Friday, February 13, 2015

Life Without the Presence of God is Absurd

Detroit Institute of the Arts

As a young undergraduate philosophy major I was introduced to existentialism. Some philosopher-existentialists are theists (Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers, et. al.), and some are atheists (Sartre, Camus, and others). Existentialism fascinated me, especially the atheistic variety.

Atheistic existentialists told me that if there is no God, then life is "absurd." These thinkers expressed life's absurdity in stories and poems and plays (called "Theatre of the Absurd"). "Absurd" here means: meaningless and pointless (purposeless). On atheism, life has no meaning and no ultimate purpose. Everything we do is, truly and ultimately, pointless. Which is why I can't help but smile when I see some atheists getting evangelistic, trying to persuade theists to "deconvert." How silly, on real atheism, and what a waste of an atheist's time. Because (young atheists pay attention) on atheism life is, as Nietzsche knew, directionless. There's no God calling to us, there's no "path of life," there is no way, and no righteous living. You have far better than things to do in life then striving to convince Christians to join your faith movement, since it's all absurd anyway. (See, e.g., Camus's famous "The Myth of Sisyphus," or Kafka's Die Verwandlung.)

So I was interested, while slow-cooking in Henri Nouwen's The Only Necessary Thing, when Nouwen says that a life without hearing God call to us is "absurd." That is, a Christian who lives disconnected from God lives as pointlessly as does the atheist.

Nouwen writes:

"It is clear that we are usually surrounded by so much inner and outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when God is speaking to us. We have often become deaf, unable to know when God calls us and unable to understand in which direction God calls us. Thus our lives have become absurd. In the word "absurd" we find the Latin word surdus, which means "deaf."" (Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 82)

Life sans the presence of God is, experientially, no different than atheism. (Sounds like deism to me.)