How Do Atheists Find Meaning?

by Ken Ham on September 12, 2015

Atheism is the belief that there is no God and no afterlife. Atheists believe they simply cease to exist when they die and that the universe is simply the result of natural processes. I’ve pointed out many times before that, ultimately, atheism is purposeless and meaningless. Well, recently Tom Chivers, a writer with BuzzFeed UK, asked many different atheists this question: “If there’s no afterlife or reason for the universe, how do you make your life matter?”

The atheist responses were heartbreaking and highlight how meaningless atheism really is, as each atheist struggled with a belief that if death is all that there is, you’re dead and that’s it, then life really doesn’t have any ultimate purpose. Every atheist that answered the question appealed to some kind of purpose and meaning in the things they do while alive, or the people they have relationships with—they basically claim that life has no meaning, but we can create our own meaning in the present. Of course, from their perspective, once they die they won’t know they had any meaning when they were alive anyway—so what’s the point? Here are some of their responses:

Life isn’t for anything, but it does matter.
Physically filling yourself with the food you love really does fill the emptiness you may feel inside.
The pointlessness of life is not a thing to be overcome. It’s something to be celebrated now, because that’s all there is.
A meaningless universe does not mean we live our lives without purpose. I’m an atheist . . . but I try to live my life replete with purpose.
That is how I find meaning and purpose in what might seem a meaningless and purposeless existence; by concentrating on what I can do, and the differences I can make in the lives of those around me, in the short time that we have.
Being an atheist means coming to grips with reality. And the reality is two-fold. We’re going to die as individuals, and the whole of humanity, unless we find a way to colonise other planets, is going to go extinct. So there’s lots of things that we have to deal with that we don’t like. We just come to grips with the reality. Life is the result of natural selection, and death is the result of natural selection. We are evolved in such a way that death is almost inevitable. So you just deal with it.
There was no heaven or hell, no magic man in the sky, and I was the sole captain of my ship.

Ultimately, of course, none of these things create any ultimate meaning and purpose. In their atheist belief system, life becomes all about the here and now because there is nothing else that matters. So, ultimately, nothing matters at all. By the way, if that’s the case, why do they even bother to agressively go after Christians? That alone reminds us it really is a spiritual battle. The Bible makes it clear that everyone knows that God exists. Because of this, those who rebel against God (like these atheists) actually suppress the truth, as explained in Romans 1. The fact that they become so aggressive against Christianity confirms this suppression of the truth and that this is a spiritual battle.

There is a question of eternity that lingers in all of our hearts. Scripture says, “He has put eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, stated that without God all of life is “vanity” or “meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). God has given each one of us—made in His image—the longing for eternity, the longing for ultimate purpose and meaning because there is eternity and there is ultimate purpose and meaning! And it can only be found in a relationship with Him.

My heart breaks for each of these atheists who live their lives trying to find meaning in what they do and in whom they love. But ultimately who, unless they repent and trust in Christ, will spend eternity separated from God because they refuse to listen to the witness of their hearts that there is eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11), the witness of nature that there is a God (Romans 1:20), and the witnesses that God has provided many of them through His people here on earth? And this God is not some “magic man in the sky” as one atheist described Him. He is a personal God who stepped into history in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life, and died on the Cross taking the penalty of death (that we all deserve because of our sin) upon Himself. We can be forgiven of our sin because of His sacrifice on our behalf. But it doesn't stop there. We have hope for all of eternity because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, conquered death, and now offers eternal life to all who will believe in Him:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9)

There is true meaning and purpose in life because there is a God and there is eternity. Our purpose in life should be: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiates 12:13). That is the message that these atheists so desperately need to understand.

Sadly, secularists have been working hard to indoctrinate this generation with their meaningless and purposeless worldview. More and more young people in our churches, instead of believing in the God of the Bible, have this secular idea of the “magic man in the sky.” Even those young people who are still in the church have failed to develop a biblical worldview that is grounded in God’s Word and don’t hold to biblical absolutes and instead have built a God in their minds that is not found in Scripture. But it’s not too late to bring these lost millennials to a biblical worldview. My newest book, Ready to Return, shows the alarming statistics of what our young people are believing, but then provides a practical solution to reclaim and train the next generation to stand boldly on God’s Word and the gospel. I encourage you to order your copy today.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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