Two days ago, I was asked by an atheist friend of mine the question "what is your religion worth?". This question came as a response to me having asked him beforehand what his atheism was worth.
It is actually a very good question if one thinks about it. What is any philosophy worth? There are so many ideas, worldviews, religions out there, but we do not accept or even follow all of them.
One of the wisest statements on this issue I found is the following by G.K. Chesterton:
"What matters about a religion is not whether it can work marvels like any ragged Indian conjurer, but whether it has a true philosophy of the Universe."
A true philosophy about the Universe is what he uses to judge the value or worth of a religion.
Now what is a true philosophy about the Universe? It is a true philosophy about life.
My religion offers a philosophy about the Universe revealing a purpose to being. With purpose comes meaning. Meaning -in turn - is quite essential for life. This may seem like a rather trivial question, but "what do you live for" is actually a very good one. We have to have a basis from which we operate in our life, so that there is a certain amount of stability and thence we can think out the different directions we want to follow. Without such a basis, we are simply lost.
To provide a short example, Boris Becker - after winning a competition - was asked what he was thinking about. His answer was quite remarkable considering his success at a young age: "I am trying to figure out why I shouldn't commit suicide".
Without knowing what one lives for, one does not really have a reason to live.
And in terms of purpose, I hold the view that only an eternal purpose gives true meaning to life. There will be people who say that they give their lives the purpose they need. They confuse the general purpose of their being with the temporal goals they set for their lives. That this philosophy is wrong is evident in the experience of those who have almost everything. An example would be a Chinese billionaire who one night talked to his wife saying: "I have everything, still I feel empty inside." Temporal goals may be achieved, what then if one manages to achieve all the temporal goals one has set for himself? Is one's life then made void of a purpose? Is life then not worth living anymore?
There is then a need for a transcendental purpose, an eternal purpose, which is not dependent upon temporal matters. Only with such a transcendental, eternal purpose can we find true meaning in life: meaning which does not depend upon our successes or failures in life.
Atheism as such offers no purpose. It is a worldview of a universal negative. It offers no positive, but merely exists as a negation of theism. I ask myself how this can even be used as a basis for life: it cannnot. Atheists - when not all too bothered by their sad attempts to argue against religion - try to figure out philosophies that would give their existence a meaning (without - of course - pointing to any type of transcendental purpose). Some even say "the purpose of life is to be alive". It's is like saying that the purpose of a hammer is to be a hammer - not to be used as a tool, but to simply be what it is - without really giving a reason as to why there even is or should be a hammer. Such thinking is obviously absurd and a sad attempt to offer an alternative to what my religion intrinsically has.
That being alive alone cannot be the purpose is actually quite evident. For if it indeed were the purpose, then why are we not content with simply being alive? Why do we seek answers to the question "why"? Why do we seek meaning in life?
There was a rather brutal experiment with babies in the past wherein a number of babies were given all things necessary to sustain their vital functions: food, drink, warmth, etc.. What they were not given was any type of affection. The babies all died. Isn't it odd that we learn from the very basic stage of human development that it is impossible for us to live without love?
The Bible teaches in Luke 4:4: "Man liveth not by bread alone"
And this is where my Religion steps in. It tells me that the reason and purpose is love. We are made by God out of love to be loved and to love eternally. And God is love (1 John 4:8). Wherefore I live my life knowing that it has true meaning since it has an eternal, transcendental purpose.
This Christian Religion offers a philosophy about the Universe which gives peace to those who accept it. As it is said: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
One may still disagree with certain points of Christianity. However, I would ask everyone who reads this with an open mind to actually honestly examine himself and ask himself the question about the source of true, i.e. lasting, happiness in one's life. The only answer I can come up with is love - which in turn leads right back to the unique philosophy offered by Christianity.
So what is my Religion worth? It is worth living and dying for.
What is your atheism worth?