In this section Keller argues that we all must know God exists because we act as if life has meaning, and it can’t without a god. Without God, once human civilization is dead and gone, nobody will remember us, and nobody will remember whether we were peaceful or warlike, or good or cruel.
This is the final argument one of my friends rested on when I discussed god with him as a teenager, and it’s nonsense. The notion that there must be a cosmic scorekeeper for life to have meaning is childish and simplistic. Keller’s implied suggestion is that the only reason to do moral things is because you’re being watched and you’ll get in trouble if you don’t, the most superficial of reasons. The fact that humanity will come to and end and be forgotten is meaningless to the question, “What is right?” You don’t need god to be moral, as I’ve explained in the past few posts.
Do you need god for meaning? No. People don’t even behave this way. We imbue great meaning into all kinds of temporary things, youth, innocence, beauty, athletic ability, emotions, temporary art like sand castles and performances and food. These things are more precious and powerful because we know they are fleeting. On a grand scale the same is true for all of humanity, and on a not so grand scale for each of us individually. If we only care about the ultimate end of things, then youth, beauty and emotions fade, innocence is corrupted, sand castles crumble, and food turns to shit.
Is there meaning? Keller says we live our lives as if they have meaning, so god must exist to give us that meaning. This is another way of saying, “people wish there was a meaning to life, therefor there is, therefor god.” Just because we feel a need to have meaning, doesn’t mean there is. We, people, are perfectly capable of deluding ourselves when it’s productive, and it would certainly be productive in this case.
I know I seem to be contradicting myself, but I don’t think I really am. When discussing god there are often two levels of things. There is meaning, and then Meaning, as in the ultimate meaning. There is no Meaning, there never has been, and we don’t need it. There is regular meaning, though, and that’s nice.
Say you live like Keller, and derive meaning in your life from the knowledge that God is remembering, and will forever. But if he is wrong, he will never know. He will feel just as much meaning throughout his life using this strategy whether god exists or not. So how can the fact that people use this strategy be evidence of god?
If you find this disturbing and you think some meaning from your past may have been misplaced, don’t worry. There is no ultimate meaning, no cosmic plan, no end game but oblivion. I know this, you, hopefully, know this. Should we kill ourselves, or curl up in a ball and wait to die? Why would we? It has always been thus. All the meaning we found in life we gave ourselves, and we can keep doing so.