Skip to comments.The Absurdity Of Life Without God - William Lane Craig
Posted on 12/16/2008 10:31:38 AM PST by Michael Eden
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Fantastic. Thank you for posting this.
It was Whittaker Chambers who observed the great struggle we face is really between those who put their faith in God versus those who put their faith in man.
The recent controversy in the state of Washington regarding the atheist diatribe displayed next to the nativity scene reminded me of this as well.
Why does this author believe those ultimates are necessary?
And yet, I still want to live the most virtuous life that I can. Imagine that.
If there's one thing that we know for sure, one thing that even believers cannot argue, it is that faith alone is by absolutely no means a guarantee of virtue.
Now, I want to be perfectly clear that none of this shows that biblical Christianity is true. That is to say, it seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and despair to hope, meaningfulness, and happiness. As Pascal said, "we have nothing to lose, and infinity to gain." The cosmic orphan can come home.
I don't see how this person thinks that a half-hearted retread of Pascal's Wager is going to convince anybody who has had a serious thoughtful discussion with themselves and found and that they don't believe. You can't force yourself to believe something that in your mind you know not to be true.
I've thought long and hard about Pascal's bet and I have no wish to believe in a fairy tale just because the fairy tale might be more pleasant. I'd rather deal with the real world and accept that the physical universe cares not a whit for my existence, and it's up to me to preserve it and enjoy it for as long as I can.
It doesn't seem to occur to him either that many people do not want to live under the thumb of a celestial dictator who watches your every move. If Biblical Christianity says that all non-Christians go to hell, then I wouldn't want to go to heaven anyway. I actually take more hope, meaning, and happiness in knowing that it's all not true anyway.
Does the naturalistic worldview give us adequate reason to consider beings originating by chance valuable and worthy? Could a being whose origins are so iffy trust his own capacity to know? If consciousness is simply an epiphenomenon of matter, perhaps the appearance of human freedom which lays the basis of morality is an epiphenomenon of either chance or inexorable law.
I am going to print this and save it.
Mega bump for l8tr
It is truth that matters; choosing is irrelevent. The truth will remain the truth regardless of your choice, and the choice is bigger than just atheism or Biblical Christianity. There are a multitude of belief systems.
Decades ago I reasoned as you have. Then one day I took a look at the other side of the coin. As this author points out Hope has no meaning without Grace and Resurrection. Merry Christmas!
There are a multitude of “belief systems” but only one relationship that offers Grace. That is Truth.
You could be right
You're by definition using inductive reasoning. You could not have possibly studied every other belief system present across all mankind..
And you've ironically chosen the religion which happens to be the majority where you were born and live, much as people have done since the beginning of time. Geography is the number one indication as to what belief system you have.
Au contraire. One need not, for example, follow every single belief system that is polytheist to know that it is wrong by virtue of there being only one God. Therefore, it’s been narrowed down to possibly 3 belief systems. Of those, 1 pretty much contradicts the other 2, so that narrows the possibilities even more, doesn’t it...
Talking about the alleged absurdity of life if there is no God confuses the true issue. The existence or non-existence of God is not the real point here, since I'm sure that the author would readily agree that his life would still be meaningless even were God to exist, but if at the same time his soul were nonetheless to simply "revert to nothingness" after he dies.
Some may feel that that is a subtle distinction, but I think that it's important to distinguish between the supposed "absurdity" of life per se given the non-existence of God and the "absurdity" of life in spite of the existence of God, but if Man possesses no immortal soul.
Does anyone follow me here, and could they imagine their lives nevertheless having meaning, even if of limited duration? (After all, most sincere believers will readily confess that they can't know that they'll be "saved.")
Mark for later. Nice article.
1. With a few trivial word substitutions, the entire argument could be framed as an equivalent choice between (for example) Islam and atheism. Thus, the exact same argument supports the conclusions "You should accept Christianity" and "You should accept Islam". Obviously, these conclusions are mutually exclusive. An argument that is equally supportive of two mutually exclusive conclusions cannot be valid.
2. The argument implicitly assumes the existence of a deity who will look favorably upon belief motivated by a desire for reward (in this case, relief from existential angst). If, instead, there is a deity who looks favorably upon the ability to suck it up and bear with a bit of angst, the argument leads to the conclusion that atheism is actually preferred -- and yet there is no way to know in advance which alternative is correct.
Without studying every polytheistic belief, how can you deduce that they are all wrong?
Some protestants view Catholicism as a form of polytheism because they pray directly to Mary and other saints (or in a more polite sense, they are "monotheists with polytheistic tendencies"), so there's not even an agreement within Christianity itself.
