Purpose From An Atheistic Perspective Doesn’t Exist

they_died_for_you__by_aatheist-d552i1eI found a new post that attacks the atheistic worldview based on whether or not that means life has purpose. It’s a little different than most religious material I read, but I find that the authors reasoning is flawed.

First off, whether or not life has purpose is irrelevant to whether or not God exists. Just because you may believe that in a perfect universe, some all-powerful disembodied mind needs to exist for purpose to arise, doesn’t mean it’s so. I can argue that natural candy flavored water gives water meaning, but the reality is that unless we add an additive, water tases like…well…water. Wishful thinking doesn’t change this.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to some of what he said:

But the question is, “How is something given purpose?”  You see, mere existence does not create purpose.  Purpose goes much deeper than existence.  I submit to you that no thing can have a purpose unless there is a creator acting on the thing.  Purpose does not exist without a creator.

Why doesn’t it?

Even in the example the author gives above this part, he states that you wouldn’t use scissors to light a fire. Basically, the purpose of the scissors is to cut things, but who gives these scissors purpose?

We do.

The scissors actually have no real purpose until we pick them up and put them to use. We also might not use the scissors to cut, but maybe we use them to pry something open or pick our teeth, although I wouldn’t recommend that last bit. Use a tooth pick, people. Much less potential for harm that way.

Anyhow, the point I want to make is that scissors aren’t conscious, which is why they need someone acting on them to give them purpose. Humans on the other hand are very much conscious entities. We give the scissors a purpose and we can give ourselves a purpose, while scissors are incapable of doing either.

Point being the author uses a really bad analogy to try and make his point.

Moving on.

I want you to look at purpose from an atheistic perspective.  Without alluding to any god at all – yes, that includes the Cosmos or Mother Nature – can you tell me my purpose, my reason for existence?  The honest answer to that is, “No.”

Um, why would you leave the universe and nature out of the equation? That’s a bit disingenuous, since neither of those things are God(s).

That’s like me saying, ‘can you tell me what the purpose furniture serves without alluding to a living-room, house or the people that may live in those structures.’

Just because you might not be able to come up with a reason for your existence doesn’t mean the ‘honest answer is no’.

How can I say that?  Because while you may be able to conjure up a purpose in your mind, the simple truth is that whatever purpose you conjure up is exactly that: conjured up.

Conjured up like magic?

I rather think an all-powerful, all-knowing, disembodied, invisible mind with super powers is a little more likely to be ‘conjured up’ than a flesh and blood human brain that can form thoughts and experience existence.

From an atheistic perspective, I do not exist to help others, live with others, or even just live.  I simply fortuitously exist.  But as we said earlier, mere existence does not create purpose.  There is no purpose driving evolution.  Evolution is circumstantial, not purposeful.

Why can’t helping others be a part of an atheists purpose? What prevents it?

I know plenty of Christians who help themselves and rarely if ever lift a finger to help others. Did this God not let them in on their purpose?

it does not even exist even if atheists insist it does, and whatever purpose an atheist contrives, it is just as contrived as anybody else’s idea of what their purpose is.

Oh no! We have to think for ourselves!

Quick, someone hit the fire alarms and evacuate the planet!

From my perspective, you’ve essentially given up thinking and reasoning for yourself, because you allow primitive human(s) to do your thinking for you. They wrote that book you revere, and at some point they came up with their own reason or purpose and you follow along with it.

That means a person who says life’s purpose is to destroy things is just as logically accurate as someone who says life’s purpose is to preserve things.

Why would it follow that something that harms our species is more logical than an action that helps our species survive?

And sometimes preserving something is less important than change.

For example, the bible teaches slavery is okay and people used it to put people in chains. I think destroying that institution was a pretty good change. Preserving it would be unethical.

Just one of the many things the Christian God got wrong, in my opinion.

What I find amazing is that there are some atheists who are okay with the idea that purpose is a simple contrivance on their part.  They still claim that life has purpose even though they know it does not.

You just finished saying some atheists have said they’re fine with purpose being created by us, and then in the next breath go on to say it doesn’t exist. If we make it exist, then it exists. If I think my purpose in life is to raise my children to the best of my ability, then that’s the meaning I have given myself. That doesn’t mean I can’t change my stance, but at that particular point in my life, that might be my purpose.

I honestly don’t see how the existence or non-existence of a disembodied mind would change that.

That is hypocrisy at it’s highest.  Why?  Because they insist that God does not exist, therefore we should not live by His standards.  Yet they know purpose does not actually exist and they still say we should live with purpose.

