Atheism And The Search For Purpose

Is Atheism looking for meaning? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am reading through a book for a class now called¬†Bulwarks of Unbelief. I am finding it quite good and the main question being asked is “What made atheism a strong enough possibility that many people now embrace it?” Now some might go the route of Richard Dawkins and say it was Darwin who made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Is that it? Is it really that we found a scientific explanation for something and then God was out of a job?

That doesn’t really fit since in the medieval period science was being done and none of it was thought to be the end of God. If anything, it was thought to be explaining and upholding God. If anyone was filling in the gaps of our scientific knowledge, it was the Christians. Yet nowhere in this do you see them saying “Does this put God out of a job?”

The writer of the book, Joseph Minich, brings up Marx and how Marx thought man felt alienated from his labor. Now I oppose Marxism through and through, but while I don’t care for the man, that doesn’t mean he was wrong on everything. Could there be a sense of alienation Marx was right to find, but that he had the wrong solution and explanation for?

Consider this as an example. Before I came here to the seminary, I worked at a Wal-Mart in Tennessee. Now when the time came that I left to come here, what happened? Did the store shut down because I was gone and obviously, no one could do the work that I did and so that was it?

Nope. Hire someone else. I was entirely replaceable. This can be in contrast to a time when a son learned his father’s trade and the business was passed on from generation to generation and there was an investment in one’s labor.

Not only this, but while I was there, did I really care about my job? Nope. I hated it. I liked some of the people that I worked with, but I hated the work that I did. I knew I was expendable and that I was underutilized and that my skills were not being used to the best of their ability.

So yes, I do think the alienation is real.

Minich thinks the main culprit here is technology. We have made the world more and more impersonal. As the world becomes more impersonal, we have a harder time seeing a person behind it all. The world seems to function like a machine.

As a divorced man, I do think there is something to the disconnect from society. I notice when I come home, I go to my apartment building and there are several other apartments. Truth be told, I hardly know anyone in my own building. I have hardly ever had guests over to do anything with me. I also suspect that I am not alone in this. Many of you probably know your Facebook friends better than people you see every day.

As a gamer, I also miss a certain time in life. That was the time of what is now known as couch gaming. Yes, I can play games online with several people and that’s fine, but really, nothing beats getting together and playing Goldeneye, Street Fighter, Smash Brothers, and other multi-player games together in person. Now I can play a game with people I know nothing about and have no investment in other than a desire to win.

Now I think technology could be a part of it, but I also think there is something even bigger looming in the background. If there is a sense of alienation from one’s work and then from the society as a whole, what if there is also that sense from the world entire? What if it seems like we have a world that because we have fostered the natural/supernatural divide, seems to work on its own?

What does this give us but a world without purpose? I find this especially interesting since in my study into game theology, I am noting that purpose is something we all long for. When we think we have a quest, a battle, a goal, we can come alive.

Now this post is a sort of thinking out loud, but it does explain to me not just atheism in that sense, but a certain kind of atheism. You probably know the type. Let’s be clear this is not all atheists as I suspect some atheist readers of this blog will be able to hear the description and say “Yes. I know someone like that. I agree with their atheism, but I don’t agree with their other beliefs about it.”

For sake of discussion, let’s refer to these as a sort of evangelistic atheist. These are atheists who think that they have been delivered from the shackles of irrationality and superstition by being embracing atheism. They now think that all theists they meet are ignorant fools who stay cloistered away from anything that goes against them, believe anything without evidence (Constantly thinking faith is belief without evidence), hate science, are sexual prudes entirely, always vote Republican, and that Christianity has done nothing but harm for the world.

These are the people you find in Facebook groups who seem to do nothing all day long but argue against Christians and other theists. I consider it something akin to many that I see on the left who have what is called Trump-Derangement Syndrome. Whatever you think of him, these are people who seem to have their lives more dominated by Trump than any conservatives that I know. As many of my fellow conservatives say, he lives rent-free in their heads.

If you are an atheist who says “I don’t think God exists, but I know that there are many Christians who do and many of them are smart people and have good reasons for what they believe”, then you are not one of the people I am speaking of. You can also say “I do agree that Christianity has done a lot of good for the world and many people are better for being Christians.” You will debate with Christians, but it is never about who is smarter than the other based on worldviews alone.

When I have seen these evangelistic atheists in the past, I have been confused by it. If you really thought this was the way the world was, why are you wasting your time here? Go on vacation regularly and hit the beach. if you think there is ultimate wrong and right, why not just go out every night sleeping around?

If I am correct, the answer now is obvious. These people are still wanting to find some sort of reading, something that they can do in the world, and they have decided they will be evangelists for atheism to set people free from the shackles of theism into the glorious light of science and reason. Dare I say it, this could be considered a cultic form of atheism.

When I have met atheists like this, they are amazingly like the idea of Christians that they always go against. They refuse to read anything that disagrees with them. They have the entire side painted in an us vs. them battle and the other side is just ignorant of the real truth out there. They alone are the sole bearers of freedom and they must deliver the good news. They will often go about their personal experiences of how they were once Christians. They will not investigate any other ideas contrary to what they believe. They also love the fellowship of other like-minded atheists and seem to have a mutual admiration society going on.

When it comes to the Bible, it must always be interpreted literalistically. They will believe anything whatsoever provided it agrees with them without researching it. If anything could make the other side look bad, it is automatically true. If anything makes it look good or at least is neutral to it, it is automatically false.

I suppose I could go on if need be, but I suspect you get the idea. So, why they do it then is they do it to at least give themselves some sense of purpose. They can think that they are accomplishing something. If work doesn’t give fulfillment and pleasure doesn’t, you have to go somewhere else to get ultimate fulfillment.

Part of my study into gaming theology has been that we have a need for quests in order to find fulfillment. We want to be part of a grand story. If my theory is true, why should that be just the case for Christians? It will be just as true for atheists or any other position. Evangelistic atheists get some fulfillment then out of what they do in spreading their gospel of atheism.

This is a theory that for me is just in its opening stages. This post is a sort of thinking out loud. i do invite your opinions on the matter and especially if you are an atheist that would be not an evangelistic atheist and can say “I know some of the atheists you talk about and yes, this does seem to describe them.”

I look forward to hearing from you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

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