Is life meaningless if God doesn’t exist?

If God doesn’t exist, then is life meaningless?

But, what do we mean by “life”? Does that just mean my individual life? Does that mean humanity as a whole? The universe? All of the above?

The simple truth is that it doesn’t seem logically impossible (i.e. no contradiction) that meaning can exist without God existing. In fact, it seems implausible to suggest that it would be impossible for meaning to exist without God. However, for theists like Thomists, they would say that meaning is related indirectly to God because the cosmos is dependent on God, but this is quite a different point than saying it’s logically impossible that meaning exists without God. Thomists would be in agreement with my thesis that there is no contradiction in asserting the existence of meaning without God.

Still, a theist could try and argue (and probably would argue) that God is a better explanation for why life seems meaningful. On the other hand, many skeptics will question whether there is any meaning at an objective level. Even if there is objective meaning, once again, it’s far from obvious why this would be impossible without God. Whether objective meaning is cashed out in an Aristotelian or Platonic sense, both of these (and other accounts) are consistent with non-theism.

So far, one isn’t making an argument for theism, instead, it’s more like an appeal to consequences (i.e. “life would suck without God”). But, if one adds the premise that (objective) meaning does exist, then one has a valid argument; it is still up for debate whether it is a valid and sound argument. And, to reiterate, what “objective meaning” means isn’t very clear because that could be talking about an individual, humanity, the universe, multiverse, etc.

On the other side, some atheists in the literature have argued that what we find in the world, regarding meaning and humans is very surprising if God exists. For example, many people have no sense of direction in their life, and they want direction; they have no clue where they are going, and they feel like their life is largely pointless (it’s no wonder so many people commit suicide or attempt suicide). If God doesn’t exist, there is nothing at all surprising about this; this is exactly what we would expect to see.

Finally, even if one grants that life is meaningless without God, they might question whether God makes a difference. In other words, even if God exists, how would that change the situation? Why wouldn’t life still be meaningless? A certain theist might reply that God is a necessary condition for life to be meaningful. There is also another (necessary) condition in order for there to be meaning: immortality. But, I’ve never understood the immortality condition. Is a movie meaningless because it will end? If anything, a movie is more valuable because it will end. And, even though the universe will eventually explode, how does that matter for here and now? Maybe what I do won’t matter in 5 billion years, but how would it follow from that fact that what I do right now wouldn’t matter at all? That seems crazy!

And why would God and immortality be the only two conditions necessary for life to be meaningful? Even if they are necessary, that doesn’t make them a sufficient condition for a meaningful life.

7 thoughts on “Is life meaningless if God doesn’t exist?

  1. One could just as well argue that if there is an all-powerful God behind the curtain, then nothing we do matters. All human activity is vanity (an argument actually made in The Book of Ecclesiastes). If there is no God, then our compassion for one another gains immensely in meaning, as it’s all we’ve got. On the slightly different question of whether morality is sustainable without God, see https://shakemyheadhollow.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/without-god/

      1. When a movie ends we still have the enjoyable memories of the good parts of it. If life ends we get nothing out of it and since on atheism the heat death of the universe means the end of everything then life was all for nothing. On atheism there is a meaning to life; “The meaning of life is that it ends” – Franz Kafka.

  2. rawgod

    For this comment or, life is invaluable to me, and I do not accept that any kind of super-powered super-knowledgable super-anything-living-being exists on any level. God is a mental construct of man, and even worse, the men who invented gods were the laziest of men in a tribe who came up with an idea to have food, shelter, and women provided to them without lifting a finger to otherwise help the tribe they were part of. While I obviously cannot prove these accusations, this scenario is more likely to have happened all over the humanoid world, possibly passed on by scoundrels who learned from their mistakes after being kicked out of their own tribes. But looking at the numbers and names of nature “sprites” right up to the number of pantheon of gods across the pre-historic ages and places, gods were a man-made thought ideation, and I will believe that to the end of eternity.
    So how do I find meaning in life? #1 – Life is the most common and valuable commodity/feeling/ treasure in the universe. Without life there would be nothing, including any kind of god.
    #2 – Life for me is infinite, involving reincarnations on many different levels of existence, never-ending as far as my spiritual vision can go.
    #3 – Life in this physical universe, and beyond the veils of death and birth, is one living being seeking to find the meaning of existence, exactly as are we who presently exist apart from The One Life which is who we become when we are not divided from our source. (This last part I expect you to reject outright, because very few “living beings” alive in this physical universe have successly gone beyond the veils of birth and death and returned with the ability to remember their experiences. But this I have done, and still contain the memories. And those memories are what gives my life value.)
    ‘Nuff said.

    1. If you can’t prove the accusations and are clearly basing on them groundless cynicism why should anybody care? I also don’t see what the difference then umber of gods makes. If there are many varieties of cola you wouldn’t say that all of them are disgusting.

      1. rawgod

        Did I say something about the number of gods? I don’t remember saying something like that. I never knew how many there might be in this world (nor did I or do I now care,) because as far as I know there are zero gods in the universe. And zero is not a number, it is merely a place digit?

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