The simple answer to, “why bother?”

LECRAELecrae Moore is a “popular Christian rapper”. Okay, whatever. I’m not a fan of rap.  But apparently this edgy, urban, unsmiling gentleman has offered a “simple question to atheists.

“If there’s no purpose, if there’s no creator and … no rhyme or reason to the life that (atheists) are living, then why are (they) not acting consistent with that thought?

In this interview on “TheBlaze”, (Glenn Beck’s online conservative magazine) Mr. Moore is asking why atheists and other non-believers act as if they have purpose in their lives, since, according to Moore, purpose comes from God.

This is the “simple question”?  This is the “Great Question” that he’s created?  It’s not very original.  Other religious people have asked similar things.

So what does it mean to have “purpose” in life?

Before we answer this, we should ask why this question is important.  Because something else is actually going on here.

“What is my purpose in life?  Why am I here?  Does my life have meaning or purpose or value to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Restaurant at the End of the Universe

These are the questions asked by a person in the midst of an existential crisis.  This happens when we realize that not only are we going to die, but so is everything else we know.  The Earth itself will be boiled away as the Sun expands, and the Sun in turn will eventually fade into a cold, black lump.

Existential despair is very real, and it can happen for many reasons.  Depression, a dramatic change in world view, or a new sense of mortality are some of the things that trigger this.

A person in the grips of such despair might ask themselves, “What use is art, culture, love, or anything else if everything is eventually going to go away?”

There are two possible ways to get through an existential crisis.  One way is to recognize that this is something real, and to use several techniques to process these feelings and come to grips with them.  This can be somewhat difficult to do, and people who do this will probably have to continue doing it as these feelings re-arise.

The other way to overcome an existential crisis is to pretend that you will have eternal life in an infinite, and meaningful, universe.  Frankly, this is a simple and easy method to overcome this angst, and you can easily reapply it every time you have doubts.  Of course, it does require some faith that a meaningful eternity actually exists, which is unfortunate for those of us for which “faith” is insufficient for belief.

According to this article, when Moore was young he, “realized he was essentially an atheist”.  He didn’t think about Christianity, and he idolized the “gangster” on the corner.  In saying this he is identified as an implicit atheist, which puts his atheism in the same boat with Kirk Cameron’s atheism.

I’ll make a prediction here about Moore, as he speaks more about his Christianity his stories about his previous life will grow in the retelling.  I predict that his previous atheism will become more pronounced, more “devout”.

So what’s the answer?  Why do atheists continue to find meaning in their lives.  Why do we act like something, anything, matters?

I’ll tell you why.

Because what we do matters – right now.

If we love, if we are kind, or generous, or if we are merely jerks to our fellow humans, it matters because it affects our quality of life – from both the giver and the receiver – right now.

If I kiss my wife, if I eat a cookie, if I give to charity, if I receive help – these things all affect me right now.  And on the day that I die, none of these things will be undone.

When the universe grinds to a halt, that kiss, that kindness will have still happened, at the time and place where it happened.  It cannot be taken away.

Historians may remember it poorly and write it down wrong, history books may forget, but the event itself still happened, and it mattered when it happened.  It will always have mattered when it happened.  No philosophy or theology can take that away.

And if it always matters when it happens, then it is up to you and I to make each “now”, matter.

This is why we live as if we have a purpose.  Because we do.  Because we all matter to each other, right now – and not in some merely hypothetical future.