“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more: it is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” MacBeth, Act 5, Scene 5, by William Shakespeare
“Life Sucks, and then we die.” – Bumper sticker
I am in the middle of taking a class on worldview – how do people view the universe? How do they understand reality, what are their philosophies and religious beliefs, and how do those affect the way they live.
For me, the most depressing view is Nihilism. This philosophy is Materialism taken to its logical conclusion — Matter is all that is; the Universe is a closed system, a cosmic accident and we got lucky; God does not exist; we cannot really know anything about reality; There are no absolutes, no morality; nothing has any value, purpose, or meaning.
There is no true freedom; we are just the product of chemical reactions in a closed system.
What a bummer! No wonder so many nihilists commit suicide.
Such a world view has no hope.
When looking at the problems in society, the nihilist/psychologist B.F. Skinner said that to change people we need to change their environment. This approach has problems.
First, why bother to change anyone if there is no morality or meaning? Just to protect ourselves? Second, what about identical twins who are raised in the same environment but react differently when presented with the same situation? There are additional factors involved in the nature vs.nurture debate. People do have some control over their actions and responsibility for the consequences.
The end of Nihilism is depression and death.
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes tried all manner of approaches. He had wealth, wives, pleasure and passion. But the pursuit of all those things was meaningless, or as some translations state, vanity. Living for one’s self alone is vanity, and ultimately suicidal.
Finally, the Teacher came to the proper conclusion. The only hope in life springs from our relationship with God. And Jesus came to reconcile us to God and give us real life.
If God does not exist, all is meaningless.
If God does exist, then there is meaning and purpose to life.
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14