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Where do you find meaning?

One of the few good arguments against atheists is the issue of meaning. The answer of the “New Atheists” is: “Life is even more meaningful if there’s no afterlife because it’s all we have” and “The answer to meaning will be different for every atheist, because it’s up to us to decide what will make life worth living”. This is all pretty, but it does leave a vacuum. Ultimately, the universe doesn’t know you are here, doesn’t care, has no purpose. Life has no purpose.

I am sure many would be atheists, can’t let go of religion because they find the idea there is no purpose to this whole charade that is life, ridiculous. They need a sense of meaning that’s beyond their individual caprice. Jordan Peterson has interesting ideas on the subject.

What gives your life meaning? Do you think life and the universe have a purpose?

Lucignolo 6 Sep 9

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The meaning of life is found everywhere, but life is the reason for life. It seeks to perpetuate itself, but that seeking is mechanical. The meaning, on the other hand, is self generated to varying degrees in the different species that make up the biosphere. I am reasonably certain that a bacterium finds no meaning in life and quite probably doesn't care in the least.

Humans, being one of the more complex forms of life, search constantly for meaning. For whatever reason, they tend to think there must be meaning to it all. Frequently, they invent meaning for themselves, then attempt to force their interpretation of meaning on all the others. They call that religion --- or government --- or both.


curiosity and the enjoyment of creating things with my hands are the things that give me joy and purpose in my life


Does the universe have purpose. I do not think so. It simply is.

In my own life, I find meaning in relationships with people, in learning, and in comprehending and appreciating my relationship with events and my environment.


If the universe has purpose or not seems like a no-brainer to me...the universe just is, it air, it serves a purpose...but does not "have" a purpose.... as an individual, my purpose in life is have as much quality of life as I can. I think religion trys to destroy quality of life by instilling guilt and fear in order to propagate itself, simply seeking adherence...I have, at seventy-five years of age, made many super bad choises in life, just letting life push me first one way, then another. And so it was later in life before learning that it was up to me to control my choices....I did any way, but never quite took responsibility for them....that happens when some un-known enity is given control of your life. Well...I'm ramblling again. Thank you all two-bit advice in life is......don't wait too late in life before taking responsibility for what you say, think, and do....good luck with your life.

Very interesting! Thanks!


What do you mean ‘meaning?’ What does meaning even mean?

Smart....excellent reply to the delusions of believers and pseudoAtheism.....there is no "comfort" in religion and religions are invented to rape women and brainwash boys into violent behaviour....that is the "meaning" of perpetrators alleging an afterlife


I don't need meaning in my life I don't know even if that is a possibility as there are so many variables & I don't really care - I put one foot in front of the other - I am 70 and in my life the next thing has always arrived for me - I have had many many enjoyable moments and feel I have contributed enough to my society - people generally think I am O.K. I just enjoy the minutes and hours; I like being busy . I like going to bed tired after painting or cleaning washing making patchwork quilts doing washing for other people who cannot manage the machines gardening is my favourite plus feeding the birds . I have a friend with whom i drink coffee every morning and we do the pub quiz and the puzzles in the paper that I buy- She is great at geography and maths and I am hopeless at them but I am good at other bits - we laugh like drains - its enough No I don't think the universe has a purpose, but I may well be surprised one day. I think the biggest meaning of my life was having two brilliant children and five incredible grandchildren - Their show now!

well said...


Believers have to cope with an indifferent universe with no guarantees or special favors or privileges, just like the rest of us. It's just that they spend a lot of their life force concocting elaborate circumlocutions around the fact that their life unfolds exactly the same as if they were unbelievers.

The only difference between me and my former self was that I got tired of making excuses and admitted to myself that my lived experience was totally inconsistent with the Christian model of reality and I needed to find a better way to explain and predict my experiences. I eventually found it in critical / rational thinking, science and logic.

So it's Christians who have to experience the real "vacuum". And it sucks.

My life has all the purpose I require to get out of bed and put my pants on day after day. God is not only dead, he's overkill. I wrote some cool code today that captures and classifies email addresses and tomorrow I'll write some cool code to validate them in more detail and ping each address to see if it's alive or not. And I'll get paid good money for that work. I made my walking goal of 10,000 steps for the second day in a row, in perfect walking weather. I had a nice phone call with my oldest surviving brother, made some plans for my oldest grandson's visit next month, discussed whether it's time for a new washer and dryer with my wife, stayed inside my diet constraints without feeling too deprived, and remembered to take out the garbage. What more meaning do I need than that?

The problem most people have with meaning is they think it has to be some grandiose thing where they put up a statue of you in the town square when you die or its modern equivalent, you get fawning documentaries made about your life and work. Whereas by definition such things only happen to a few very extraordinary (and extraordinarily lucky) people. Tonight my wife and I watched such an opus about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and guess what, for all her accomplishments, her mother died of cancer before she graduated from high school, her husband nearly died of cancer early in their marriage, obliging her to nurse him, while going to law school and raising an infant only to find upon graduation that no one in all of New York City would hire her, simply because she was a woman; her husband later preceded her in death and she has had cancer herself twice since. What meaning is there in any of that chaotic shit? Not much. So that's the other side of the story, no one's life goes perfectly easy for them, and they have to find meaning in spite of that. And people do it every day, without relying on supernatural beings and empty promises of immortality and other forms of largesse and special treatment.


Not looking for meaning. Don't need a greater purpose.


It's other people, you wrote this blog not for some mystical being to appreciate it, you wrote it for us, and it's good. Everything loses meaning when there is nobody to do it for. But we are here, all trying to make sense of the Universe we are temporarily experiencing.


