But apparently many atheists and non-religious people have a hunger for meaning and a sense of moral rectitude that their worldview cannot satisfy. Sure, they are free to invent their own meaning and morality, but then they should be honest and admit that their meaning and morality has no advantage over the meaning or morality religious people put forward —or for that matter, it has no advantage over the meaning and purpose evil people invent. Their self-created meanings are every bit as much “fairy stories” as the religious ones they like to lampoon.
Atheists often snidely dismiss religion as nothing but a fairy tale. Allegedly, religion is a self-created mythical crutch to comfort people who are unwilling to face the stark realities of the universe. As one famous atheist put it, religion “is the opiate of the people.” By this Karl Marx meant religion is a tool to anesthetize the masses so they can be oppressed.
Atheists portray themselves as arch-rationalists who embrace reality without flinching. As I explain in my recent book, “The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life,” many prominent atheist thinkers, such as Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, have insisted that because there is no God, there is also no cosmic purpose, no objective morality, and no transcendent meaning to life. The atheistic Duke University philosophy professor Alex Rosenberg dismissed meaning and morality as an illusion in a 2003 article, “Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea: Evolution and the Meaninglessness of Life.”
But then many of them flinch. Just a few weeks ago the online magazine Real Clear Science announced that famous Christian pastor Rick Warren and Christian scholar William Lane Craig were mistaken to claim that without God, life has no meaning. This article claimed that a new empirical study verified that atheists do find meaning in life. The subtext seems to be: See? Atheism isn’t so bad after all.
This is not an isolated phenomenon. The prominent atheistic evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne has also expressed dismay that anyone would dare suggest that atheists don’t have any meaning in their lives. But if you dig deeper—for example, by actually reading the empirical study—you find that atheists who insist that non-religious people can find meaning in life have changed the meaning of the word “meaning.”