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.