Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Demonstrating: "if God does not exist, life is absurd"

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Ecclesiastes 12:1 "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them.”


The opening passage for today's post derives from the pen of King Solomon - the wisest and wealthiest king who ever lived. He had it all - lineage (son of king David of Israel); wisdom (there was hardly any area of knowledge he had not mastered); fame (kings and queens traveled from all over the globe just to hear him speak); untold pleasures and wealth. Yet, despite having experienced (at least by human standards) near-heaven-on-earth, Solomon's life became morally and spiritually bankrupt. He was brought to the brink of despair. Solomon's counsel is a word to any young person dazzled by the temptation to live a life as if God didn't exist.

Review from last post

In our last post, we introduced what I called: "an argument for God's existence from the non-absurdity of life". Reader's can click here to read the last post: 

We noted that in the history of human thought, a consensus has emerged that many non-believers and believers in Christianity assert as a truism: "If God does not exist, life is absurd." We crafted the following argument:

Premise #1: If God does not exist, meaning, value and purpose does not exist

Premise #2: Objective Meaning, value and purpose exist as part of our world

Therefore: God exists.

In today's post, we want to unpack this argument, premise-by-premise, to offer evidence that leads to the conclusion.

Demonstrating the "non-absurdity of life" argument for God's existence

As we develop this argument, we need to lay out some definitions: "objective", "meaning", "value" and "purpose". 

First, consider the term "objective". Its not too difficult to prove Premise #2 (objective Meaning, value and purpose exist as part of our world) when you think about it. When I say "objective", I mean that which is universally the case, whether you and I believe it or deny it, or whether we like it or despise it. 
When we refer to "meaning", the concern deals with what is considered "significant". Whenever someone mentions the idea of "value", this chiefly is concerned with the areas of morality (right, wrong) and duty (good, bad). The final element, "purpose", is that element of reality that points to an ultimate end to which everything else is moving. 

Whether someone believes the universe and life to have ultimate meaning (i.e significance) or not is to assign some sort of meaning. A couple of illustrations will serve to show how atheists cannot abandon an ultimate belief in meaning - despite the fact that they deny it. 

1. Atheist author and Zoologist, Richard Dawkins, may claim in his book - "The God-delusion" - that life is "pitiless indifference", yet, Dawkins' public foundation: "The Richard Dawkins Foundation", makes its mission to promote science and the secular worldview. Despite affirming the meaningless of life, Dawkins shows himself inconsistent in touting a worldview that places human flourishing as the centerpiece of life's meaning. 

2. Physicist Steven Wienberg in his classic book: "The First Three Minutes", draws out implications from his reflections on the initial moments following the beginning of the universe. In his estimation, since the universe is all that exists, assigning meaning is pointless. However, Weinberg obviously doesn't consistently hold to such a notion, since he spent countless hours co-developing a scientific theory that has become the Standard Model for describing the sub-atomic realm (thus netting him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1979). To say that the universe is without meaning is to assign a meaning to it!

As these two examples demonstrate, the atheistic worldview is inconsistent, resulting in it not having practical application.

When we speak of "value" in premise #2, we are referring to moral values and duties. Morality deals with right and wrong and duties deal with good or bad. To quickly illustrate, a doctor that saves a person's life is performing their moral obligation, since watching a person die, just for the fun of doing so, is morally wrong. It is the duty of my children, once reaching adulthood, to get a job and make a living. However, if they decide not to become a doctor, they're not committing an immoral act. In other words, it is good for people to have jobs. The question we must raise is: 
"are moral values and duties immaterial, universal and abstract or are they material, personally subjective and concrete?" 

Once again, the atheistic worldview cannot remain consistent. Sam Harris, a vocal author, philosopher, scientist and one of the so-called "New Atheists", affirms that there are objectively right and wrong values and right and wrong actions. Harris argues in his book: "The Moral Landscape", that moral values and duties arise from physical brain states and are measured by human well-being. The problem with this idea is when we raise the following question: "did moral values and duties exist prior to the existence of human beings?" If such values emerged at the advent of human beings, then Harris' definition of "good and evil" does not escape the trap he so desperately tries to avoid: namely, that morality is a matter of personal taste or what culture so defines it to be. Practically put, we only need to raise the follow-up question: "who is to say, such-and-such is right or wrong?" Contrary to Harris' claims, we find that meaning and values cannot be grounded in this material realm.

What about purpose? Does the universe, life and humanity have a purpose? Just like the previous two observations, purpose is connected to meaning and value. If meaning and value are derived from outside our material universe, then purpose is as well.  

Again, on atheism there is no purpose to the universe, life and humanity. Atheists like the late philosopher and mathematician, Bertand Russell, asserted that life had no purpose. Yet, he wrote volumes of philosophy that  despite life having no purpose, we have to "bravely hold onto the despair of it all". If Russell's philosophy is held to consistently, it all but begs the question: "why even bother to be brave?"

Closing thoughts:

Therefore in reflecting on philosophical (Camus, Russell) and scientific authorities (Dawkins, Harris, Wienberg), we can see that even among foremost atheistic thinkers, the reality of objective meaning, value and purpose is inescapable. Furthermore, any attempt to ground meaning, value and purpose in anything but God is fruitless. Thus, premise #2 holds in the following argument:

Premise #1: If God does not exist, meaning, value and purpose does not exist

Premise #2: Objective Meaning, value and purpose exist as part of our world

When we consider how both premises together are logically valid (the form of the argument follows the rules of logic) and sound (the premises say something true of our world), the conclusion thus follows:

Therefore, God exists.

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