“What I’m really saying—and it’s not hidden or esoteric, it’s just clear as a bell—is that we have to accept that the universe is godless and life is meaningless, often a terrible and brutal experience with no hope, and that love relationships are very, very hard, and that we still need to find a way to not only cope but lead a decent and moral life.” ~ Woody Allen
What if we are all error? Now, there is something to chew on. Existentialism is essentially the belief that life and this world is random and absurd. The only meaning we can gather is the meaning we create. Knowledge never precedes experience, for experience creates knowledge. What you know is only what you’ve already thought or done.
But not all existentialists are atheists like Woody Allen. Some existentialists actually came to these conclusions about the world but then took the side of faith. However, in this post, I’m going to specifically deal with atheists.
I’ve always told those who believe in God, “What do you have to lose except heaven and hell?” For an atheist, isn’t the only thing they really get to say is: “Boy, I was right!” (which I don’t think you’ll be saying when you actually die).
Allen, in the quote above, says the only real way to deal with life is to deal with the idea that the universe is godless. Why? Why is that the only way to deal with life? Is it in line with those who say that the only way to go up is the hit rock bottom?
There are generally a few standard concerns of atheists when viewing religion, and I’m going to address those now:
First, most atheists believe that religion equals less freedom. Basically, once you believe in God, you suddenly need to follow a rigid set of restrictive and damning rules. If you break these rules, there is a generally a repercussion or a god waiting to smash you into pieces. To leave atheism behind would mean a life of rules and restrictions.
Counter-argument: The amazing thing about believing in God is that it actually leads to more freedom, just in a different way! Instead of being bound by life’s successes and failures, we are free to feel successful no matter what life brings. Instead of being bound by money, we have a life free of the slavery of the mighty dollar. Instead of being bound by life’s hardships, we have freedom to express anger and hurt and find comfort in a loving God who knows and cares. Furthermore, the rules and restrictions (if one thinks of them that way) are in fact freeing of themselves. When God says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” he’s giving us the number one thing all relationships should be built on: Solidarity with just ONE God! When God says there is strength in weakness and less is more (of your time, self, and money), he’s giving us the opportunity to be free from these vices.
Second, atheists tend to think life will no longer be fun. Once God has become a factor, life will be dull and much like the life we see portrayed of pastors on television. We are no longer free to enjoy parties, life, and fun times.
Counter-argument: Jesus was the ultimate partier! The guy loved to go to wedding celebrations, turned water into wine, and was often living in complete joy! Paul, one of the main writers of the New Testament, often encouraged the new believers to continue living in eager expectation and with great excitement. As Christians, we are called to LOVE LIFE! So many Christians, including myself, forget this aspect of faith. When you give someone a gift, you want them to enjoy it, right? Same with God. When He gave us Christ, we are called to enjoy the gift and freedom this leads to. We no longer need to feel like we aren’t good enough or we haven’t done enough.
Last, atheists believe that religion is for the simple and the nonintellectual. As Woody Allen believes, these are fairy tales to believe in.
Counter-argument: Like any historical document, the Bible needs to be critically examined. However, once you do so, it adds up to being the most historically reliable document we have from the age of antiquity. Like any historical document, we will never be able to prove with absolute certainty of its reliability, but we will be able to prove that it is as reliable as any historical document. Furthermore, it takes a careful intellectual to examine the entirety of God’s Story and what it means to be a Christian. And even further than that, I am of the belief that reading the Bible should make you a simple thinker. That is, it shouldn’t add to life’s confusion but only bring clarity and reason to life’s most daunting questions.
With that being said, the “existentialist” would view life as a ball rolling down the foul line of a baseball field. The field is totally flat and the ball is rolling right down the chalk line. For no reason, the ball will head one way or the other. Perhaps there are a number of situations that give rise to this “only by chance” theory. In fact, I’d say that most of life will only be chalked up to “chance.” However, for many of us, we will find hope in the fact that this chance is a “God” who loves and cares for us no matter the outcome of that rolling ball.