In a nutshell:
It is a fact that no real, conclusive proofs for the existence or the non-existence of God exist. Another fact is that many rational and brilliant people are theists (believe in a certain God); and many others – rational and brilliant as well – are atheists (don't believe in any God). This combination of facts leads me to think that considering evidence for the existence or non-existence of God is not necessarily the reason for adopting atheism or theism (or any other stance). I suggest that the very wish to find a purpose to life may strengthen a theistic view, while the sense that life has no "cosmic" meaning may draw a person to an atheistic belief. ,
"Forty-two!" yelled Loonquawl. "Is that all you've got to show for seven and a half million years' work?"
"I checked it very thoroughly," said the computer, "and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is."
"But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything!" howled Loonquawl.
"Yes," said Deep Thought with the air of one, who suffers fools gladly, "but what actually is it?"
- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (photo depicts the computer "Deep Thought" thinking)
So many arguments have been raised for and against the claim for God's existence in the last thousands of years, and yet, none of them was found to be conclusive. Moreover, it seems impossible to find but one person whose opinion in the matter changed due to any of these arguments.
Why is that?
My guess, which is at this stage more of a hunch than a solidified approach, goes thus:
Some people tend to carefully consider assumptions, which they accept as true ("beliefs"); others do not. But even the most critical people – those who try to consider all of their beliefs critically and repeatedly, to avoid false beliefs – cannot examine all of their beliefs all of the time. Also, there is a limit to any chain of reasons for beliefs. If, for instance, we believe that murder is forbidden, and base this belief on the right to life of every person (or every living creature), and maybe some more basic beliefs which justify this last one – eventually we're bound to reach the building blocks of our worldview, which cannot be justified: we cannot explain why we see them as true. We just do. These are the "axioms" of our worldview (although, of course, they are not necessarily true).
I do not think that the belief in God's existence or non-existence is one of these most basic beliefs, these "axioms". They seem to be too complex to be so basic. I suggest, instead, that our attitude towards the possibility of God's existence is dictated by a deeper intuition, that relating to our place in the world and relation to it, or in other words: the supposed origin of the meaning of life. Of course, we need not necessarily be aware of this derivation.
What does this mean? I, for instance, see the world within a naturalistic perception, as lacking any supernatural existence. Why do I see the world thus? I cannot explain. It simply makes more sense to me than believing in the existence of some supernatural entity or another. I see this as an axiom, and it's affecting the rest of my beliefs. One of the implications of this axiom is that I take myself (and any other living creature) to be no more than a grain of dust, in cosmic terms, which is fine by me. I have no further pretensions, and therefore I can find meaning in life, although it has to be an autonomic meaning, chosen by me. Meaning, according to this view, is not in the things themselves, but in what we make of them, or in how we see them.
Many people – some atheists included – see this innate meaninglessness as appalling, and the atheists among them try to find a "solution" to it, or see the autonomic meaning as a compromise. According to this second view, only a purpose to our life, if not to the whole universe, can fill our lives with meaning. I here refer to "purpose" as a predetermined end, and as such, God alone can set a purpose to a person's life (for it needs to be determined before the person is born, or even conceived). Anyone can choose ends in life, but not a life-purpose as defined here.
Just as the naturalistic view I described above leads to atheism, so this second view, involving a sense of purpose, dictates theism (in one version or another), since only an Intentional Designer could have given purpose to our life.
If I am correct, then many analyses of theistic or atheistic meanings of life miss a main point, which is that our strongest intuitions regard our life's meaning, and our attitude towards God's existence is its outcome. ,