As An Atheist Can Your Life Have Purpose and Meaning?

I was wondering what other people thought about this.

I realize we weren't born with a purpose. No creator or "higher calling".

But as a non believer can your life have meaning and purpose without god?

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Antonio, I agree with Steph.  Excellent post. 

The Westminster catechism explains the purpose of life according to Protestants: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. The explanation of this is that God's glory cannot be increased since he is already perfect and perfectly glorious, so that all man can do is to manifest his glory by devoting his life to God. Man may have secondary purposes subordinate to the glorification of God such as eating, drinking, taking care of health, and earning a living, but they must be distinctly secondary to manifesting the glory of God.

My feeling is that this is a sick way to go about the business of living, but I also observe that no Christian—even the best of them—in my experience actually does live this way.

One of my uncles was a Methodist minister and as the years went by was given larger and larger churches. When he moved to a new one, he and his wife would test the waters to see how prominent members of the congregation felt about their playing cards. They loved bridge, but would not be known to play it until they had checked it out. It was a small hypocrisy on their part, but it made an impression on the rest of the family.

"My feeling is that this is a sick way to go about the business of living,...."

I agree, and Friedrich Neitzsche reached this conclusion before we did.

He hedged his bets, though; he gave the words "God is dead" to an insane man.

Dr. Clark, "My feeling is that this is a sick way to go about the business of living,'"

That's been my sentiment since the second grade in grammar school.  I could never get by (accept) the belief that God took a rib from Adam and somehow trans­mogrified this hanger-on bone into a beautiful, sexy lady.  Tried as I could with my eight-year-old brain, I could never figure it out. 

So, my point is that not only is much of orthodox religion sick, it’s screwy.  Did you happen to read my copyrighted blog post on a “Compilation of Biblical Quotes” by Barbara Walker? 

This if a fun read.  I told Barbara it’s like hitting them on the head with their own beliefs. 


On life purpose, the only differece made by believing god is you can devote your life to your church. Religion is not the only thing can provide "higher calling". Nationlism, for instance, can do the same. I think this kind of calling relies more on one's character, not being atheist or not.

I agree - being of good character - very important!

Science, art, literature, medicine, and music are things people can devote their lives to. I've known people whose lives were devoted to antiques, old cars, books, or dogs. I've known women whose lives were entirely devoted to their families. There are many things worthy of devotion and endeavor.

We are lucky to be alive at all and so having that chance, it is incumbant upon all of us to make the absolute most of this brief blip of time we find ourselves self-aware and able to contemplate the world around us. I think for many, purpose is found in children (having three myslef, I agree) but for those without or who wish not to have them, the universe still offers plenty and we are seeing it right now on Mars. I think life is in our chirldren and in our freindships and in our family, but always, always with a dream of what future generations will be capable of if we ourselves contribute to making a better today. The potential to dream has never been greater. We have the most amazing vantage point in human history, able to imagine how increased knowledge in physics, biology, cosomolgy, medicine, etc. can accomplish truly miraculous things. Walking on water ain't nothing compared to rolling on Mars. "They see me rollin'..."

Marcus Aurelius: "Death stands at your elbow. While you are alive and it is in your power, be good for something."

I like the quote you selected Dr. Allan H. Clark. To be good for something while you are alive.

First, I'll apologize in advance...

Since meaning is arbitrarily assigned, it is as meaningful to our subjective ego, and meaningless all the same. It's one of those concepts that we could all say is common sense, yet if asked to prove that it exists, it would draw blanks, I'm sure, from each of us. If we all went about our day, and did the exact same things that we do without assigning meaning, the world would continue in the exact same way as it did, with or without meaning.

In other words, when religionists say, "God is our meaning.", they got all the words right, but they reversed the order. Meaning is our god. To each and everyone of us. It doesn't exist. Yet it exists. It is illogical. Yet we require it to make logic. It should not be taken for granted, yet most of us "find" meaning anyway.

But "find" is a bit of a misnomer... We don't "find" God. We "invent" God.

We do invent god Jonathan Chang - a god and myths created by us.



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