The idea that – in the absence of God or a creator – we will be the exclusive authors of our own fate was a favorite topic for existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). Quoting fellow author Francis Ponge in saying that “Man is the future of man” – that this is absolutely true so long as you don’t believe there is a God out there who has already a future laid out for us, and he knows exactly what that is, for then it would no longer even be a future.
That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything that he does. (Existentialism is a Humanism, by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1945)
You might want to question Sartre’s use of the word “condemned” here – because of its strong negative intent, as well as the sense of melodrama that it would seem to convey. But, presumably, that is exactly what he had in mind.
Instead, he might have said that – contrary to all other creatures on earth that do not have a choice in the matter – we have been given the freedom to determine our own destiny.
And surely, that has to be a preferable state of being in spite of the daunting challenge that this presents us with. This would include not being paralyzed by the weight of the obligations that follows from this predicament; something we can run – but not hide from.
Directly or indirectly, we will be confronted by this challenge at every decision we make on behalf of ourselves, and – by extension – on behalf of anyone else in this world.