Religious Existentialism: Can You Be One?

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. Its core belief is that humans must create their own meaning in life as there is no predetermined purpose or essence. On the other hand, religion provides a moral framework and offers answers to the big questions of life.

But can one be both an existentialist and a religious person? Can you have faith in a higher power while also embracing the tenets of existentialism? Let’s explore this further.

The Basic Tenets of Existentialism

Existentialists believe that individuals are responsible for creating their own purpose and meaning in life. They reject the idea of predetermined destiny or divine intervention. Existentialists also argue that human beings possess free will and can make choices based on their own beliefs and values.

Existentialists often see life as inherently meaningless but search for meaning through personal experiences, relationships, and creativity. They also focus on the present moment rather than dwelling on past regrets or future anxieties.

Religious Beliefs

Religion, on the other hand, offers a set of beliefs about God, morality, and the afterlife. It provides answers to the ultimate questions about human existence such as why we are here, what happens after we die, and how we should live our lives.

Most religions emphasize faith over reason and encourage adherence to a set of rules or principles. Religious people often look to God for guidance and support during difficult times.

Can You Be Both?

At first glance, existentialism and religion seem incompatible. However, some theologians have attempted to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory worldviews.

One approach is to view religion as providing an overarching framework for meaning while acknowledging that individuals must still create their own unique purpose within that framework. In this sense, religion becomes a starting point rather than an endpoint for personal meaning.

Another approach is to re-interpret religious beliefs through an existentialist lens. For example, one could view God as a symbol of human potential or the ultimate source of creativity. This approach emphasizes personal experience and interpretation over dogmatic adherence to religious texts.

The Challenges

While it is possible to combine existentialism and religion, there are still challenges to this approach. Existentialism relies on personal choice and freedom, while religion often emphasizes obedience and submission to God’s will.

Furthermore, many religions have strict rules and traditions that can conflict with the values of existentialism. For example, some religions forbid certain behaviors or restrict personal expression.


In conclusion, it is possible to be both an existentialist and a religious person. However, it requires a willingness to question traditional religious beliefs and reinterpret them in light of existentialist principles. It also requires a deep understanding of both worldviews and a commitment to creating your own meaning in life while still honoring your faith.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Can you reconcile the beliefs of existentialism with your religious convictions? Only you can answer that question.