Philosophy Magazine

Is It Possible to Rebel Against Extinction?

By Stuart_gray @stuartg__uk

Is it Possible to Rebel Against Extinction?

What is the most important question in life right now?

Is it:

  • The climate. How do we look after the planet for our kids and grandkids?
  • Should I go to University, and if so then which one?
  • Who I should spend my life with?
  • Should we have kids?
  • What school should my kids go to?
  • Which scientific area of study should I focus on expanding?

These are all important questions – very important. You can think of others that might qualify as important questions. But, I don’t think they are the MOST important question.

What is the most important question then? It’s this:

“Does God exist? Is there a God who created the Universe and who loves us?”

At which point – I may lose the “eye-rolling” atheists in the room. Well – hang on for one second. Before you check out – let me suggest something. If there is no God, then all our lives are absurd, with no meaning. You might reply, “You have no idea just how absurd my life is, mate.”

Ha – I know what you mean. But by absurd, I don’t just mean crazy or out of control right now. (Brexit, anyone?)  By absurd I mean objectively and absolutely meaningless, having no objective point at all. Each and every day of life – absolutely pointless and futile.

So – why bother protesting about Brexit, the climate…or anything. Extinction rebellion? Don’t kid yourself. Extinction is INEVITABLE. Life – is pointless and futile, “a chasing after the wind,”[1] the Bible says. You cannot rebel against extinction on atheism.

“How insulting,” you might object. I’m sorry – I’m not trying to be rude here. I’m trying to explain the consequences of atheism. On atheism, we just make up what matters in our own heads. But – we are kidding ourselves on. These things don’t actually have any ultimate consequence what so ever.

“Nonsense,” you might say. “Many things matter.” That’s right. We think they do. I listed a bunch of them at the top of this blog. We think that some things DO objectively matter. But if there is no God, no ultimate reality, this cannot actually be true. Why? Because everything I care about is actually just in my head. It only matters to me. I make up what matters for myself, it is completely subjective to myself. I think in my head that my life matters, that the people I love matter to me, that events in the world matter…and that the universe matters. But none of it is true. It’s just a temporary illusion.

“But it matters to me,” you reply. Well – who are you? Apparently, a temporary biological mistake that doesn’t live for very long.

“Rubbish. I don’t live alone. I’m part of a community of people.” Right. People who all think that their thoughts matter. But their thoughts do not matter, they are pointless. It doesn’t matter how many futile people are in your group, and whether you think you belong or not. All your lives add up to one thing. Futility.

Why do I think that the ideas in my head about how to make the world better – are objectively true? They can’t be objectively true, because there is no objective truth. There is only what I personally think and feel. And I will not be here for very long.

Because if there’s no God, then each of us and the universe we inhabit are eventually doomed to death and nothingness. So – lets look again at the list we started with:

  • The climate. How do we look after the planet for our kids and grandkids?


  • Should I go to University, and if so then which one?

It doesn’t matter whether I do further education or not. My life has no value and I won’t exist for long.

  • Who I should spend my life with?

It doesn’t matter. My life has no value. Singleness is equivalent to years of togetherness. Both are meaningless.

  • Should we have kids?

      It doesn’t matter because we will all cease to exist.

  • What school should my kids go to?

     Well – why do I think that their education is of any lasting value?

  • Which scientific area of study should I focus on expanding?

   Why bother? The Universe we are studying is running down. The achievement of knowledge I help humanity gain today will just blow away like grains of sand in the near future.

Do many atheists live with the implications of atheism…the unyielding despair of it? Perhaps they just put these implications to the back of their minds so they can try to live happily? No wonder Craig says, “The fundamental problem … is that it is impossible to live consistently and happily within such a worldview. If one lives consistently, he will not be happy; if one lives happily, it is only because he is not consistent.”[2] Consistency points to despair, happiness involves surrounding yourself with the illusion that life matters when it doesn’t. Which is inconsistent with the reality of despair.

You cannot rebel against extinction… on atheism.

The thing is – if atheists are wrong and there IS a God, then this desperate situation changes completely. And opportunities for rebellion open up significantly!

First – people matter. We were created for an important purpose, they were crafted lovingly and they matter to the ultimate reality – God himself.

Second – there is objective right and wrong. God defines them, and we inherit this sense. We are right to challenge immoral behaviours, because what is good and right IS better than what is immoral.

Third – we all have a future. Death is not the end, it is a transition to the next stage of existence. So how we live today is significant, and is a precursor to what will happen next after we die.

But this isn’t just a more positive choice than atheism. It makes sense of our lives.

It seems to me that, the implications of atheism are completely at odds with how people normally live their lives. YET – the implications of theism (there IS a God) are completely explainable and justified and consistent with our assumptions about life. We live as if people matter, that there is objective right and wrong and we have a future that matters.

Is it possible to rebel against extinction? YES – when we recognize the importance of the place of God in our lives. Maybe we need to decide then to find out about the God who makes all of these assumptions of ours sensible and possible in the first place?

[1] Ecclesiastes 2:11, NIV.

[2] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith Christian Truth and Apologetics, Third Edition (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 77.

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