William Lane Craig: Atheism Can't Support a Happy and Consistent Life
Christian apologist and author William Lane Craig claimed that people cannot live "consistently and happily" if they uphold an atheist worldview, arguing that in a world without God, there is no meaning, value or significance to life.
Last Friday, Wycliffe College, a theological graduate school federated with the University of Toronto, hosted a forum on "The Meaning of Life," in which Craig, a research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University, was invited to give a 30-minute address and participate in a discussion.
With the event also featuring remarks from naturalist philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein and controversial University of Toronto professor of psychology Jordan Peterson, Craig kicked off the discussion with his thoughts.
Craig, who has authored several books including Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, compared what he considered a "meaningful" Christian theist view on life with an atheistic view of life.
"Confronted with the human predicament, the only solution the atheist can offer is that we simply face the absurdity of life and live bravely," Craig said. "The fundamental problem with the solution, however, is that it is impossible to live consistently and happily within the framework of such a worldview. If you live consistently, you will not be happy. If you live happily. It is only because you are not consistent."
"[Evangelical theologian] Francis Schaeffer explains this point well," Craig continued. "The modern man, says Schaeffer, lives in a two-story universe. In the lower story is the finite world without God. Here, life is absurd, as we have seen. In the upper story are meaning, value and purpose. Now, modern man lives in the lower story because he believes there is no God. But he cannot live happily in such an absurd world. Therefore, he continually makes leaps of faith into the upper story to affirm meaning, value and purpose, even though he has no right to since he does not believe in God."
Craig explained that the modern man living in the bottom floor "gives lip service to atheism" but "lives as though life were important and as if it really mattered what he does."
"The human predicament is thus truly terrible. The atheistic worldview is insufficient to maintain a happy and consistent life. Man cannot live consistently and happily as though life were ultimately without purpose, value or significance," he said. "If we try to live consistently within the framework of the atheistic worldview, we shall find ourselves profoundly unhappy. If instead we manage to live happily, it is only by giving the lie to our worldview. Atheism, therefore, cannot support a happy and consistent life."
Craig explained that even some of the world's most renowned atheist philosophers themselves have described a world without God as "absurd."
"Scientists tell us that the universe is expanding and everything in it is growing further and further apart and as it does so, it grows colder and colder and its energy is used up. Eventually, all the stars are burned out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes. There will be no light, there will be no heat, there will be no life, only the corpses of dead stars and galaxies ever expanding into the endless darkness and the cold recesses of space — a universe in ruins," Craig said.
"If God does not exist, then there is no ultimate purpose in life. If death stands with open arms at the end of life's trail, then what is the goal of life? Is it all for nothing? Is there no reason for life? What of the universe? Is it utterly pointless?" the apologist asked. "If its destiny is a cold grave in the recesses of outer space, then the answer must be yes, it is pointless. There is no goal, no purpose for the universe. The litter of a dead universe will just go on expanding and expanding forever."
Craig asserted that the fact that the world will die one day in the future is "not science fiction."
"As unimaginable as it may seem, this will happen. Not only is the light of each individual person doomed, the entire human race is destined to destruction. There is no escape, there is no hope. These plane scientific facts seem nearly incontestable. The question then becomes, what is the consequence of this?" he asked. "Many atheist thinkers have argued that it implies that human life itself becomes absurd. It means that the life we do have is without ultimate purpose, value or significance."
Craig stated that philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre have held that life lacks "purpose, value or significance" without God.
"I agree but I would add one thing. We have seen that if God does not exist than life is futile. If God does exist, then life is meaningful," Craig said. "Only the second of these two alternatives enables us to live consistently and happily. It seems to me that even if the evidence for these two options were absolutely equal, a rational person ought to choose theism.
"It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility and despair to life, meaningfulness and happiness."
Watch the entire event below.