It is an underlying Christian principle that without God, life has no meaning. Christian pastor Rick Warren, Christian scholar William Lane Craig and others have claimed this principle to be true. The magazine “Real Clear Science” and others have challenged this view, however, positing that atheists also see life to be meaningful.
In 2018, David Speed, et al, published a study titled, “What Do You Mean, ‘What Does It All Mean?’ Atheism, Non-religion, and Life Meaning.” The study used different surveys to determine whether atheism breeds nihilism or meaning.
For the purpose of the study, they defined someone as nihilistic if he or she believed, “In my opinion, life does not serve any purpose.”
Not surprisingly, the study argued that atheists and non-religious people find meaning in life, despite disbelief in religion and an afterlife.
The study concluded that atheists and non-religious people have a purpose in life, which brings forth meaning.
Despite the study’s findings, there is a problem with the results. When atheists and non-religious people answered the surveys, the meaning they cited was self-invented. They embraced the position, on the survey: “Life is only meaningful if you provide the meaning yourself.”
Kat Arney, an atheist scientist and journalist, responded that she rejected religion because the true meaning of life came from elsewhere for her. She said her dismissal of religion “was an incredibly liberating moment, and made me realise that the true meaning of life is what I make with the people around me – my family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. People tell religious fairy stories to create meaning, but I’d rather face up to what all the evidence suggests is the scientific truth – all we really have is our own humanity. So let’s be gentle to each other and share the joy of simply being alive, here and now. Let’s give it our best shot.”
This exploits the problem of allowing one to invent its own meaning, trickling into fairy tale territory, where one can find meaning in just about anything. It legitimately places meaning on the same playing field as a myth or a fairy tale. That “meaning,” might make an individual feel good, but there is no objective existence to it.
One thing that atheists and non-religious people have in common with religious people is their drive for meaning and sense. Christians get their meaning and morals from their religion, as they believe God is in control. Their right and wrong moral compass centers on His teachings in the Bible and helps them determine how they live their lives.
Well known atheist, Dr. Darrel Ray, addresses the morality of atheism, saying,
“Where do we get our morality? From the constant development of our culture. From the evolution of laws and guidelines that help us create a peaceful and prosperous society. We are who create our morality and we pass it down to our children and grandchildren. That is why Muslim people can live prosperously in the US along side Baptists, Mormons, Hindus and Atheists. We have a morality that supersedes all religions and is beholden to none.”
Day argues that an atheists moral compass is cultivated by the culture around them. He points out the changing laws and guidelines help atheists create their own moral guidelines as well. Despite a disagreement on where morality comes from, both atheists, and religious people experience a need for a moral foundation.
Unfortunately, for atheists and non-religious, their worldview cannot satisfy that drive because there is no steady moral foundation. As Day points out, atheists receive their morality from the changing times, which means their moral compass is always changing. In other words, atheists determine their moral compass and follow what they believe to be true and just. The problem with this is it gives the power to each individual to determine what is morally right and wrong, creating a morality of subjectiveness.
Despite the opposing views of Atheists and Christians, there is a commonality where both parties crave a direction when it comes to morality. Christians find the moral compass in the instructions given by God, while Atheists find it in themselves. While Atheists condemn religious groups for finding meaning in a higher power, they, themselves, should look closer at their own beliefs, as they soley find their morality within.
(H/T: Sage Journals)