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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That belief in a god adds purpose and meaning to peoples lives is a fallacy. They may well believe these things, but what purpose does it serve to be led by the nose by your imagination? As for giving life a meaning, lives are meant to be lived in the flesh, warts and all, what meaning can we attach to living in a religious trance?                                                                                                                                      Looking for meaning and purpose was what led humanity up the garden path of religion in the first place.

People do find life purposeful as Frank explained regarding medical research, but equally many people go through life without purpose or meaning, and live happy go lucky lives, free of the haughty morality of religion. 

Your purpose and meaning in life has the value that you give it. Nobody can assign you a purpose or meaning. YOU are the only person who can do that for yourself.

Mike, I agree 100%

Jonathan Haidt has studied the "righteous mind" and came up with six themes that people rely on in making moral decisions: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. As a rough breakdown, liberals and skeptics place more value on care, fairness, and liberty, while those on the conservative, believing side give higher value to loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

On that basis your friend may see you now as disloyal to your community, rejecting established and legitimate authority, and violating the sanctity of life.

Yes, Haidt defines these themes clearly and explains why conflict arises for me when dealing with conservatives. My brush makes a wide sweep, and I respond from observing these trends. 

Haidt undervalues reason because he thinks people don't use it in making moral decisions, but the counter argument there is that they should use it more often and in a better way.

So many adults do not know how to think critically. That is the first and beginning thing I taught in life skills training, whether it was boys at the boys' ranches, inmates in prison, parents in parent training classes, or my freshman college students. It is not difficult to teach. Sadly parents who do not know how to think critically cannot teach their children how to reason. Some teachers don't know either.

The worst students were those who had learned that obedience was a high value. Following instructions, seeking authorities, looking outside themselves presented barriers to independent thought. 

The best students seeking critical thinking were the science-oriented ones. They developed habits of paying attention to what occurred, they looked for patterns, and they made connections in their observations. 

Frank, I agree. 

"I'm not a fan of the idea of purpose, because it implies a mission bequeathed by some external thing."

Being a christian, looking for god' purpose for my life created all kinds of stresses in me. Once I realized there was no god, there was no assigned purpose, I create my purpose. The adventure of reaching inside me when making decisions or solving problems resulted in a happier and more fulfilling life. I am the author of me. You are your author.  

Excellent choices both.The reason I like the Oscar Wilde is that it mirrors on the intellectual level  the fundamental idea of physical evolution. It is from the immense variety of individuals that the successful modifications are discovered. If there is any evolution on the intellectual level, it comes from individuals developing themselves to their peak.

There are quite a few other passages along these lines. One that was very popular in intellectual circles at the end of the nineteenth century and which may have inspired Wilde was the conclusion of Walter Pater's book on the Renaissance:

as Victor Hugo says: we are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve -- les hommes sont tous condamnés mort avec des sursis indéfinis: we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among "the children of this world," in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion -- that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake.

I've forgotten, but I believe Wilde, as a student at Oxford, actually knew Pater. Is that in Ellman?

T. S. Eliot, with Wilde in mind and sounding a bit like somebody's maiden aunt, said of Pater's Renaissance:

His view of art, as expressed in THE RENAISSANCE, impressed itself upon a number of writers in the 'nineties, and propagated some confusion between life and art which is not wholly irresponsible for some untidy lives.

"Untidy" hardly begins to describe Wilde's life—what an odd choice of words.

The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God Paperback – January 25, 2011

I have that book by Dan Barker - I am glad he wrote it.

The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God Paperback – January 25, 2011




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