How to respond to someone who tells you that life without god is not worth living

Life Without GodLife without God is meaningless, it is not worth living. This tends to be one of the main talking points I hear from religious people. It is one of the main arguments for defending a belief in God or a high deity in the first place. This is an issue certainly worth addressing, from a secular point of view.

To begin, we have to understand the framing of the issue. Life is meaningless without belief in God? Let’s understand that when they talk about not believing in God, the God they refer to is the Abrahamic god of monotheism. And, more often than not, the idea of the “meaning of life” is tied to believing in an afterlife.

This means that life is only worth living if there is an afterlife. This stems from mankind’s fear of death, and the idea of ceasing to exist. Obviously death is a scary thing, no doubt. No one, for the most part, would actively choose to die. However, does believing in an afterlife somehow give an extra layer of meaning to the life that you already have?

A core idea of fundamentalist religion is that life only has a purpose to it if an all powerful deity watches over us and commands our actions. Essentially, this life is only to be lived to prepare for the “next” life. Only the afterlife with God is the purpose of the one life you have.

When I am told that not believing in God gives no purpose to my life, it insults my intelligence to think that my life needs to have a specific meaning and that it can only have one with divine providence. This mindset is representative of people who fear life without dictated structure.

To me, life is not necessarily something we can automatically attribute “meaning” to, in every sense. What you do with your life can create a meaning, a sense of reasonable purpose. We need not automatically assume that life needs to have meaning in order to make it worth living. We only have one life on this earth, so we need to live it fully and not wrap ourselves in anchored fundamentalism over something that may or may not be true in the first place.

This video by Richard Dawkins sums up the idea of life’s meaning with or without God. Is life without God meaningless? Is it even our place to ask such a question?

3 COMMENTS

  1. Though a practicing, every-Sunday-in-church Christian, I seldom find it necessary to defend “a belief in God.” Perhaps because I feel no need to defend it. Perhaps because neither friends and colleagues who do not share my beliefs nor I are not particularly wont to debate the matter. Hence, I approach your issue not as a Christian apologist and my response is not an apologia.

    It is more a corrective.

    Though you limit your concerns to “religious people” who reference the monotheistic God of the three great Abrahamic religions, it might have been helpful to make clear that “religious people” of other traditions also talk about “not believing in God”—though the name and nature of the deity may differ—relative to the question of personal meaning. Indeed, I am unaware of any religious system of belief that does not at some level purpose to provide a context of linguistics, symbology, liturgy and narrative within which adherents seek to understand who they are, why they are and what purpose they serve.

    I also question the width of the brush with which you paint—and the century which both the brush and paint call home—when you state that, “more often than not, the idea of the ‘meaning of life’ is tied to believing in an afterlife.”

    I cannot speak for my Jewish brethren and sistren per their views of the “afterlife,” given that the details of “life after death” have never, in most corners of Judaism, been painted as clearly or colorfully as those of Christianity and Islam. However, there is little doubt but that the “afterlife” plays a major role in the belief systems of many Christians and Muslims.

    On the other hand, to make a blanket statement such as “the idea of the ‘meaning of life’ is tied to believing in an afterlife” is to grossly neglect the enormous diversity of belief—at least in the Christian community—as to the nature of “life after death” (you can begin with the distinction between “immortality” and “resurrection” and proceed from there) as well as to the role it plays in the lives of individual Christians.

    The notion that, for the vast majority of Christians, “life is only worth living if there is an afterlife” is a bucket that just doesn’t hold water. It does not take seriously the enormous number of Christians who, like me, consider the popular notions of “the afterlife” to be an afterthought. Indeed, the idea that “this life is only to be lived to prepare for the ‘next’ life” is, quite frankly, anathema to not only me but to broad swaths of the Christian community. The redemption of the Creation is both a present and future reality and the reality of the future, in every blink of the eye, becomes the reality of the present.

    Painting with an old brush that is too wide typically serves to perpetuate stereotypes and not take seriously differences, divergences and—here’s that word, again—nuances that exist and evolve in every people and every belief system.

    Beyond that, I was greatly amused per your thoughts/feelings about being “preached to,” so to speak, about “not believing in God.” Like you, I often do not respond well when I feel as though I am being “preached to.”

    However, I was equally amused when I realized that, in your next paragraph, you, in the language of the southern Protestantism in which I was raised, “went to preaching.” It wasn’t a bad sermon and its brevity made it even better, but it was definitely an exercise in homiletics. All it lacked was an altar call, final hymn and benediction.

    Hang in there! We Christians definitely need to be kept in our place(s).

  2. Being raised fundamentalist Christian, I did not understand the spiritual side of life was when I went to Alanon and realized that a God of our own understanding has nothing to do with the afterlife.

  3. “Life without God is meaningless, it is not worth living. …This is an issue certainly worth addressing, from a secular point of view.”

    No, it’s not, and I’m not going to read the article. The whole issue is so stupid it is nothing but a waste of time.

    If anyone ever tells me “”Life without God is meaningless, it is not worth living” I have two things to say, 1.) speak for yourself, but 2.) Please don’t kill yourself when you come to believe that what you say is true.

    -dlj.

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