Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Morality, Purpose, Religion, Truth

The Life of a Dog

This is reality in a universe without God: there is no hope; there is no purpose. It reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s haunting lines:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

What is true of mankind as a whole is true of each of us individually: we are here to no purpose. If there is no God, then our life is not fundamentally different from that of a dog.
— William Lane Craig

I heard this quote recently, and I immediately thought, it’s also not fundamentally different from that of a god. If God is the “uncaused first cause,” then his life has no higher purpose. There is no “reason” for him to exist. In fact, when you really get down to it, the best reason for God to exist is to explain our own existence. Doesn’t that minimize his importance when you look at it that way? So many of the arguments for God really come down to saying:

We’re so magnificent and complex, we simply can’t be an accident! There must be some reason for our being here! So if we exist, God must exist.

Talk about arrogance! We think so highly of ourselves that we insist the Universe was created for us. But this insistence creates an interesting problem. It claims that we’re so amazing, we deserve to have a higher power interested in us. But this higher power doesn’t deserve the same thing?

If our lives are empty and meaningless without God, what does it say about God’s existence? Wouldn’t his be just as meaningless and empty?

On the other hand, if we say his existence isn’t meaningless because he infuses it with his own meaning and purpose, why couldn’t that same thing be true of us? Instead of having a purpose given to us, we make our own.

Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience answered the issue this way:

You know, to put it simply, I guess this whole line of argument really just seems like wishful thinking to me. Am I missing something? Do you think the “higher purpose” argument is convincing to many people?

170 thoughts on “The Life of a Dog”

  1. Acceptance is the key. Why bust a gut looking for something to somehow ”justify” our existence?

    Why create myriad religious infrastructures to enforce this belief?
    If there is a creative force it should be smart enough to let us know: “Cooo eee. Who’s your daddy?”

    We’re here. How cool is that?

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  2. I like turning the argument to make God’s life also meaningless. Very nice.

    But I didn’t understand the closing of your post. I think many people are comforted by thinking of having the purpose of being a loyal son or daughter, either to their parents or a god. Some not, of course.

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  3. Oh, come on Zande, God is interested in things. You haven’t read the Bible, have you? He’s absolutely obsessed with sex and death!

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  4. Ruth, our dog has more purpose and enjoys it more than I could ever hope to. I think you’re right. WLC must not have a dog. 🙂

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  5. Thanks Ruth! A whole lot of planning by my wife and a little bit of luck and we have a dog that has been remarkably easy. He’s been a great addition to our family! The four of us (as well as many of our neighbors) fell in love with him right away. 🙂

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  6. “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise”.
    ~~ Douglas Adams ~~

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  7. Why bust a gut looking for something to somehow ‘justify’ our existence?” – Because, oh ye-who-has-gazed-on-Medusa, we are the species that asks, “Why?”

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  8. Well, since ‘straight is the gate, and narrow the way, and few there be that find it’, obviously God has a purpose, and that purpose is to fill up Hell.

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  9. I have come to think that people like having answers. Most people like absolutes. Gray areas, while at times are nice, are also unknown. We are more satisfied with certainty. Like arch said, we are a species that asks, “why,” and we are also a species that seeks an answer to that question.

    I now believe that religiously minded people like god because it is an answer in their mind. In their mind god is a boundary; and answer that nothing exists beyond. They like god because they think it is an absolute answer.

    It’s just an imagined answer, which creates many more answers if they’d only see them.

    I don’t think people talk about god or think about god or believe in god because we’re hardwired to think about a god or creator, but we do it because we’re hardwired to seek out answers and we try to make sense of things.

    What’s interesting to me is that god was created by the need and compulsion to answer life’s mysteries, and it is also what led most of us out of religion once we discovered god doesn’t adequately (or at all) answer the questions we have.

    Good post, nate.

    It is interesting to think that god has no purpose if he has nothing higher that gives him purpose. It’s also interesting that dogs would not have purpose since they could live for their “higher” masters or for their creator too. And really, if a dog cant have a purposing even when living for their higher masters, then how does living for our higher master give us purpose?

    I’d rather my purpose be real over imagined, but to each their own, i suppose.

    The “dogs have no purpose” analogy seems to be created by a person who wants an absolute answer so badly, that they pretend there are no more questions.

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  10. I’m currently rereading Richard Friedman’s The Hidden Face of God – if any of you have read it, trust me, there’s a lot to be gained from a second read.

    The book indicates that even though there are many different authors – I can’t put a number on it, as many are in dispute – written in many different places, by men of widely-varying occupations, over the span of a thousand years, there is an eerily consistent theme that runs through the book – Humankind gradually distances itself from their god.

