Atheism and Purpose

It seems the atheistic universe has no room for purpose. (Please notice how I define atheism).

Its important to remember that I cheerfully acknowledge that many atheists take themselves to be living purposeful lives. (Not that the consistent atheist, who finds no purpose to their life, is likely to object! What would be the point?).

We need to begin by defining our terms. “Purpose,” according to the eminent reference site “” is “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” A secondary meaning is “an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.” Clearly this is what we all mean by purpose and surely many atheists see themselves as existing for some reason and living in order to secure certain intended results.

However, atheism denies that we exist for any reason at all, and it denies that there is any standard of measurement relevant to our selected purposes for acting. Therefore, atheism cannot sustain purposefulness because it denies the two essential requirements for a life of purpose: a reason for existing and a standard by which to evaluate the purpose, or goal, that each individual pursues.

In other words, just like with the problem of hope, atheists must steadfastly ignore, reject or push away two unique facts related to purpose:

  1. Our accidental existence and
  2. The arbitrary nature of all our choices.

If either (or both) of these facts about our lives became profoundly real to the atheist, then this would fundamentally undercut and destroy any sense of purpose in their lives. Therefore, an atheist who continues to pretend that life has purpose, and affirms atheism, is in a logically contradictory bind.

The only way out of this problem is to either abandon all purpose or abandon atheism:

First, under atheism, human existence is accidental. There is no Great Reason why homo sapiens exist. Instead, it is just a random and haphazard occurrence. You can’t really call it lucky or unlucky, because our coming into being is entirely a fluke. It just so happened that the way different molecules interacted led to the first cell and DNA, and a chance process kept going until our species erratically popped into being. But this mechanical explanation of this part fit into that part and together that led to this other part doesn’t explain why it happened. Why? Because literally no one planned it, no one has any reason for us being here.

To summarize: there is absolutely no reason that we exist. We’re only an accidental byproduct of random happenings. Consequently, there is no purpose to human existence.

Second, under atheism, there is no “objective,” transcultural standard by which some purposes are heroic, noble and good, and other purposes are, perhaps, slimy or even wrong.

For instance, let’s say that little Mussaret (an Islamic name that says means happiness) grows up and decides to seek happiness for her life. On the other hand, let’s say that little Joe grows up and decides to pursue war-like madness in every way possible. You can easily imagine how Joe and Mussaret might find themselves at cross purposes for their lives. Who has a better purpose? We might easily side with Mussaret, because we also prefer happiness over scorched earth destruction.

But under atheism, any and every choice is equally arbitrary. If one bag of chemicals rotates to the left, and another bag rotates to the right, so what? No bag of chemicals has the authority or the right to dictate how other bags of chemicals ought to act. All of these individualized organisms are just inadvertent froth. It doesn’t matter what happens to happen to accidental conglomerations of matter in a random world.

Here’s another way of looking at it. To declaratively say, “this collection of mass and energy (*cough* like Joe) should aspire to a higher purpose!” is to suggest there is a standard that humanoids like ourselves ought to live up to.

But why think that? Where is this standard? Who issued it? Why should I obey it? What if I find it oppressive and demanding? What happens if I ignore it? This is not too dissimilar from the logic many atheists use in rejecting the Bible as a standard for life: where is your God? Can I see him? Why should I follow the Bible’s standard vs. my own?

Without a standard, it has to be every man to himself, and there’s no way to make a right judgment about any of it. And this means that every choice is an arbitrary one. As our lodestar website tells us, arbitrary means “contingent solely upon one’s discretion.” And that’s all that we can say about choice in an atheistic world. Your choice is entirely contingent upon what you happen to prefer, and it can be no more significant than that.

To conclude: once you recognize, as an atheist, that atheism entails there is no reason that humans exist in the first place, and second, that all our choices are equally arbitrary and meaningless, there is no way to sustain any real sense of purpose in your life.

Whether you dedicate yourself to actually selling drugs and pimping vulnerable women or just pretend to do so when playing Grand Theft Auto, neither choice can be said to be better than the other. It just depends upon what you happen to want, and that’s that. You weren’t made for anything different, because your very existence is itself an accident.

So, given our accidental and arbitrary existence, to continue in purposeful resolve, as if there was actually some rationale for preferring one course of action to another, is to take another atheistic leap of faith.