The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Life has more meaning without god

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/11/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,986 times Debate No: 48724
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (40)
Votes (2)




I will argue that without the belief in god, life has more meaning. It's up to my opponent if we will talk about the christian god or about god in general. I would like a serious debate, so if you want to accept, please leave a comment with your opinion on the topic.
meaning = the end, purpose, or significance of something[1]

Round 1: acceptance
Round 2: arguments (no rebuttals)
Round 3: rebuttals(no arguments)
Round 4: additional arguments/rebuttals
Round 5: conclusion



My sincere thanks to my opponent. There seems to be a lot of interest in this one and I certainly feel privileged being chosen to represent the opposition. While the end of the debate is about winning and losing, my ultimate goal here is an exchange of ideas and a constructive dialogue that will leave everyone with something new to think about.

I plan on being as concise and clear as possible which can be difficult with a topic of such tremendous depth, but I would rather appear simple yet clearly understood than sophisticated and misunderstood.

Any arguments referring to God would be "God in general" as you put it. To be clearer, an all knowing, ever present and all loving supreme being that intentionally created the universe. This is still relevant to Christianty, it aimply excludes the concept of the trinity from my arguments. For completeness, any atheistic argument I present would assume an unintentional universe.

Once again my thanks. The floor is yours.
Debate Round No. 1


1) How significant is life?

Gods are strongly connected to religions. Every religion worships one or more gods, and there are no gods without a religion to worship them. So it is safe to say believing in any god means following a certain religion associated with that god. Religions give people what they wish the most: eternal life - every religion in the world guarantees the eternal existence of our souls. Theism means believing in eternal life.
Now, from a theistic perspective, life is a minor portion of our existence. Believing in a god means believing in the eternal existence of our souls, so all theists believe they are going to exist forever, not in their earthly form, but they will continue to exist forever. In this case, life becomes an insignificant portion of your existence, because life ends in under 100 years, but your soul has no end. According to any modern religion, after we die we continue to exist as the same individual[1], only our physical form changes, but everything else stays the same. [2]
So, for a theist, life is just 0.(0)1% of his existence. So, how significant is life when you compare it to eternity? Think how significant is a nanosecond compared to your whole life - that is roughly the significance of life from a theistic perspective.
Now, without a god, everything changes because there is no eternal existence. Of course, you can sometimes have eternal existence without god, like in Buddhism, but their teachings say every single life is different and we are reborn as different individuals, so a life depends slightly on the previous one, but is totally different, so every life is unique. Also, in Buddhism life is a cycle, not a singular event.
Now, from a non-religious point of view, there is no eternity, so our existence is the same as our life, because it starts and ends when our life does. This means life from a non-religious perspective is 100% of our whole existence, thus making life a lot more significant, as it signifies our entire existence as opposed to 0.(0)1% of it.

2) How did we get here?

The simple answer theism gives is : god created us; So our life is the decision of a supreme being. Our life is nothing more than a creation of a greater being.
Atheism means life started from atoms. Without god, life is only possible in very few places compared to the size of the universe. From this point of view, life has no reason to exist, as it wasn't created, but somehow it exists and it is complex. There is no reason for us to exist, yet we do and we are fully aware of our existence. Life is a result of natural processes rather than a creation of a higher being.
So what is more meaningful? Life as the creation of a higher being or life as a result of billions of years of natural processes? Compare a sculpture made by a human with a sculpture that formed after years of erosion. What do you consider more meaningful or significant: a sculpture that was easily created by a human or a sculpture that formed for no reason as a result of a naturally-occurring process ?

3) What is the purpose?

Every religion gives life a different purpose : earn salvation, attain enlightenment etc. This means no matter what you do in life, you have to respect certain rules so you won't suffer for eternity. Theism reduces our life to a single goal or purpose. We can still have our goals, but most of the time we can't focus on them enough because we have a more important goal.
Without god, we decide what the purpose of life is and we can dedicate as much as we want and try to achieve it, without worrying about the "ultimate" goal.



1 - Infinite vs finite:

The theist lives in a universe with a sense of ultimate purpose which results in timeless (eternal) value.
The atheist however lives in a universe where the value he gets is limited by the time he lives which results in a finite value.
There is more meaning to someone with infinite purpose to his existence than that same person who has finite purpose to his existence.

For example: A child (John) at school knows he will receive the reward of a chocolate bar after he finishes the year.
Bob on the other hand will receive not only a chocolate bar but also a bicycle.
Bob has more meaning in his life because his end vision offers more.
It must be noted that this is specific to "meaning/purpose" and not "pleasure". It is quite possible that John will have more immediate gratification at school over Bob. I am only contending that even if John has more pleasure in school, he will still have less purpose.

