John Stonestreet and Shane Morris on Meaning and Morality Without God: Atheists Know Better Than They Think

Nature documentaries like the BBC’s “Planet Earth,” “Blue Planet,” and most recently, “A Perfect Planet,” are amazing masterpieces of modern videography, displaying creation in detail and majesty. Every creature soaring through the sky, or streaking through the deep, or thundering over the savannah exhibits power, beauty, and unmistakable purpose. David Attenborough’s grandfatherly narration and Hans Zimmer’s moving musical scores only add to the childlike awe these films induce. 

All of which makes it even more odd when Attenborough declares that all of this glory lacks purpose, or that it arose by chance and natural selection, and that none of it bears witness to any meaning or Mind beyond itself. 

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A recent article on atheism, also from across the pond, reminded me of this contradiction. In The GuardianHarriet Sherwood described a new project from the University of Kent that seeks to discover whether disbelieving in God makes people less spiritual overall. According to the project’s authors, atheism “doesn’t necessarily entail unbelief in other supernatural phenomena.” Nor do unbelievers lack for a sense of purpose, despite “lacking anything to ascribe ultimate meaning to [in] the universe.” 

In the article, Sherwood profiled several unbelievers, from an agnostic to a “free thinker” to Positivist pastor and Satanic priest (who makes it clear he doesn’t believe in a literal Satan). All of them insist that life can be deeply meaningful and even moral without God. 

“We can determine for ourselves what is meaningful,” said one. “The meaning of life,” suggested one woman, “is to make it the best experience you can, to spread love to those around you.” “Beauty and tradition are at the core of my philosophy,” said another. One self-identified atheistic Jew explained, “Being part of a religious community offers music, spirituality and relationships…it reminds me I’m on a journey to understand myself better and motivates me to help others.”

Hearing outspoken unbelievers proclaim that meaning and morality aren’t accidents is about as jarring as hearing David Attenborough proclaim that the world’s most amazing creatures are accidentsThere is an inability of atheists to let go of the transcendent. 

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SOURCE:, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. “BreakPoint®” and “The Colson Center for Christian Worldview®” are registered trademarks of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John Stonestreet is the President of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and co-host with Eric Metaxas of Breakpoint, the Christian worldview radio program founded by the late Chuck Colson. He is co-author of A Practical Guide to CultureA Student’s Guide to Culture and Restoring All Things.

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