Atheism and Christianity: Two Views on the Value of Life

Over the years my reading has included several bestselling books by atheists, who relentlessly condemn Christianity. The subtitle to God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens is "How Religion Poisons Everything." That's right: everything. (I guess that would include the life's work of Bach, among others.)

Despite some witch hunts and inquisitions, I'll take Christianity's track record against atheism's any day. (Lenin, Stalin, and Mao come to mind.)

The atheists love to talk about how rotten Christianity makes people feel. If only Christianity weren't around, everything would be better.

Let me summarize the secular/atheist and Christian foundations for the value of life, then you tell me whether it's any wonder that many people today are feeling like they, their lives, and the lives of others have so little meaning or worth.

In the secular-atheist account: You are the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm that washed up on an ocean beach ten billion years ago. You are the blind and arbitrary product of time, chance, and natural forces. Your closest living relatives swing from trees and eat crackers at the zoo.

You are a mere grab-bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. You exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an obscure galaxy in a remote and empty corner of a vast, cold, and meaningless universe. You are flying through lifeless space with no purpose, no direction, no control, and no destiny but final destruction.

You are a purely biological entity, different only in degree but not in kind from a microbe, virus or amoeba. You have no essence beyond your body, and at death you will cease to exist entirely.

What little life you do have is confined to a fragile body aimlessly moving through a world plagued by war, famine and disease. The only question is whether the world will manage to blow itself up before your brief and pointless life ends on its own.

In short, you came from nothing, you are going nowhere, and you will end your brief cosmic journey beneath six feet of dirt, where all that you will become is food for bacteria and rot with worms.

Now, why don't you feel good about yourself? And why don't you show more respect for human life? 

In the Christian account: From the moment of conception, you and all other human beings are the special creation of a good and all powerful God. You are the climax of His creation, the magnum opus of the greatest artist in the universe.

You are created in His image, with capacities to think, feel, and worship that set you above all other life forms. You differ from the animals not simply in degree, but in kind, in your very essence.

Not only is your kind unique, but you are unique among your kind. God has masterminded the exact combination of DNA and chromosomes that constitute your genetic code, making you as different from all others as every snowflake differs from the rest.

Yes, you are a sinner, and because of sin you do not deserve to go to heaven. But despite your unworthiness, your Creator loved you so much and so intensely desires your companionship that He gave the life of his only Son that you might spend eternity with him. If you are willing to accept the free gift of salvation, you can become a child of God, the King of the universe.

As a Christian, you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. He has given you special gifts and abilities to serve him in a particular and unique way.

Your heavenly Father is sovereign, and will allow nothing to cross your path that is not Father-filtered. He cares for you so much that He is totally available to you at all times, and listens to every word you say. He cares deeply about your hurts, and has a perfect plan for your life. He has given you the inspired Word of God as a road-map for living. He gives you the truth that sets you free, a life that is abundant and eternal, and a spiritual family that loves and needs you.

Your destiny is to live forever in a magnificent kingdom, to reign with Christ over the universe. You will forever enjoy the wonders of His presence and the marvels of His creation. You will spend eternity in intimate and joyful fellowship with your beloved Lord and your precious spiritual family.

Now... how does that make you feel about yourself? How does that make you feel about the value of human life?

"Whoever finds Me loves life . . . but whoever fails to find Me harms himself; all who hate Me love death." (Proverbs 8:35-36)

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Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries