Purpose of life = 'living life well' and passing on your genes

(Matt Western) #1

A church is doing a 4 part series on God, and has advertised on facebook with a video. This has provoked some response from some atheists. I would like some help responding with a meaningful follow up question.

One gentlemen (Gentleman 1 below) was mocking to start with - a Christian who now says he is an atheist.
I asked a simple question in the humblest way possible - and this gentleman did not respond further…

A second gentlemen and third gentlemen responded to my question ‘What is the purpose of human life’ and said as an atheist it’s simply to ‘live live well’ and to pass on genes. I have a number of thoughts on how to respond but will pray about it for a couple of days. I want to ask a question to provoke them to think further - and as @CarsonWeitnauer said in one of his posts, my aim is not to win an argument, but to ‘leave a stone in his shoe’ and make him start to question his worldview.

There are other Christians in the conversation post addressing other questions - which I’m staying out of. This was addressed to me so I’ll prayerfully respond in the next couple of days.

My feeling is I want to bring in the ‘Morality’ question as outlined in the Introduction course, but not quite sure how to word it.
My draft response so far is
"How you define ‘living life well’? How you decide what is the right and the wrong way to pass on your genes to the next generation? In the animal kingdom, males go and kill off cubs of other males that are not their own in order to make the females ready to be pregnant again. Why is this wrong to do for humans if we are simply just going to further our genes. Sure there are animal kingdoms that work together such as ant colonies, but how do you look to nature and decide what is the right and wrong way to ‘live life well’ and further your genes?

The question an atheist must answer is ‘Can there be a moral law without a moral law giver?’

Conversation below, all names removed for privacy.

Gentleman 1:
How about start with.

  1. Does God exist?
  2. And which god are you talking about?

A question for you ____, Do you believe in a self creating universe?

Gentleman 1:
No one knows exactly how the universe began.
I was raised a Christian but am now an atheist.
But science is at least trying to find answers not just relying on an ancient text, which I have read, and do no believe the Bible’s explanation of how it all began.
I have seen both sides of the argument.
Don’t waste your time trying to influence my line of thought.

And as an atheist, What is the purpose of human life?

I’m not trying to be clever, or trap you - we all ask and struggle with the same questions as you have asked - and we continue to work through it, and we all want truth. I’m only hoping to provoke further thought. :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

by the way, John Lennox would suggest that the statement “the universe can and will create itself from nothing” is self-contradictory and logically incoherent. Source: https://www.rzim.org/…/just…/stephen-hawking-and-god

To say, “now I understand how the car works, I have disproven the existence of Henry Ford (or was it Wilhelm Maybach)”, would be a bit silly. Science or God is a false choice posed by the new atheists. Science only can tell you how, it cannot tell you why…

Gentleman 2: the purpose of life is to live it well and pass on your genes to the next generation. End of story.

Gentleman 3:
Why is a human concept- animals don’t ask why they just live and procreate. That is our meaning too, to survive and reproduce.

(Andrea L) #2

Hi @matthew.western,

Just a few thoughts, please judge whether to include them in your prayer about the responses. My observations might be wrong, but this is what they seem to be like for me.

  1. “Don’t waste your time trying to influence my line of thought”
    He shut down. Not interested. Made his mind not to be open. I feel like he was trying to provoke you with his questions (maybe not intentionally), and you very well avoided a heated argument by asking a question as a reply. “I have seen both sides of the argument.” He might feel being intellectually in a high place, standing firm as he examined both sides.
    What I feel is emotional issues - whether with God, church, Christianity, Bible… I have no clue. He is keeping very high on intellectual level, too intellectual, giving no chance. He might be very hurt. (Thinking back my own life when I acted similarily to this I was in such an emotionally broken state.)
    Leave it for God. Your answer was open, honest, not offending, if he had found anything in it to hang on to fight he likely would have. Leave it with God. You might have raised a few questions in him, though he wouldn’t admit it. Those hard questions sometimes need a lot of time to work themselves into people’s hearts. He might be back one time.

  2. Draft response is good, just some ideas for finetuning (I hope I separated the two gentlemen’s answers well)
    How you define ‘living life well’? -> What does “living life well” mean for you? And for others? How to reconcile if the two collides? (personalises the question, looking for his answer then makes him think about other’s values and with the reconciliation lays a bit of base for morality)
    How you decide what is the right and the wrong way to pass on your genes to the next generation? For me what he says “pass on your genes to the next generation” is rather seems to be a physical act. Maybe asking him whether anything more than just his genes to pass on? And if yes, then how (still physically thinking). And then about how he makes his choice what to pass on and what not -> morality.

  3. I agree with you about the need to introduce morality somehow into the conversation.
    In the animal kingdom, males go and kill off cubs of other males that are not their own in order to make the females ready to be pregnant again. Why is this wrong to do for humans if we are simply just going to further our genes. Explanation good, but for me the question presupposes opinion of this behaviour as being wrong. What if he thinks otherwise? What about something like “What would it look like for you if the same patterns/rules were common amongst humans as well?”
    Sure there are animal kingdoms that work together such as ant colonies, but how do you look to nature and decide what is the right and wrong way to ‘live life well’ and further your genes? I cannot see his desire to gain right and wrong from nature, as he seemingly has no desire to look beyond physical level. The ant example is good as it might be used to get further into, that in those colonies there is a strict hierarchy, not even one is supposed to cross the line and do anything else than they are born to be. Then maybe asking him something like “In what ways humankind is different to these colonies? If there are differences what are they?”

Just a few more thoughts about questions in general. I hope you don’t mind :slight_smile:

Asking open questions and trying to leave any presuppositions out of them (staying non-judgmental with the questions) might help them to come to these issues (such as the " Why is this wrong to do for humans") themselves. If it comes from inside of them it can have a bigger impact, as it is not something someone tries to force on them but flows out of them, so they need to work extremely hard to reject the question if they can at all. They cannot shake it off as an irrelevant thing said by some stranger. It stays in them and therefore, can work in them.

I hope I could help a bit. English is my second language so hopefully not full of mistakes and you undertsand what I meant to say :slight_smile: Also sometimes my “nice” tone in English might be found a bit “harsh” by native speakers, I am sorry if it happened here, I did not mean to. An English phrase I have heard recently is “take it or leave it” - and to be honest I do not know whether it is appropriate to use it in this context… I hope so :slight_smile:

God give you wisdom and an open mind when answering these questions!

Facebook debate with the Bible and beer consortium
Abortion, Noah and the Flood
What are the main things that one needs to do or have to make evangelism fruitful?
(Matt Western) #3

Hi @andrea.l
thankyou very kindly for your response and taking the time. That’s really helpful and given me a lot to think about. :slight_smile:
Yes I agree with you on point 1, silence could mean anything and we have to leave it with God to continue to work in his heart. Out of interest ‘Gentlemen 1’ was the one that had many mocking comments which nobody bothered to respond to on the thread. I suspect the other two may be friends of Gentlemen 1.

I specifically like your ending question asking ‘Why is it wrong for humans to do?’. I think this is a very helpful ending question to leave with him.

I’ll just do my best with my response and rest on the fact that it’s the Holy Spirit that convicts, not me, and that my job is to simply try to spread seeds. Like the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, some plant, some water, but God gives the increase.

Kind regards

(Matt Western) #4

oh, @andrea.l
just out of interest, “take it or leave it” isn’t offensive to me as a friend, collegue or any other with whom I already have common ground… It might be a little offensive if witnessing to a complete stranger such as I’m trying to do.

To a complete stranger: I might use the softer phrases “will leave this with you”, or “hope that’s helpful”, or “will leave it with you to ponder further”…

language is such an interesting topic - amazing complexity. My brother (english as a first language), has learnt Indonesian and Spanish just for fun. It’s interesting listening to him explain some of these things and how some languages tie back into Latin… not my area of expertise that’s for sure.
thanks Matt :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

(Andrea L) #5

Thanks a lot @matthew.western !!! :slight_smile:

Facebook debate with the Bible and beer consortium
(Josh) #6

This may or may not be helpful but to the second man this question is one I had to ask myself. Where do you turn when you live a good or well life and it still goes very wrong. Just a thought

(Matt Western) #7

Hi @Joshgould
yes that is a very good thought. I’m only just into the 3rd chapter of book by Tim Keller ‘Walking with God through pain and suffering’. I’ve not read all of it and am still digesting it, but so far I’ve learned that of all the world-views, atheism is the least equipped to deal with the question of suffering.

Richard Dawkins’ quote below is actually, in my view, very confronting for an atheist. I’ve not yet quoted that to an atheist as I think this is not how we are to be spreading the Gospel - but you can turn this into various simple questions for them to ponder.

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

As Christians, we are called to be the salt of the earth - but you don’t just dump a truckload of salt on your plate as you’ll make a person throw up. :slight_smile: we need to ask questions and try and raise a persons curiosity so they want to come back for a little bit more.

