Atheists will often dress up their worldview in hope to make it seem appealing. For example, they commonly refer to themselves as rationalists, freethinkers, and give themselves all sorts of lofty titles that they hope gives the impression of intellectual superiority. They also try to monopolize science and play it off against religion and belief in God; they want to be the ones who are all about evidence and reason, and so on. But how appealing is atheism really? We will look at several lines as to why atheism is exactly the opposite of appealing; we will even provide quotes from prominent atheists throughout.
1. Meaning in Life.
Most people I know want to live meaningful lives, and that would include atheists. People want to live lives that make a difference, that does something good, and maybe even be remembered for the hard work they put into certain projects after they die. But, on atheism, is there really any meaning to one’s existence at all?
If each of us simply ceases to exist when we die, then what ultimate meaning can be given to one’s life? Would it have even really mattered if we did not exist in the first place? We might be able to create the subjective illusion of meaning but is that really any real meaning? That atheists create subjective meaning only goes to show that there is no ultimate meaning in their lives, but, because they wish that there was, they have to create it. However, could we really consistently live out such a radical philosophy? Imagine having to face that every day when waking up in the morning, going to work, looking after our families, tucking our children into bed at night, and so on.
In reality, if atheism is true, mankind is a doomed race that happens to exist within a dying universe. We will eventually cease to exist, and everything that we’ve ever discovered and all the remarkable achievements that we have thought we had made will face the same fate. On atheism, although we are more complex creatures, we are really no superior to mosquitos, or cows, or dogs. We are, after all, accidental products of an unguided, indifferent cosmic process (at least the cows don’t know this!). How much meaning can we, knowing this, attach to our existence?
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
-Richard Dawkins (River Out of Eden, p. 131–32)
2. Purpose in Life.
Most of us want to live purposeful lives. But if death is where it all ends, then what really is the goal of life? Are we really here for nothing? Is life rendered pointless because we’re just the random products of a cosmic process that happened to spit us out on planet Earth?
On atheism there is no goal and no purpose for the universe and neither is there for us. We are simply accidents that are conscious about the fact that we are accidents. It is really amounts o no less than a torturous existence and, if we wish to keep sane, we have to build walls around ourselves pretending that this isn’t so. But imagine really living this out. Maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes was actually onto something, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (1:2).
“At root, there is only corruption, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.”
-Peter Atkins (Quoted by Richard Dawkins in Unweaving the Rainbow, p. ix)
3. Objective Morality and Moral Values.
“They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!”
This is a chilling account from Bartolomé de las Casas in his History of the Indies (1561). But does something about what de las Casas tells us that the conquistadors did to these babies strike us as wrong, or perhaps even evil? I think most people would say yes; what was committed there was a grievous crime, and no less than evil.
But if atheism is true, and if we’re no more than chance products with no ultimate meaning in life, and no purpose either, how then can we claim that some things are really evil as opposed to good? Like this account of smashing tiny baby heads into rocks and throwing infants from cliffs only to have them splatter on the sharp crags below, or, if the soldiers were bored and wanted lengthy entertainment, flinging them into rivers to experience a slow, painful death. I’m sure 99.5% (leave some room for psychopaths) of human beings would repudiate such behaviour. Why? Because it’s evil. But on atheism evil does not exist, nor does good; life just is, and what happens is just the result of chance, timing, and place.
Moreover, if life ends at the grave, then it really makes no difference whether one has lived as a Hitler or a Mother Teresa. Of course our moral instincts scream out that it is far superior to be virtuous, loving, and self-giving as opposed to ruthless, merciless and cruel. But does it really matter at the end of the day in any objective sense, on atheism?
After all, if there is no God which means there would be no transcendent law, then how can we have any objective standard of what is right or wrong? Is it is only my opinion that murder, or throwing babies from cliffs, is morally wrong; but the conquistadors thought they were having a blast. How can I say, in any objective sense, that what they did was morally evil? I can’t. Moral values are no more than my personal taste, on atheism. This is not to say that atheists are evil (after all, “evil” cannot exist on his view); rather, it is simply to explain what reality is if atheism were true. But not a single day passes in which the atheist hasn’t made dozens, if no hundreds, of moral judgments.
“In fact, outright atheism remains a minority confession, and the modern Western world has witnessed the proliferation of alternative ‘spiritualities’ of various kinds,” and a major reason for this is that “Many, it seems, are dissatisfied with atheism as the ‘final truth’ of the human condition”
-Gavin Hyman (“Atheism in Modern History” in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. 2007. p. 33.)
4. No Freewill.
On atheism only particles and physical forces exist. But if that is true, then human beings don’t have free will or the ability to reason. Our actions are completely determined by the laws of physics. So why should we believe anything that we think is true, or why even believe what atheists have to say? But no-one experiences this as a reality; after all, we all think that we have freewill. This rejection of freewill is what is known as determinism. But even the proposal and one’s decision to believe in determinism would be pointless since he was already pre-determined to come to that conclusion. But, again, why buy into such a radical philosophical belief that has zero to do with our overwhelming human experience? We strongly believe we have freewill, we act as if we have freewill, and we base all of our decisions on freewill. There’s really no reason to reject it.
“Everything that has or will happen was determined at the big bang — and given that our brains are part of the physical universe, free will does not exist.”
-Graham Lawton (The Riddle of Free Will Goes Unsolved, 2011)
5. Practical Impossibilities.
This is really to mean inconsistency. I’ve never ever seen an atheist living out his worldview consistently as they simply cannot live out what it demands. He cannot, for example, live a life that is meaningless; instead he fills his life with all sorts of things that he takes to be meaningful, but on his atheism there is no ultimate meaning to life. He can’t live out a life that is purposeless, nor one that has, at bottom, no evil and no good. Every day he makes moral claims. In fact, atheists make tonnes of them from how evil religious people are, or have been, or how evil God is for allowing evil to exist in the world, or how someone has wronged him personally, and so on. We simply cannot help this. The atheist, and everyone else, operates on the assumption that we have freewill.
So if atheism proves to be such a radical philosophy that appears to be so inconsistent with human experience, then why accept it? Why not look for a worldview that is able to explain why we are moral creatures driven by purpose and meaning? Why opt for a radical philosophy that is so explanatory deficient?
Consider the Alternative.
Given what we’ve just seen, why not consider Christianity? According to the Christian worldview, God exists, and our lives do not just end at the grave. The promise is that we will receive new resurrection bodies and that within our new bodies we may enjoy eternal life and fellowship with God. Christianity therefore provides the two conditions necessary for a meaningful and purposeful life: God and an afterlife. This allows us to live consistently and happily. Christianity thus succeeds where atheism breaks down. Thank God we have the evidence to back it up.