Which God and what standards? As I pointed out above, if we went by Yahweh’s standards, slavery could be fine.

I think religions were created by people. It’s flawed, ancient thinking and like anything created by humans, faults may exist. Religion often tries to prevent changes from taking place, even when the evidence clearly shows that their book is wrong.

You don’t need a magic God in the sky to give your life meaning. Purpose and meaning don’t have to be eternal to be special either.

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68 Comments

  1. My purpose, if it comes to that, would be to leave my patch of the earth a bit better than it was when I got here. I can’t save the whales, reverse make believe global warming, or stop wars. But I can leave a very small plot better off for the next person to deal with.
    My mother’s saying was, “well Im not going to worry about it, I’ll let the next person deal with it” which was about as selfish and dismissive as it gets.

    I think knowing I only have a limited time to do stuff makes me more inclined to not let things slide. When I AM gone, it will be too late.

    That may be the major difference, for me, between theists and atheists: Theists often have their eyes so focused on their own (personal) Heavenly Rewards (translated as “me me me”) that they often ignore the damage caused here. God will fix it if they screw up. It really absolves them of responsibility, doesnt it.

    Good post, btw, and Im frankly not sure if you should encourage him. You’re right, he’s got a bagfulla contradictions going, doesn’t he.

  2. I liked your post. You did an excellent job of pointing out the logical fallacies. It is because of people like the guy who posed this absurd argument “representing” atheism that it gets a bad rap. I only hope that people can see through the nonsense and realize the guy is a moron. Sadly, sheeple aren’t so inclined to think for themselves, so it isn’t very likely… I suppose the best way to alter the perspective on atheism is through actions. The actions of mankind have always spoken far more loudly than words anyhow.

    • Exactly.
      “Purpose does not exist without a creator.”
      Proving God has no purpose?!

      This next bit might be a strawman, but I could imagine a Christian perhaps responding that the Christian God has purpose because he is Trinity – so he exists in relationship. If all it takes for purpose is relationship, then atheists can have purpose – in relationships.

      The idea that there might be no purpose without God was one of the things that troubled me most during my deconversion and filled me with fear. But that fear was unfounded. I feel no less purposeful than when I was a Christian. Then I had a hypothetical purpose, but in fact I had to make it up as I went along because there was no interaction with any god. So both then and now I am making my own purpose in life.

      • I used to use the Every Day With Jesus Bible Study Notes by Selwyn Hughes. I recall him arguing that what the Trinity told him was that at heart God was relational.

        I think that is the only comment on the Trinity that ever made any sense to me. Most people who know me consider me a thoughtful and analytical person, well I have to say that the Trinity really did my head in. After studying Theology I found the Trinity more confusing at the end than at the start.

  3. Life has no purpose? It was all a lie? Excuse me while I go kill myself!

    But seriously. I give purpose to my own life. I have morals and values that are more kind and giving than some believers.. but, to generalise all atheists is crap just as it is crap to generalise the believers. There are Christians and Catholics that are just a gem and same goes for every other religious person..

    Ugh, what a load of crap!

  4. Hi GC,

    Think you hit the nail on the head when you said “From my perspective, you’ve essentially given up thinking and reasoning for yourself, because you allow primitive human(s) to do your thinking for you.” He lives by the book and for the book and he has no idea what real people and real life is all about.

  5. I’m breaking my own rules with a phone-typed drive-by comment but…
    You seem to be talking around Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”. Since you don’t mention it directly (that I saw, it was a quick read), I’m thinking you haven’t read it and, if I’m right, then I’d highly recommend you do — NOT, I’d like to make clear, in order to change your mind. On the contrary, he offers a more thorough articulation of many of the ideas I’m seeing you raise here and so, why reinvent the wheel? It didn’t end up working for me but it might for you and, regardless, gives you some additional development of this kind of “purpose without creation” idea to think about.
    (Its also relatively short, readable, and can be found online for free. He does misquote Dostoevsky but not by a lot and really not enough to hold it against him…)

  6. Thank you for your poignant analysis. i especially like your explanation about purpose inherent in Will Of Creator to create. whatever our devotion is will be manifest, in thoughts, deeds, words, etc. thus whatever is in the heart will be that devotion expressed. This may only occur in the space of Freewill, Made Room For By LIFE GIVER Sustaining all in our various expressions and consequence.

  7. Hi GC I hope you do not mind me visiting your blog, I have been well moderated lately on those Christian blogs.

    Anyway very good replies to that diatribe, you do very well just understanding what the author was actually trying to say and then answering it. All I really got from it was I am on this planet without a purpose and I actually think that is a good excuse to cover the times I am lounging around and doing nothing.

