Atheism and a purpose in Life

The "New Atheists," as they are called, are new in the sense of their vitriolic opposition to those who disagree with their position. It is more aggressive than the intellectual discussions atheists of the past held with those who hold to a belief in the existence of God. In an article written in the New York Times, Michael Ruse wrote in the opinion pages the extent to which they are opposed to a belief in deity. The atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion are pointed out as proof that belief in any deity is somehow immoral. Yet, how many atrocities have been committed by individuals and groups that have no ties to religion, that are not making a religious statement in doing such things? What about the purges of Lenin and Stalin? According to Wikipedia, both were atheists. Lenin believed socialism was inherently atheistic; he thought Christian socialism a contradiction in terms. Stalin is quoted as having said, "You know, they are fooling us, there is no God...all this talk about God is sheer nonsense." Stalin is estimated to have had about 20 million people executed. Lenin is estimated to have killed six to eight million.

 If there is no God, and Scriptures are not the word of God, what purpose is there in life? Where does a sense of morality, a sense of purpose in living come from? Without God, it originates from the minds of human beings, fallible people, who are here by chance and have no real purpose other than to live and then die. Why are recently held remembrances of the liberation of camps like Bergen-Belsen and Flossenbuerg still important? Why do we still remember events like the Nuremburg War Trials, held against an oppressive regime as "crimes against humanity?" What difference does it really make how one lives, if death is the only outcome of life, and then, there is nothing? Obviously, one must have a sense of purpose in life, for without it despair is the outcome. To live without God is to live without purpose, other than the purpose of gratifying oneself, either in ways considered noble, or self-serving, or even destructive. What difference does it make, though, if everyone is heading to an ultimate end of oblivion?

 New Testament Christianity calls one to reflect the image of God and walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2). It is the love of God at work in the world that keeps sinners from destroying others and themselves. To deny God and live apart from His will brings the evils today, that Paul said existed in his day. "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Romans 1:28-32).

 There is purpose in life, because God who created us has given us purpose. Life is not meant to be lived to please oneself, but to honor and glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31). Living for God has motivated people to help others, to strive for excellence in work, relationships, the pursuit of knowledge, and so many other areas of life. Living for God, we have the greatest goal for which to live, eternal life, offered by the greatest gift that makes it possible, His Son, Jesus (John 3:16). Without God, as Solomon said, life is vanity, a chasing after the wind, and ends in despair. With God, there is every reason to live life with purpose and hope, not just for today, but forever. "That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store  for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

 Robert Johnson, Longview, TX