The Course of Reason

Purpose Needs Life

July 19, 2011

What does it mean to you when you hear people say there is no purpose to life without God? Besides the hope of getting into a utopian society called ‘heaven.’ Why does believing in a God give anymore purpose to life than not having one at all? If God himself is supposed to be all-knowing, shouldn’t he himself already know who is going to be getting into his closed gated society and who isn’t?

I have recently picked up Dan Barker’s book The Good Atheist and it has got me thinking about what it means to have a purpose to life. In the beginning of the book Barker tries to get across to his readers “Life does not need purpose: Purpose needs life.” Whether life has purpose or not shouldn’t be the question we ask. The question we need to ask is what can we do to fill our lives with purpose. I find so many things to fill my life with purpose, whether it’s activating for gay rights, educating others, fighting for what I believe in, or by simply taking in the beauty of the world around me.

By reading the first couple of chapters of Barkers book, I have really been wondering why believing in a God gives someone purpose. A passage from Barkers book summed it up the best for me.

I don’t believe in God, but even if he did exist, and even if he did save my life, I’d find it hard to imagine that he would be the kind of creature who would demand that I submit to his will. Even if such primitive attitudes prevailed in the 17th and 18th centuries, it seems bizarre that they should survive today, with our hard-fought gains in civil liberties, our advances in education and instant worldwide communication. Yet believers still flock to church to sing “To God be the glory” and “Crown Him with many crowns” in the belief that their purpose comes from bowing to a king or governor. If there were such a God, demanding that servants kneel before him, glorifying his name, why should we respect him? Even if we were oppressed people who wanted to avoid the wrath of a ruler who had the power to punish and kill, we might pretend to go along by kissing the feet of our oppressor, but why should anyone think such a master deserves to be admired?

Life is an amazing gift itself. The way I see it, I only get one chance to live this life and I want to live it with as much purpose as I can. To me life is not driven by purpose, but purpose is driven by life.



About the Author: John Chesley

John Chesley's photo
John Chesley is an undergrad at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and also the Director of Membership for the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers & Inquirers (UNIFI). This will be my third year attending UNI studying Geology with Environmental Emphasis


#1 Rene Kirstein (Guest) on Sunday July 24, 2011 at 6:14am

You say "Life is an amazing gift". From whom, may I ask, is this gift?

#2 John Chesley (Guest) on Monday August 01, 2011 at 7:52am

I apologize, I was not using the word "gift" in a literal sense, as in like life was "given" to us by some supernatural being. I was merely making the point that life is special enough without having the need to look for answers outside of our own natural realm.




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