...so that narrows the possibilities even more, doesnt it...
Not all. There's thousands of different belief systems within monotheism.
He has a point about atheists smuggling a God substitute into their language: Nature, the Cosmos, Evolution. This substitute is sometimes said to have intentions, purpose, thought, choice, to be clever, is powerful, is good, or surprises us with tricks up its sleeve, etc. He is right that these atheists (all atheists) are inconsistent in their thinking.
It's particularly ironic to post Pascal's Wager here. The sort of people who believe based on which alternative is more pleasant rather than on which alternative is grounded in facts and logic are more likely to be found on Democratic Underground.
Look up pantheism. Not all pantheists are atheists and vice versa.
True, in a way the argument can be made that Pascal erases morality since everything is done with idea of reward or punishment.
Some believers find it hard to believe that many people really are "good for goodness' sake".
If a religion prays to more than one being, is it by definition polytheism? Or is it possible that there exists a gray area rather than an absolute definition of mono/polytheism?
Those protestants are mistaken, as we (I’m Catholic) don’t consider Mary to be God. I know it’s confusing, the church and every single follower may make mistakes every once in a while, and the Trinity is difficult to understand, but this does not equal polytheism.
Yeah, lots of different Christian organizations...so what?
I don’t mean to be snide but look up the word contradiction if you need to. If it is impossible for polytheism to be true, then you do not need to try out every single one.
You're acting as if the latter is an option. It's not. God has been kind enough to spell out the alternatives and that's not one of them. Since I'm not aware of any religion that doesn't have some sort of eternal reward belief system, there are one of two options: either God doesn't exist and we turn into dust or God exists and there is some sort of eternal reward for our beliefs and/or just life.
(After all, most sincere believers will readily confess that they can't know that they'll be "saved.")
I don't believe this to be true. A true believer knows that he will be saved. That's why he is a believer. I think the closest that you get is what CS Lewis describes as moments of doubt brought on by changing moods. But these changing moods, in most cases, do not shake our faith, because if they did, we would not be believers. The core of our faith is that we believe that Christ saved us and we will have eternal life in Heaven.
Another way to think about it, Alexander, is rock climbing. Let's say I'm rock climbing, and I have a safety harness that is attached to a rope that is tied off so that I cannot fall. At times, I may be unsure of my footing and I have a momentary fear that I will fall, and I have this fear despite knowing perfectly well that I am safe and secure by virtue of the rope and safety harness. As long as our foundation is built on the rock of Christ, our foundation is firm and we are safe and secure. That doesn't mean that we don't doubt our footing from time to time, but we know our foundation.
The stuff of history is held together by finely stitched threads through loosely woven fabric...
Yes, but the point is that there are some who do see praying to Mary and the trinity as at least a 'polytheist tendency'; hence there is disagreement.
Yeah, lots of different Christian organizations...so what?
There are different value systems represented within Christianity and within monotheism as a whole.
For instance, are praying to Mary and transubstantiation part of your value system? Even if they are not for you, they are for others within your faith.
Great great post. I know it’s a good speech when I fall asleep past half way through. (I don’t make it to 1/4 unless I have something else to do). Going to read the rest later.
Hair splitting aside, the people I was talking about deny the existence of God, yet speak as though there is a God. They are not known for their own idiosyncratic religion, nor do they publicly subscribe to any religion.
Great read when you get time. I listen to Craig presentations often. Going to see if this one is available online, perhaps at ‘bethinking.org’.
You either didn’t bother to stay and read the whole presentation or else you are deliberately trivializing it as a straw man.
Pascal’s wager says that, cetaris parabis, one should “wager” that there is a God and an eternal destiny, given the fact that “betting right” gives you everything and “betting wrong” costs you nothing; whereas betting on atheism costs you EVERYTHING if you bet wrong.
This lecture goes FAR beyond that. It not only asserts, but uses the very words of atheists to PROVE that without God there is no meaning, value, or purpose. And the force of Craig’s argument is that one is literally reduced to “pretending” that life really has meaning, value, and purpose, or accepting God.
I remember the massive riots in Los Angeles following the Rodney King police beating trial. People burned down huge swaths of the city when they thought justice was being ignored. What would happen if every single member of the human race faced the reality that such a thing as “justice” was itself utterly nonexistent, and killing a human being actually had no more moral consequence than stepping on a bug?
Leading atheist H.L. Mencken said, “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” And if life has no ultimate purpose, value, or meaning, why shouldn’t we?
Citing the article itself:
And yet, Nietzsche predicted that some day, people would realize the implications of atheism, and this realization would usher in an age of nihilism that is the destruction of all meaning and value in life. This most gruesome of guests, he said, is standing already at the door. Our whole European culture is moving for some time now with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade as toward a catastrophe, restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.