    We see, in Genesis, Adam disobeying god; later, in the Sodom and Gomorrah episode, Abraham questions the judgment of god; and just two generations later, Jacob actually fights with god. Before anyone – Ark – jumps the gun and says that those characters were fictional, granted, but as do our own fictional characters, they represented the prevalent thinking of the time they were written, and that of the writers, hence it was irrelevant to my point that the characters were real or not – first published in 1938, Superman later went on to fight Nazis in WW II, for example.

    Deuteronomy 31:17-18 and 32:20 have god saying, “I shall hide my face from them, I shall see what their fate will be.” And apparently, he does – we see, throughout the OT, a gradual diminishing of god in the picture. Shortly after descending the mountain, the people complain that the actual presence of a god in their midst is too terrifying – they beg Moses for an intermediary to relay their god’s words to them (Ex. 20:19) – which really opens the door for whichever priest was selected, to tell them anything he wanted to tell them, and say it was straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    God tells Noah he’s going to destroy all of the people on earth – Noah doesn’t argue. God tells Abe he’s going to destroy the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abe tries to bargain with him (unsuccessfully), to save them. Moses, on the other hand (Ex. 32:10-14), actually argues his god out of destroying the people. The power of humans is increasing.

    And the miracles change as Man takes over. Joseph was the first to perform one – he foretold futures through dreams – but he was quick to assure everyone that it wasn’t his own doing, it was his god’s. Although a number of miracles were performed through Moses, Moses controls the timing, the execution, and the drama of these events, to the extent that he must continually remind everyone that it is his god from whom they come. Finally, Moses alters a miracle – god has instructed Moses to speak to a rock, and water will come out, Moses taps it with his staff instead, and STILL water comes out! Granted, Moses was sent to his room without his supper, and not allowed to cross over to the promise land, but he changed a miracle! Joshua called down a miracle on his own (the sun standing still), while Sampson had his own “magical” power inside him – and so we go from god, to through god, to embodied within man (presumably with god’s permission)..

    This god had, from the beginning of the tale, been the ultimate ruler of the people, but it wouldn’t be long after Moses, that the Israelites decided they’d rather be ruled by a king, like everyone else, and selected Gideon, who declined the offer (Judges 8:22-23), saying, “I shall not rule over you….Yahweh will rule over you.” Old Yah then instructs the intermediary, the prophet Samuel (1 Sam., 8:4-7), to find Israel a king, saying, “…they have rejected me from ruling over them” and goes off and sulks.

    Even Gideon (Judges 6:13) was eventually compelled to say, “If Yahweh is with us….where are all His miracles that our fathers told us about….?

    I won’t go through the entire book, suffice to say that as the Bible progresses, its god takes an ever-diminishing role in the affairs of humans – by the time we reach Ezra, HE determines what, when and where, the miracle will be – when we arrive at the time of Esther, there is no mention of a god in her story anywhere.

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  11. I second that, Nan.

    Great comments all around — thanks everyone! But William’s comment in particular really resonated with me. And I’m fascinated by the line of argument that arch just laid out. Sounds like an excellent book — going to add it to my “must read” list now.

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  12. I think I do (did?) find the idea of a “higher purpose”… comforting, or some such.

    However, purpose and meaning are constructs imposed by sentient beings–are they not? Therefore it seems to me that the very notion of a higher “purpose” or “meaning of life” is actually question begging.

    Time to find my own…

    To me, it seems a burden and freeing at the same time. I’m still working through it.

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  13. Funny that WLC mentions a dog. I posted the following comment a few months ago, and later in one of my own posts (Meaning and Purpose):

    ————————
    I’ve been thinking lately about how I used to think that the only things that had meaning were things that would outlast me, or even better were eternal. From a Christian perspective, this included anything that was loving towards others (since in Christianity, souls are eternal), especially sharing the gospel (since that could influence a person’s eternal destination). It has been a major paradigm shift to realize that I am truly temporary.

    But then I thought about how many Christians simultaneously own pets and believe that their pet has no soul. Yet they enjoy the pet tremendously, even knowing it will live only a relatively short time. They find meaning in the enjoyment of a temporary relationship and interaction. A light bulb started going off in my head.
    ————————

    I would love to be able to enjoy life like a (well-treated) dog does! But instead I’m stuck with blowhards like WLC telling me I should feel purposeless without an imaginary friend. Done with that.

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  14. Thanks for noticing!

    Actually, if I let my hair grow out, it would look something like Dickens’ doo.

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  15. Pope Francis has declared that evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not ‘a magician with a magic wand’ – in contradiction to the creationist theory apparently endorsed by his predecessor.

    Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope put an end to the so-called ‘pseudo theories’ of intelligent design and creationism, theories that seemed to be supported by Pope Benedict XVI in a 2005 interview.

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  16. In general, there is no difference between the life of a dog, a god or man except in the sense that as far as we can tell, man is the only creature that creates a god and ends up fearing his gods. Silly cretans we are.

    arch, the pope has decided to muddy the waters for believers it seems.

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