2 - The illusion of meaning.

In an unintentional universe, there is no meaning ultimately.
Ex: If I were to look at a sunrise, I could assert it as beautiful. However, the sunrise is only beautiful based on my own perception. That perception is the result of chemicals in the brain responding to the scene which causes the body to feels a sense of pleasure (rather than pain).
Ultimately the sunrise is not beautiful, it's neutral. It is simply my perception of it that defines it as beautiful. Ultimately, the sunrise is simply a cosmological phenomena. It has no inherent value. Only the value we impress upon it.

In an unintentional universe, the same argument applies to meaning. Everything ultimately has no inherent meaning attached to it. Everything is simply a physical result of a physical result of a physical result, etc... (physical phenomena). All meaning attached to it is the creation of mans mind.

The theist accepts that ultimate meaning is inherent in creation.
The atheist must accept that ultimate meaning is not inherent and any meaning is simply our own perceptions . Since we are able to cognize beyond our perceptions, the atheist must accept that all meaning is an illusion he surrenders to.

For example: if you place a $200 price tag on a $1 bill, it is possible that people might buy it for $200. However it's ultimate value is really $1, it is simply artificially valued at $200.
In fact we do this every day. Take a real $100 bill and ask yourself what it's value really is. Ultimately, it is almost worthless being simply a piece of paper and ink However through an accepted artificial principle we all value it as $100.

Therefore the theist has a more meaningful life, since the atheist must resolve himself to the fact that meaning is simply his own creation.
Debate Round No. 2


1) Existence doesn't mean life. Theism claims you continue to exist after you die. Death means the end of life, so existence after death is not part of life, since it starts when life ends.
life = the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms...[1]
Theism doesn't mean you will live forever, it means you will exist forever. For both theists and atheists, life is finite and has a finite purpose. Anything that happens or doesn't happen after death is not part of life, and doesn't influence in any way the meaning or purpose of life.

2) If we assume an unintentional universe where there is no supreme deity then there is no dictated purpose. Just like money doesn't have an actual value, but a fake one. Nothing has an actual value. Silver and gold are nothing more than metals and their value is fake too. Life without god would have no actual value, but even with god we would still live in a universe where nothing has an actual value. Just like a worthless piece of paper can be used to buy anything, a life without a clear purpose can still be meaningful. If there is no purpose at all, then any purpose we come up with will be meaningful and significant, because there is no ultimate purpose to compare it to. God means there is a objective purpose of life, but without it there is no strict objective purpose, so any purpose we come up with can't be less meaningful than the theist purpose, since that wouldn't exist in this scenario.



1) How significant is life?

Your argument neglects to consider one crucial point which rebuts it: Every action the theist takes in his 0.01% existence (to use your term) impacts on how he will continue to exist for eternity. Therefore to the theist each action he takes has infinite significance. As such I contend that the theists 0.01% of existence is still more purposeful than the atheists 100% of existence.

2) How did we get here?

"So what is more meaningful? Life as the creation of a higher being or life as a result of billions of years of natural processes?"

Life as the creation of a higher being has instilled within it an ultimate purpose. Natural forming life has only the capacity for our own conception of meaning. I contend that life is more meaningful with actual purpose than conceived purpose, since conceived purpose is ultimately built on an illusionary foundation by virtue of the fact that we can recognize it is our own creation.

"What do you consider more meaningful or significant: a sculpture that was easily created by a human or a sculpture that formed for no reason as a result of a naturally-occurring process ?"

The answer I would give is both are equally insignificant. I believe you are mistaking "complexity" and/or "wondrous" for "significance". I could certainly concede that the sculpture made over millenia by natural process is more complex or more "awe-inspiring" (which is just our psychology recognizing the complexity), but one is most certainly not more purposeful or meaningful over the other. Neither of these sculptures are related to purpose.They are simply byproducts, one being more complex and one less. Nothing more.

3) What is the purpose?

(Note: I've already contended that essentially the only way there can be meaning is from a theistic view, the atheistic view being an illusion of meaning, however for the sake of this specific argument, we will assume the atheist man made meaning as substantial.)

The first problem I'm running into here is saying that goals are the same as purpose. I contend that there is a distinction between the two. For example it is possible to have meaningless goals. Practical examples could be:

-If someone decided to dedicate their lives to save an animal that was already extinct, we could quite easily contend that their goal was meaningless.

