A recurring myth among religious individuals is that without God, life has no meaning or purpose. There are many reasons why a theist may hold this idea, none of which are grounded in reality. This is usually a refusal to accept death as the ultimate end and an appeal to emotion, in which a person assumes that their life has a meaning or a purpose given by God or presumes that there is an objective meaning to life.
First, there is no evidence that there is any objective meaning to life and it cannot be established with any epistemic certainty. Testimonies do not hold up to scrutiny as they are subject to the myriad biases of your brain. Holy texts are riddled with contradictions, inconsistencies, and outright falsities. Until there is a reliable means of establishing an objective meaning of life that provides substantial evidence, the appropriate response is to suspend judgment. Sure, it is an uncomfortable thought to some that there might not be any objective purpose to life, but the inability to accept this does not mean that we should adopt fallacious concepts to satisfy our ego.
Second, there are many people that do not believe in your deity, or any deity, and it would be preposterous to claim that the 1.2 billion Chinese who have no predominant religion, or the millions of people who claim to be nonbelievers, are not leading meaningful lives. The existence of a god is not required in order to have a meaning or purpose in life. Meaning is subjective. What you find meaningful someone else may not. There is plenty of meaning to be found in literature, music, science, and human connection, to name a few. To think that these things somehow lose their meaning if there is no god is absolutely absurd.
Finally, this myth presupposes that the god given objective meaning or purpose in life aligns with their own. What if it doesn’t? Without evidence to support the claim, there is no way to know if your subjective meaning or purpose of life coincides with any objective meaning or purpose of life. Most Abrahamic religions hold that the purpose of life is to serve God. What good is life if you are going to spend it grovelling in fear at the feet of a celestial dictator? What good is life if your only purpose is to worship, praise, and be a subservient slave to a cosmic master? Would you accept that same purpose if it were a terrestrial dictator or master? If God is the ultimate embodiment of love why isn’t he held to a higher standard?
As an atheist, I have everything to live for and nothing to die for. The finality of life is exactly what gives life meaning. Death only appears on the surface to invalidate any meaning or purpose of life because it seems to give rise to an idea that there is no reason to do anything all, like garner knowledge or improve the self, if we are going to die anyway. However, there is a point to garnering knowledge or improving the self and that purpose is to enjoy life. The very finite nature of life prevents us from knowing and experiencing everything our world has to offer. That ephemeral epiphany allows us to relish in the moment, whether it be the laugh of an elderly loved one or the taste of your favorite food. These things matter and have value because the opportunity to experience them is finite in nature.
Suspending the real fantasy, the thing we call life, and devaluing your earthly life, the only guaranteed life that you have, is truly living without a purpose or meaning. That would make religious believers that perpetuate this myth the real nihilists.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” Alan Watts
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