A friend of mine who knows that I’m an atheist kept asking me what I think is the purpose of life. Because I chose to became an atheist, I must have an answer, especially since I rejected Christianity’s answer. This really frustrated me. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be seeking at our stage in life? What’s the point of being young and in college if you can’t ask questions about the meaning of life without knowing what the answer is?
He kept pressuring me: “I think you would be happier if you felt like your life had a purpose.” Whoa, there. I’m not even going to touch that. (However, this friend was “very surprised” to hear that I am happier now as an atheist than I ever have been.)
Christians are obsessed with answers. Most of the professors I’ve had seem really intent on imparting their own answers to students and not giving us the opportunity to think for ourselves. In the 4 required bible/theology classes I took, I had 4 professors who each had completely different views and tried to convince us that his was the right one. e.g., “I really believe that infant baptism is essential”; a semester later, in another class, “I really believe that only adults should be baptized”. And so on. If we say, “well, Professor X says otherwise,” Professor Y will say, “well, I think that’s wrong.” Every professor wants to be the influencing factor on their students’ views. (I don’t know what it’s generally like in other schools, but I took a few summer classes at a regular university where this was definitely not the case.)
My classes this semester are very discussion-heavy. We talk about issues to which there are a variety of possible responses, supposedly to survey all the possibilities and formulate a Christian response. What actually happens is that the professor tells us what the Christian response is, i.e. what we are supposed to accept, and we discuss why the other ones are wrong. For example, we could be talking about something as benign as why we should aid people in developing countries after a crisis. Obviously, Christians help people because they view everyone as having the image of God. Obviously, atheists don’t think people have the image of God, so we have no motivation for helping them. It’s all so stupid I want to slap myself.
Of course, Wheaton values intellectual exchange, so other ideas are always given a chance. The professor will ask, “can anyone think of how atheists would justify helping people?” while sitting there with this stupid little grin on his face, most of the class smirking about those ridiculous atheists who can’t justify anything they say. I can’t even think of a response fast enough. So we move on, satisfied that we’ve considered the alternatives and found that only Christians have an answer. (That was a little more sarcastic than strictly necessary, but as an example it’s not far off the mark.)
Wheaton students are encouraged to question Christianity to an extent, but someone always tries to reign you in and direct you back to the Christian answer before you’re within spitting distance of Doubt. Even if they themselves are doubting, and don’t quite know why that answer is the right one. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. But what good are answers if you don’t know why they’re right? What good are they if you don’t even understand the question?