-I've heard of a form of torture where the victim was told to keep turning a heavy lever that extended beyond a wall. They were told it acted as a pump to supply water for the village on the other side. After years, even decades of dedicating their lives to turning this heavy device, they would then be shown the other side of the wall which was not connected to anything. The victim would breakdown at the realization that their years with a sense of purpose were reduced to nothing.

The goal is the achievement you aim towards[1]. The meaning or purpose is the result beyond the achievement.
If you are arguing that an atheist has more goals to which he can apply, I could concede that point, since yes most religions do have restrictions. However I don't see you as making the case that the atheist has more purpose for these goals.
This goes back to the initial argument I made that a goal resultant in infinite purpose is more meaningful than a goal resultant in finite purpose. Since this round is strictly for rebuttals, I will further address my argument in the next round.

Debate Round No. 3


1) It's true every action impacts his eternal existence. So, any theist has to be very careful and respect certain rules his entire life. Doesn't that in a way affect the meaning of his life? His whole life, a theist must please a god he worships, live by the rules of that god and so on. The whole life of a theist is dictated by a supreme being, while an atheist is free to do anything he wants. I'm not talking about murder or any illegal action, I'm talking about sex before marriage, fasting etc. Every religion has strict rules, and a theist must obey them (or he will suffer for eternity), meaning his life is controlled by a deity. A theist doesn't live his life the way he wants to, he lives his life they way god wants to.

2) Life is also a byproduct. We just give it more significance, but it's nothing more.
If god exists, the life of a single individual is a part of god's infinite creation and it isn't significant at all, because a life is nothing compare to the entire universe, created by the same god
If god doesn't exist, the life of a single individual is the result of billions of years on changes than allowed him to exist. It still doesn't mean anything compare to the universe. Life is a byproduct, either a byproduct of god's creation, or a byproduct of the universe.

From an objective perspective, life is insignificant both ways, but looking at it subjectively, for an atheist life is more significant, because he wasn't created and he doesn't have to live a certain way. An atheist is aware his existence is limited, he knows his existence is insignificant and understands it's up to his to give his life meaning and purpose.

3)purpose = the reason why something is done[1]

Theists have a very clear purpose : they respect certain rules in order to be allowed to stay in paradise after they die. A theist has a single purpose for his life. An atheist is not limited by that. He can live his life however he wants and can decide the purpose of his life on his own. His purpose of life could be visiting every single country in the world. His existence is limited and it's up to him to decide what he wants to do and why he wants to do it. Just because a theist's existence is longer than the atheist's, it doesn't mean it has more meaning.



2) "If god exists, the life of a single individual is a part of god's infinite creation and it isn't significant at all, because a life is nothing compare to the entire universe, created by the same god ... It still doesn't mean anything compare to the universe."

This assertion doesn't take into account a fundamental point of theism. Since an all loving God created the universe as a means to paradise (in one way or another), the universe therefore was created entirely for humans (creatures with free will). As such human life being the means to this sole purpose is therefore the ultimate/only significance in the universe.
As a result your next statement...
Life is a byproduct, either a byproduct of god's creation, or a byproduct of the universe. From an objective perspective, life is insignificant both ways..."
... that life is objectively insignificant in theism is simply incorrect. With God, the universe was created with a purpose in mind. Therefore by definition it has objective meaning from a theistic perspective.

1 & 3) I'll be addressing both of these points you made jointly since they are closely related. Key points:

1) "It's true every action impacts his eternal existence. So, any theist has to be very careful and respect certain rules his entire life. Doesn't that in a way affect the meaning of his life?.."

3) "A theist has a single purpose for his life. An atheist is not limited by that. He can live his life however he wants and can decide the purpose of his life on his own..."

What point 3 does not mention is the human need for fulfillment being the catalyst for the purposes he chooses. I will elaborate on this point later.

To atheists life has no objective purpose. With the human need for a sense of fulfillment, the atheist then surrogates an objective purpose with his own subjective purposes. Theists on the other hand have an objective purpose. Subjective goals are more limited in quantity.

The problem with this argument is since it's based on the individuals fulfillment from those purposes, then it depends on the psychology of that individual.

The question from this argument is not really "Is life more meaningful without God?" Rather it is: "Which individual has more fulfillment? The atheist without his objective reality but with his subjective goals. Or the theist with his fewer subjective goals but with his objective reality?"

Since each individual is subjective, then it demands a subjective answer. Any subjective answer is obviously objectively inconclusive.

In other words the only subjective answer one can arrive at is: Some people may find viewing life with objective purpose as more fulfilling, others may find viewing life with subjective purposes as more fulfilling.

