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Do we have a purpose in life?

I've been reading a book called Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. It's an interesting book that looks at Okinawa, the place where there are more centenarians than anywhere else.

On the north side of the island, a town called Ogimi boasts the highest life expectancy in the world. So, they researched what sets these people apart. Of course, they eat well, have a good social network, regularly drink green tea... but another factor remained called Ikigai. That is having a purpose in life. In Japanese culture, work is considered a very important part of life- and finding the right work that matches skills and interests is Ikigai.

To them, you do not make your purpose in life. You find it. So, do you think Ikigai exists? A purpose in life, that each person has, and is meant to discover?

silvereyes 8 Dec 26

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I don’t think there is any objective purpose in life, but I do think humans are evolved to feel more contented, and perhaps be more productive, when we adopt a sense of purpose. I think that’s usually by way of contributing something of use to society at large, or to our family, or to an individual other than ourselves. Many people also find purpose in contributing to the wellbeing of other species, as in the case of animal rights activists, etc.

skado Level 8 Dec 26, 2017

No, that seems a bit nieve considering what we now know about the brain. I've heard people say that life is about finding yourself, but I think it's about creating yourself, and the same thing applies to one's purpose. They create it.

I am sure you are aware of Dan Barkers book "Life driven Purpose".

@JackPedigo No, I'm not but I'll check it out. I like Dan Barker.

@JackPedigo Btw, I like that play on words with regard to the evangelical Rick Warren's book, Purpose Driven Life.

@VictoriaNotes That's why he chose the title. Whenever I can I try to recommend for people to join FFRF. It would help so many on this site deal with their issues.

@JackPedigo I'm quite familiar with FFRF. My only beef with them is that they charge $40 annually to become a member. IMO, it should be based on voluntary donations, with no requirement to pay up to belong.

@VictoriaNotes Thank you for that item. This season they are offering a 2 for one deal. One can sign up and get another member for one price. But is is due to expire soon.

The problem I see, is that money is needed for this battle. FFRF is the top fighter in this area and they have a staff of lawyers (as you probably know). Books, CD's and other items are a bit pricey but the money goes for the cause. That said, the conventions are more affordable (I have been to 5 and am planning on going to San Francisco for the one next Nov). I would love to go to the Humanist convention but it is waay too expensive.

I was on the life level and now am on the after-life level and a part of my 'estate' goes to them. This is the most important movement in my life and I never seem to be satisfied with my present level of involvement. I have given memberships to others and will continue to do so. I am even toying with offering memberships for some in this group (my funds are not unlimited ,though).

@VictoriaNotes An added item: I am trying to get some friends to go with me to San Fran. and am even willing to foot the bill if they need. That's how important it is to me!!

@zeliasgrand Freedom From Religion Foundation


I think we have inborn traits that make us more suited to certain kinds of work. We also have loves that we have acquired that work the same way. That is one of the things that David Seabury talks about in The Art Of Selfishness. To be happy we must discover our own nature and be true to it. I'm pretty sure that will also extend your life.

@silvereyes --- Unfortionately it has been out of print for a while. Used copies can be bought online. It can also be downloaded off the web.


Many people simply exist, without purpose. The person who has a sense of purpose and finds the means to achieve it is fortunate.


I consider the brain to be a <meaning-finding organ>. That is one of its main jobs: to make sense of the input it receives, whether sensory input, ideas, or feelings. The brain is so good at assigning meaning, that it will attempt to "make sense" of even random input, such as white noise. When a "meaningless" event occurs, such as the unexpected death of a child, the brain will struggle to make sense of such an event, to find a meaning behind it. This can lead a lot of people into religious explanations for things that are otherwise incomprehensible. Apparently, there are evolutionary advantages to certainty, even when the person is mistaken. Scary, huh? Research into quality of life issues appears to confirm that those with a meaning, or purpose, in their lives, are happier, and live fuller lives, than those whom purpose evades.

Just a quick association in the form of a quotation; one of my favorites: "In the act of thought, life comprehends it's own essence." Wilhelm Reich, M.D. 1897-1957

I agree with this, and would add that the evolutionary advantage of 'certainty' (which includes the ability to detect patterns and thus make predictions) is simply an enhanced capacity to avoid death sometimes.


I feel that as atheists we probably have greater purpose in life than most believers because we tend to live each day for itself while many religious folk live for an afterlife and miss out on each glorious day we have. They also tend to have hangups about sex and everyday life that doesn't bother us. My purpose is to do everything I can to leave my home, the earth, as a place fit for my child and future generations. I don't give a crap about floating around on a cloud with some bastard wanting my adoration.

gearl Level 7 Dec 27, 2017

I'm a nihilist in the sense that I don't think we have an innate purpose beyond survive. We create or choose our own purposes in life.


In my opinion, there is NO purpose to live and each creates their own purpose.


This sounds very interesting. I thought my purpose in life is to gain wisdom and pass it on to my girls. But I would prefer to play a role in dismantling Christianity and revealing it as bullshit to as many people as I can.

Who says you can have only one "purpose"? I think you can have as many as you please.

Did the same; just as your girls are a blended continuation of you, you can all continue your good work 🙂


What a great concept. Searching for the "meaning of life" naturally encompasses purpose. I believe that is what a lot of people use religion and mysticism for--to discover that answer.