  8. So according to this we are not only immoral trouble makers, but purposeless as well. Sort of like the jackdaws of humanity. What troubles me is the idea that so many people have, that only they can “know god” and ‘walk with Jesus” even though god is a spirit and Jesus has been dead for 2000 years.
    There’s a lot of hubris and privilege in claiming to know the unknowable, what he thinks, what he wants, what he feels.

  9. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. Even though we disagree on a number of things, communication is the only way to move forward, and investigation of another’s stance shows a willingness to learn, so thank you.

    While I am thankful that you read my blog, I think you misunderstood many of my points and committed logical fallacies along the way in your blog post.

    So now, on to my reply to your post.

    I first want to say that you agree with me. You say that purpose is made up by the individual. That is what I say purpose is from an atheistic perspective. (By the way, if you say purpose is made up by the individual, then you cannot tell ISIS that they are wrong. You cannot say that Christians are wrong. You have to say, “You have the right to create whatever purpose you want.” You also are being slightly hypocritical when you attack another person’s made-up purpose.)

    “First off, whether or not life has purpose is irrelevant to whether or not God exists.” – I want to point out that my blog post never argued the existence of God based on whether or not purpose exists. While there is a good philosophical argument to be made in this vein, I did not make that here. I simply stated that without God, purpose does not exist.

    “Basically, the purpose of the scissors is to cut things, but who gives these scissors purpose? We do. The scissors actually have no real purpose until we pick them up and put them to use.” – This is not correct. The scissors have purpose before we use them. They were created for the purpose of cutting. Whether or not someone uses them, or if they use them incorrectly, does not change the scissor’s purpose. You only prove my point that no thing can have a purpose without a creator.

    “Humans on the other hand are very much conscious entities.” – What is consciousness? From an atheistic perspective, consciousness is simply a chemical reaction. Consciousness does not grant purpose. Chemical reactions are not purposeful, they are coincidental.

    “… we can give ourselves a purpose.” – That is exactly what I said. So we agree. Purpose is simply something you create, it does not actually exist, so it is a big flying spaghetti monster that you choose to believe in.

    “That’s like me saying, ‘can you tell me what the purpose furniture serves without alluding to a living-room, house or the people that may live in those structures.’” – This analogy is poor because the reason we know the purpose of furniture is not because of its surroundings, but because of its creator! The furniture’s purpose is inherent, not created. Purpose was given it not by its surroundings, but by the one who created its surroundings (in other words, God).

    “Why can’t helping others be a part of an atheists purpose? What prevents it?” – You missed my point. My point was that it is not inherent. Later I said that from an atheistic perspective, someone could decide his/her purpose is to destroy. Why can’t destroying be a part of an atheist’s purpose? What prevents it? See what I did there? Do you see my point?

    “From my perspective, you’ve essentially given up thinking and reasoning for yourself, because you allow primitive human(s) to do your thinking for you.” – You again missed my point and in your rebuttal did not actually address my point. That would not win you any points in a formal debate. Of course I encourage thinking for yourself. If I did not, I would not be blogging.

    “I know plenty of Christians who help themselves and rarely if ever lift a finger to help others. Did this God not let them in on their purpose?” – The logical fallacy you employed here is the tu quoque fallacy. Just because there are many so-called Christians who act a certain way does not invalidate the true Christian argument.

    “For example, the bible teaches slavery is okay and people used it to put people in chains.” – I think you are ignorant about what Scripture teaches about slavery. I could go into a very long explanation of this, but I will have to only say a couple quick things given the platform. Slavery in Judeo and Roman times was completely different from the slavery that we think of. Slaves had many rights, so it is disingenuous to compare the two systems. While people incorrectly used Scripture to put people in chains, the simple fact is that correct use of Scripture would have outlawed such actions.

    “You just finished saying some atheists have said they’re fine with purpose being created by us, and then in the next breath go on to say it doesn’t exist. If we make it exist, then it exists.” – Really? So if I say that God exists, then He exists? According to your logic, He must. So thank you. Whether you know it or not, you just used a form of argumentation called Ontological. Thinking up the existence of something does not make it actually exist.

    “Which God and what standards?” – The logical fallacy that you employed here is the Red Herring fallacy. This question does not directly address my point.

    I look forward to our future conversations.

    • “By the way, if you say purpose is made up by the individual, then you cannot tell ISIS that they are wrong. You cannot say that Christians are wrong. You have to say, “You have the right to create whatever purpose you want.” You also are being slightly hypocritical when you attack another person’s made-up purpose.)”

