The Existential Argument is an argument that I developed, and it focuses on how the atheist must borrow from the Christian worldview in order live their own lives.
Before I explain the Existential Argument against Atheism, we should be clear on the differences between The Transcendental Argument and The Existential Argument. The Transcendental Argument for God mainly has an emphasis on epistemology and the laws of logic. The Transcendental Argument proves God through the ‘impossibility of the contrary.’ The Existential Argument is a bit different. It focuses on two aspects of a worldview. These two aspects are meaning(anthropology) and morality(axiology). The argument shows the atheist that they have to borrow from the presuppositions and implications of the Christian worldview in order to live a coherent lifestyle. The Existential Argument is a deductive argument that falsifies the atheist worldview by demonstrating that it is a delusion. I have four sub arguments that I will use to support this argument as well, but I will be sharing each individual argument in separate articles. One of them, the Epistemological Argument against Atheism has already been shared.
Because of the way this article will be written, I am going to start out by presenting the premises of the Existential Argument against Atheism:
1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.
2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.
3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.
4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.
5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.
Conclusion: Therefore, atheism cannot be true.
How to Resolve the Conflict of Worldviews
Since science alone can not test the validity of worldviews, we must use other methods to test claims in which science itself cannot test. You might ask, how can we tell how a worldview is valid or invalid? The mark of something that isn’t true is inconsistency. What we must do is take all of the presuppositions of a worldview into account, and follow those presuppositions to their logical conclusions. If any of these presuppositions are shown to be internally inconsistent while following them to their ultimate conclusion, then that worldview is false.
The Starting Points of Each Worldview
In order to understand the differences between the Christian and atheist worldviews, we must take into account their inevitable starting points.
The Starting Points for Christianity
1. Axiology-There are moral values that have prescriptive value. That is to say, there are things we are morally obligated to do or not do.
2. Metaphysics- Nature exists, but there are also things that exist beyond nature.
3. Epistemology-In the Christian worldview, God is omniscient. Thus, knowledge must be possible, for if an all knowing being exists, then it is necessary that knowledge also be possible, or else the being could not really be all knowing. You can’t have a description of reality where knowledge isn’t possible and still have an omniscient being.
4. Teleology- The universe and its inhabitants have a purpose in life.
5. Theology-God exists.
6. Anthropology-All individuals have purpose in life.
7. Cosmology-God created the universe.
The Starting Points for Atheism
1. Axiology-There can be no objective moral values in atheism, they must be relative to each individual.
2. Metaphysics- Nature is all that can exist.
3. Epistemology-Nothing can ultimately be known because we don’t have perfect knowledge.
4. Teleology- There is no purpose for humanity.
5. Theology- God does not exist.
6. Anthropology- There is no ultimate purpose for the universe.
7. Cosmology-Evolution is the only game in town for atheism.
Human Experience and Evaluating Worldviews
As we covered earlier in the article. The way to resolve the conflict of worldviews is to take the presuppositions of each worldview and follow them to their logical implications and conclusions. We now will have a look at some of the tenets of the atheist worldview and compare them to human experience.
In an atheist worldview, there is no basis for any moral values that are prescriptive on a moral basis. That is to say, in an atheist worldview, there is no standard to give a moral evaluation of ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Atheists will often claim that moral values can be evaluated, but they tend to do so on a more pragmatic basis. However, we know that pragmatism and morality are not identical. This is because it is sometimes pragmatic to do something that is considered to be immoral.
Despite the implications of atheism on morality, such as a lack of standard for determining what is right or wrong, the atheist will live their lives as if there are things that are morally right and wrong. Since the atheist can not live consistently with their presupposition in regards to morality, it follows that the presupposition in question is a delusion.
Teleology and Anthropology
If atheism is true, it would be impossible to have any ultimate meaning in our lives or an ultimate meaning for the universe. If an atheist claims that there is no ultimate meaning, then any debate or statement is ultimately meaningless.
Even though atheists profess that there is no ultimate meaning in the universe, they will still live out their lives as if their lives have meaning. They might object and say that we can construct our own meaning in life. However, when everything is ultimately meaningless, any assigned subjective meaning would also be meaningless. To say that there can be individual meaning when there is no ultimate meaning is nothing more than an exercise in delusion.
The Absurdity of Life without God
Loren Eisley writes, “Man is the cosmic orphan. He’s the only creature in the universe who asks, ‘Why?’
Other animals have instincts to guide them, but man has learned to ask questions: ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Where am I going?” Ever since the period of Enlightenment there has been a part of humanity that has been trying to shake off ‘the shackles of religion.’ They began trying to answer the questions in life without God. However, the answers that came back were not at all exhilarating, rather, they were dark and terrible: You are nothing more than the unintentional bi-product of matter, plus energy, plus time, plus chance. There is no ultimate reason for your existence, all you face is death.
A French existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, once said, “Several hours or several years make no difference, once you have lost eternity.”The universe also faces a death of its own. The universe is expanding, galaxies and other heavenly bodies are growing farther apart. As the energy dissipates the universe will grow colder, stars will become dark, all matter and will collapse into black holes and there will be no light. There will be no heat, no life, but only the corpses of dead stars and galaxies, ever expanding into the darkness. The entire universe is moving irretrievably to its grave. There is no escape, no hope.
