Existentialism TheoryQUESTION: What is the atheistic existentialism theory?
Dictionary.com defines existentialism theory as “A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.” 1
Existentialism is generally an atheistic philosophy though some theists have attempted to adopt it into their individual theistic paradigms. “Although many, if not most, existentialists were atheists, [Søren] Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers and Gabriel Marcel pursued more theological versions of existentialism. The one-time Marxist Nikolai Berdyaev developed a philosophy of Christian existentialism in his native Russia and later France during the decades preceding World War II.” 2
Existentialism, for most of its adherents, can be understood as atheistic. In order to see this, it helps to look at the philosophy of existentialism as it contrasts with that of theism. Theists generally believe in an ultimate transcendent reality. Existentialists believe each person’s experience is unique and truly known only by that person. In other words, theists point to an objective reality, while existentialists see only a subjective one.
Theists emphasize interpersonal relationships (between a person and God, a believer and other believers, a believer and non-believers, etc). Existentialists emphasize the “isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe.” Theists believe that humans are created by God and are given a purpose by that Maker. Existentialists regard human existence as ultimately unexplainable.
Theists and existentialists generally agree on “freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.” But they differ significantly in that theists hold to an absolute moral standard, while existentialists believe in moral relativism.