Sigmund Freud famously argued that scientific advance has led to a radical reevaluation of the place and significance of humanity in the universe, deflating human pretensions to grandeur and uniqueness. Before Copernicus, we thought we stood at the center of all things. Before Darwin, we thought we were utterly distinct form every other living species. Before Freud, we though that we were masters of our own limited realm; now we have to come to terms with being the prisoner of hidden unconscious forces, subtly influencing our thinking and behaviour. And as our knowledge of our universe expands, we realize how many galaxies lie beyond our own. The human lifespan is insignificant in comparison with the immense age of the universe. We can easily be overwhelmed by a sense of our insignificance when we see ourselves against this vast cosmic backdrop…
The Christian narrative allows us to frame these questions in a very different way than that offered by a bleak secular humanism. By allowing their personal narratives to be embraced and enfolded by the greater narrative of God, Christians see things in a new way—including their own status and identity. We are no longer mere assemblies of molecules, neutrons, or genes; we are individuals who can relate to God, and whose status is transformed by God’s love and attentiveness toward us…
Through inhabiting the Christian narrative, we come to see ourselves, as medieval writer Julian of Norwich famously put it, as being enfolded in the love of Christ, which brings us a new security, identity, and value. Our self-worth is grounded in being loved by God.
We still need to feel that our life matters in the scheme of things. We still want to merge ourselves with some higher self-absorbing meaning in trust and in gratitude. But if we no longer have God how are we to do this?
One of the first ways that occurred to the modern person was the romantic solution. The self-glorification that we need in our innermost being, we now look for in the love partner. What is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to this position? We want to be rid of our faults. We want to be rid of our feeling of nothingness. We want to be justified. We want to know that our existence hasn’t been in vain. We want redemption; nothing less . . . Needless to say, human beings can’t give you that . . . No human relationship can bear the burden of godhood.
The point is this: If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.
We humans instinctively hunger for meaning and purpose. You can see it all around in the way people behave. We strive to infuse our lives with some sort of significance, some sort of meaning. But if our cosmos is ultimately indifferent and purposeless, all we are, all we do, all we believe in, all we strive for is “dust in the wind.” After we exist, it matters not whether anyone has ever, or ever will again exist. Everything is ultimately meaningless.