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 we have a greater opportunity in this area than religious folks. For the religious, a cookie cutter type of meaning is thrust upon them. It is meaning that stifles and limits thought and expression.

As an existentialist, I believe one of the fundamental human tasks is to create meaning. We don't have to accept whatever mythology dominates our geographic area. We can invent our own mythology (as long as we don't forget that it is mythology) that resonates within us. This one and only opportunity to be alive as a human being is the canvas upon which we can paint ANYTHING! We have true freedom and it is beautiful.

We have the opportunity to create living meaning that grows with us and changes as we learn. Meaning that is enhanced by critical evaluation, science, and rational thought. Meaning that requires no rationalizations (God's will is beyond human ability to understand) and no "thought stopping" ("A doubt is the Devil trying to influence me, so I must say a prayer to take my mind in a different direction") in order to be sustained.

I agree with you Edward. As we learn we create our own meaning.


"Meaning that is enhanced by critical evaluation, science, and rational thought."

Yes we are truely free to think for ourselves. To think outside the box.

"For the religious, a cookie cutter type of meaning is thrust upon them. It is meaning that stifles and limits thought and expression."

Yes, wonderful statement here. Thanks!

Thanks for posting the topic. Good dicussions!

Jonathan I would just say that it is up to you to decide on the topic of purpose.

I agree Melinda. Live life the best you can.

That's why I asked this tough question to get people thinking. To get an exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Steph, your acknowledging others' posts indicates your interest in your topic. I thank you for doing so. You repeated part of booklover's (Melinda's?) post but not the getting and giving happiness part.

Some years ago I first heard the affirmation "I love myself unconditionallY." I may have been more ready to say it than others and had little difficulty. Then, while working on a phone help line I had opportunities to encourage callers to say it. Some of them had difficulty with the final word and I encouraged them to say it.

"Living the best we can" is the single largest reason for our ecological catastrophes. It's always about us, us, us, :(

TNT666 thanks for all your insightful replies. I see where you are coming from. We need to not be people centric in our thinking, but think about the system of animals and people and their interaction with the environment.

This is all quite true, but the difference is that the plant and animal are not conscious of their actions. They do not have the capacity to interpret them as valuable or wasteful, apart from the immediate task of staying alive.  They reproduce and eat and kill and die, oblivious to their "place" in the world.  We do have the capacity to interpret our actions.  What should we be doing with such capacity? We can take the strict utilitarian approach, maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.  We can be selfish about it, or altruistic (my pain is OK if it diminishes the suffering of others, my generation should make sacrifices so that future generations can prosper, etc.).  Is this sufficient?  Is this rational?


Any task can be decomposed into a connected sequences of sub-tasks, where the "purpose" of each sub-task is to prepare for the next sub-task.  But what if the overall task is not beneficial?  Is there a mother-of-all-tasks, a life’s work, towards whose attainment we strive?  If so, then this is our “purpose”.  If not, then why bother with any of the subtasks?


Religion silences the argument by sheepish abdication of moral consciousness.  We all agree that this does a disservice to the human potential. But upon rejecting the short-circuit approach of religion, we have two options: erect a new purpose, or reject the possibility of purpose.  In the former, have we not built a new religion?  In the latter, how do we distinguish ourselves from animals?  And should we?

I agree with you Write4U. There is a huge problem with theistic morals. They do always have a way out from their discretion's and therefore, they can continue to misbehave. I see it as an excuse they use to continue their bad behavior.


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