Retarded arguments against atheism #42: the “Meaning of Life”
Dec 1, 2008. (This is a revision of something I wrote several years ago elsewhere).
Many religious folks, (and in my experience) especially Christians make the point that, to the atheist, there is no Meaning Of Life.
It irks me that whenever this view is expressed by theists, there is a chorus of “Nuh-uh, there is too a meaning of life for me!” from the atheists. It is clear to me that there are two distinct concepts being expressed by the words “meaning of life” in use here.
The theist is almost always referring to an (uppercase) “Meaning Of Life” which to them means some externally imposed and preconceived purpose for which he or she is expressly designed to fulfill, a kind of mission if you will. The point is the “purpose” for them to be here is externally decided by their deity. Their deity perceives a need and sees to it that they are born to fill that need. Or something generally along those lines.
For the atheist, that kind of Meaning Of Life definitely does not exist.
The atheist can come up with his own (lowercase) “meaning of life,” and those people around him can derive/provide some meaning from/for his life, but the theist concept of Meaning Of Life doesn’t work.
The counter argument against the “no Meaning Of Life” complaint frequently made by theists is not to say that “there is too a Meaning of Life”, because there isn’t. The atheist’s “meaning of life” does not fill the same role as the theist’s “Meaning of Life,” generally. (Imagine the theist pronouncing the words “meaning of life” as Xavier: Renegade Angel would pronounce them, and you’ll get some sense of the idiocy the theist has in mind.)
To those that voice this complaint, that if atheism is true, that there is no “Meaning of Li–ife” (heavy reverb) what I want to say is this: Exactly how is the lack of a Meaning Of Life any kind of a “big problem” for atheism? So, there’s no Meaning Of Life. So what? To whom are you complaining? What you have presented is not in any way an argument against atheism, it is just whining. Boo hoo! Don’t be such a crybaby!
The theist’s complaint that without God, life would be meaningless is not even an argument which needs to be countered with some atheistic version of a meaning of life, a meaning derived from non-theistic sources. Suppose, for the sake of argument that the atheist’s life was necessarily devoid of meaning in every sense.
How is this an argument for the truth of theism? It might be an argument for the desirability of theism, justification for wishing that theism were true, if one finds a meaningless life to be undesirable. However, it is not an argument for the truth of theism itself.
The theist complaining that “life without God would be meaningless” is a bit like a person who looks at his bank statement, and upon seeing the balance is a paltry $5.00, says, “I don’t believe this, if this were true, that would mean I’m not a millionaire. And I ever so want to be a millionaire, i just know that I’m a millionaire, it cannot be the case that I am not a millionaire. I can’t live without being a millionaire.” and throws the bank statement away, concluding that it must be false, because he ever so wants it to be false.
The theists moaning on about “the Meaning of Life,” are not making any kind of an argument. They are merely complaining that they don’t like the implications of the atheist’s arguments. It is the fallacy called “argument from consequences.”
Leaving the above discussion for the moment, what about an atheistic “meaning of life.” When you take apart the words, the phrase “meaning of life” is pretty vague and meaningless itself. What does it mean for something — anything — to have meaning? For something to have meaning, it must have meaning to some thinking being. Meaning only exists in context — any context — as interpreted by some thinking being. So your life has some “meaning,” as long as there are people alive who think about you, or about things, writings, thoughts, descendents which you have influenced. Some anonymous human ancestor born 10000 years ago whose carcass has long since rotted away, and whose artifacts are lost to history can reasonably be said to, at this time, have no meaning. That doesn’t mean his life never had any meaning to anyone, but it does mean that his life can’t have meaning to anyone today, or in the future, if there is no evidence of his existence remaining to be found and interpreted. Is that really so bad? I would say it’s not so bad. But even if it were terrible, this in no way affects the truth of the situation. Deciding that it is terrible amounts to merely complaining.
So, quit your cry-baby whining complaining bitching moaning, you wanna-be havers of a meaning of life. It not only fails to be good argument, it fails to even be an argument of any kind at all.
And so you’re not a millionaire, and life has no ultimate over-arching meaning. Get the fuck over it.