Sunday, 19 August 2007

Meaning of Life for an Atheist

reposted from Newsline NSS, 17/08/07
From Des Langford:

I read an article in the Daily Mail a while ago (I only got it for the DVD – I don't normally read the Mail). Unfortunately the paper got thrown out. However the 2 page article (which referred to The God Delusion) was titled something like "Militant atheists are on the march. Their arguments are puerile and threadbare, but our church leaders are afraid to criticise them! Won't anyone stand up for God? " [The article is available on-line.]

This article was just so bad, I must comment. Regarding the title: firstly, the author barely commented on why he thinks the atheist's arguments are puerile and threadbare; secondly, why would an omnipotent God need anyone to stand up for him?
I counted the paragraphs and grouped them into sections as follows:
Section 1 acceptance of many of the atheist's arguments
Section 2 minor clarifications
Section 3 alleged rebuttals
Section 4 criticism of church leaders for not responding more forcefully

The sections were not of equal length, with (ironically) more time being spent on sections 1 and 4 than the others. The paucity of argument in section 3 was amazing. Just about all the arguments had already been demolished by Dawkins – to which the article purported to respond. The writer's key point (and this is actually dealt with by Dawkins at least indirectly) is: if atheists are right, life is pointless and without meaning.

I would like to respond to this in my own way as follows, with an imaginary Q&A.
Q What is the meaning of life for an atheist?
A The meaning of life depends on the individual and the meaning he chooses to give it
Q But what is the ultimate, objective meaning?
A I don't believe in such a thing.
Q But that makes life pointless.
A No it doesn't, you can choose your own meaning (Dawkins' is the exploration of science; mine is personal gratification without hurting anyone)
Q But I need an ultimate meaning!!!
A Why?
Q I just do! I want a god, or an afterlife or something. I can't stand being alone!
A That is a matter for you, but it doesn't affect reality.
Q Your philosophy is puerile and threadbare without an ultimate meaning.
A No, it's just more honest. You are not satisfied with the world until you get the answer you want. I look at the world and try and find the true answers, whether or not I like them.
Q You are avoiding the question. There must be an ultimate meaning! What is it?
A That is like asking: what is the name of the present king of France? The question is wrongly framed because it assumes a certain type of answer. You simply won't accept there is no present king of France.
Q How do you know there is no ultimate meaning?
A I don't know, but I find it highly unlikely because I cannot imagine what such a meaning would be like. Would the answer '42' satisfy you?
Q No, I want a God.
A Well, that is a matter for you. Just as long as you realise there is not a scrap of evidence and you are simply making an assumption based on your desires. You might as well believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Bertrand Russell's teapot orbiting the Earth. The onus is on the believer to prove their hypothesis, not vice versa.

Ed writes: There is a similar bit of rubbish by Melanie Phillips.

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