      No. I can still tell them they’re wrong and give reasons why I think they’re wrong. You don’t get to create false dichotomies.

      “I want to point out that my blog post never argued the existence of God based on whether or not purpose exists.”

      Yes I know. But your entire reasoning is based on there being a God, which you’ve yet to demonstrate or explain.

      “Whether or not someone uses them, or if they use them incorrectly, does not change the scissor’s purpose. You only prove my point that no thing can have a purpose without a creator.”

      The scissors are not conscious. Their purpose is nothing until something conscious puts them to use. The conscious entity uses them for their purpose. If I make a pair of scissors, I may have intended their purpose be to cut things. Someone else comes along and uses them to remove a staple in a piece of wood. It’s purpose has changed.

      “From an atheistic perspective, consciousness is simply a chemical reaction. ”

      Here you continue to fall into the trap of telling atheists what they believe.

      “That is exactly what I said. So we agree. Purpose is simply something you create, it does not actually exist, so it is a big flying spaghetti monster that you choose to believe in.”

      For you it’s a magic man in the sky who killed himself for himself. *shrug*

      Yes, it’s something we create.

      “This analogy is poor because the reason we know the purpose of furniture is not because of its surroundings, but because of its creator!”

      You missed my entire point.

      “My point was that it is not inherent. Later I said that from an atheistic perspective, someone could decide his/her purpose is to destroy. Why can’t destroying be a part of an atheist’s purpose? What prevents it? See what I did there? Do you see my point?”

      Yes. We prevent it. That’s my point. Thanks for seeing it.

      “The logical fallacy you employed here is the tu quoque fallacy. Just because there are many so-called Christians who act a certain way does not invalidate the true Christian argument.”

      No. You’re the one that is saying a disembodied mind created purpose and yet you can’t explain why so many people differ on what these purposes are.

      Almost as if people decide these things on their own and don’t really rely on magical gods.

      “Slavery in Judeo and Roman times was completely different from the slavery that we think of. Slaves had many rights, so it is disingenuous to compare the two systems.”

      And yet they were still slaves and Yahweh instructed people on how to treat slaves.

      Stop wriggling. Your scripture is disgusting.

      “While people incorrectly used Scripture to put people in chains, the simple fact is that correct use of Scripture would have outlawed such actions.”

      Yet it went on for hundreds of years, being backed by scripture. Funny that.

      “Really? So if I say that God exists, then He exists? According to your logic, He must. So thank you.”

      And yet again you totally missed the point. I was talking about how you say one thing and then say the opposite soon after.

      “The logical fallacy that you employed here is the Red Herring fallacy. This question does not directly address my point.”

      No. It’s not a red herring. I wonder if you actually understand what these fallacies are. It addressed your assertion that God made the standards, but have yet to show what god or any evidence for its existence.

    • a small point, perhaps.
      “From an atheistic perspective, consciousness is simply a chemical reaction. ”

      From any perspective, human consciousness is sentience. If you are alive, you are aware of what surrounds you. You can be unconscious, however, but still exhibit sentience. A tree is alive, in its own way, as is a flower, but neither of them can move, although they can and do respond to stimuli. But I dont consider trees or flowers to be sentient.

      You are assuming a great deal of hubris, to tell us that all atheists believe this or that. It may be ‘simply’ a chemical reaction, but its the spark that makes us viable and occasionally useful. No matter how it got here.
      Broad sweeping generalities are just that, and about as useful as a politician’s campaign rhetoric.

      • Judy,

        I did not say all atheists believe a certain thing. Several times in my blog I said “some atheists … “. The quote you referenced did not say all atheists believe a certain thing. Certainly there are atheists that differ from one another. However, an atheistic position, or more accurately, a naturalistic position (which is what atheism should include) should absolutely hold the belief that consciousness is nothing more than a chemical reaction.

  10. GC: “The scissors actually have no real purpose until we pick them up and put them to use…”

    This is not a true/correct statement.
    Charles actually said something right. It’s the creator of the scissors that gave it purpose, ie. the scissors was created for a purpose.
    Some might use it for the intended purpose- fulfilling the will of its creator; while others might pervert the purpose for which it was created- you know, using it to stab a person etc- violating the will or intended purpose of its creator.

  11. It appears you were allowed to beat the slaves as much as you liked but not enough to actually kill them. Why was that, was it so they could suffer even more pain?

    Back in those days the treatment of slaves would have been equal if not worse to any other slave ownership around the world, and regardless of rules I would bet many slaves died at the hands of their owners.

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