In a review of Alister McGrath’s recent book, The Big Question, Barbara King, a professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, takes issue with McGrath’s characterization of atheism as lacking the meaning which, McGrath contends, can be found in a religious, and specifically Christian, worldview. That the philosophical implications of atheism should doom the atheist to an arid and desolate existence, King contends, is an unkillable myth: a shibboleth of the faithful as buoyant but as false as the contention that Darwin experienced a deathbed conversion. King ends her article by wondering, “How to make this unkillable myth about atheism into a moribund myth?”
But at least part of the reason this myth about atheists remains unkillable is the fact that so many atheists themselves have espoused it. Indeed, if we tour the last three centuries of pronouncements on the question of meaning, we discover just how much the lungs of atheists have given wind to these sails.