Monday, November 17, 2014

Reshaping the meaning of life apologetic

Theists who argue the life cannot be meaningful without God run into the problem of going up against sincere autobiographical reports to the effect that "I don't believe in God and I find life meaningful for reasons X. Y, and Z."
If there is an apologetic to be made here, it is that someone who believes in, say Christianity, can find meaning in life regardless of circumstances, while the means by which an atheist find meaning in life do depend on circumstances. The atheist, in accounting for what makes life meaningful, will mention various earthly things, and the theist can ask, "What if that were taken away." But on the other hand, Christ loving you and dying for you isn't something that can be taken away by a change in circumstances.

8 comments:

Crude said...

Theists who argue the life cannot be meaningful without God run into the problem of going up against sincere autobiographical reports to the effect that "I don't believe in God and I find life meaningful for reasons X. Y, and Z."

I'm not so sure how much concern should be had over the above. Part of that is because I question the sincerity many times, I admit. But more than that, it seems to get very close to an example of a person who will tell you 'Salvation? Eternal life? I want none of that. No, I'd like to have a very short life and die early and for that to be that.'

Is that a problem for the theist? In terms of that particular person converting, sure. But then why regard the inability to convert everyone a problem? Not even Christ managed that.

B. Prokop said...

"But then why regard the inability to convert everyone a problem?"

Exactly so. It's what I've always tried (so far, unsuccessfully) to get across to Linton, when he brings up the existence of Hinduism or Islam, as though that's somehow supposed to be some sort of argument against Christianity. My answer: I cannot be held responsible for what other people believe. The truth is the truth, even if no one believes it.

But in the end, the "Argument from Meaning", although perfectly valid, is indeed limited in utility, precisely because it is rather hyper-intellectual, which is not how most people think about such things. Even in my own case, I would have to freely admit to accepting the conclusions of the following thought experiment:

1. Assume for the sake of argument that I believed to the bottom of my heart that my own death was final and absolute - the utter and eternal annihilation of my own personal being. In the instant of my death, it will be as though I had never existed at all.

2. Now assume that I faced a situation where I had to choose between my own life and that of one of my children. There was no third option.

2a. What would I do?

3. Answer: Despite the believed certainty of premise number one, I would nevertheless unhesitatingly chose to lose my own life rather than that of one of my children. In a heartbeat.

3a. And this is because I would not be reasoning intellectually, but emotionally (and there's nothing whatsoever wrong with that).

John Moore said...

You wrote that "in the instant of my death, it will be as though I had never existed at all," but in the next point you talked about your children, and that's kind of a contradiction. If you had never existed, then you wouldn't have children.

If I had to choose between my own life and my child's life, I would enthusiastically save my child. It's the evolutionary drive to continue the species. This isn't just intellectual but also emotional. It's instinctive.

oozzielionel said...

"It's the evolutionary drive to continue the species. This isn't just intellectual but also emotional. It's instinctive."

From the evolutionary evidence, is it just as true to assert that the evolutionary drive is to become extinct?

Crude said...

This isn't just intellectual but also emotional. It's instinctive.

Framed that way, it's not intellectual at all.

And considering the number of blender-babies, and the enthusiastic endorsement of the right to make blender-babies, it would seem 'evolution says we love our offspring' is outweighed by the evidence.

B. Prokop said...

Not familiar with the term "blender baby" - what does it mean?

Crude said...

Not familiar with the term "blender baby" - what does it mean?

Abortion, of course.

Steve Lovell said...

In the OP, one of the things Vic is highlighting is the difference between the subjective sense life's meaningfulness and the object fact of life's meaningfulness.

This is an important distinction. But if my experience is anything to go by, it's a distinction that cuts both ways.

Not only can an atheist sometimes have a subjective sense of the meaningfulness of life (which may be taken away by a change of circumstance), the same is true of the Christian. We might want to say that when that happens a Christian finding life meaningless would be contrary to his/her beliefs and (therefore) to reason ... but that would still be his/her experience, would it not?

Confession: I feel like that most of the time.