The debate topic however being asked for a conclusion should not include an argument that is absolutely subjective. However it's still potentially a fair question for each individual. So let's examine the full implications of it, to make an informed decision.

Here are a few practical examples of fulfillment and sacrifice:

A man may choose to get married forfeiting the option to have multiple sexual partners. In this case he is choosing the benefits associated with marriage with one woman, over the benefits without marriage and having multiple women. In a similar way to theism he is more limited here, but those sacrifices are worth less to him than the marriage.

-Deciding to become a doctor.
One spends 7 years studying under grueling conditions, then will have to intern under worse conditions for another 3 years. Tuition costs are high, intern pay is low. He must restrict himself to very little social activity and work long hours for his ultimate goal. Whilst he makes tremendous sacrifices in many areas of his life, his loftier goal makes up for it and makes these sacrifices worth it. In this way the fulfillment of believing he will save lives at a later date, gives him the fulfillment he needs while making those sacrifices.

Similarly, the theist gets his fulfillment from knowing he is fulfilling an objective purpose in spite of the hardships and restrictions.

Of course since it's subjective, one might feel more fulfilled having multiple women over a marriage. Another person may feel more fulfillment being a pornographic actor over being a doctor. And one person might feel more fulfilled being a celibate, poor, priest than a rich, promiscuous, rock star. And the rock star would gawk at the idea.

But the crux of the decision is when we take a step back to look at meaning in a bigger picture regarding our own psychology which brings us back to "significance" as opposed to "fulfillment":
We can recognize that all the purposes we are pusuing is simply as a result of an inner need to be fullfilled. This need to an atheist is simply a physical byproduct of his evolution. While wondrous It has no significance and he can recognize it as not having significance. It's just a beast that needs to be fed.

The theists need however is a means to an objective ends. Therefore this need has significance to the theist.

When taking this into account, the theists reality has significance over the atheists insignificant reality.*

*Whilst this understanding of significance doesn't answer the question of which individual has more fulfillment (feeds his beast more) which is subjective, it does answer the question as to which life has more significance which is objective.
Debate Round No. 4


So, to sum up my arguments:
If there is no god, there is no objective purpose. Without an objective purpose, any subjective purpose would have the same significance, just like without objective morality, the moral standards of a society, even if subjective, would still be significant. Furthermore, life is more significant without god because there is no eternal existence and life is equal to out existence.

I would like to thank my opponent for a wonderful debate. I enjoyed reading your arguments and debating this.


To conclude my arguments can be finalized as follows:

Without an objectively meaningful reality the atheist uses his own goals to create a sense of meaning. These goals have to stand up against the theists reality which yields objective significance. The theists objective significance has infinite value. The atheists subjective significance cannot have infinite value.

The atheist further has to contend with the fact that he has to ignore the objective reality that life is meaningless. Some may have no problem doing that. Others may. That decision is up to each individual.

I would like to thank my opponent for an outstanding debate. As a result of it, I am able to better understand and articulate both positions on the matter. That is what a successful debate is all about and I hope you have found it as productive as I have.
Debate Round No. 5
40 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
@ Amay: Agnostics: Believe god exists, but is out of human understanding.
If you don't care if a God exists or not, you are an Atheist.
Posted by Lemonfiz 2 years ago
While Money may not have actual value that doesn't mean nothing has actual value. I would say everything has value except money cause it is a medium and a measurement of value. In the words of Michael Scott "Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say 'Hey man, I love you this many dollars worth.'" While his quote we can say is wrong about presents his quote is right about money. If I wanna buy an Ipod I'm going to compare how much I actually value that Ipod and what I'm giving up to get that Ipod and since value is relative to the person the creation of currency acts as a measuring stick. I value this Ipod $200 worth because with $200 I could also get item A and I value the Ipod more than I value Item A.
Posted by SeekinTruth 2 years ago
Pro is getting slaughtered out there!
Posted by amay 2 years ago
Mmm, I've heard myself described as agnostic, which seems to fit reasonably well, except that I've always understood agnostics to be people who don't know whether God exists, and therefore don't care.

Now I'm slightly different I think; I do believe that God exists. I don't understand him, and I can't possibly hope to answer all the questions surrounding him, but I'm confident that there is something there. I certainly believe that God is beyond human understanding, so I suppose I identify with agnosticism there... and the last bit, about believeing that he is not worthy of worship, is an interesting question. I suppose my answer would be yes, I do consider him worthy of worship, but what form said worship takes is another question entirely - to my mind, living one's life in the way that God wants us to, in the best way that we can, is worship in itself.

