Sunday, August 3, 2014

Does Life Have Meaning Without God?

This post originally appeared on a website once called Associated Content in a very similar form.  I wrote it in response to this guy who kept asking me why I didn't just kill myself because I didn't think heaven was real.  Yeah, bizarre, eh?  Anyway, I've kept it pretty much as it was.  I think my writing "voice" has changed a great deal in the last seven years and so has the Internet landscape regarding discussions of belief.  But this post was very popular, a few pastors even asked me if they could use parts of it in their sermons.  So I decided to relocate it when the site it was on ceased to be on July 31, 2014.  Here it is, warts and all.

...and then he said to me "If there is no afterlife, then our life on earth is meaningless. Without God our life on earth has no purpose...." At the time I was thunderstruck and had no idea how to respond. After thinking a bit I came up with this.

Wow, I'm very sorry for you. All the beauty, wonder, love, and experience to be found on earth are meaningless to you?

Finding life without an afterlife pointless or depressing is as silly as going to an amusement park and becoming so depressed that your visit will end that you sit down just inside the entrance and cry your eyes out. How about running through the gate flushed with excitement and trying to ride all the rides and see all the shows before the amusement park closes for the day? Eat cotton candy until you puke and enjoy your day at the park until the security guard pulls you kicking and screaming out the gates when your day is done.

I believe that what we do is all that matters. Bad will hit you, good will hit you but your measure is how you ride the waves. With luck and hard work and the love of your brothers you can build a good strong boat.

Great, you prayed to end hunger - fabulous, I'm sure that just filled a lot of starving bellies. How about getting food to the hungry instead? That's the answer - get off your lazy praying ass and go pray with your hands. Even atheists can pray with their hands. There might not be a God but you can know that prayers are being answered even if it's just by you. I think "God" gives people the power to sit back and not feel responsible - "it's all in God's hands." You are who you are and what you do, if you do evil, well there ya go. If you do good - same deal. Every moment is a choice and you can keep your self as strong on the path as possible and you can spend your last second thinking - "I could have done more."

Why all this drive to go to heaven? In some ways it sickens me. Isn't doing good enough? Why does there have to be a carrot on the end of the string to motivate you? Can't you just do and be good because that's a reward all by itself? Why do you yearn to live forever? Why not yearn to live right now? Why do you need a God commanding you to be good? Are you, personally so inherently evil that if there were no promise of heaven or threat of hell you'd just be a frickin demon? Doesn't the desire for good exist in all and don't they crave it whether they believe they'll get a reward for it or not? Don't you eventually grow out of needing gold stars to use the potty? Don't you eventually just do good because it's good? Or must you be rewarded and threatened until you die?

I don't believe in God, just in good. To be loving is all the meaning I need.

Look to your heaven and your invisible God. Pray quietly in your house to live after death and pray for the hungry to be fed. Behave yourself only because you hope for heaven and fear hell. I'm afraid knowing people like you roam the earth - I hope you never stop believing because you seem to believe normal people would run amok without their fear of going to hell or their hope of heaven. To me, that means you think you would. I'll go right now and lock my doors in case your faith becomes shaken.

I feel sorry for all who think humans are inherently evil and I also feel a bit afraid of you. You must be looking through the windows of your own soul to see such things in the hearts of men.

You see, I've seen evil in men, more than my fair share. But where you see God as saving me and the devil as hurting me, I see humankind as saving me and broken, hurt humankind hurting me or pure chance causing me pain. The glorious mother-hearted love when a stranger picks up a stranger, risking all from their love of a sister they never met - I'm sorry the windows from your soul leave you blind to that. I'm sorry you haven't seen tears of joy in the eyes of a stranger because you groaned; you blinked an eye when they thought you were a goner. I'm sorry you've never felt the good in people, coming from their brilliantly good selves.
I'm sorry for you in a way that chokes tears into my eyes and stings my heart. I can't imagine your loneliness thinking that there is no purpose here, no meaning other than to obey rules and a hope that you get to go somewhere better after it's done. There is nothing better. This is heaven, this is hell. Your heart and eyes and hands make it so. In my heaven, you get broken and torn to shreds and it hurts immensely but the love glowing in every human heart touching you is so beautiful and blinding that like the pain of childbirth your suffering is as nothing in time. I hurt, I fear, I feel pain every day but still this life is beautiful beyond anything I can imagine. It has purpose and value and worth all of itself. No heaven or hell necessary.

You don't know what love is or what good is. I am more sorry for you than I can express. Good is that bond between people that need to lift, to carry, to tend, to nurture and to love. It is that thing inside us that throws aside everything and flings us headlong into a flooded ditch to grab a drowning child we've never known before. It's that desperation to keep the lives of others safe and to try to pull them up from pain. It's once knowing pain we can't bear to see others in pain. It's sobbing at the death of a stranger because she had a mummy, a daddy, a big sister who would break from the pain. It's crying with joy at the saving of a stranger because she has a mummy, a daddy, and a big sister whose arms would ache without her. It's feeling the pain of your brothers and trying with all your heart to stop it and also, feeling their joy. It's living for their joy, living to banish fear and pain.

Love and good are feelings in your heart opposite the dark things in the world. All of the darkness in the world can't smother the light of a single candle. Surely the candle will die out but in its time it will light enough candles that darkness only hides in corners and under the bed.

I don't know what God is, or if it is real but I know what love is and what good is and I know that both love and good are better to me than any promise of heaven and failure to be who I want to be is more frightening to me than any promise of Hell. After all, you think you get a second chance - I don't. I only get one try so I'd better do this right.

So you probably figure I'm going to hell.........I guess that's fine because I've had my time in heaven.