@atheist I'm not sure that's true. While I am comfortable with absolutes once they have been proven by evidence, until I have been given evidence on a subject, I try not to narrow my thinking on subjects. I believe that Christianity and all of these other religions are based on human beings trying to interpret their environment and events that occur in their lives. Others take those observations and read their own meaning into it. They are not universal truths, but common truths that certain people share, which is why we end up with cliques and groupings. BUt to say there is no consciousness after death, there are no aliens, there are no ghosts, or any other phenomenon is asking for trouble. Science itself has had to rewrite ceratin laws and theories over the past few hundred years. The heart does not produce blood in the body as medieval doctors once thought. There are many more instances that science is reevaluating all of the time from physics to archeology. One day the purpose of life may be discovered. I won't just dismiss something because it's not known now. I will approach it with the same evidence based need I do everything else.

@atheist Remember that many Science theories and law started out as a Philosophy. 😉
but seriously, While I am a skeptic of a great many things, I also will not shut the door on possibilities. In my lifetime I have said "never" quite a few times and was proven wrong by million to one odds occurring. So "Never say never" is a common phrase in my lexicon.


You make your own purpose. And if you don't go out of bounds with the society you live in, you don't get thrown in jail or killed. OH ... and 42.

Question = answered.


I recall some years ago when I was only my way to work one morning I was listening to the car radio. The oldest woman in the country was being interviewed and the interviewer asked her what she had for breakfast: "Well, for the past 90 years I've had nothing but brandy and eggs for me breakfast. I gave up smoking two years ago when I realized it was bad for me."


We were in a program hosting Japanese students enrolled in the many English language programs in Seattle. Our first student, Risa, was from Okinawa. Okinawa is a tropical island S. of the main part of the country. What you say about longevity is true but only for the older people. Unfortunately, the American military is based there and have brought fast food. The younger generation have thus become one of the most unhealthy parts of Japan.

There is an expression "hari hachi boo" which means eat only until you are 75% full.

We had students for 3 years and it was so rewarding. One student was with us 13 months and I still communicate with her.

@silvereyes Wow, you know the term (and the correct spelling). Our student told us it was 75%.

The program is not for everyone and not every student was ideal but some were unforgettable. One Japanese woman, Kaoru was crazy and fun. She was 27 but looked 17. She loved to socialize and party and was always the hit of the group. She once came home late at night and fell down the stairs to the den where we were sitting (luckily they were carpeted). She was obviously drunk and I asked "the bus driver let you get on the bus like that? She said yes, she told him not to worry because she was a happy drunk!! She was with us 13 months of which was filled with one memorable event after another. We had a student from Saudi Arabia, Korea, a 16 year old from Taiwan whose English was perfect (she was in the country for 2 years on a college prep program. She talked like she was from California.


We are not special, humans have no higher purpose than other life forms. We are for the most part social animals, and therefore it seems we must have roles in our society and performed like trained animals so. 94% of the population accepts this (random number plucked out of the air) most of the rest may not accept it, but appear as if they do. Are we any different to a dolphin, seal, or any circus animal board and raised in captivity? Not knowing any different and totally out of touch with the life that their DNA is adapted to exist in.


Well alrighty... to invent things to make us smarter. To have children and help them do the same. Keep doing this till our inventions do all the work and we no longer have to do I guess! Heck! I told my wife a king and queen from the old days don't have as good as we have it today. Even poor people have it better then king and queens from the old days. We have everything. 10 times more then people from the old days. We getting smarter.


I think our purpose is to fit into the entire circle of life harmoniously on this planet. Everything living thing is connected in an intricate dance of life. When that is out of balance I think that turns into pathology - the overgrowth of humans. Maybe our purpose is to fit into that delicate and beautiful balance to make it all work efficiently. Maybe I am here to learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life, its source, substance and beauty. I will use my senses fully in daily appreciation until I am dead, disintegrated into basic elements and start that journey in the circle once again, in thousands of mycelia that feed the trees etc. Asking for any more than that would feel greedy to me.


Yes....I found mine, humanism!!!


We are put on this Earth to fuck and die.


I believe it in that there are occupations we are naturally suited for based on diverse levels and styles of intelligence, creativity, dexterity,...

I'd say this is most evident in people who get advanced degrees. For whatever psychosocial reasons there may be, their areas of study have become their "calling".

Then there are artists, of which I have very intimate knowledge. Many of us readily give up any hope for, or need of, a "normal" life and we're willing to forsake all but the most basic needs just to be able to create.

Of course, I consider the "spiritual" aspects but, in the end, having a "calling" is just as natural as breathing for some.


My purpose was to raise three amazing daughters to adulthood. As long as they need me I will be happy to stick around. I grew up without a mom after age 14, I would not wish that on anyone. My girls still need me, as does the first grandchild,and a second en route. And just making it from one day to the next is purpose enough.


I don't believe we have any particular purpose in life but we are strongly motivated to acheive some sort of immortality such as reproduction or being remembered. This is a manifestation of the fear of death, which is perhaps the strongest biological driver of all.


I haven't felt like I have a purpose since my wife died.


I think we do have a purpose. We share it with every species known and unknown. We are to continue and expand into every ecological niche and die trying. I would say that our particular talents lend a few other built in ends, But basically we are to carry on as best we can.


For most of my life I have struggled to figure out my purpose. About 5 years ago, I quit trying. Gradually it dawned on me that something on which I placed high value , was one part of my purpose in life. My skin. I have taken great care of my wrapping and as a donor, I feel convinced that upon my death, my skin will help a burn survivor. I'm sure some of you will think I'm nuts. That's ok, I have some other purposes.


I believe we just run around like mad for the queen (king) like the bees and ants, making sure they have enough to eat and a great place to live while we workers live in the chambers below. There is no real purpose to our lives, yes progress happens as we are blessed (cursed?} with creative and fertile minds that keep our society progressing, but in 500 years, we will be considered ancient history and very few of us will be remembered.

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