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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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.

I guess Norbert Weiner's point could be another way of saying that all we ever have is the one present moment in any case.  And it certainly is a victory to have existed at all.

And the great tragedy religion imposes is the idea that our one moment is to be squandered in preparing for another life  and avoiding eternal punishment, neither of which ever comes. That is a criminal enterprise.

Per The Urban Dictionary, using intimidation & threats to get what you want is called a "shakedown". 

The opening question of this post is illogical right from the start. 

Since atheism is not a world view, the fact that one does not believe in deities is irrelevant to the question of whether or not one's life has meaning. A person who believes in god(s) could decide their life has no meaning, or could decide it does. A person who does not believe in god(s) could do the same.

The only phrase that can logically follow from "as an atheist..." is "I do not believe in a god or gods."

Any other phrase that one attempts to attach to "as an atheist..." renders the sentence a nonsense, because atheism is not a world view.

Of course.  Everyones life has whatever meaning they chose to give it.  I help animals.  Dogs mostly but any animals that need help.

You are right!  We make our own purposes...if we haven't been totally brainwashed. From age 6 on I was passionate about dance, until I saw ice skating for the first time on TV, and went from passionate to obsessed. I didn't want to compete; I wanted to skate in one of the big ice shows that used to tour the country.  And I DID!  I was one of 36 chorus skaters, and I loved it. (never wanted to be a soloist.)  That's why I call myself "Sk8eycat."

Now that my body will no longer behave itself, I devote some of my computer time, paper, and ink to writing stuff for a local free newspaper that campaigns for adopting, spaying, and neutering pets (among other things)...attempting to make Los Angeles a "no-kill" city. The Pet Press has a Facebook page, but I don't know the link because I detest that web site.  Look it up, if you're interested.

Our motto is "Don't breed or buy while homeless pet die."  And, "If your dog won't wear a condom, GET HIM FIXED!"

Absolutely for in my opinion we as human beings are gawd and we have the choice to make positive differences in the world around us or to cause carnage.....purpose for me is to help other human beings when they might need a hand up. For we all struggle and experience pain at some point and time in our lives.......yes I would call that a purpose not stepping onthose who are down......was I born with a calling? Of course not but throughout my time here on this planet I have chosen to develop into what I am......

We grok.

Can these kids lives have purpose and meaning? Maybe so if we keep them awy from early myths and lies.

So true.  We are ALL atheists until we are old enough to be brainwashed; dunking a baby in some dirty water doesn't make her/him a Christian....just makes the kid wet.  If he/she isn't already. 

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