Atheism and purpose

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One of the most popular arguments for God's existence is the teleological argument. Derived from the Greek word telos, which refers to purpose or end, this argument hinges on the idea that the world gives evidence of being designed, and concludes that a divine designer must be posited to account for the orderly world we encounter.

On October 17, 2014, The New York Times published an article entitled Does everything happen for a reason? which declared:

But research from the Yale Mind and Development Lab, where we work, suggests that this can’t be the whole story. In one series of studies, recently published in the journal Cognition, we asked people to reflect on significant events from their own lives, such as graduations, the births of children, falling in love, the deaths of loved ones and serious illnesses. Unsurprisingly, a majority of religious believers said they thought that these events happened for a reason and that they had been purposefully designed (presumably by God). But many atheists did so as well, and a majority of atheists in a related study also said that they believed in fate — defined as the view that life events happen for a reason and that there is an underlying order to life that determines how events turn out.

These atheists’ responses weren’t just the product of living in America’s highly religious society. Research done at Queen’s University in Belfast by the psychologists Bethany Heywood and Jesse Bering found that British atheists were just as likely as American atheists to believe that their life events had underlying purposes, even though Britain is far less religious than America.

In other studies, scheduled to be published online next week in the journal Child Development, we found that even young children show a bias to believe that life events happen for a reason — to “send a sign” or “to teach a lesson.” This belief exists regardless of how much exposure the children have had to religion at home, and even if they’ve had none at all.[1]

Pew Research reports that 35% of American atheists often think about the meaning and purpose of life.[2]


Children in atheistic Japan see the world as designed

In atheistic Japan, researchers found that Japanese children see the natural world as designed and purposeful and believe some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose.[3]

Jean-Paul Sartre and teleological beliefs

See also: Atheists doubting the validity of atheism

Notable professing atheists have had the characteristic of variability and instability when it came to maintaining thoughts in accordance with atheism. For example, Jean-Paul Sartre was one of the leading proponents of atheism of the 20th Century.

Yet Jean-Paul Sartre made this candid confession:

As for me, I don’t see myself as so much dust that has appeared in the world but as a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth. In short, as a being that could, it seems, come only from a creator; and this idea of a creating hand that created me refers me back to God. Naturally this is not a clear, exact idea that I set in motion every time I think of myself. It contradicts many of my other ideas; but it is there, floating vaguely. And when I think of myself I often think rather in this way, for wont of being able to think otherwise.[4]

Charles Darwin often had overwhelming thoughts the world was designed

The evolutionist Charles Darwin wrote in his private notebooks that he was a materialist, which is a type of atheist. In his autobiography Charles Darwin wrote about the diminishment of his religious faith and Darwin stated that he was an agnostic.[5] Darwin's worldview is best described as agnosticism/weak atheism (see: religious views of Charles Darwin) [6][7]

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

In 1885, the Duke of Argyll recounted a conversation he had had with Charles Darwin the year before Darwin's death:

In the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own remarkable works on the Fertilization of Orchids, and upon The Earthworms, and various other observations he made of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature — I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and the expression of Mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He looked at me very hard and said, “Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,” and he shook his head vaguely, adding, “it seems to go away. ”(Argyll 1885, 244)[8]

Ben Stein Interview with the evolutionist Richard Dawkins

See also: Ben Stein Interview with Richard Dawkins

In the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein demonstrated the folly of evolutionism in his interview with the evolutionist and agnostic/New Atheist Richard Dawkins (A clip of the interview has been uploaded to YouTube ).

The Discovery Institute provides an transcript of part of the interview along with some commentary:

BEN STEIN: "What do you think is the possibility that Intelligent Design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution?"

DAWKINS: "Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now, um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it's possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer."


Ho,ho! That is precisely what the Raelians say:

Years ago, everybody knew that the earth was flat. Everybody knew that the sun revolved around the earth. Today, everybody knows that life on earth is either the result of random evolution or the work of a supernatural God. Or is it? In "Message from the Designers", Rael presents us with a third option: that all life on earth was created by advanced scientists from another world.

Richard Dawkins and Rael; "clear thinking" kindred spirits! [9]

Related quotes from science publications

See also: Atheism Quotes

" “A slew of cognitive traits predisposes us to faith.” - Pascal Boyer, in the British science journal Nature [10]

“Atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think. … They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.” - Graham Lawton in the New Scientist science magazine [11]

Meaninglessness and hopelessness under an atheist worldview

See also: Atheism and meaninglessness and Atheism, agnosticism and pessimism

Under an atheist worldview, there is no objective meaning or purpose in life (see: Atheism and meaninglessness)[12]

Through Jesus Christ, Christianity offers objective meaning and purpose to life.[13]

In December 2003, the University of Warwick reported:

Dr. Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, said: "Religious people seem to have a greater purpose in life, which is why they are happier. Looking at the research evidence, it seems that those who celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas are on the whole likely to be happier.[14]

Atheism and hopelessness

See also: Hopelessness of atheism

On March 8, 2013, Damon Linker wrote in The Week:

If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we're alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.[15]

Although Bertrand Russell was an agnostic, he had favorable views of atheism.[16] Bertrand Russell wrote in 1903 about entropy and the universe:

That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

"Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding dispair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built." [17]

See also

Notes