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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Purpose . to live. and learn... and enjoy. meaning. yeah i give whole dollars to homeless that have grown post both bush and scott regimes of prison industry and opiates disgusting...

I gave 1$ to a couple with kid in stroller at the exit of a chase bank nxt door to a starvation i mean salvation army... 

he said gbless thank given' etc.. i said "no god here man, just good...

right - no god here ... good response SecularCortex

Helping people is a good purpose Romelo - thanks for the reply

It might be good to ask if a purpose is either necessary or even whether it is a good idea. Having a purpose provides your life with a narrative. Committing to a purpose can guide you through decisions and keep you going through rough patches. However, if you commit to a purpose which then becomes impossible, you may conclude that your life is worthless.

I knew a mathematician who decided to dedicate his life to solving a famous problem. He worked hard and long, but he could not find the solution. His career and his life were ruined and he went into a deep depression. Not a good thing at all.

Life has the meaning that one assigns to it.  The most common lack is not a shortfall of meaning but a shortfall of time to do all that one wishes to do, regardless of one's religious beliefs.

The hope is that each of us realizes, before we reach our deathbed, that all the possessions, status and attention we hunger for is really for not. If they are the importance to you then that is all there is. To live a pleasurable life is only half the story. It matters to you solely and it dies with you.

Then there is the effect you had on those around you. Did you live an exemplary life? Were you even "aware" of your actions - aware of the WHY you did what you did? Did you demonstrate to others that one needn't be a competitive brute to find peace.

It is the positive effect you had on everyone else that changes the fabric of humanity and pushes all forward. This is the external meaning of your life. It is your afterglow that survives you. To not care for and nurture it is truly a waste of one's life.

The way Viktor Frankl put it is that it is not so much us asking what is the meaning of life, but rather is life that is asking us the question, what meaning we can make of it.

I would counter with "As a believer, can your life have purpose and meaning?"

Isn't the whole purpose of most religions to live this life for the next?  I maintain that atheists value life much more than believers.

Yes and thank you Ken and I would agree with you.

As Atheists we do value life more because we have only this one life. We live for the here and now and not for the after life.

The time is coming, it has already come, when the imposture which offers us a verbal negation of the present life with the aim of preparing for a future state, and the recognition of a personal animal existence as life, and a so-called duty as the business of life—the time has come I say, when this imposture becomes apparent to the majority of men. —Tolstoy

Believers claim that their purpose is to worship (whatever that means) their imaginary friend, praise and flatter his enormous ego.  In other words, be puppets.

On the other hand, we each create our own purpose...something that "floats our boat."  One of the many things I have enjoyed was entertaining other people, especially when I was part of a 36-person chorus line.  It didn't matter that I was essentially anonymous; we smiled at the audience, and the ones we could see smiled back at us. That was enough  (Well, I was skating...and getting paid for it...loved that, too.)

I'm a very shallow person, but I've always been my own person, even when I was trying to be a believer.  I found out that I couldn't force myself to believe that crazy collection of unbelievable stories, so I tossed it.

I think that many if not all of us atheists struggle with the reality of oblivion after death. It's the same feeling I get when I observe or think about an animal or insect species where each member lives a few brief months or days doing whatever it is genetically programmed to do to reproduce successfully, and then dies.

I understand that "humanity" moves ahead with each advancement or technological or even moral or social accomplishment of our species, but then each future individual member is likewise doomed to non-existence and oblivion. One could ask, "Why bother?" -- just as we ask that question about insects and lesser animals whose short lives seem rather pointless.

It's kind of like... Would we bother to go on a vacation to the beach or the mountains or Europe if we knew that all memories of the experience would then disappear? If we could just "check back in" with the living, I dunno, every five years or so after death to be updated on life on our planet...

However, just because I find these realities inescapably disturbing does not mean that I'm willing to hide from them in religious fairy tales and fantasies. Like Carl Sagan, I much prefer the hard truth.

All that said, I would think that life for an atheist might have two different but related sorts of meaning or purpose.

The first might be to reduce the suffering of as many sentient fellow creatures as possible-- each of whom has accidentally arisen, through no fault or choice of their own, from the raw matter of an indifferent cosmos into consciousness and awareness of existence and with the ability to feel both psychic and physical pain. The cosmos doesn't care about us, but WE can care about each other.

The second (and unrealistic on a personal level) purpose might be to strive as a species to ultimately find a way to preserve individual consciousness so that we do NOT end our individual existences in oblivion and eternal nothingness.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics might seem a strange place to seek comfort from the horror of death and oblivion, but at least one individual did—the mathematician Norbert Weiner. He wrote:

“We are swimming upstream against a great torrent of disorganization...In this, our main obligation is to establish arbitrary enclaves of order and system...It is the greatest possible victory to be, to continue to be, and to have been. No defeat can deprive us of the success of having existed for some moment of time in a universe that seems indifferent to us.

Over all entropy increases, but within certain small frames in space-time, order can be made to prevail. What we have is now, the fleeting moment, in which to act against the overwhemling tides of disorganization which eventually win the day. They need not, however, win the moment. Religion, which readily admits defeat in arguing for a future state as the goal of life among its many lies, does not help, it hinders, but whatever you can do in the moment to preserve and enhance life—to establish and keep enclaves of order in the small time and space we have—is the right way to go.




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