Atheism and meaninglessness

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Atheists have a higher suicide rate than theists.[1][2]

Under an atheist worldview, there is no objective meaning or purpose in life.[3] Through Jesus Christ, Christianity offers objective meaning and purpose to life.[4] See also: Atheism and purpose and Atheism and inspiration

As adults, children who attended religious services regularly are 47 percent more likely to have a high sense of mission and purpose.[5]

Dr. Katie Galloway writes:

My next question is, “Okay, but why choose atheism?”

After all, a lack of faith comes with distinct disadvantages. For example, studies show that people with no faith are more likely than their religious counterparts to suffer from depression and to commit suicide. Besides that (or perhaps at the root of that), atheism doesn’t provide any sense of meaning or purpose for life because everything will end with total annihilation.

Even if atheists argue that we can assign meaning to our lives, once the Sun burns out and the universe goes to heat death what is left?[6]

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."[7]

Although Bertrand Russell was an agnostic, he had favorable views of atheism.[8] 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." [9]

William Lane Craig declares about atheism and the meaning of life:

What we're asking here is not how atheists find meaning in life, which would be consistent with saying that life is objectively meaningless but somehow you've got to get through so how are you going to find some sort of meaning to your existence? Well, you'll invent projects that will bring you satisfaction and make you feel good and so forth, but that has nothing to do with whether or not life has an objective meaning or value of purpose.[10]

Craig further adds:

If God does not exist, then both man and the universe are inevitably doomed to death. Man, like all biological organisms, must die. With no hope of immortality, man's life leads only to the grave. His life is but a spark in the infinite blackness, a spark that appears, flickers, and dies forever. Therefore, everyone must come face to face with what theologian Paul Tillich has called "the threat of non-being." For though I know now that I exist, that I am alive, I also know that someday I will no longer exist, that I will no longer be, that I will die. This thought is staggering and threatening: to think that the person I call "myself" will cease to exist, that I will be no more!...

And the universe, too, faces death. Scientists tell us that the universe is expanding, and everything in it is growing farther and farther apart. As it does so, it grows colder and colder, and its energy is used up. Eventually all the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes. There will be no light at all; there will be no heat; there will be no life; only the corpses of dead stars and galaxies, ever expanding into the endless darkness and the cold recesses of space—a universe in ruins. So not only is the life of each individual person doomed; the entire human race is doomed. There is no escape. There is no hope.[11]

Craig also wrote:

First, the area of meaning. We saw that without God, life has no meaning. Yet philosophers continue to live as though life does have meaning. For example, Sartre argued that one may create meaning for his life by freely choosing to follow a certain course of action. Sartre himself chose Marxism.

Now this is totally inconsistent. It is inconsistent to say life is objectively absurd and then to say you may create meaning for your life. If life is really absurd, then you’re trapped in the lower story. To try to create meaning in life represents a leap to the upper story. But Sartre has no basis for this leap. Sartre’s program is actually an exercise in self-delusion. For the universe doesn’t really acquire a meaning just because I happen to give it one. This is easy to see: Suppose I give the universe one meaning, and you give it another. Who’s right? The answer, of course, is neither one. For the universe without God remains objectively meaningless, no matter how we happen to regard it. Sartre is really saying, “Let’s pretend the universe has meaning.” And this is just fooling yourself.

The point is this: If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance...

For example, the outspoken atheist and Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Weinberg, at the close of his much-acclaimed book The First Three Minutes, writes,

It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that somehow we were built in from the beginning.… It is very hard to realize that this all is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.
But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.

There’s something strange about Weinberg’s moving description of the human predicament: Tragedy is not a neutral term. It expresses an evaluation of a situation. Weinberg evidently sees a life devoted to scientific pursuits as truly meaningful, and therefore it’s tragic that such a noble pursuit should be extinguished. But why, given atheism, should the pursuit of science be any different from slouching about doing nothing? Since there is no objective purpose to human life, none of our pursuits has any objective significance, however important and dear they may seem to us subjectively. They’re no more significant than shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.[12]

The atheist Jerry Coyne admits the meaninglessness of the universe as an implication of an atheistic evolutionary worldview, but then insists that we can create our own subjective meaning and marvel at the intricacies of nature.[13]

For more information, please see studies and historical data relevant to:

The Bible teaches that atheism is foolish and wicked (Psalm 14:1). It also teaches that the wicked who refuse to repent go to Hell (see also: Atheism and Hell).

Articles arranged in specific categories on the atheistic worldview and meaninglessness

Why an objective meaning for life is superior to assigning a subjective meaning to our lives

Meaning and the death of man and the heat death of the universe

In a materialistic universe, there is just motion and there is no ultimate meaning

Atheism and death

General articles


Atheism and despair:

Atheism and the meaning of life

See: Atheism and the meaning of life

Atheism and personhood

See: Atheism and personhood

Evidence for Christianity

Christianity and meaning/purpose

Resources for leaving atheism and becoming a Christian

See also

External links


  1. Religious affiliation and suicide rate
  2. - suicide rates
  3. How to Help Prevent Your Child from Becoming an Atheist by Joe Carter
  4. Reclaiming Reason from Atheism by Katie Galloway,
  6. Russell, Bertrand (1947) "Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?"[1] Most online sources say "by which one prove," probably a mistake.
  7. Entropy and heat death
  8. Where Do Atheists Find Meaning?
  9. The Absurdity of Life without God by William Lane Craig
  10. [The Practical Impossibility of Atheism] by William Lane Craig
  11. Why evolution need not be true: A review of Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne Viking Penguin, New York, 2009, reviewed by John Woodmorappe