In a comment on my latest post at Evangelical Realism, advenioadveritas writes,
It also appears that in your zeal to dismantle Craig’s argument you fail to provide any meaning to life in place of the Christian one he is arguing for. The Dostoevsky quote is especially apt for Craig’s argument because it recognizes the ultimate end point of life without some reason for it. Contrary to your strong belief you cannot arrive at any other logic conclusion to the meaning or life morality other than meaningless nihilism without some truth that is never changing. Which I’m guessing doesn’t fit in your worldview, I could wrong about this though.
I’ll admit I’m not entirely clear on what this person is trying to say, but it sounds like he’s saying that our only two choices are faith in God or meaningless nihilism. And that’s clearly wrong.
The problem I see is that people too often tend to think of things like meaning and purpose in some kind of universal/ultimate sense, as though meaning and purpose aren’t real unless they are in some way transcendent and infinite and sublime. But that’s a romanticized and unrealistic view of meaning and purpose, which are better understood as more “local” phenomena.
Let me give a couple illustrations of what I mean. Imagine growing up on what you think is a flat earth. The sky is up, the earth is down, and that’s just the way it is. “Up” is a universal truth, and so is “down,” and up and down are the same for everyone everywhere.
Then you find out that the earth is actually round. “Up” relative to where you are isn’t quite the same direction as “up” relative to someone a few hundred miles away. In fact, someone on the other side of the planet has an “up” that’s the same direction as your “down” and vice versa.
Does this mean there is no up and no down? Of course not. There is no universal up or down, but that’s because up and down are local phenomena. If you want to know whether something is up or down, you must first determine “up or down relative to where?”
Of course, if you blast off into outer space, then there is indeed no up or down, except by arbitrary convention. In that case, though, a better analogy would be “the way home.” If you blast off towards Mars and I blast off towards Jupiter and someone else blasts off towards the sun, the way home is going to be a different direction for each of us, but we’ll each have a direction that points back home.
There does not need to be some universal, absolute, authoritative direction that is The Official Way Home in order for each of us to have a true, valid direction towards home. Even if we meet some friendly alien race, and I’m standing side-by-side with the alien, and his way home is completely different from mine, those are not mere arbitrary conventions, they are objectively real and valid directions that can legitimately be called “the way home” for each of us.
The point I want to make is that some people think that if we define meaning and purpose in local terms, relative to the person finding them, that somehow we’re talking about a meaning and a purpose that are not real—that because they exist relative to the individual experiencing them, that means they’re subjective, imaginary, arbitrary and meaningless. But that’s not the case. There does not need to be a universal, one-size-fits-all meaning and/or purpose to life in order for my life to have meaning and purpose. Meaning and purpose are inherently local phenomena, like “up” and “down” and “the way back home.” And that’s all we really need.