The French existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) reached the conclusion that if God does not exist life is absurd. He did not believe in God and so proceeded to find a way of looking at reality which allows an individual to live meaningfully in an absurd reality.
I have to admit that I have not seriously tried to read his classic opus Being and Nothingness because it seems flawed from the outset, assuming what philosophers have written about is correct (but wait, if there is no such thing as meaning or truth, how can one say anything is correct or incorrect?), and virtually incomprehensible from the first sentence. However, his conclusion that life is absurd without God is a conclusion I share and many have reached it independently.
If Sartre, and those who follow him, seriously think there is a way of living a Godless life that does not seem absurd to the one living it, then that life must be based wholly on illusion.
Thinking about this recently it occurred to me that one theme of the Holy Bible is that if we do not believe in God we go to something called hell. Metaphysically, ‘hell’ means to me and a growing number of Christians, a state of being beyond the physical world where those who do not believe they were created by God get the kind of existence they want. At a practical earthly level it has a clear pragmatic meaning applicable to all humankind, regardless of faith or creed. Hell is indeed what happens in this life if we abandon belief in our Creator (the God who ‘so loved the world...’, not just Christians) and the absolute love and truth which emanate from God.
Consider what happens when people abandon belief in the sacred source of being. Objective truth, love, loyalty, social institutions, the judicial system, laws, art, literature, music, religion, science, engineering and the universe itself are all totally arbitrary and meaningless. Any individual with the necessary charisma and self-belief (e.g. Hitler, Mao-Tse Tung or Stalin) can fool or force whole populations into his or her own illusory world-view, however atrocious. See also the posting 1984 and postmodernism.
In a world that has abandoned God all doing good means is doing what makes you feel good or is expedient. A serial killer feels good doing what he does. In World War II a concentration camp scientist starved a baby to death by forcing its mother to deny it milk, so he could see how long it could survive without milk. No doubt this made him feel good, either viscerally or in that he was gaining medical knowledge for the human race. Ancient pagans sacrificed humans to their numerous gods and this made them feel safe.
Others left old people to die in the wild when it was inconvenient to keep them alive. Some do what modern society calls good because their society makes them feel good or because it gains the approval of others. Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and Mao Tse Tung’s (Mao Zedong’s) China made their people feel good in ways which would make us, the members of a western society, cringe. Bankers distort financial reality to get status and wealth. Criminals rob or murder more often and with increasing amounts of gratuitous violence. Journalists invent or exaggerate to increase sales. Scientists distort reality because they want fame or fortune rather than to honour their Creator, or because they want to feel like God. Some medieval priests, departing from the command of Christ, tortured people to death for their heretical beliefs.
All through the Holy Bible there are warnings of what will happen when we abandon God. If in their pride and arrogance societies abandon their Creator and the divine origin of right and wrong, truth and falsity, then what follows is truly hell on earth. It is a guarantee of war, famine, disease, ignorance, mass insanity and a downward spiral to social chaos. Anything goes once the social strictures, unbacked by God, have faded away. I’ m not saying that God is a fiction designed to maintain order. There are sound philosophical arguments for the existence of God as well as a wealth of biblical text written and assembled hundreds of years before the Roman church. The fact that disorder arises when God is abandoned is one indication at least that our Creator is very much involved in our progress as a species and it is not surprising that disbelief is classed as a sin..
Abandoning God is not the way to Peace on Earth.