism sir. To be created by another human being has a sense of belonging to that creator. I think you could agree with that. We were not placed in a situation to fail but rather have free will to choose the course of our life here and life after. God is the author of love and He desires to be loved. To be loved requires someone choosing to love you. To make this happen there must be free will and in the case of free will, there are many that do not choose him and some that do. For those that do choose him even in the face of persecution and matyrdom, he will reward them in heaven in the next life. Does that make more sense sir?

        1. I helped create my children, and for a while they ‘belonged’ to me and my wife in the sense that we were responsible for them. They are now grown up, moved away, and getting on with their lives. I no longer have any responsibility for them.

          But we still get together from time to time for celebrations.

          1. I think the word create is being belittle here with all due respect. A man impregnating a woman pales in comparison to creating life from an meshing organic and inorganic atoms from nothing to a complex autonomous being with all the abilities we have been given, the limitless resources we are provided through the rest of creation, etc. All of this is stating a sense of belonging due to the physical aspect of how we have been taken care of/formed out of nothing. You can take it step further as a Christian with the fact that He has saved us from eternal death by offering a free gift to pay for our sins: we would our spiritual life as well.

          2. “…creating life from an meshing organic and inorganic atoms from nothing to a complex autonomous being with all the abilities we have been given…”

            Citations needed, please:
            1. Provide good evidence (i.e., no fairy tales) that the cosmos was created by an intelligent agent.
            2. Provide good evidence (i.e., no fairy tales) that nothing is even possible.
            3. Provide good evidence (i.e., no fairy tales) humans were created de novo and didn’t evolve from (relatively) less complex autonomous beings.

        2. I am not saying the creator expects us or wants us to fail, but that is one possible outcome, so the meaning of this life, as opposed to an afterlife, can be potential torment. And we would have no option to say that we don’t want to play that game. I would saying that a meaning to a life under such circumstances is anything but obviously good.

    3. Life has no meaning for you if it has an end such as going in the dirt.

      Life without the promise of an afterlife may hold no meaning for you, but your opinion about what things other people should find meaning in is largely irrelevant. If you find no pleasure or meaning in chess, don’t play chess…but no chess player is going to care about your opinion of the game. Likewise if you don’t find meaning in music, don’t listen, but no music listener is going to care what you think. Or kids – if you don’t find having a family meaningful, don’t have them…but no parent is going to care about your opinion on how they should feel about their kids.

      if there is something after, this life has the utmost meaning because what you choose in this life affects the next.

      Given that Christian heaven doesn’t have an after-afterlife, congratulations, you’ve just implied that existence in Christian heaven has no meaning. After all, there is nothing after it, and nothing you do in heaven will change your outcome.

    4. Just congenially curious – what religious tradition do you recommend (and why) as the best path toward finding meaning and purpose in life? Some manifestation of the Christian variety (Metaxas)? Or Orthodox Judaism (Klinghoffer)? Or some variety of Islam? (Wahhabi?) What religious tradition(s) will not suffice?

      (Incidentally, what do you say is the age of the Earth, and on what basis?)

      I reasonably assume that the Christians at Discovery believe in Hell. (It seems that they’d nearly have to. After all, if there’s no eternal damnation in a lake of fire, why should one strive all that hard to do the right thing?) Inasmuch as Jesus said that “No one comes to the Father but by me,” where does that leave the non-Christian religious? Beyond that, the Roman Catholic Church says that it is the only true Christian church.

      We know what the Discovery folks think about atheists. Why don’t they similarly and publicly pronounce from on high what they think of one another?

    5. Life has no meaning for you if it has an end such as going in the dirt.

      What do you think of the assertion that “Life only has meaning if it ends in death?”

      I’ve heard that argument, too, and it makes sense. That means you’re not stating an obvious truth here — you have to support it. I don’t think you can.

      If life is valuable for its own sake, the duration is irrelevant. It matters to the person it matters to, and that’s that.

      If life is only meaningful if it’s satisfying, then the real significance lies in Satisfaction, not life. And people are satisfied by what they’re satisfied, and that’s that.

