We are beginning our apologetics series by following the format of William Lane Craig’s book, “On Guard.” We like this format because it follows a set structure, but also because we believe it logically builds the case for the Christian God. Craig begins his cumulative case by attempting to show individuals their need for God. If people don’t see their need for something, they are generally not receptive of a solution.
While everyone needs to see their need in order to accept a solution, all of us are on different place on the theological continuum. Some recognize their need for God, but don’t see themselves as sinners in need of a savior through grace.
However, the duration of existence alone does not take away the absurdity of life. Craig uses the example of a science fiction book he read as a child where an astronaut is marooned on a barren planet. The astronaut has two vials, one filled with a deadly poison, and the other with a tonic that will prevent death. The astronaut intends to take the one causing death, but inadvertently drinks the vial containing the elixir of life. The book ends in utter despair, as the astronaut is doomed to live out eternity alone, with no purpose. Therefore, beyond perpetuated existence and lasting meaning, a life that is not absurd also requires that there is a goal or purpose.
The notion of purpose is somewhat wrapped up in the idea of perpetuated existence. For without lasting meaning, in a world that ends in destruction, purposes end up being fleeting and fickle. But beyond that, in a universe that has brought our existence about by mere chance – with no care, foresight, or intention – what objective purpose can we derive from the universe? While we may create our own purposes and impose those purposes upon the world, the universe has no purpose for us, and any purpose we create is temporary and fabricated, artificially imposed on the universe, not derived from it. For atheists who tend to pride themselves on their scientific superiority, this is a bit ironic. Rather than observing moral truths, they embrace a fictitious, fabricated framework, similar to the fiction or "delusion" of which they accuse the religious as using for a crutch. But the atheist with meaning, purpose, and value only maintains those things due to their fiction - their crutch. If atheists were right, it would be the lame leading the lame. In this section, Craig quotes philosophers like Nietzsche, who are often quoted by atheists as triumphantly declaring “God is dead,” yet rarely quoted in context. Men like Nietzsche recognized that such a statement was made in sorrow, as they understood the implications of nihilism and purposelessness that follow such a statement. As T.S. Elliot says, the world ends not in a bang, but in a whimper. There is no purpose under consistent atheist thought.
Finally, beyond meaning and purpose, Craig argues that atheists cannot live consistently and uphold objective moral values. All things are matter. A rock is not qualitatively different than a human. While science and observation can provide all the descriptions in the world, there is no prescriptive value they can supply objectively. One can describe the fastest way to hammer a nail, but we can’t say that someone should use a hammer on a nail. We can describe cause and effect, but we can’t prescribe means without imposing our own goals upon them if those goals are not inherent to the structure of the universe. All values in an atheistic system are subjective rather than objective. Rather than finding the values permanently and immovably ingrained in the nature of how things are, they are dependent upon the subject imposing them upon the world. In an uncaring, unguided universe, where would one expect to find objective values?
If value depends on the subject, then all values are of every individual’s own creation. Values are a personalized fiction, and we attempt to get as many on board to play out the same fiction. And if life ends at the grave, and there is no justice for “evil” and reward for “good,” then what should morality be to an atheist but a system whereby they attempt to bolster their own fiction, in an attempt to get what they perceive is the most out of what short, meaningless existence they have? Watch the following clip from the late Christopher Hitchens – an adamant atheist – as he very openly admits what altruism and "morality" are under an atheistic system of thought [from 1:13:25 to 1:14:30].
"Then I learned that all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ I even read somewhere that the Chief Justice of the United States had written that the American Constitution expressed nothing more than collective value judgments. Believe it or not, I figured out for myself–what apparently the Chief Justice couldn’t figure out for himself–that if the rationality of one value judgment was zero, multiplying it by millions would not make it one whit more rational. Nor is there any ‘reason’ to obey the law for anyone, like myself, who has the boldness and daring–the strength of character–to throw off its shackles…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable ‘value judgment’ that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others?’ Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure that I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me–after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited." --Ted Bundy, cited in Louis P. Pojman, Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong, 3rd edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson, 1999), 31-32.
So there it is. Craig lays out the case for the inadequacy of atheism to provide a foundation for our lives. It leads to utter absurdity and hopelessness. While this does not prove that atheism is wrong, and it doesn't prove that God exists, it certainly should make one want to dig into the topic. We all want purpose and meaning, and we have had glimpses of where a world without morals would lead. It is all very unpalatable, and a route one should not want to pursue, unless the evidence very strongly lead there. And even then, we may be far better off if the majority remained deluded in such a world.
Video on absurdity of life without God
Craig on absurdity of life without God