I see what you’re saying. It’s really disagreement on how to go about with traditions, misrepresentations aside.
But lets not keep moving the goal posts here. Praying to Mary and transubstantiation does NOT equal polytheism, nor does it indicate a ‘polytheistic tendency’, no matter what they say. Maybe someone actually has done that in the ~2000 years of church history, I don’t know, but that is not what the church teaches. And even if the higher up did try to teach polytheism, of course that’d be a mistake...
In addition, not all of the traditions are requirements. You don’t have to say every single prayer ever written all the time to be Catholic. I hope it’s getting a bit clearer.
I disagree. Hope can have much meaning without Grace and Resurrection...it’s in the individual.
Perhaps with God, the all-powerful, what we believe to be contradictions in beliefs/faiths are not contradictions at all. Perhaps God makes it possible for these beliefs/faiths, to be valid for each individual.
That's not really an argument for the existence of God. It's an argument that the existence of God would make some people happier, but it does not provide any support for the actual existence of God.
My life would be better if I won the lottery, but that does not making me winning the lottery more likely.
I wouldn't say that it does either, but I've known some protestants who be happy to get all righteously indignant about it. Since I don't believe in any of it, I don't have a stake either way.
But my original point was that there are thousands and thousands of religions each with many value systems within them. Therefore, I reject someone who claims to have used deductive reasoning to arrive at their own religious value system, since it's completely impossible to have known or studied every one; your geography, not your intricate look into the world's available faiths, usually (although not always) accounts for your beliefs.
In that sense, simply saying that there are three choices (polytheism, atheism, and monotheism) and its easy to eliminate two and arrive at one, doesn't cut it. Monotheism is not a value system.
Isn't there at least a third option: That God exists, but that at least some of us will turn to dust, and that perhaps even some sincere believers' souls will be consigned to oblivion? (Perhaps because of, e.g., some flaws in their character, doctrinal heresies, hubris, insufficient diligence in obeying the Law, personal failures, unforgivable sins, insufficient love towards their fellow man, inactivity, sheer ignorance of Holy Scripture through circumstances beyond their control, etc.?)
A true believer knows that he will be saved.
So you are an adherent of "salvation through faith, alone?" Are you sure that that is a scripturally air-tight stance?
I DO see your point, and I think Craig saw it too. Eternity is an essential element of the Christian tradition, and Craig very much makes it part of his argument.
Some things would have force even if we ceased to exist but there was a Creator God. Moral laws, for example, which have no force if we merely evolved, and have no more value than worms - but DO have value given the Imago Dei - would still hold power.
That was why I wanted to make it available in an HTML format. Easier to print, copy, etc.
It is very much worth printing, and keeping on your computer. I hope it blesses you as much as it has me!
Pascal's wager misses one alternative completely- what if you pick the wrong divine being to worship? Pascal's wager only gives you the option of believing in the Judeo-Christian God or believing in nothing. But what if the true god is Ahura Mazda, or Mithras?
This lecture goes FAR beyond that. It not only asserts, but uses the very words of atheists to PROVE that without God there is no meaning, value, or purpose. And the force of Craigs argument is that one is literally reduced to pretending that life really has meaning, value, and purpose, or accepting God.
Which is not an argument for the existence of God. The fact that you need something to exist does not make the existence of such a thing more likely.
What would happen if every single member of the human race faced the reality that such a thing as justice was itself utterly nonexistent, and killing a human being actually had no more moral consequence than stepping on a bug?
This argument seems to boil down to the belief that religious people are only kept in check by fear of punishment from a divine being.
Leading atheist H.L. Mencken said, Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. And if life has no ultimate purpose, value, or meaning, why shouldnt we?
Because few people have the desire, or the martial ability, to live in a socety where the only rules are "do as thou shalt." Anyone with any understanding of history understands what happens when humans revert to the law of the jungle.
I feel sorry for you.
C.S. Lewis said that hell was closed from the inside by people who prefer bitterness and defiance to what they could have merely by bowing the knee to their Creator.
“Halfhearted”? The brilliance of this presentation is that William Lane Craig cites the views of the most brilliant atheists of the century to back up every single thing he says. As an atheist, how do you say, “These people don’t know what they’re talking about”? They’re YOUR guys, dude!
For you, anyone who thinks like you, and anyone who is considering thinking like you, watch this music video:
It’s such a common thing among atheists to take what is so wonderful and incredible and good - a caring, loving, generous, gracious, intimately involved God of Creation - and warp and pervert it into an obscenity.