      1. I’m saying that life is meaningful if it has an eternal value and not a temporal one sir. I would refer to this life as a drop in the bucket of the next. This drop can purify or poison the bucket of the next (eternal life).

        1. This is what I find so puzzling about religion. Your description is evidently something that you find meaningful. I find it completely devoid of meaning.

          What is the meaning or purpose of eternal life? You can take a million year nap, because you have oodles of time left after that?

          1. It’s simply an example of the most common religious rhetorical trick… the unsupportable assertion. The fellow with the “Jesus writes the constitution” gravitar just throws out some religious tripe and, having done so, thinks he’s contributed to a conversation. He hasn’t. He’s fooled himself into thinking he’s won an argument. But there’s been no argument. Just word salad.

          2. Wouldn’t that be violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Oh, sorry, I forgot that god-squaddies get a bye on how the universe works.

        2. Why does eternal value have anything to do with meaning? Living eternally equals meaning? How so? Why does not dying all of a sudden create meaning? What a silly and childish notion.

          For me, it’s pretty simple. I can’t live my life by adhering to the beliefs and rules set forth 2,000 years ago by a population of humans that had no idea what the sun is, or the moon, or stars, or germs, or chlorophyll, or evolution, or disease, or the planet itself, or pretty much anything else that is meaningful to me today. Why does anyone think the ignorance of 2,000 years ago somehow holds sway over them today? It boggles my mind to willfully keep one’s mind within the prison of faith.

        3. I think this same idea is found in secular culture, with the vocabulary tweaked somewhat. Generally putting all your eggs in the basket of pleasures that are very fleeting and transient is the most frowned upon – food, shopping, booze, sex, etc. I would say that humans more or less universally agree that a complete emphasis on very transient pleasures for happiness is a bad idea. And while the somewhat less transient (children, marriage, career, hobbies, field of study, etc.) are often held in higher esteem, I think humans – again, somewhat universally – tend to admire the people who have been through the worst and yet are still somehow happy. The war refugee who lost loved ones, material possessions, a career, health, etc., and yet is a warm, happy, contented human being – I think most people would recognize that person has found something good.

          I don’t think a person has to subscribe to a belief in a “next life” to see the value in looking for contentment in things that are not fleeting and subject to constant change. (Jesus said the kingdom of Heaven is within you, after all.) And I would like to think a person doesn’t have to die to experience such a thing, either.

          I do understand that hoping for a next life is comforting in the case of those who clearly suffered horribly in this one – I think it is very human to hope they get a chance to be happy and to want to reconcile the extreme inequality of suffering we see in this world. That is a subtly different topic however – when it comes to finding lasting happiness outside of the fleeting and temporal, I don’t know that there’s a need to punt that to the afterlife. If that’s a person’s belief, ok, but if not, I think it creates an unnecessary division to frame it that way.

          1. That’s a very drawn out topic of conversation that I have address in my post called “my final refutation” if you’d like to take a look! I would estimate about 10k years old though. I am a young earth believer.

    6. Life has no meaning for you if it has an end such as going in the dirt.

      What do you think of the assertion that “Life only has meaning if it ends in death?”

      I’ve heard that argument, too, and it makes sense. That means you’re not stating an obvious truth here — you have to support it. I don’t think you can.

      If life is valuable for its own sake, the duration is irrelevant. It matters to the person it matters to, and that’s that.

      If life is only meaningful if it’s satisfying, then the real significance lies in Satisfaction, not life. And people are satisfied by what they’re satisfied, and that’s that.

    7. If life here has no meaning, why would life somewhere else be any different? Simply because it goes on longer? Do believers not plan on enjoying each heavenly day as it is experienced? Does an eternal future of licking God’s taint somehow add to the enjoyment of the day at hand?

  12. It’s almost an obsessive animus, for he regularly trawls this site looking for ammunition. But I pay little attention to the man.

    Hell hath no fury like obsession unrequited.

  13. There is no purpose or meaning “out there” in the cosmos. We create any purpose or meaning that we have. The theists create their purpose too by creating a fictitious God. But they are blind to the fact that their “purpose” is their own creation.

