meaning and purpose for christians and atheists


This is the famous argument from nihilism: that, if atheism is true, there is no logically defensible meaning to be found in life. Tragic, to be sure, and there should be no implication here that atheists are any less kind or wonderful than other people. Rather, it is that, if atheism is true, we’re all equally worthless.

This is a pretty standard discussion item for those of religious and non-religious inclinations and I think it deserves further investigation.

what is the meaning of life for christians?

Context is key here. Christians believe that their deity, the only one in existence, created everything we see round about us. What is the meaning of this creation? Because it pleased him to do so. So we exist to make an omniscient super-being happy. However, this god, God, created us with some flaws which make us all commit actions he disapproves of.  This makes the god God sad and angry. In the past, he punished and killed humans for not behaving appropriately, and ordered them to slaughter animals to atone for misbehaviour. But Christians believe that 2000 years ago the god God came to Earth and allowed himself to be killed as the ultimate animal sacrifice to atone for all our bad behaviour. Atonement only occurs if humans let the god God/Jesus (same thing) into their heart. So, life for Christians is a test – the aim of this test is to please an invisible god who you might ‘feel’ in your heart (unclear what this is) or hear in your head (worrying).

what is the meaning of life for atheists?

Context is key here also. Atheists believe that our existence is a random event. We’re just another animal on this planet, doing what animals do. There is no bigger plan or guiding force, and there is no life for our consciousness beyond the physical one we see before us.

what is the purpose of life for christians?

It would be foolish to say that all Christians are agreed on a common purpose for their lives. They tend to believe that the god God has an individual plan for every human being. This carefully thought-out plan by their benevolent god could involve anything: starving to death shortly after birth; living a long and comfortable life full of advantage and joy; or suffering physical pain from inherited genetic conditions for your whole life. The purpose to some extent is to complete the test, but generally most Christians would agree their purpose is to tell other human beings about the meaning of life. This could involve telling slaves to behave themselves like the god God commanded; torturing people thought to be involved in witchcraft; or campaigning for people to be denied basic rights because of their sexual orientation.  Most Christians will agree that the main purpose of life is show the love of their god God.

what is the purpose of life for atheists?

Once again, it would be foolish to say that all atheists agree of a common purpose for their lives. In fact, it would be impossible for me to speculate on what other atheists feel is their life’s purpose. It’s useful to note that some of us who were once Christians might have different instincts on this matter than people who were brought up as atheists. I personally don’t see my life as having much more purpose than an ant carrying leaves on the pavement. I’m a tiny part of the bigger group effort of a co-operative species. I’m not a goal-orientated individual and tend to rely on taking up opportunities that arise – feeling that keeping your life random and open to change is much more satisfying than created edges to aim for. However, I don’t think this is common approach in this day and age.


In the eyes of an invisible deity who sees fit to murder all of its creation barring one family, then goes on to damn most of the rest to eternal suffering for not acknowledging it’s invisible existence, I would say that humans are largely worthless. From the point of view of seeing every individual piece of this existence as a random occurrence, I would say humans and everything round about us are fairly extraordinary, exciting and very worthwhile.