”I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”
Albert Camus

I have heard this reasoning by many different people when I have embarked in a theological discussion. This reasoning is given to justify one’s faith in a higher power along with the existence of some sort of punishment in an afterlife for non-believing. The individual’s train of thought is fueled by their fear of suffering for an eternity. To this believer they half heartedly believe in this faith because of the fear of thinking otherwise will result in a negative outcome. I can guarantee you if you were to go back into time and take out the fear of hell in the Christian/Catholic faith you would find many more atheists or those believing in other religions. The seed of fear is planted in them and thus, grows a tree with roots based in trepidation. This fear and this type of comment fuels their desire to believe. This type of believer will follow suit but deep in their hearts they lack any real faith. I have a reader named Johanna and I can guarantee you she would not utter this phrase. She knows her religion as well as she knows herself and believes with a strong heart and mind. I respect those of you who are able to muster such strong faith. When we look at the universe and are short existence on it, we are driven to find meaning in our utter insignificance. We need to feel special in a way. If we look at the universe and our relation to it, you will find out you are basically nothing compared to the grand scheme of things. This concept draws people to find meaning in an illogical being.

Albert Camus did not make this quote because this is his justification for his faith, although he did battle the ultimate contradiction of searching for faith on one hand and in a way speaking out against it. He was asking this in a philosophical and theological context. Camus founded a school of philosophical thinking called absurdism. In philosophy, the absurd refers to the conflict between the human mind to seek inherent meaning in life and the human inability to find any. In this sense absurd does not mean logically impossible, but rather humanly impossible. I would challenge this because the belief of a higher being can be proven illogically impossible as I did in two posts I wrote in June The Senseless Silliness of Gods Omnipotence, and  Adam and Eve: Proof of Gods Follies. I debated with elementary logic that the existence of God in the Bible can indeed be proven false.

In absurdist philosophy, the absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual’s search for meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the universe. When considering the universe there is no meaning yet it is in perfect order. The universe and the mind do not each separately cause the absurd, but rather, the absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously. Absurdism, therefore, is a philosophical school of thought stating that the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail (and hence are absurd), because no such meaning exists, at least in relation to the individual. As a philosophy, absurdism also explores the fundamental nature of the Absurd and how individuals, once becoming conscious of the Absurd, should react to it.

Absurdism is very closely related to existentialism and nihilism and has its origins in the 19th century philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard (one of my favorites), who chose to confront the crisis humans faced with the absurd by developing existential philosophy. I am a fan of existentialism in a philosophical context. Existentialism asks the individual to find meaning in his or her own life instead of reaching out to some sort of higher power. I can follow this train of thought, yet I find my thought to be that of existential nihilism, which briefly states life has no real meaning. The funny thing is this is contradictory to my journey into the Tao. I am searching for meaning in a concept that is asking me to believe in a higher power than myself, therefore I have attempted to find meaning within something other than myself, when I also believe there is no God, and no real meaning to our lives, so I do come off contradictory.

Deep inside of me there still lies the seeds of fear planted in me long ago. This fear from time to time will say “what if your wrong?” This nags at me, and is proof how powerful fear can be. I am an athiets at heart, but is also searching for meaning beyond myself. There are days I may be feeling the spirit and have faith that there is divine order and everything just makes sense, then there are the days where I realize the vastness of the universe and the divine chaos within it and feel insignificant compared to the grand order of things. Where there is no meaning and everything is simply happenstance and random. There are some days where this fear is far greater than the fear of eternal damnation because there is nothing awaiting us.

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Comments
  1. Johanna says:

    Tim, sometimes when faith falters, which it does with everyone, fear (though not very admirable) makes a good motivator. (For example, it was abject fear that made me quit smoking, not the knowledge that it was bad for me. I was scared of having a heart attack and dying!)

    In order to understand God and who God is, one must study his attributes by reading what he said through the prophets and how he dealt with his people.

    God is all-knowing, all powerful, all-just and all-merciful.
    God is always fair and God is always merciful. It is the Justice/Mercy that people have trouble comprehending. The two seem contradictory but are not.

    PS. have you read the Screwtape letters by CS Lewis? It is an excellent work of fiction and I would love to hear what you think of it. Def. give you something to think about!

    • “God is all-knowing, all powerful, all-just and all-merciful.”

      Have you read the bible recently? I’m asking this in a serious way.

      I’m reading it (again) for a series I’m doing on my blog. I’m utterly amazed I ever believed this stuff!! If you read the bible literally (or close to it), then the picture of God it presents is a being who often seems completely in the dark, is easily fooled, lacks ultimate power, is petulant times 10 and has a definite mean streak.

      • Tim Lundmark says:

        Rambling,
        I agree. I think that is why the Tao says God came from the masculine, because no feminine being would behave in such a way… well only the jealous crazy ones

  2. […] last week. I thought when I wrote You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back. and Absurdism, Religion, and Nothing. To me I thought I just wrote something which was brilliant. When I was driving home with my wife I […]

  3. Jackie says:

    Remember that Camus felt believing in a higher power was not a choice in accepting the Absurb. The only way a person can “overcome” the Absurb is to find their own personal meaning outside of that dictated by religion and/or a higher being. Meaning in life does not have to come through a belief in God. Perhaps you chose to find meaning through helping low-income children achieve academic access, discovering a new way to cross-pollinate rare breeds of flowers, or simply make people laugh. Identifying your small place in the vastness of the universe and still being able to discover why you should exist in it, is how an Absurdist not only manages to live in this world but find it meaningful. Camus also identified suicide as an option but ruled it unrealistic because it only allows a person to escape the Absurd…not truly “deal” with it.

  4. Joseph Mitchell says:

    Hey, I read and enjoyed your paper here. Are you sure that Camus was the forefather of absurdism? Does it not go way back to Ancient Greece? I thought that parts of Existentialism, Nihilism, and Absurdism were sometimes congruent or similar. And, how are we going to give you meaning outside of yourself. Natural Selection is much larger than you are, it is outside of yourself. You are made of star dust for real. Your atoms are eternal and recycling. I am not suggesting the eternal recurrence per se eithor. You can be both Atheist and also Mechanistic, Methodical, possibly Causal, I think. No one absolutely knows what falls outside of spatial temporal relationships, the space time continuum. No one knows on the origen of life, the origen of the universe, all the hows and whys. We do know that the universe is bigger than us and outside of us. We can create meaning through our choices. We can hopefully build relationships. Good luck to you, I am sure that you will figure it out, in the meantime have a good night, I know that I will.

  5. Tracy says:

    You talk & use big words to make yourself sound smart…but really, you need to wake up. There is NO fact of heaven or hell other than the bible. Whether you believe it or not is ultimately up to you. Your decision. My decision. IF there is a hell….would you choose to spend eternity there?

  6. Fraulein Bee says:

    “Absurdism, Religion, and Nothing” was so captivating that I meandered into the comments on a blog for the first time. Odd sometimes, the things we question when reading. The fear factor within our various societies always grabs my eye when reading. Rational thinking should have kicked living in fear into a dumpster long ago. Yet, it seems that people seem safer living in fear than considering the possibility that there is no Hell other than the self-loathing that follows making harmful decisions. That is quite enough punishment, I think.

    After contemplating that, it was actually something in Joseph Mitchell’s comment that took me onto an interesting road, for whatever reason.

    I became fixated on the sentence, “Natural Selection is much larger than you are, it is outside of yourself.” After following the Google trail long enough to become irritated with myself, I’ve decided that natural selection isn’t larger than me. I write, “than me”, because we do all make these decisions for ourselves.

    “Natural selection: a natural process that results in the survival and reproductive success of individuals or groups best adjusted to their environment and that leads to the perpetuation of genetic qualities best suited to that particular environment.”

    It would have been larger than me if I’d lived before the Industrial and Information Ages. Our world changes so quickly now! How would genetic qualities ever adapt quickly enough to be of service to our children, even? Survival seems more about our ability and choice to adapt our thinking patterns than anything genetic.

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