“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, all the rest pale into insiginifance in light of this one question and its this…Why should I not commit suicide?” –Albert Camus
Why ask Why? -Budweiser, King of Beers
One evening at a dinner party, Woody Allen was asked his opinion about the meaning of life. He responded, You ask me the meaning of life? Good Lord, I don’t even know my way around Chinatown!” Allen’s response is typical- because to many, the question of the meaning and purpose of life is unanswerable. The question is obviously one that is deeply profound yet nevertheless fundamental in the human search for happiness. The question “Why?” will not go away despite Budweiser’s proposal for people to not be concerned with such questions saying, “Why ask Why? Just try Bud Dry!” Despite the attempts of beer conglomerates to dissuade you from asking “Why?” in their attempts to numb your wits for profit, the human need for an answer to that question will remain. The yearning for an answer is at the depth of our being and the necessity of an answer is as urgent today as ever. In this article, I would like to consider the question, “Does Life Have Purpose?” Asked a bit more personally- Does my life have any real significance? and if not (as the atheistic/naturalic worldviews contend) Why should I not commit suicide?
Did you know that in the year 2003 one person every 16.7 minutes killed themselves? In fact, in 2003 one young person between the ages of 15-24 committed suicide every 2 hours and it was the 3rd leading cause of death among young people in America.
The French existentialist philosopher and atheist Albert Camus in his work The Myth of Sisyphus writes: There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, all the rest pale into insiginifance in light of this one question and it’s this…Why should I not commit suicide?”
Camus thought that because in his view there is no God then we are a cosmic accident with no ultimate purpose and with no real reason why we should continue to live. And if we end up dying at the age of 15, 20, 40 due to suicide or some other tragedy or end up living to the age of 75… in the ultimate scheme of things my life, your life, it makes no difference because we don’t make any difference to begin with. There is no purpose to why we’re hear.
However, I know something that is true of every person reading this post. Every one of us wants our life to be significant- to count for something- to have meaning and value.
If we have children, we look at our kids and say to ourselves that someday we want our kids to grow up and lead productive, significant lives.
I submit to you that if God is not real, your life is meaningless, your kids life is meaningless, our struggle for so-called goodness is meaningless, and you have no purpose for existing whatsoever.
William Lane Craig, a research professor at my alma mater Biola University points out that if our lives are ultimately meaningless, then the activities we fill our lives with are also meaningless. The long hours we spend in study at the university, at our jobs, etc. All of our interests, friendships, time—all these are utterly meaningless if God is not real. This is the horror of modern man writes Craig- because he ends in nothing, he ultimately is nothing.
If God does not exist then we are simply physical fleshly animals with no soul or spirit and our essential value is not qualitatively different than any other biological species- because in a world without God, no non-physical “supernatural” realities are possible. I could be not be qualitatively different than a dog. If there is no supernatural and God is not really there, then what would make humanity more special than insects or monkeys?
The absurdity of this is obvious to me. I’m reminded of a story that one of my professors told about a time when he was giving an speach in Hollywood and some guy in the audience stood up and (trying to be funny) remarked that he liked dolphins much better than humans and thought they had more cosmic significance than people. My prof said to the man, “Sir if I wasn’t a Christian gentleman I would come right over there and knock your teeth in. You’re telling me that if my kid was dying and needed an organ transplant in order to live you would give your organ to a dolphin before saving my child. You are sick.” It is this kind of nonsense however that pervades our culture because people don’t think about the consequences of their ideas.
In a world devoid of a God to give us worth then the dolphin lover is not really off track. If our end is the grave and we are not an immortal soul given significance by an eternal God, then what difference would it make if we had ever lived in the first place? My sons, your kids- not qualitatively different than baby mice or any other biological specimen because their end is all the same- annihilation.
In the vast expanse of an ever cooling and ultimately dying universe which will eventually (as scientists tell us) use up all of its useful energy and run down like a wound up clock, our life would be nothing but an insignificant random chance of uncaring, unpurposeful, nature.
For a person in the midst of tremendous suffering and pain, who is experiencing hopelessness, debating their worth and significance in this world.
For the person who wonders why they shouldn’t just blow their brains out and get it over with, or take the meth or crack cocaine to ease the pain- Or steal something that their heart covets, or live by their own rules intentionally throwing off the oppressive shackles of law as Ted Bundy would say.
For that person, since all is relative in a world without God, there would be no good reason to fight for life, truth, or moral goodness. These concepts become meaningless. Because without God there are no absolutes, no truth, no values, no meaning. What we ought to do is live for ourselves and our own happiness. Anything else would we stupid- for this life is all we’ll every know. Why would I want to waste the only existence I will ever have sacrificing my own pleasure for others. Let’s just say for example that any attempt to rescue another who is drowning would be foolish, because I could die too. In an atheistic world, cowardice becomes virtue.
Dr. Craig writes that “all we are in a world without God is a miscarriage of nature thrust into a purposeless universe to live out a purposeless life… the same cosmic process that accidentally coughed us up in the first place will eventually swallow us up again…If our destiny is a cold grave in the recesses of outer space then is life pointless? the answer must be yes—it is pointless. There is no goal, no purpose, for the universe. The litter of a dead universe will just go on expanding and expanding—forever.”
H. G. Wells in his prophetic novel The Time Machine tells of a time traveler who visits the distant future to discover the discover the fate of mankind. He finds nothing but a dead earth orbiting a gigantic red sun. Wells writes, “the world was silent. Silent? It would be hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of our lives—all that was over.” And the story goes the time traveler returns to the moment where he began his journey- A moment that was just an earlier point in an ultimately meaningless life.
According to Craig, “even if it did not end in death, without God life would still be without purpose. For man and the universe would then be simple accidents of chance, thrust into existence for no reason. Without God the universe is the result of a cosmic accident, a chance explosion. There is no reason for which it exists. As for man, he is a freak of nature—a blind product of matter plus time plus chance.”
The importance of this does not matter to the majority of humanity. People go about their business as though their lives have significance, yet they deny their Maker.
Is this indifference not typical of the masses of people who blanket the earth?- Of the plethora of people shuffling in and out and around like cattle in the streets, filling their time and thoughts and their bellies with trivialities, distractions, and immediate gratifications. For what? To avoid the despair, boredom, and anxiety that results when such diversions are removed and all that is left is death.
Remember the story that Fredreich Nietzsche told of the madman who cried out in the marketplace saying, “I seek God! I seek God!” People mocked him because they didn’t believe in God saying “Did God get lost?” Is he hiding? Or maybe he has gone on a voyage or emigrated!” Then, Nietzsche writes, the madman turned and pierced them with his eyes.
‘Whither is God?’ he cried, ‘I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? . . . God is dead. . . . And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves?
Even today,” Craig writes “people still do not realize the consequences of a world without God and so, like the crowd in the marketplace, go unknowingly on their way. But when we realize, as did Nietzsche, what atheism implies, then his question presses hard upon us: how shall we comfort ourselves?”
In closing I would like to challenge us to think about what it would be like to live in a world where It would not ultimately matter if you live or die or steal or give or love or hate or whatever. Where virtue and vice are blended; where it would not matter at the end of the day if you helped an old lady across the street or you ran her over! For as Russian novelist Dostoyevsky admitted: without God “all things are permitted.” Why? Because behavior would be disconnected from destiny. Only if God, and not just any god, but the God of the Bible exists, is there purpose and meaning to life. Life is not meaningless because we know that objective values exist that can only flow from God’s moral nature.
Why should we not commit suicide? Because you and I are truly significant and have a purpose. We have been created by the Living God in His image! The Westminster Confession of Faith states that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever!” Your purpose in life is what Jesus said is the greatest commandment- to love Yahweh with all of your being- heart, soul, mind, and strength. God has made Himself known to us by coming out of eternity, taking the form of a man, living a perfect life, dying on the cross in our place, in order to satisfy the demands of His perfect justice and mercy, thereby showing his immeasurable love and goodness by taking our sins, our corruption, our death upon himself to restore our relationship with Himself. By God’s grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ alone you can be reconciled with the Living God.
I encourage you to give your life to Jesus. The one who according to the Bible brought all things into existence, and apart from Whom nothing came into existence. Reality centers on Jesus. Do you want to be about what is real and true? Then you must be about Jesus. If you are about Jesus, then your whole life is plugged into ultimate meaning, purpose, and joy that truly has significance beyond the grave and you can be comforted because even if your body dies you will live and your life will count for something, because God is not dead.
Karl Barth, an extremely prolific theologian was once asked to share the most profound thing that he’d ever learned in his lifetime of study. He replied, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so!”
Don’t ever forget about Jesus! He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! And He loves you!
To close I want you to be reminded of the words found in the New Testament book of Revelation 5:11-13 which states: “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and power forever and ever!”
This is what it is all about.
May you be encouraged in your search for meaning, truth, happiness, and abundant life!