To take a quote from Doctor Who - "You have to be the best that you can be".

I'm not sure I like the term "implicit atheism" much though. I wouldn't say that a baby is implicitly atheist, just because he lacks the ability to actively believe. A baby who lacks the ability to believe can't really be considered anything, since it is too early for him to have any concept of atheism or theism. But if anything, I might call him, not implicitly theistic, but implicitly believing, since while he cannot have any concept of God as in traditional theism, he can have the same concept of God, the same basic awareness of a higher being, that a child can, or indeed an adult.
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
Implicit Atheism includes: Babies, Toddlers, cats, dogs, frogs, etc.
But not Rocks.

The term Atheism or "Without God" only includes conscious beings.
Non-Conscious beings can have no beliefs nor disbelief, thus cannot be Atheist.

Only Creationists try to include pet rocks as Implicit Atheists to be stupidly abrasive and thus demonstrate their complete ignorance of systems of thought.
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
@ Yaron: your definitions are not completely correct either.
Agnosticism is awareness of God but that god is out of reach of human knowledge.
Thus Agnostic Atheism, are those who simply are Agnostic, as they don't care if god exists or not.

The correct terms for those with absolutely no concept of God(s), thus no chance of belief, are termed soft or weak atheism, but the more accurate term now used is Implicit Atheism.
The other forms of Atheism where there is knowledge, but either disbelief or complete rejection is Explicit Atheism.
Just look up "Implicit Atheism" in your search engines.
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
@ Amay: By your description, you are Agnostic.
Agnostics are people who are aware of the concept of God and believe they possibly exist, but believe that the God is beyond human knowledge, so are not worth the effort of worship.

Which is pretty much the gist I gained from your comment.
Posted by Yarron 2 years ago
Both are right and both are wrong. There is simply a misunderstanding here.
You have to choose which definition of "atheist" each means.

One definition is "not believing in G-d". Or to make it clearer "believing there is no G-d".
The other definition is "lacking belief in G-d."
The former is called "gnostic atheism" (Also known as strong atheism).
The latter is called "agnostic atheism" (Also knows as weak atheism).

A baby, a rock, and a plant could be called "agnostic atheists (weak atheists)", because they lack belief in G-d simply as a result of not having the ability to believe.

However a baby, a rock and a plant could not be called "gnostic/strong atheists" since to be a gnostic/strong atheist you need the ability to believe.
Since babies, rocks and plants don't have that ability they cannot be gnostic/strong atheists.

For completeness a gnostic/strong atheist is also an agnostic/weak atheist simultaneously. Since he both believes there is no G-d and lacks a belief in G-d.

So basically it boils down to people arguing about 2 different understandings of the same thing. I understand it is confusing so here is another example:

In science, humans are classed as animals. However generally speaking everywhere else humans are not classed as animals. That's why an organization like PETA or the SPCA are obviously not organizations designed to help humans, since they use the general definition and not the scientific one.

So this argument is really not an argument. Just two different understandings of the same word.
Posted by amay 2 years ago

No, I wasn't an atheist. As I understand it, an atheist is someone who does not believe in the existence of a God or gods. I knew the word God, and recognised, and still do recognise, the presence of God in everything around me; of course I didn't think of God as some big skydaddy - I never have, and still don't, but I never lost the belief that there was something, some greater intelligence, behind our working world. I've never particularly worried about whether I'm keeping God happy - it has always seemed to me that if I live my life in the best way that I know how, then I have nothing to fear. Possibly, the fact that I don't consider God to be a skydaddy, as you call it, means that I'm not a traditional theist, but I've certainly never been atheist.
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
Yfes M8posces: God is an added complication that is unnecessary, civilizations exist without knowledge of God, some have thrived for centuries.
@ Amay, though when you went to church as a toddler, you still had no idea nor concept of what God was meant to be, so you were still an Atheist.
It's only when you had some understanding that God was supposed to be some big skydaddy that you started moving to Theism.
Having knowledge of the word God, but no concept of what it really means is also Atheism.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Sagey 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro is more convincing as without God we see our lives as having a lot of meaning, where with God, the meaning is already presumed, thus less meaningful. Con's appeal to having infinity is presumptuous and seems to lessen the meaning or our current life, living for an infinity that may not occur is lessening the significance of this current life.
Vote Placed by Geogeer 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I believe that Con's arguments about significance of actions was more effective. My summation of it is that if there is a God there is eternal meaning to our actions. If not, the action ultimately mean nothing. Well debated by both parties.