An Atheistic Response to Dr. William Lane Craig: The Purpose, Meaning, and Value of Life


According to Dr. William Lane Craig; author, philosopher of religion, and Christian apologist; life is absurd without God. The contents of this article will serve as a response to an article Dr. Craig has published on his website titled The Absurdity of Life without God.

In this diatribe against Atheism, Dr. Craig repeatedly emphasizes the meaningless, purposeless, and valueless nature of my life as well as yours if you too lack a positive belief in the existence of the Christian god. Even upon admitting that his argument fails to prove that biblical Christianity is true, he employs Pascal’s Wager by stating in his conclusion the following:

“If God does not exist, then life is futile. If the God of Williamlanecraigthe Bible does exist, then life is meaningful. Only the second of these two alternatives enables us to live happily and consistently. Therefore, it seems to me that even if the evidence for these two options were absolutely equal, a rational person ought to choose biblical Christianity. It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and destruction to life, [over] meaningfulness, and happiness. As Pascal said, we have nothing to lose and infinity to gain.” –Dr. Craig

Dr. Craig uses well established facts about the fate of every human life, the fate of the planet Earth, and even the ultimate fate of the entire universe as the basis for his argument. Common sense and experience tell us that someday we will die. Science tells us that someday Earth will be destroyed by the expanding sun during the final stages of its life. And, science also tells us that the Universe is expanding and that someday, well after the Earth is gone, it will end in a ‘big freeze.’

Purposeless Life

“What is true of the universe and of the human race is also true of us as individuals. If God does not exist, then you are just a miscarriage of nature, thrust into a purposeless universe to live a purposeless life.” –Dr. Craig

Without Reason

“So if God does not exist, that means that man and the universe exist to no purpose—since the end of everything is death—and that they came to be for no purpose, since they are only blind products of chance. In short, life is utterly without reason.” –Dr. Craig

Despair

“Do you understand the gravity of the alternatives before us? For if God exists, then there is hope for man. But if God does not exist, then all we are left with is despair.” –Dr. Craig

These are definitely strong words, and a timid individual might be inclined to accept Dr. Craig’s challenge and fall in-line with the rest of the believers. They would do this not because Dr. Craig has convinced anyone that the Christian god is real, by his own admission he has not, but instead he hopes to convince people that believing the Christian god is real is the lessor of two evils.

My Response:

Mark Twain

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”Mark Twain

I am well aware that I am going to die. Should that one fact be sufficient for me to accept Christian dogmatism because it is attached to the ‘possibility’ of the real existence of the Christian god? I don’t think it is. In fact, I think knowing that I am going to die is a horrible reason for accepting any belief.

What if I said, “I am going to die, the Earth is going to be destroyed, and the universe is going to end, so I am going to rape, rob, murder, and eat babies because ultimately nothing matters.” Is this an appropriate conclusion based on Dr. Craig’s argument? I think he thinks it is. Is that what you, the reader of this discussion, an individual seeking a satisfying life, thinks is appropriate. I certainly do not.

Additionally, whenever someone suggests this type of argument against atheism it actually frightens me a little. It frightens me because I wonder how these god-fearing heathens would behave were they ever to lose their faith. In that context, by all means believers, keep believing; for your own sake and for the rest of humanity as well.

I do not think Dr. Craig’s assessment of atheism is appropriate for several reasons, but in the interests of brevity, I will list just two that I see as the most important.

• Individual Responsibility
• Social Responsibility

Individual Responsibility

What if I disagreed with some aspect of Christian doctrine that as a believer I would be required to follow? Should I still be held accountable for carrying out the deeds of this doctrine even though the deed itself is one that I am adamantly opposed? It is well-known that the Bible has been interpreted to promote any number of behaviors often contrary to some other interpretation.

If I blindly follow the Christian doctrine, then I cannot be held responsible for my actions. I am simply doing God’s bidding because this, apparently, gives my life meaning, purpose, and value. In the case that biblical Christianity is not true, as Dr. Craig allows in his article, then the individuals responsible for my actions are the authors of the doctrines and the authorities who are interpreting those doctrines. Whoever that may be for each individual Christian, it surely is not the individual himself or herself.

The Christian claim to righteousness is a claim to blind ignorance. This holds true for Islam and Judaism as well.

Social Responsibility

We are social creatures. So much so that isolation can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and, in some cases, insanity. As such, during the process of developing a purpose for my life, giving my life meaning, and creating value while I am alive, I must absolutely consider others along the way.

This is not a new idea, and Jesus should not be credited with being the creator of compassion and a concern for our neighbors. Many of the philosophies that have resurfaced in the modern word can be traced back to pre-Christian societies. This should not be news to anyone who has studied this phenomenon. I will write more on those philosophies in later articles, but the point is that social responsibility is directly related to individual satisfaction.

These philosophies were either partially included in Christianity or disregarded by the authorities developing the ancient church. Following the great episodes of history including the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution, these philosophies have been restored as a reaction to Christian authority rather than a result of Christian authority.

This suggests to me, that Christian authority over that last 500 years has failed to satisfy the needs of the people. While Dr. Craig gives us a long explanation the leaves us with nothing more than Pascal’s Wager, I am offering a positive alternative.

I am offering a defense of atheism that includes not only the right of the individual, but the responsibility of the individual to live a thoughtful life that includes purpose, meaning, and value based on how each of us chooses to live. Because remember, as Dr. Craig was so adamant to repeat, we are all going to die.

On a lighter note, a word from Sam Harris:

Sam harris

“No myth needs to be embraced for us to commune with the profundity of our circumstance. No personal God need be worshipped for us to live in awe at the beauty of creation. No tribal fictions need be rehearsed for us to realize, one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish.” –Sam Harris, The End of Faith.

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4 thoughts on “An Atheistic Response to Dr. William Lane Craig: The Purpose, Meaning, and Value of Life

  1. Great post! One thing I keep noticing is that it seems like Atheists would not believe in the absence of God if there weren’t so many who believed in the presence of God. It is like an over-steer to correct the imbalance. It is not the Atheist way to believe in something with no proof (believing there is no God is also an unprovable belief as yet), so it seems more accurate to say “I don’t know”. But when there are so many believers, “I don’t know” seems unconvincing compared to their regurgitated assurance. So is there a battle on both ends to reach a balance one day? My take on God is; that it is just a word we do not understand, so before we can figure out the right question we might as well be trying to measure how many miles long the internet is.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I have been considering a similar idea here of late and will probably make that topic my next original post.

      My thought is basically this: What is the Ends that Atheism means to Satisfy.

      Social or political I am sure that atheism is a valuable check against religious authority. Checks and Balances are a fundamental necessity for any sort of just government to exist in my opinion.

      Besides that, I think you are absolutely correct. In philosophy, at least my flavor of choice, any reference to god is a meaningless statement. It doesn’t explain anything or help us understand anything. Actually, it has quite the opposite affect.

      So besides the social/political aspect of atheism, I need to better understand what the real end game is for the absence of a belief, which really doesn’t make any logical sense.

      I think without religion in the first place, there would be no conception of atheism.

      • Wonderful objectivity! I think in the absence of a belief we gain more of just that; objectivity. Without motives or preconceptions we are able to see less of our constructs and more of what is.

  2. Pingback: We Are All Born Atheists–Beliefs are Learned | Atheists in Action

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