Why Do Atheists Search For Meaning?

by Glenn Smith

On the Facebook page of a college atheist club, I read a post by one of the atheist leaders. He linked to a news article about a humanist couple who had formed a group to help people find meaning and purpose in life. The atheist leader added “Great to see mainstream media writing about science-based, rational approaches to finding meaning and purpose in life.”

Now all this is well and good, for who could be against people finding meaning and purpose? We are, however, immediately reminded of atheist guru Richard Dawkins who has told us “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Dawkins has repeated this concept, telling us that questions related to such things as the purpose for things in the universe are completely meaningless questions, on par with asking “what is the color of jealousy?”

Atheists have long held that the world from top to bottom is completely without meaning or purpose. In the 1890’s, atheist Friedrich Nietzche wrote “Whither are we moving? . . . Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?” In the 1930’s agnostic Bertrand Russell, after pointing out that the universe will result in a vast inevitable death, concluded that our lives can be built “only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair.”

Yet in the news article and the post I read, we have atheists and humanists spending great energy and spraying grand compliments about finding meaning in life. How can this be? If the universe were indeed “nothing but blind pitiless indifference” from top to bottom, why do we, as parts of the universe, search for it and hold it valuable?

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