“What is the point of being born if we are just going to die?” An 18 year old biology student asked this question on the internet.* Is it a good question or a stupid one? Is there a satisfactory answer?
Throughout history Mankind seems to have turned to religion when seeking an answer to this and similar questions, but no longer. Life is now explained in completely material terms, which means essentially that we exist without any purpose at all. One can see why the same student added, “I personally just want to know why we are here? Just to die? I see no point in this.”
Our culture has embraced the view that life on earth is nothing more than a chance event, a highly improbable accident. One can see why many now believe that life is not worth preserving, whether that is the life of the unborn or the old and infirm. Vociferous atheists assure us we did well to discard religion – but has anything worthwhile replaced it? It seems that life no longer has any meaning beyond the pleasure of the moment.
Perhaps the situation is not as simple as this. Perhaps life does have more meaning than the contempt for the unborn and the vulnerable in our society currently suggests. For when we hear about incidents of mass suffering, we still respond emotionally. The majority reaction is that lives should not be wasted. Few will dare to say “What does it matter?” Most will show some kind of concern.
But if you and I are nothing more than a collection of chemicals, where does this sense of worth come from? Are we playing an emotional trick on ourselves? Are we just imagining that relationships between human beings are worth something when they are nothing more than a link in a biological chain? Or are our feelings of compassion, our desire for companionship, even our anger all indicators that we are more than a spectacular collection of molecules?
Along with the belief in a solely material world has come a focus on living for the moment, for personal pleasure. Listen to those adverts encouraging young and old alike to treat themselves to that special holiday – “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!” is the underlying message. If however death is not the end, how will those who have lived by this rule fare in what follows? And for that matter how do they fare in the here and now?
Nothing wrong with enjoying one’s holidays of course, but we seem to have forgotten the origins of the word “holiday”. Festivals from a pre-Christian cycle were adopted by the church as holy days, to serve as regular reminders of significant events in the life of Jesus Christ. This coating of religious paint has now worn thin, leaving most people with materialism as their sole purpose in life.
The cycle of holy days has been displaced by an alternative narrative, “There’s probably no God… now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. For the majority, Christmas and Easter are no longer focused on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but on possessions and pleasure.
In the course of all this, long before the purpose of “holy days” finally evaporated from their lives, many had already lost sight of the true significance of the life of Jesus. What happened to Him, especially His resurrection, sheds important light on the meaning of our lives. It provides a vital alternative to the materialism which provoked this student’s plea for help in understanding the purpose of life.
Jesus became a man in order to die, not because He deserved death as you and I do, but in order that we might live. He knew that life on this earth is not all there is, as demonstrated when He was raised to life three days after He died. Today’s scientific materialism laughs at such ideas. “When you’re dead, you’re dead,” is the prevailing view. We are all free to live by that rule, but what if you’re missing out on something far better, not only for the time after your body stops working, but in the here and now, today and tomorrow?
If, like this student, you ever come to the point of just wanting to know why we’re all here, and think we might be able to help you, please get in touch.
* The students question was posted on Yahoo! Answers