Why Even Bother Living?
Dumb Questions, Smart Answers
The question addressed herein was first proposed in another rant titled, Who Values Life More? This stunning nugget of misguided Christian logic is so jaw-droppingly stupid that it warrants special interrogation.
Consider following email that I received from a visitor to the site:
From: [withheld by request]
Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2008 2:11 PM
Subject: Serious Questions!
Visited your site. Okay. I might be an atheist. But I don’t like it. A lot atheists embrace atheism. “Relax, there’s no God and you aren’t going to Hell.” How can I relax when there is absolutely no meaning to life? When I die, I cease to exist. There is no such thing as ‘soul mates’ or unconditional love. We are all just living organisms with no purpose. That makes me pessimistic and I feel like shit. Because I basically am. The stuff I’ve been thinking about lately is driving me nuts. So, why do you continue to live? Are you married? If so, why? Your spouse is just another piece of walking meat who has no connection to you. Children? Aren’t we all just animals? Some animals eat their young. What makes us different? Higher intelligent level?
While her wording may be different (and thoughts a little scattered), I’ve received many emails over the past several years asking the same fundamental question:
If there’s no purpose to life, why even bother living?
Yeah, that’s just about the dumbest question a person can ask.
Now my response here isn’t directed at Danielle specifically. She may or not be an atheist, but this question comes most commonly from Christians. But before we get started putting such nonsense to bed, let’s get some terminology out of the way. (Word choice gives everything away.)
Purpose vs. Reason
Okay, show of hands. Who knows the most important word in poor, sweet, misguided Danielle’s email? Anyone?
She wrote, “We are all just living organisms with no purpose…So why do you continue to live?”
We all know what “purpose” means. But Christians, whenever backed into a corner or marginalized by logic that destroys their argument, often try to switch key words to shift their argument into another gear. And as I’ve had this debate with more than a few bible-thumpers over the years, I know from experience that they invariably try to swap “reason” for “purpose” after I slap their argument around for awhile. I’m just being pre-emptive here. (My rant, my rules.)
So let’s get this out of the way. Purpose and reason are not the same. They are not synonyms.
Why did you eat that bacon cheeseburger? Because you were hungry. Or maybe you weren’t really hungry at all, but the burger looked so god damn yummy that you just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Either way, these are both reasons for eating the burger.
Now what’s the purpose of eating that bacon cheese burger (or anything, for that matter)? The answer is to sustain life. You don’t eat, you don’t live. Simple as that. (What you eat has intrinsically nothing to do with the purpose of eating.)
Okay, so let’s go back to the question at hand. According to this pathetic Christian mindset, if there’s no purpose to life then there’s no point in living. So let’s be clear about this. No purpose, no life. And as living is the ultimate prerequisite for every human act, then it must necessarily follow that there’s no point in doing anything if purpose doesn’t exist. (Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.)
And keep in mind that this logic is directed at atheists. This is important to remember because it forces them to accept whatever response we offer from our perspective, not theirs. I mean, you can’t ask a “What would you do?” question and then expect an answer that jives with your mindset. Hello? That’s why it’s a “What would YOU do?” question.
A Modest Proposal
Let’s say that I (an atheist) am walking down the street and cross paths with your child who was just struck by a car. She’s in terrible pain and bleeding profusely. Her life is in imminent danger.
Remember, if there’s no purpose to life then there’s no point in living, and if there’s no point in living then there’s no point in doing anything. So following this mindlessly stupid Christian maxim, if I don’t know the specific purpose for me being there at that exact moment, then there’s absolutely no point in me saving your child’s life. Period.
Congratulations, you moron. But problem is, no sane person (atheist or other) would ever do such a thing, and this stunning fact flies in the face of the aforementioned question posed. It’s just plain stupid, and Christians don’t like looking stupid. So this is where they try to be clever and engage in some disingenuous wordplay.
Time to start backpedaling…
They’ll say, “Okay, you’d come to her aid because it’s the right thing to do.”
No, that’s a reason, not a purpose.
“Fine, then you’d do it because it would make you feel good that you did a good deed.”
Again, no. That’s a reason.
Then they’ll argue that there’s a purpose but you’re just not aware of it.
BUZZZZ! Sorry, but we’re not accepting bullshit rationalizations here today. Ignorance isn’t a valid loophole to sidestep your faulty logic and reasoning. Regardless, from my perspective (using your logic) there is absolutely no difference between not knowing and not having. Both are complete and total unknowns. What you think is wholly irrelevant to me. All that matters is what I think.
And as Christians love to play that overused “You don’t have total knowledge of the universe…” card when trying to negate the concept of atheism, it’s now fair game for me to use their own argument against them.
Yes, they’re right. I don’t have such knowledge of the universe. And if I don’t know what the purpose is then I can’t possibly KNOW that there was a purpose in the first place. (Oops!) Given this, like I said before, from my perspective there’s absolutely no difference between not knowing and not having.
But wait a second. I smell some last ditch desperation and straw-grasping on the horizon. This is where they play the “god” card. It’s sort of a catch-all explanation when they can’t pull anything else out of their ass.
When All Else Fails
“God has a higher purpose for you (and my child) that hasn’t been revealed to you yet.”
Yes, folks. The “god did it!” explanation – the last refuge of a person with absolutely no argument. This is what we call special pleading, and it carries no weight as a debating tactic.
The problem dealing with someone so intellectually impaired is that there’s nowhere you can to go with it. Their position is terminal. There’s no retort. I mean, how can you refute it? You can’t. This is why they always (when backed into a no-proof corner) resort to such a weak, sad, and ineffectual argument. The poor slob must be left to wallow in the abyss of his delusion. Give them a hug and tell them to enjoy eternity. We sane folks must just dismiss their response as a non-argument and move on.
Of course, anyone with a finely-tuned sense of decency knows that there not need be a purpose (and if there is one, one need not know what it is) for their presence at the scene of the accident. Maybe it’s random chance, maybe it’s not. Doesn’t matter. To a thinking person, purpose doesn’t have to exist to act. To any thinking person, reason is generally good enough.
So what’s the reason for helping this child in distress? Well, if I really must tell you then perhaps you should just not bother living.
I’m done with you. [dusting off hands]