I’m still pondering the paragraph written above by @andrea.l and trying to understand how we might ask questions that are ‘extremely hard, if not impossible, to push away, because it comes from within a person’ :slight_smile:

also, in relation to your thought of ‘where else will we turn to’: I’m reminded of the passage in John chapter 6 where Jesus had been teaching people and some walked away. Jesus asked his direct disciples ‘Will you also go away’? - Peter responded “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

for those interested in the results of the conversation (it was on facebook) I simply ‘liked’ both gentlemen 2 and 3 comments they had made to hopefully get their attention with a facebook notification, and responded to ‘Gentleman 2’.

What does “living life well” mean for you? And for others? How to reconcile if the two collides?

How you decide what is the right and the wrong way to pass on your genes to the next generation? Is this just physical or is there something more?

In the animal kingdom, males go and kill off the cubs of other males that are not their own in order to make the females ready to be pregnant again - and so to propagate their genes.

Why is this wrong for humans to do?

There wasn’t any further replies so I just rest in the fact I did my best, and leave the results with God.

(Josh) #8

One of the books I enjoyed on the subject is written by c.s. Lewis the problem of pain also I found some good insight in the abolition of man when he is restored by the giant called spirit of the age. Until he realized he was being lied to he nearly have up on hope. “Then reason came riding on a white horse.” I can not say that you will be able to answer them to their satisfaction because it seems they are not looking for real answers. Richard Dawkins in his debate with Dr. Lennox first insisted that you can have morals without God until he was pressed on it and admitted without God there is no good and I guess if you are willing to resign yourself to that thought then there is nothing that can be done. As they say you must seek to find

(Matt Western) #9

I’ve not read either of those books from CS Lewis yet. I have read Mere Christianity, and of course the Chronicles of Narnia when younger. :slight_smile:

I think perhaps because I’m more of a practical ‘where the rubber meets the road’ type person, it takes me a lot longer to get into allegories in Christian writing.

I think my next one I’m interested in from CS Lewis is ‘A grief observed’ which I understand is CS Lewis moving through the loss of his wife.

I do think that everyone in their deepest soul, are looking for answers - even the most hardened angry atheist. This is why Ravi (and the team at RZIM) say it’s best when we realise there is also a questioner behind the question. We hopefully can try to reach the questioner. It’s normal human nature to put up a brave front and pretend we have it all figured out (friendships, work associates, even family members).

When life is going well, we are interested in academic and philosophical answers (the intellect and the mind). When pain and suffering hits hard, we want real concrete answers from God (the emotions and the soul) - and he promises to be with us in the midst of the suffering, even though like Job we probably won’t get all the answers until heaven.

When an atheist or Christian or anyone else suffers individually, perhaps it’s God allowing or even trying to gently get an individuals attention. It’s scary but we learn the most through the hard times in life, and we need to remember to also focus on Jesus when the times of life are good. :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

(Josh) #10

Most books by c.s. Lewis are more literal then allegory I find him to be both well spoken and intelligent. He is clear and very logical I do enjoy his fictions but when it comes to apologetics I am in the same boat as you

(Matt Western) #11

Thanks heaps. :slight_smile: I’ll have to check out the two CS Lewis books you mention. Hardest thing is deciding what to read next. :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

(Andrea L) #12

Hi @Joshgould and @matthew.western,
I am really enjoying reading your conversation :slight_smile: it’s quite thought provoking (I mean it in a good way).

Oh yes, I can testify to that… God tried to get my attention once. Twice. And I still didn’t listen. Then He had to push me really hard to finally get my attention. Whatever I had to go through I am still thankful to God, that He did kept reaching out to me.

I have been wondering for a while now that even if legions of angels had come to save Jesus from the death on the cross - as many were mocking Him with that - those people still wouldn’t have believed in Him. Because - I think - they made up their minds that they do not want to believe, so whatever Jesus had done nothing would have been satisfying, enough for those people to change their minds.
And I especially liked this “As Christians, we are called to be the salt of the earth - but you don’t just dump a truckload of salt on your plate as you’ll make a person throw up. :slight_smile:” - it talked to me, down to the core. It was what I exactly needed to hear. Thanks very much ! (It’s like God was talking to me through you, @matthew.western)

(Josh) #13

I could not be happier that our questions helped you in your path I hope and pray that God continues to travel himself to you. Also your point that there is no convincing one who does not want to believe. I was watching a debate and I wish I could remember who it was but the witnesses of the resection were brought into question and the man said it was hallucination and the man arguing for Christ basically said no there is no way the different account of 500 people would have the same testimony and the man arguing against God the only way I would believe in a miracle is if a hundred for blue Man came down from the sky pointed right at me and said I am God. The Christian said you would call that a delusion the atheist said your likely right