December 20, 2010
In his post Meaning and Death, Luke Muehlhauser—along with several other atheists—criticized William Lane Craig’s claim that without God, no ultimate meaning or purpose exists. Well. Let’s get something off the table: I agree with Craig that without God or some other sentient creator, there cannot be an overarching telos for humanity; no transcendent purpose. However, even as a theist who understands where Craig is coming from, I’m with Craig’s critics on this one.
Consider Craig’s claim, re-articulated to a querant on his own website:
…my claim is that ultimately nothing really matters if there is no God. [WLC]
Do you see the problem there? I can assure you that the atheists I know don’t walk around saying to themselves, “Ah, ho-hum, who cares if my car broke down? Nothing really matters because there is no God.”
That an overarching telos or transcendent purpose for humanity may not exist does not entail that nothing really matters without God. Like questions of value, the question of “what really matters” is for each individual to decide. Even if there was an overarching telos for humanity – which I believe there is – any sentient being could still decide that the overarching telos does not matter to them.
Craig’s reasoning is fallacious at best, specious at worst. Invoking the word “ultimate” seems to only further obfuscate things. If something matters to an agent, then it matters – period. If not, then not. In the same way a stepladder doesn’t “have value,” the universe cannot “have meaning.” Of course, an agent can value a stepladder, just as an agent can find meaning in the universe. So, Craig can’t find meaning to life without God and immortality. Big deal? That doesn’t mean that nobody else can. Can Craig logically sustain the claim that a life with overarching telos is “better” than a life without one?
NOTE: The original commentary for this post is here.