Without God, life is not only depressing, but ultimately absurd. If God didn’t exist, what would we be waiting for? Imagine sitting in an auditorium waiting for an Act for a play to start. The curtains are closed. You wait, wait, and wait. But finally the curtains open but then they immediately close. If God did not exist, the only thing that would await us is our grave. For, if there was no God, no immorality, and the universe is doomed to death as we are then it entails that nothing we do in this life ultimately matters. When everything is nothing more than a bygone memory, when the universe itself dies, becomes lifeless, becomes dark, then it would make no difference whether you were Adolf Hitler or Mother Theresa. Whatever you have done at that point will mean naught.
But the problem becomes worse. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote “All we are left with is the bare, valueless fact of existence.” If there is no God there can be no right or wrong. Moral values are either just an expression of taste, or are just preferences, perhaps only pragmatic actions. One atheist wrote: “To say that something is wrong because it is forbidden by God is perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong, even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable. The concept of moral obligation is unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain, but their meaning is gone.”[ref]
Borrowing from the Christian Worldview
In order for an atheist to live, they must live according to the presuppositions of the Christian worldview. One might ask, “Why the Christian worldview? Aren’t there other worldviews such as a Muslim Worldview that would have presuppositions that are similar to Christianity?” This is a fair question. It is true that there are other types of worldviews that share the same presuppositions as Christianity in regards to prescriptive moral values and purpose in life. Does such a notion negate the Existential Argument against Atheism? Certainly not.
Remember, at the beginning of my article, I stated that the way that the conflict of worldviews should be resolved is to take the presuppositions of that worldview, and follow them to their logical conclusions. Every worldview has a set of presuppositions, but we should not evaluate the validity of a worldview based off of two presuppositions alone. Just because two worldviews have the same presuppositions, does not mean that we should only look at those two presuppositions when determining the validity of a worldview. For instance, both Christianity and Islam believe in a god, but both gods are radically different. In religions, and even philosophical views such as atheism, the authority in which the religion adheres to are found in the theological portion of their worldview. The support for the other six parts of a worldview often come from the theological portion of the worldview that is in question. So, since Islam and Christianity agree that there is purpose in life, and that prescriptive moral values exist, we must then go to the theological portion of each worldview and see if the theological portion of that worldview is internally consistent with the other six presuppositions. In Islam, the theological portion of their worldview are not consistent with any of the other six presuppositions of Islam. This is because according to the Qur’ an, Allah can lie.(S. 3:54) If Allah can lie, then how can a Muslim be sure of the other six presuppositions which are identified as a result of the Qur’ an? Similar epistemological dilemmas, and even cosmological issues can be found in other religions. I won’t be elaborating here, since this article is aimed at atheists. The Christian worldview is the only worldview that is logically consistent when you take all seven presuppositions into account
Answering Possible Objections
When I develop an argument, I try to anticipate some possible objections to the argument so that I can be prepared to give a proper response. However, I recognize that objections will be brought up that I have not considered. I also recognize that some of the objections that will be brought up will be so ridiculous that I would never have imagined that anyone would have brought it up in the first place. Below are a few of the objections that I anticipate will be brought up.
Objection: Atheism is not a worldview, the only consequence of atheism is a “lack of belief in gods.”
Answer: As I stated, we must take the presuppositions of a worldview and follow those presuppositions to their logical implications. In the previous paragraph we discussed why the Christian worldview is the only worldview in which the atheist truly can borrow from to live their lives. We mentioned that, oftentimes, the other six presuppositions are contingent on the theological portion of the worldview in question. Atheists, like Christians, have a theological portion of their worldview; however, their particular presupposition is that there is no god. The notion that no god exists informs the other six presuppositions of their worldview.
Objection: We can demonstrate that atheism only impacts the theological portion of their worldview, because there are atheists with varying beliefs. This means that atheism is not a worldview.
Answer: This objection, like the previous one, is mistaken, but it also carries an inconsistency. If the above objection is a valid objection, then in order to be consistent, the Christian worldview would have to be, by definition, not a worldview either. Certainly, an atheist views Christianity as a worldview. After all, Christians have many different denominations.
It is true that atheists can have differences in the other six presuppositions. For instance, in the realm of epistemology, you can have atheists who are relativists and objectivists. However, the atheist portion of the worldview still has an effect on the other six portions of your worldview. The only presuppositions that are consistent with the theological portion of the atheist worldview are the ones I listed earlier. In order for an atheist to take the position that there is such thing as absolute certainty, meaning in life, or prescriptive moral values, they must adopt internal inconsistencies in their presuppositions that would render their presuppositions unjustifiable when the theological portion of their worldview is taken into account.
Objection: Christians have different presuppositions, so there is no “Christian worldview.” There are just different denominations.
Answer: It is true that there are different denominations in Christianity; however, all of the denominations of Christianity are inherently Christian because they all hold to a set of “basic beliefs.” It is true that Christians have different opinions on issues such as baptism, church government, and other issues, but these issues have no bearing on the presuppositions of the Christian worldview. It is the basic beliefs of Christianity that results in the presuppositions that I listed, not the secondary doctrinal issues in which the atheist might bring up.
In order for an atheist to be able to debate us, they must borrow from our worldview. Our worldview says that there is truth and purpose. These are two notions that the atheist worldview can not coherently support. From the very time that an atheist begins to try to engage us, they end up losing the debate because they had to presuppose ideas that are not kosher with an atheist worldview. The Existential Argument against Atheism takes this further. The atheist must borrow from our worldview to live their own lives. From the very moment they get up in the morning, they have forsaken their own worldview.
1. This section was based heavily off of Chapter Two of “On Guard” by Dr. William Lane Craig.