  14. This is unwillingness to empathize or attempt to understand nonbelievers. Recycling straw man atheist positions in order to assuage YEC consciences over their failure.

    They’re repeating over and over to themselves how much the guy’s position doesn’t make sense…in order to prevent themselves from making sense of it. It doesn’t make me angry or upset as much as it makes me sad that they are either unable or unwilling to understand.

    Carlson asks: “Then what’s the point of life?

    OTOH, if the point of life is to gain salvation and go to heaven, what’s the point of heaven? And if it doesn’t need a point because it’s a reward in itself, why does life?

  15. Metaxas said this:
    [snip]By the way, having kids requires self-sacrifice.

    No, having kids requires their sacrifice. Once they’re born (well, conceived, really) the one and only thing you an be sure about is that they are going to die. No “if”s, no “but”s, and no “maybe”s, they’re going to die. Because of your action.
    Then again, that is exactly what you would expect from the god of the bible, as described in the bible.

  16. I’m guessing that both religious and atheists answer the “meaning of life question” similarly, as long as they aren’t primed in advance that religion is the issue.

    I note that they call it “Darwinism” and not “evolution” as a subtle insinuation that it is about putting a scientist on a pedestal rather than science and reason.

    1. Because their purpose in life is to get to heaven. Not to love, or give back, or help, or leave the world a better place, but to gain the brass ring, the personal reward.

  17. I agree. Most life on Earth, that is that of living beings, ends by being eaten, being killed by antibiotics and disinfectants, dying of diseases, climatic conditions, wars, etc. So what is this “meaning” of life?

    1. This was a reply to GBJames: “meaning of a life” is not a useful concept at all.

      Somehow this dropped to the bottom of the list.

  18. I like to mess around within the setup:

    Assume hypothetically that life was created by God for the purpose of Eternal Suffering For All.

    People, however, often ignore this given purpose by seeking and giving meaningless things like joy, love, and kindness to themselves and others, believing their lives are finite.

    Okay — so where would you be now? Is a Creator still the one and only obvious source of meaning? Are those who are ignorant of the reason they were created still to be pitied, living lives that must perforce be empty and selfish?

    Or is the fundamental premise less than fundamental?

  19. No one disputes that atheists can make up a meaning for their lives … we make up stuff all the time …. fairies, unicorns, and so forth. I trust, however, that when we apply reason and rational thinking that we all realize that we just made that stuff up …. including the belief that life has meaning and purpose. Making up a meaning and purpose is quite a bit different from their actually being objective meaning and purpose.

      1. Looking around at religions, and their mutually incompatible core beliefs, I would say that the probability that some are made up is close to, or equal to 1. However, before I got too concerned with religions, I would figure out if God exists (did this universe/multiverse just POOF! pop into existence uncaused out of absolutely nothing at all, or is there a mind behind it.) If so, and if the universe is designed to support life, then there just might be a purpose for life beyond what we make up.

        1. And how would you

          1. Determine whether God exists (or whether the universe was created by a deity?


          2. If you had strong evidence for a God, as in (1), how would you ever find out what god’s “purpose for life” was?

        2. I made pancakes for the purpose of breakfast the other day. I don’t go around saying “objective purpose pancakes” all day. Especially if the pancakes decided they want to be lunch instead.

          1. “Objective Purpose Pancakes” — great name for a breakfast diner in a metafiction novel.

          2. It sounds like it could be from a Douglas Adams novel – and also, unfortunately, a lame rap song from the early 90’s (was it)?

    1. How does afterlife (or whatever you are talking about) suddenly make things “objective” and everything else not objective.

      1. And how does your religion being hypothetically “objective” become, badda bing badda boom, your religion is true.

    2. Making up a meaning and purpose is quite a bit different from their actually being objective meaning and purpose.

      There’s your mistake right there.

      Few atheists I know think that “objective meaning and purpose” even makes sense, let alone exists. So we are not TRYING to make up something that doesn’t exist.

      Rather, that our lives are filled with meaning and purpose derives from simply looking at how “purpose” arises.

      Why do Christians think the cause of the universe must be a Personal Being in order for there to be meaning and purpose for the universe an for us, his creation?

      Why wouldn’t a magic rock, or a quantum fluctuation of particles do?

      Well, it’s because for purpose to arise, it takes a Person with goals, desires and who can reason toward actions that fulfill those goals. This is how we ascribe “purpose” to the actions of sentient beings.

      So a creator could only have “purpose” for his creation insofar as He possessed the properties mentioned above.

      But where do we get the very idea of “persons” and “purposes” and “meaning” in the first place? Obviously: from our experience of actual persons. Ourselves.

      In other words, when people conceive of what it would take for the universe and a creation to have purpose, they import the very qualities WE ALREADY POSSES. It’s that that we need a God to have purpose, but rather that a God would have to have qualities WE POSSESS in order to have purposes.

      The theist then gets mixed up about the direction this inference is going, and imagines it’s necessary for meaning to flow from God to us, rather than the other way around.

      Insofar as human beings have goals, desires, and can reason about which actions will be most likely to fulfill which goals, and insofar as we value things, it means our lives are suffused with purpose, meaning and value. We are “purpose-generators.”

      No God needed. Never was.

    3. Hi Kirk

      “No one disputes that atheists can make up a meaning for their lives”

      I don’t think you understand what we’re ( or most of us) are implying. Atheists dont “make up” meaning for their lives. Values can only come from within by definition. Another individual – and it doesnt matter how big and impressive and powerful that other individual is – simply cannot provide meaning for ones life. If meaning was imparted by others then the people with the most meaningful lives would be slaves, because not only would God have a purpose for their lives but their human masters would as well. I know you’ll object that masters aren’t God but thats irrelevant, they are both ‘others’

  20. In Cat in a Hot Tin Roof Big Daddy asked Brick why doesn’t he just kill himself if he thinks life has no meaning.

    “Because I like to drink” is the reply.

    Meaning is wherever you find it.

    1. I like to sit through the miring by my window facing east, slowly sip black coffee and read the blogs and web sites.
      Works for me.

  21. This makes more sense:

    “Since there is a God, I guess I can have guilt-free pleasure. etc…”

    1. Of course you can – just remember to hit the “I repent” bell on the counter before you check out.

  22. Nobody really says this because it’s too ugly, but if you actually believe we evolved out of the primordial soup and through happenstance got here, by accident, then our lives literally have no meaning. And we don’t want to talk about that because it’s too horrific.

    Nobody ever really says that, nobody ever wants to talk about that, and my name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.

      1. Whenever we go out
        The people always shout
        It’s so sad that nobody ever talks about
        How lives have no meaning without Jeebus

        1. Except on WEIT apparently. So everyone mark this day down on your calendars (or colanders, Peace Be Upon The Noodle). Today they talked about how life has no meaning without Jeebus, and nobody anywhere will ever talk about it again.

    1. They’re struggling to find meaning in their lives now that their original mission – getting Jeebus back onto the curriculum – has evidently failed abysmally.

  23. If it was a widely-held belief that beavers need protection, Klinghoffer and other religionists would argue that atheism is somehow “anti-beavers”, and come up with some convoluted story why that was.

  24. I thought the theory of Intelligent Design was neutral as to whether the designer is God, aliens or something else. Does anyone think being designed by aliens (who from all the evidence have lost interest in us even if they still exist) would give meaning to their lives? I think not.

    1. Well, the Wedge Document (the Discovery Institute’s equivalent of the Declaration of Independence, except the DI tried to keep it secret) was overtly pro-religion, and pro-Christian at that. But when creationism in schools got a bad rap in the Edwards case, the DI switched to being “cintelligent design proponentsists”. That crashed in Kitzmiller back in 2005. And now they seem to be just steadily working their way back to the old-time creationism, meetings in churches and all. How an Orthodox Jew like Klinghoffer rationalizes his beliefs with the current approach of the DI is beyond my understanding.

