I'm debating a strong evangelical at work, and I've got him pinned to his strongest reason for belief: that there would be no purpose to his life without god. Of course I know that isn't true, but I want to respond to this thoughtfully. How would you respond to the statement there is no purpose without God?

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I might have to share this one with him! :)
I'm debating a strong evangelical at work, and I've got him pinned to his strongest reason for belief: that there would be no purpose to his life without god.

How does God relate to the purpose of this man's life? This is something people say about their children, a favorite organization, or some other entity which requires their active support. To say that a certain object is the purpose of one's life is to insinuate that this object is dependent upon this support. If the object is dependent upon the support of the purposeful individual, then the object is subordinate to the individual as the individual could withdraw their support at any time and cause the demise of the object. Therefore, when this man states that God is his "purpose," he is really saying that God is dependent upon him and therefore subordinate to him, both of which violate the conception of God as a supremely omnipotent being.

(I'm sure that logic is screwed up six ways to Sunday, but I'm enjoying a liquid dessert. Have mercy.)
Yeah, I can't really follow your logic here. For example, someone could say that "music" give their life purpose and meaning. But if that person died, it's not the end of music. Music doesn't need any single person's support.

Though, I guess in the broad sense music does need the support of musicians, and if all musicians ceased to exist then so would music. In the same way it could be said that this man's purpose in life is to pass the concept of god on to future generations, and keep it alive in the mind of the public. Without the faithful, the notion of god or gods vanishes, along with the concept of atheism. At this point we're all just people. So preventing this from happening could be his purpose in life. He considers himself a special child of god, when he's just a pawn being played by his church for their own finanical and political gain. How sad.
For example, someone could say that "music" give their life purpose and meaning. But if that person died, it's not the end of music. Music doesn't need any single person's support.

Good point; I was afraid that my first step was a bit fuzzy. Although I like where you are going with the latter thought about how, as a whole, music is dependent upon humanity for existence. In turn, if the purpose of the faithful's lives is God, then God as a whole is dependent upon the faithful for existence. Hmmm I can tell this is going to be twisting around in my skull while I'm trying to fall asleep, lol! :)
We know we have a purpose: to survive. If you're slowly starving to death and God has not sent you a sandwich -- despite your exemplary life and sincere prayers -- you're going to start looking for something to eat. Survival is nature's prime directive. Until your basic necessities are taken care of, you won't have time for God. If you die waiting for God to take care of you . . . you sorry life is testimony against God.

If you're lucky enough to live where your needs are easily satisfied, then you'll have plenty of time to elevate and praise God. If not, then survival is the all-consuming purpose of your life: God, if you think of him at all, becomes a supernatural, superstitious, excuse for your misery and failure.

Clearly, God is a luxury of idle minds. The purpose of life is biological: SURVIVE. Once you ensure your immediate (and genetic) survival, THEN you can think about lofty ideals and higher purpose -- but these are secondary. Survival is the prime directive.
The same can be said of social constructs, such as religions, unions, and government programs. Once created their sole purpose is to survive.
Well, it an appeal to utility. His reason for belief is based on the utility or profit that this belief provides, in this case, he feels it provides him a purpose, he also think that only this particular belief can provide him a purpose. His belief is not based on evidence, reasoning, truth, etc... as many beliefs aren't, but it is based on wanting to be comforted, wanting to fulfill his desire to be motivated to live for something, to have an objective purpose. This raises red flags immediately when debating the verity of that in which he believes. Also, it is a selfishly motivated position for him to hold and not something the subject of his belief (God) would ever reward him for since it is based in selfishness.

And then of course there is the fact that he is mistaken to believe that his life would be purposeless without belief in a god. He would certainly have motivations and subjective purposes without belief god if not more. For one, start with the most basic instinct to survive. I would even dare to say he would indeed have no purpose WITH a belief in god, because he is a slave to this belief, to this god he believes in. Following only what he believes this god wants of him. What kind of purpose is that really? This belief in god steals his freedom and identity and makes him nothing more than a pawn moved on gods command. Does this motivate him and give him a sense of purpose and value, being determined by a god? It is not so different from a natural viewpoint on how we are determined by causality, by the conditions of our environment. Belief in a god doesn't offer purpose, on the contrary, it is a thief and steals ones real potential towards a pursuit of individual value and meaning in the universe.
Some people just want to be pawns, I guess.

Some would answer that our purpose is to be with God, but that's a self-fulfilling prophecy. So we create this idea, call it God, to justify the intangible parts of life and give us "purpose", but our purpose is merely just to BE with that very thing that we created just for the sole reason of having a purpose? Am I the only one that finds this a little creepy? Okay. Flip side. God creates us for the sole purpose of having a fan club and some company. But we're separated by something called real life and apparently invisibility. Why the purposeful separation? And what is our purpose while we're here? Isn't it the exact same reasons that people of other beliefs and no religions give themselves? HELLO!
I'm not sure that we can respond to the general statement, "there is no purpose without God" unless we define what that purpose might be.

First I'd ask him to identify what he considers his life purpose to be. (Carrying on the species, being kind to others, spreading the word of God, contributing in some meaningful way to the benefit of the planet...?)

Then you can tackle whether God needs to exist for his purpose to exist. If the purpose is something like being kind to others, then clearly no God is required (and you can explain how kindness and co-operation are moral qualities that are not dependent upon a higher power.)

If his purpose is to spread the word of God, you can still break down the argument. That purpose doesn't require God's existence either; it merely requires his belief in a set of principles that he attributes to God.

People have been promoting a variety of gods throughout history ranging from Thor to Zeus. Presumably he'll agree that Thor doesn't exist, but that presumably there were Scandinavians, way back when, who found purpose in promoting Thor's ideas. Will he claim that their lives lacked purpose because Thor wasn't real? Would they not have felt driven by purpose through their own belief? (I expect that he'll argue over this, but at least if you can agree on a definition of his purpose, you'll have something to work with.)

Good luck!
That's good advice. Break it down into manageable pieces.
Then by that logic everyone who lived throughout history who had never heard of god had no purpose? Don't be weak willed. Determine your own purpose.


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