Monday, February 7, 2011

God Has No Reason For His Existence

A while back I had a conversation with a Christian about theism vs. atheism. She made a point that if there was no god, then life would be meaningless. This is a common reason that most people have for believing in god. I replied to her statement asking her what meaning god apparently provides for "life".

She took the bait. She mentioned something about god how "makes sense" of "life", but there were a whole bunch of assumptions underlying the words that she used; I detected a bit of C. S. Lewis "logic" in her reply (as in, it was more of a rhetorical argument [i.e. "sounds cool"] and not a logical one). Ignoring what she meant by "makes sense", I thought I'd concentrate on the "life" part. I told her that her answer didn't actually answer my question since she only meant human life. She then revised her statement to include all other life forms as well. I could have went into the evidential or logical problem of evil at this point. But, again, I didn't want to detract from a new idea I had rattling in my head.

So then I asked her "Is your god alive, or dead?". "Alive" she said. So then I asked her the question a third time: What is the meaning or purpose of life?

And that gets me to the title of this blog post. God has no reason for his/her/its existence. She conceded that at this point she didn't know what the purpose of life - as I've defined it - was (I rejoined that the purpose of life is to live, but that's not the subject of this post :) ). Ultimately, if the thing that gives your life meaning itself has no meaning for its existence, doesn't that mean by implication that your life has no meaning? So the theist and the atheist are in the same boat: Life cannot be given meaning by some outside force. All meaning-giving things are inherently arbitrary.

For example, if the purpose of your life is to dedicate your life to something greater than yourself, then by definition god cannot have any legitimate purpose for his existence because nothing is supposed to be greater than god. Even if there were some meaning or purpose for god's existence, whatever this purpose was would be more important than god.

At this point, a more sophisticated theologian might bring up the whole "contingent" vs. "necessary" being argument. I actually think this makes god's existence even more absurd.

As I've gathered, when most philosophers talk about necessary beings, they are talking about beings whose existence is not dependent on any other "thing". This is one of the reasons why Dawkins' Ultimate 747 Gambit fails. In that formulation, Dawkins' argument only works on things that have evolved. But no one believes in a god that evolved, they believe in a god that has always existed. A god that is "necessary".

My problem with this is that anything that is deemed "necessary" is always less important than the thing that it is necessary for; the thing that is contingent on its necessity. Rubber wheels are necessary for trucks, but the truck itself is more important than the wheels. Any time we talk about necessity, we are implying a need. The thing that is needed is always more important than the precursor for that need. If we want functioning trucks, then we need rubber wheels.

So if god is necessary for this universe, then god's purpose for existence is the universe! So positing a necessary god makes whatever it is that god is necessary for to be more important than god himself. And no one would say that human beings are more important than god since that's also not a god that anyone believes in.

Again, this complaint with necessary beings only comes into effect when trying to figure out the reason for the necessary thing's existence. Human beings are necessary for building computers, but this doesn't mean that computers are objectively more important than humans. The relative importance is taken into effect once we have determined what is necessary for computers, i.e. what we need to get computers. The focus of that question - because of the nature of the question - places more value on computers than humans. But outside of that specific question, I would not posit that computers are more important than humans because outside of that context, humans are not defined as being "necessary".

At this point I admit that this is a semantic argument over what it means to be "necessary". Possibly to get out of this we would have to state that the god of the theologians is the converse of "contingent", which would be "non-contingent". That is, that god is a being that doesn't need anything prior to it in order to exist. But this brings us back to my first point - that this proposed god has no reason for its existence; this non-contingent god is meaningless. Bringing up the Christian's complaint at the beginning of this post - that without god life is meaningless - means that there's nothing inherently bad about something being meaningless, since either god itself is meaningless or that - using the implications of "necessary" - god is less important than us and the universe.

Going even further than that, because everything that god is - by some definitions - is "good", then meaningless itself would also be a good thing! By implication, this would make a meaningless life "good" in the same manner that love is "good". Since everything that god is is good by some theists' definition (like god is love), then meaninglessness would also be good, and would be something to strive for if you want to imitate godliness.

The existence of god seems to be one big mess of absurdities.

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