Awesome Christian Advice From a Hardcore Atheist
Daniel Dennett is a hardcore atheist. He is also a philosopher and scientist, but for the purposes of this piece, I am thinking of him primarily in terms of his staunch atheism. He is considered to be one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, along with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens. He writes and speaks often against the plague of religion and has argued that religious beliefs are nothing but products of evolution in his work Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.
One of his most well-known quotes is a powerful and pointed one:
The secret of happiness: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.
What I find interesting is that I could not agree more with him. Finding happiness is one of the fundamental questions of life, and though he and I have completely different worldviews, I am 100% on board with his statement.
The reason we enjoy sunsets, a mountaintop view, and gazing at the stars is because we were made for bigness. We are the most exhilarated when we feel our smallest. It’s why we pay money to stand at the edge of the grand canyon. It’s why we are forever changed at their birth of our first child. The more we feel like the world doesn’t revolve around us, the more free and happy we will be.
Perhaps he did not realize it at the time, but this quote directly lines up with what the Bible teaches about Christianity and the meaning of life. Christians believe that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever“. This simply means that the purpose of life is to get outside of yourself and centre your life on God, and reap the joy that comes with that kind of life.
In other words, Christians believe that the secret of happiness is to find something more important than they are and dedicate their lives to it. And that “more important” thing that you devote yourself to? Well, that’s God.
We all live with a hierarchy of importance. Certain things are more important to us than other things, and many people do eventually get to the place where they find something that is even more important to them than their own lives. Such people discover happiness. All Christians aim to suggest is that if you keep following that chain of importance upward to the very top, you find God. And when you get there, and dedicate your life to him, you hit the pinnacle of human existence. We experience degrees of what this can be like now, and then we will know it’s fullness on the other side of death.
You show me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy, and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
How much happiness we enjoy depends on:
- How big is it?
- How long will it last?
Some people find a little happiness for a long time. Others find a lot of happiness for a brief while. Still others don’t find much or very often. But Psalm 16:11 promises that with God, happiness is “full” and “forever”. It can’t get bigger and it can’t last longer. It’s the best that this universe has to offer.
Daniel Dennett is right. If you want to be happy, find something more important than you and dedicate your life to it. I’m simply suggesting that, if you really want to pursue this goal, keep climbing the ladder of options until to get to the top.