What if God Did Not Exist?
The question “what if God did not exist” has been a topic of philosophical and theological discussions for centuries. It is a question that forces us to contemplate the very essence of our existence and the nature of the universe we inhabit. While some may argue that God’s existence is a fundamental truth, others may entertain the idea that there might be a world where God does not exist.
Ed. Note: This article is excerpted and slightly modified from our television series, “Does God Exist?”
Dr. John Ankerberg: Dr. Craig, what difference does it make if God exists or not? Why does it matter? Many people say that it really doesn’t matter to them if God exists or not. And you say the most important question anybody can even answer is the question of God’s existence. Why?
Dr. William Lane Craig: People who shrug their shoulders and say, “What difference does it make whether God exists or not,” merely show that they haven’t thought very deeply about this question. Even atheist philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, recognize that the existence of God makes a tremendous difference for man, both collectively and individually. You see, if God does not exist, then human beings are just biological organisms, and like all biological organisms, are doomed to die both individually and collectively as a whole.
And therefore every one of us has to come to grips with what theologian Paul Tillich called “the threat of non-being.” That is to say, even though I know that I exist—I am real, I’m alive—I also know that someday I will die. I will cease to exist. I will no longer be. And that thought is staggering.
I remember as a boy when my father first remarked to me offhand that someday I would die, I was just overwhelmed with this fact. I was filled with an unbearable sadness and fear. Somehow, as a child, the thought that I was going to cease to exist, I was going to die, had just never occurred to me. And over time I learned to live with the inevitable; as we all do.
But I think that Jean-Paul Sartre’s insight remains true: Whether it’s a few hours or a few years, makes no difference once you have lost eternity. And if there is no God, then we have lost any hope of immortality. We have only this finite existence. So, for each one of us individually, life ends at the grave. And this is true not only for us individually, but also collectively for mankind as a whole.
Scientists tell us that the universe is expanding. And as it does so, it grows colder and colder and colder. Eventually there will be no light at all; there will be no heat; there will be no life. There will simply be the carcasses of dead stars and galaxies expanding into the infinite blackness and the recesses of outer space. So if there is no God, then mankind is doomed to extinction, as well as each one of us individually is doomed to death. And the result of this is that life itself becomes absurd. The life that we do have is without ultimate meaning, value or purpose.
Ankerberg: Talk about this thing of meaning. Why is it that, if God does not exist, that we have no ultimate meaning for our life?
Craig: By meaning, I mean significance: Why something matters. And if God does not exist, then ultimately our lives are insignificant. It doesn’t matter what we do or what becomes of us. Now, someone might say, “But this person affected the course of history, or he affected other individuals.” But all that shows is a relative significance to his life, not an ultimate significance. Ultimately, mankind is doomed to extinction in the heat-death of the universe. And so it literally does not matter what you do or who you are, because everything will end up the same. So, the contributions of the scientists to the advance of human knowledge, the efforts of the diplomat to secure peace in the world, the efforts of doctors to alleviate human pain and suffering, all of these ultimately come to nothing. In the end they don’t make one bit of difference. And, therefore, if God does not exist, ultimately, our lives are without meaning or significance.
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