We need to have a purpose for our lives. This is something that even atheists will admit. Militant atheist, Daniel C. Dennett, correctly claims that we need to attach ourselves to something greater than ourselves:
- The best answer today has been the best answer for millennia: find something more important than you are, and devote your life to it, protecting it, improving it, making it work, celebrating it. (In his preface to Dan Barker’s book, Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning)
However, in an atheistic, godless world, what can be “more important than you are?” After all, aren’t we number 1, even if everyone else is number 1 unto themselves. What then could possibly be greater than me? Nothing, of course!
Dan Barker, atheist and ex-Christian-preacher, also tries to pull a rabbit out of an empty hat:
- We nonbelievers have something valuable to offer the world, underscoring the fact that life is valuable for its own sake alone. Unlike many believers, we atheists are not smug, divisive, or exclusive about our views: we welcome all people into the natural human family. A supernatural additive pollutes what is pure and precious in our species. We atheists simply refuse to be cheated of the good life.
What makes “life…valuable for its own sake alone?” In an atheistic world, there is no common value for life. There is nothing that can make a human life any more valuable than a mosquitoe’s. The atheist will offer several responses – our intelligence, creativity, feelings, or relationships. However, this answer creates more problems than it settles. We humans have various levels of intelligence, creativity, relationships, and feelings. Wouldn’t these varying faculties make one individual more valuable than another? Certainly!
Besides, everyone will disagree about what makes life and each individual valuable. Who then is right? Without an ultimate answer from above, no one is right. Everyone is free to subjectively decide what is valuable. And the Democrat may not esteem the Republican as having any intrinsic value and find him totally expendable. Too bad for the Republican!
How is the atheist able to “welcome all people into the natural human family?” While Jesus offers salvation to any who are willing, what does atheism have to offer? This is left unclear. However, Barker is certain that adding God to the picture cheats us out of the “good life.”
Besides, if evolution is the creator, how can we even begin to talk about a “natural human family?” Evolution only has eyes for a gradual linear progression among and even within species. This would mean that some humans are more evolved than others. This spells death to any concept of the “natural human family.” Consequently, some humans are necessarily distant relatives.
What then does atheism have to offer? According to Barker, atheism offers something that is “real, not pretend”:
- It is true that “atheism” is a negative word, but so is “nonfiction.” They are double negatives. Both words tell you that what you are getting is real, not pretend.
While it is true that “nonfiction” offers something that is alleged to be not fictional – real - “atheism” only offers a denial of the sufficiency of the evidence in favor of God. This is a NEGATIVE! It offers nothing positive, according to many atheists with whom I have dialogued.
This points to the fact that the term “atheism” is highly slippery. It changes according to the conversational need. In Barker’s case, there is something “real, not pretend” about atheism. This is because he wants to emphasize the contributions of atheism towards finding a meaning for life. However, when you try to debate an atheist, the meaning of “atheism” shrinks to the point of almost disappearing, leaving you absolutely no target for any attack. “Atheism” becomes simply a denial of the sufficiency of theistic evidence, placing the burden of proof on the theist. Very convenient!
But does theism offer the possibility for a meaningful life? According to Dennett’s definition, it should. If meaning is about finding “something more important than you are,” God is admirably able to satisfy this requirement.