“The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.”
Of the many memorable lines in literature, and there are many, the closing paragraph of Albert Camus’ The Stranger might be one of the most depressing. The main character, Meursault, whose mother died prior to the start of the book, finds himself in prison awaiting his own execution for murder. There, in the final hours of his life following an emotional outburst directed toward a chaplain, he says,
“It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.”
In a cold indifferent universe Meursault found his only comfort in the hope of a noisy crowd at his execution. No one and nothing cared for Meursault. He was alone. He had lived alone and would die alone, returning to the dust from which he came. No cosmic tears would be shed.
“The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.”
Richard Dawkins is a well-known scientist and strong proponent of atheism, heralding from Oxford University in England. He has made a name for himself through many popular writings regarding evolution and atheism. In his book The Blind Watchmaker he implies that humans, as a product of evolution, have no purpose when he says,
“Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.”
A purposeless universe produces purposeless beings, devoid of meaning and direction. Dawkins continues this point of view In another of his books, River out of Eden, as he says,
“DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music…Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”
If Camus and Dawkins are correct then not only is the universe uncaring, but it doesn’t even have the capacity to care. We exist as random products from a purposeless process and whatever happens to us, happens. We live, we die, we turn to dust, that’s it. No tears are shed for our death. No laughter and joy is taken in our life.
Sort of a bleak picture isn’t it?
“He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
But the story is quite different when we listen to the psalmist. The God of the universe, the creator of all things, is delighted in us. Let me say that again, God delights in us.
He did not created us and then walk away. He is not only concerned about his grand plan for mankind as a whole. Not at all. He delights in us. You. Me. Each of us individually. He delights in you.
We may find ourselves in dire situations, as the psalmist here frequently does. In fact, one might say the story of the Psalms thus far has been of living in dark hours and lonely nights wondering where God has been. But in Psalm 18 God shows up in a mighty way. His appearance shakes creation, parts the heavens, brings hail and lightning, exposes the valleys of the sea, and lays bare the foundations of the earth. God comes in power, but he does not come to judge; he does not come to destroy; he comes to save me because he delights in me.
Indifference or delight? Seemingly a simple question, but upon such a simple question rests the full weight of thousands of years of debate. Is there a God, or isn’t there? And if there is a God, does he care or not? There is no way to resolve such a complex debate in the remaining sentences in this post, so instead, I will conclude with a dilemma for you to consider: there is either nothing but the material universe, in which case we are alone, or there is a personal God behind the material universe who loves us, and even though life is often difficult, he promises to rescue us because he delights in us.
Do Camus and Dawkins tell the truth of the matter, or does David? Which is it?