Does it really matter if there is a God or not? Note that this is not a question about a person’s belief, or lack of belief, in God. It is concerned with the actual existence of God, and of life if there is no God. It is quite possible to believe that God exists, even if there is no God. And, on the other hand, it is possible to believe that God does not exist, even though he does. But this question is concerned with God’s reality, not one’s belief in his existence.
Clearly, the belief one holds concerning the existence of God will impact one’s life. But what impact does the actual existence of God have?
Theism, and Christianity in particular, claims that the universe was the purposeful product of an intelligent creator. A creator who gives meaning and purpose to his creation.
In contrast to that is naturalism, which is somewhat synonymous with atheism. Naturalism holds that there is nothing beyond the natural world. There is no supernatural creator as in theism. Rather than a purposeful creator, naturalism holds to blind chance. The universe may, or may not have come into being. And, having begun, it could more easily have been uninhabitable rather than fit for life. Life and consciousness arose by blind chance with no guiding hand.
These two perspectives are quite at odds with each other. Most people in the world today would accept that there is a creator. While a smaller, but growing, segment of the world population has adopted naturalism. But, again, the question being raised here is not really concerning what a person believes to be true. Rather it is concerned with which is really true.
If Christianity is True
Before looking at naturalism, let’s take a quick look at some things that are true if God, as taught by Christianity and the Bible, exists. And these will be true whether a person believes God exists or not. They are objectively true.
Life has Value, Meaning, and Purpose
The Bible claims that God created humanity, in God’s image, and commissioned him to rule over the rest of creation. And this is identified as good. there are some serious implications to this claim by the Bible.
As humans, we have inherent value, simply because we are the product of a purposeful creator. And, beyond the rest of the creation, we are created in God’s image. What that means has been debated for a long time. But clearly, it means that we have a significant place in the creation. We have value. Not because of what I do or know. And not because of what I can do for you. But simply because I am a human, created in God’s image.
Humanity also has purpose and meaning. Some will distinguish between these two things. But I find that they both come out of God’s commission to us in Genesis 1. We are to rule over the creation, representing God to the rest of his creation, at least that part of it that is on earth. We are stewards of the creation, taking care of it. Something that we have not done a very good job of, but that was our assigned purpose.
If God exists, then there is a moral standard that exists outside of creation. Morality is not just what we choose to make of it. It is grounded in the nature of God. There is such a thing as absolute right and wrong.
The Universe Makes Sense
If God exists, then there is a reason that the universe exists, because God made it. And the apparent design in the universe is indeed the design of a purposeful creator. How life, consciousness, and mind came to be has a ready explanation. Regardless of how he produced it, ultimately, God is responsible for it.
Possibility of Life Beyond the Grave
And, finally, if there is a God who exists outside of the creation, then there is the possibility that our lives may go on beyond the grave. That is certainly not a necessity mandated by theism. But it is a possibility. And it is a truth that is affirmed by Christianity and the Bible.
If Naturalism is True
But what if Christianity is not true and naturalism reflects reality? That there is no God or supernatural realm. That everything that exists has a purely natural and materialistic explanation?
Life Has No Intrinsic Value, Meaning, or Purpose
Few people would deny that the universe exists. But does it have to exist? Naturalism would have to say that it does not. It would actually be more likely that the universe did not exist. And, once existing, it would be highly implausible that it would be suited for intelligent life. That the universe exists, is habitable, and that we can observe it, are all nothing but highly unlikely events with no explanation. We are simply a highly unlikely random outcome (intelligent human life) of an extremely implausible event (the universe coming into existence).
In that scenario, what gives a person any more intrinsic value than a rock or a virus? While you may claim value for yourself, and others may find value in having you around, you are fundamentally no different that anything else in this universe. And your presence in it will have no lasting impact.
You might enjoy the brief moments of your life. And you might be able to give meaning and purpose to your existence. But how is your meaning or purpose any better than that of a coronavirus? The universe does not care that you exist. And you serve no useful purpose within the universe.
That is a bleak assessment that seems both unavoidable as well as unpalatable to the Naturalist. Everyone wants to believe that their life has value and purpose. But, ultimately, if naturalism is true, life has no meaning or purpose.
Morality is Subjective
If naturalism is true, then there can be no absolute standard for morality. Our morals might be culturally derived. Or they may be the product of evolution. But the universe does not provide us with any objective moral standard.
Western culture today seems to like the idea of subjective morality. A morality with no absolutes. A morality that can be molded to fit individual cultures and lifestyles. And yet we seem unable to let go of the idea of some kind of moral standard.
When we complain about some moral position that someone, or some other culture, takes that differs from our own, are we not passing judgment? Saying that my morals are better than theirs? But what is it that makes one moral code any better than another? If there is no objective standard, then all moral codes are equally valid.
But we seem unable to live like that. We proudly proclaim that our morals are better than those of other cultures. We denounce those in our own culture who lag behind in adopting the newest advances in ‘morality’. And in so doing, we give lie to naturalism’s subjective morality.
The Universe Makes No Sense
If naturalism is true, then there is no reason to suspect that there is any ultimate sense to the existence of the universe. One must simply accept that it does exist. But for no apparent reason and with no knowable cause.
We might be able to discover how it does what it does. But there is no way to answer the why questions. Why are we here? Why is there something, rather than nothing? If naturalism is true, it would seem those questions are unanswerable. Beyond just mere chance.
There is No Possibility of Life Beyond the Grave
And, finally, if naturalism is true, then the few brief moments of this life are all we have. Physical death is a one-way door. Once we pass through it, it is all over for us.
I will live 70, 80, or even 90 years. I’ll work hard, raise children, and work to improve the world around me. But in the end, did it matter? I am gone. And before long, all of the good, or bad, I might have done will also be gone and forgotten. If this life is all there is, then I might just as well never have lived. In the end, my life is meaningless.
The Impossibility and Absurdity of Life Without God
Most people who hold to naturalism seem to want to also believe that their life has value. That the world around them makes sense. And that there really are some things that are just right or wrong. They want to believe that their life matters.
But, if you really examine the logical consequences of naturalism, you would have to reject all of that as being no more than wishful thinking. Some of the leading naturalistic thinkers over the years have reached similar conclusions.
Nietzsche was an ardent atheist who coined the phrase “God is dead”. But that belief left him with a pessimistic outlook on the future. In his work “The Will to Power,” he wrote that: “What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism… For some time now, our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe.”
Bertrand Russell, another committed atheist, wrote in his book “Why I am Not a Christian”, that we must build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.” For the naturalist, believing your life has real value and that there is objective good in the world is a delusion.
The only real value and purpose we can have are what is given to us by our creator. The only possibility of there being any objective good in the world is if there is an unchanging moral standard, a law-giver. And the only real hope we can have is one that transcends this life; eternal life.
You cannot logically have your cake and eat it too. You cannot logically reject God, and yet still live as though your life matters. To attempt to do so is absurd.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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