Atheism: A Very Short Introduction by Julian Baggini

Atheism: A Very Short Introduction by Julian Baggini

Author:Julian Baggini
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Published: 2003-05-11T04:00:00+00:00

Chapter 4

Meaning and purpose

What’s the point

Believing the myth that without God everything is permitted may not in itself provide people with a reason to reject atheism, since it at least opens the gates to a certain amount of potentially desirable debauchery. What is perhaps more off-putting about atheism is the idea that without God nothing has a purpose. Sure, you can do what you want because there’s no divine power there to stop you, but what is the point of doing anything at all? Why do we struggle through life – and for many people life is a struggle – if it all ends in naught? ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’ is the nihilistic mantra of the disenchanted and disappointed who have given up belief in God and think that leaves life a vacuous tragicomedy.

To answer these concerns it is necessary to go back to basics and consider the very idea of life having a meaning or purpose. The problem is that it is often assumed that there is no problem about the meaning of life for the religious. Buy into religion and meaning comes with it free. Opt out of religion, however, and you lose meaning. This line of reasoning is very similar to that which yokes together ethics and religion. It is assumed that ethics is packaged with religion and so without religion ethics becomes problematic. As we saw in the last chapter, this is simply not true and in this chapter I will argue that it is also not true that life’s meaning and purpose are pre-packaged together with religion. To do this I will look at how to understand the idea that life has meaning and purpose at all.


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