Meaninglessness

Here’s a question:

Can Christianity really solve the problem of meaninglessness?

A big part of this problem is the threat that everything I’m doing is pointless. All this engineering, all this recording funny songs on the weekends for my friends’ entertainment, this study of philosophy, this writing of novels, etc. That’s what I spend most of my time on.

If I die and I cease to exist, this is all pretty pointless. But if I go to the Christian hell, it was also pretty pointless; and if I go to the Christian heaven, it was still pointless.

In heaven, none of the stuff we did on earth will have mattered (except for accepting Jesus and being saved from hell). This view of life and death is not any more motivational. It takes something more nuanced than this to get me out of bed in the morning.

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7 Responses to “Meaninglessness”

  1. dd80411a Says:

    Explain why going to heaven OR hell is pointless. I get your first point that if there is no God, life is pointless but I don’t follow the next two points.

    • Hello there,

      While it’s debatable whether there’s a point to being in heaven or hell for eternity, that wasn’t my question here. The question here is “what is the point of life on earth, if you just go to heaven or hell forever and ever?” None of the things you did on earth are ultimately going to matter.

  2. You can always imagine that meaningfulness is beyond our comprehension on Earth but such a thing exists after death. No one has come back to prove things one way or the other (except Jesus, conveniently).

    As to why one would pick the Christian story specifically, I cannot say. It does go into more than just “believe in Jesus” though, right? It doesn’t reject the 10 Commandments–at worst, it squishes them into the Golden Rule which still dictates a LOT of life decisions.

  3. Right, but the issue isn’t so much whether there could be a meaning after death–it’s about how Christianity can rescue the vast majority of our lives on earth (which are spent working, eating, sleeping, painting, reading, etc.) from “meaninglessness.”

    If there is a meaning after death, in Christianity, it seems to depend on some faith in Jesus, in God’s grace, etc. But you could just become a Christian and then let yourself die. Or get martyred. It sure doesn’t matter that you did all that other stuff on earth. Once you are in heaven (or hell) everything you did is totally moot.

    Christianity doesn’t seem to give meaning to any of our actions that don’t involve praying the sinner’s prayer. The only thing I can imagine saying is that “they have meaning now,” but that’s exactly what many atheists say, so it’s not a very good argument.

  4. Perhaps you are referring to a specific subset of Christians, but even from what little content I’ve read from the Bible it seems there are a lot of things you need to do to ensure your place in heaven. More than just accept Jesus and die. I was trying to say that as soon as the Bible (i.e. Christianity) lists a requirement to gain access to the afterlife, you automatically have a reason for doing that thing.

    For example, say that tomorrow I welcomed Christ as my saviour, gave up all my possessions, and sat down in a forest praying until I died. I can think of a lot of people who would be very upset by my decisions. You might say I wasn’t honouring my mother and father. You could certainly say I wasn’t treating people as I’d have them do unto me.

    Not that there’s a logical way to actual follow all the rules. I’m just saying I don’t see how you could get away with only accepting Christ as a Christian.

  5. You don’t have to do the Christians’ jobs for them, you know. If nobody shows up to discuss, there doesn’t have to be a discussion 😉

    Setting aside the arguments of justification by faith (Paul says you just have to say the words and believe) and Calvinism (it doesn’t really matter what you do), I think it’s still plain that most of what we do doesn’t have a direct effect on what’s commonly viewed as “afterlife criteria.” And EVEN if it did, the point remains: these things become pointless, in the sense that all the ostensible points of these activities don’t exist, and they’re only being performed as part of some get-to-heaven exercise.

    For example, take researching cancer. Or saving the environment. Or trying to discover the origin of life on earth. All these things have a clear point: to stop people from dying of cancer, to keep the earth from melting away sooner than later, to know more about the universe… but those will be pointless once everyone is dead. This pointlessness of the 99% of our activities is commonly cited as a problem with pure atheism (and I do think it is a real problem). But do we get out of this problem by saying that people live on forever in heaven or hell? Once you’re in heaven it won’t have mattered that you cured cancer, saved the environment or discovered something that you could just ask God about.

    There is no ultimate point to these activities (which we spend most of our lives on) in the Christian conception of the afterlife.

    The only way there could be an ultimate point to these activities is if the reality of things is far more complex than that.

  6. “Once you’re in heaven it won’t have mattered that you cured cancer, saved the environment or discovered something that you could just ask God about.”

    The whole point was to get into heaven. Saving the environment and trying to cure cancer are your resume. I agree that if heaven is just like earth but you live forever and don’t have to pay any bills, then yes of course it’s pointless. But if it’s this total mysterious thing designed by a being that is beyond our comprehension who has all the answers, of course there’s no worry of meaninglessness in heaven. I might be missing something you’re saying though so feel free to take this offline.

    I think I enjoy debating for either side of religion because you rarely have to look anything up and argue about trends that any data shows.

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