So has anyone here made any plausible arguments as to how life is meaningless without god?
Depends what you mean by plausible argument. Certainly there are many people who think that their lives would be meaningless without God; and there are people who feel that their lives were meaningless until they started believing in God.
I think the first thing that needs to be understood is that not everyone feels the full force of the question of meaning
. There are many people who just get on with the business of living. If asked such people would say that they find meaning in their jobs and relationships; that is fine (in fact it is an enviable attitude). However there are some (and I include myself in this category) for whom the question of meaning
is real and as serious impact on their well-being and it cannot be answered by reference to things like jobs and relationships. (For example; I have a wife I love and job I enjoy, but the meaning that provides is not sufficient to answer the question of meaning.
For atheists like me this question of meaning
can be a profoundly difficult one. The central problem is often summed up as absurdity
. How can small finite creatures, accidents of chemistry and thermodynamics possibly generate or preserve meaning? The fact of our existence is far closer to cosmic joke than cosmic plan.
This mind-set can be genuinely dangerous. For those who do not feel the bite of the question of existence
the idea it might be dangerous usually seems outrageously melodramatic. Those who suffer are often told to ‘just get on with things’, even to ‘stop being so stupid’. Various philosophers have, however, spotted this dangerous trend; Sartre refers to those with “angst”, Kierkegaard to the “knights of infinite resignation”, and William James to the “sick-souled” or those with “divided selves”.
So how should those who suffer from the question of meaning
deal with it?
There are some bad approaches. Trying to ignore the problem through a regimen of narcotics. Trying to reassert control through self-harm. Self-rejecting strategies such as joining cults (Scientology is particularly good at exploiting these people). Ultimately there is Dostoyevsky’s proposed solution of suicide, meaning gained through the ultimate act of self-destruction.
There are many positive secular approaches. Sartre advocates thinking of creative freedom as the basic unit of existence. Nietzsche proposes a radical individualism and rejection of values. Watson proposed taking deliberate control of our behaviours to re-cast ourselves in more positive terms. My own personal salvation has been found in the intra-worldly mysticism of the ancient Chinese Philosopher Chuang-tzu.
However some of the “sick souled” turn to religion to provide meaning and thus healing. From the meditation of Buddhism, to the silence of Quakerism, the prayer of Islam or the Church of Catholicism, these structures do provide meaning to many people. Moreover the positive feedback of a large community religion provides, and the simplistic
nature of their world- view; religions offer an easy solution to the sickness some people feel they suffer. (I do not mean that in a negative way – when looking for a cure the simpler the better).
I would not say that meaning is impossible without religious faith; but for those who require meaning it is an effective, and relatively benign, way to find it.