  25. Wikipedia:

    Appeal to consequences, also known as argumentum ad consequentiam (Latin for “argument to the consequence”), is an argument that concludes a hypothesis (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences.[1] This is based on an appeal to emotion and is a type of informal fallacy, since the desirability of a premise’s consequence does not make the premise true. Moreover, in categorizing consequences as either desirable or undesirable, such arguments inherently contain subjective points of view.

    In logic, appeal to consequences refers only to arguments that assert a conclusion’s truth value (true or false) without regard to the formal preservation of the truth from the premises; appeal to consequences does not refer to arguments that address a premise’s consequential desirability (good or bad, or right or wrong) instead of its truth value. Therefore, an argument based on appeal to consequences is valid in long-term decision making (which discusses possibilities that do not exist yet in the present) and abstract ethics, and in fact such arguments are the cornerstones of many moral theories, particularly related to consequentialism. Appeal to consequences also should not be confused with argumentum ad baculum, which is the bringing up of artificial consequences (i.e. punishments) to argue that an action is wrong.

  26. If the meaning I give my own existence doesn’t count, then God’s existence is also without meaning. God has no God above him to assign meaning to its existence. So why would I care if about a meaning to my existence assigned by a being whose own existence is without meaning?

  27. I think the meaning of life comes down to how much pleasure life “gives” you, and if you find it gives too little, you attempt to pursue activities which increase the chances of being a little happier. Such activities might include more prayer if you are religious, more food if you are a gastronome, buying more fishing lures if you like sitting on a river bank contemplating the tip of your rod, or drinking the other half knowing that tomorrow you will have an almighty hangover.

  28. “So we should not mistake our valuing of our pursuits for meaningfulness. The fact that humans, for a short slice of time, find fulfillment in doing nice or noble or beautiful things is simply another fact – a rather small one, really – within an entirely pointless existence. Isn’t that grand?”
    — “Everything Is Meaningless – But That’s Okay” by Charlie Huenemann, 3 Quarks Daily


  29. “Atheists […] do not do what they do for a reward in the next life. In fact, much the opposite. Atheists revel in the things that are on this planet we live on because this is it. There is nothing afterward. An atheist doesn’t think a child’s laugh is just nice, they think it’s the be all and end all.

    They live more in the now than their religious counterparts.

    Religious people often look at people who enjoy the earthly life as lesser people. They’re considered unwashed in that they aren’t eagerly awaiting the next, better, more amazing world that awaits them after death. In essence, they walk through a park of beauty to a gate. The gate is death. They don’t know what’s on the other side of that gate, but they just ‘know’ it’s better than what’s on this side.

    An atheist is standing in the park amazed at the beauty they’re surrounded by.”

    — Vincent Ferrari, “Religion Celebrates Death; Atheism Celebrates Life”, Aeon


  30. Incidentally, I read Why Evolution is True last year and was rather fascinated by the brief discussion of the appendix. A few months later, as it happened, my appendix burst very badly, I was hospitalised for weeks after the operation being treated for sepsis and other ailments, and was seeing nurses at home for weeks afterwards to deal with the wound. I’m fine now, but the scar on my abdomen tells the tale, and I now consider myself a living refutation of any kind of ‘intelligent designer’.

    And by the way, if you haven’t had appendicitis, be wary of its symptoms and don’t leave it for days like I did, otherwise you’ll find yourself with a big bloody hole through your midsection. Or dead. Some life advice for you all!

  31. Carlson, a trust-funder, says “Then what’s the point of life? Going on more trips? Buying more crap? Clothes? I’m serious. What is the point?”

    Is what hew said NOT the very point those on his network espouse, with their worship of mammon and praise of capitalism?

    1. I don’t find Butler’s private belief to have any substance other than a “feel good” kind of delusion. If we have evolved as part of the biosphere, I would think that the composting of the human body would be of more benefit to the overall health of the biosphere-especially the soil than “enjoying life”. If we are talking about daily life until we can fertilize the soil, then I would think that defecation does far more for the soil than “enjoying life”. It would seem, then, that Butler would have been more spot on if he has said that the principle business of life is defecation and death. Of course, this is if there is no God and no relationship with the Creator of the universe.

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