It’s a really good question. As an atheist In my 40s, and having lived a life of mostly of extreme privilege (acknowledged for the most part) I found meaning in lofty philosophical readings and thoughts. When I had that easy going life, finding meaning in reading, art and music and some sex, drugs and rock and roll was a peach. Now I am older and have seen death close up and for real, I find no meaning in anything really. Just emptiness. I don’t want to live harder and faster just because there is no afterlife and no god. I just see the world a struggle and a pain. No fancy food, travels or nice experiences can change that reality is cruel, and nothing lasts forever. Sometimes I even envy people with their delusions of god. At least their belief gives them some kind of anchor or hope. Sorry to be miserable but being a grieving atheist is an extremely heavy burden.

Livia Level 6 Sep 23, 2018

Wow... Truth without dressing or condiments. That’s how I like it.

I wasn’t expecting so much direct and straight forward honesty, but I love it. You have valid, strong points that are difficult to deny. I’m also in my 40s, but am still trying to find some viable alternative to nihilism. It’s hard though, because it seems to make so much sense...

Thanks for your thoughts

@Lucignolo thank you. I think atheists make a tough call. There is nothing except your conscience and hard cold reality. No comfort, no forgiveness, no cleansing of sin, no hope in an afterlife, and for many of us, no belief in soul. That’s a hard reality to choose when things are tough in life.
I choose the harshness of atheism because my brain will not permit illogical belief or delusional thinking. But I am aware such delusions offer a lot of people a cushion in life, a comfort blanket, and I cannot deny that would be nice to have. I can’t criticize people for wanting hope and comfort. It’s natural for most people to want and need something to believe in.


So, if the purpose of this life is supposed to be to get to heaven, what is the purpose of heaven once you are there? Does life become meaningless once you are in heaven? Does heaven then leave a vacuum in your afterlife?

I like that logic. It’s a great argument against religions that assign to this life the meaning of “quiz to get to heaven”. In that view I guess Heaven’s purpose is: being complete and being content to be with God and part of God or something like that I guess.

I, like you, don’t believe in Heaven or afterlife. Which means any meaning must be contained within this life and this life alone. I’m not opposed to the idea of “no meaning at all”. Although what I’m seeking is a secular idea of meaning. Something beautiful and thoughtful that can be used to offer some hope to religious people that can’t leave religion because they find the idea of “nothing matters” inconceivable. It’s a very hard task given most likely the universe just is, and life simply happened in a tiny tiny pocket. Even is that’s true, as I and most of you rationally expect, there may be broader philosophical justifications for meaning that are better then simply saying “find your own meaning” or “there is no meaning”.

Looking to heaven to make one "content" is really an admission that one has failed to find contentment in this life. I personally have no such problem and my life has been difficult in many ways. Even so, what magic would make one content or happy 24x7? It is not in human nature, or in nature period, to be ecstatic 24x7. That means that our very nature would have to be changed in some fundamental way that is incomprehensible. I think many people view heaven as similar to being in a drugged state 24x7 without falling prey to physical addiction. But this would essentially be similar to being in a zombie-like drugged state with no purpose other than to be "content". But isn't that just a more pleasant state of meaninglessness? If not, then what would the meaning of heaven life then be other than the pleasant eternal zombification? In a way, though pleasant, this actually sounds a little scary.
To me, life is full of meaning, and I pity those who find life meaningless and empty. Life is a neverending discovery and I live for that even though it is not always pleasant. But why should discovery always be pleasant, anyway? And if I were to look for some theoretical meaning beyond life, whatever that might be, it certainly wouldn't be some zombified drugged state. That is escaping life, not embracing it. And if you don't want to embrace life now, why would you want to embrace it forever? To me, looking for meaning "beyond" life is like an eye looking for itself or a hand attempting to grasp itself. It is simply an absurd exercise in escapist and meaningless futility while the true purpose and joys of life slip through your fingers.


Jordan is one of my favorite speakers. I don't think god is needed for his phylosophy to hold true, though. Perhaps if you say that the power of all the lives changed by the movie "Bambi" can be collectively refered to as a force and that force then deserves a name. In that sense there's a Bambi God. He uses the old wisdom of civilizations long before us to similar effect - though there is wisdom in the teaching of ancients the same can be found in reading old english or even early american writers. With those examples, though, you don't need a dude in a pointy hat to tell you what the text "really means". And you don't need to murder people.

Meaning, to me, means being part of something greater than ones self. Corny yes, but no less important. Dealing with mortality is much easier if you think of humanity as a whole and yourself simply as a part of it. I don't think we'd desire a meaning for life if we didn't have to deal with mortality.

Patrick has got it spot on.

hey patrick

Yeah. His idea of God is not what religious people think it is


Observing nature and reading scientific research work.


The meaning I have found is knowing I'm free from the bs of religion/god. I have accepted that there is nothing after death and live life to the fullest.


Tis an interesting question to which many people will offer their opinion. Personally, I think that when I am engaged in some activity that provides an opportunity to learn and progress then I am doing something meaningful.. If you are looking for an answer to your question in some book then I think that you will inevitably be disappointed.


I do not find meaning. A person makes or creates their own meaning as they go along.


My feeling is that the universe does know I'm here. I am matter taking up space. I am consuming resources and ideas from around me and have produced not only my children, for example physically, but am also producing ideas and creations for others to consume in an emotional or intellectual sense. I am participating in the world as time goes forward.

The universe is made up of inanimate matter, solids, gases and the vacuum of space. From what I can tell, the movements of the celestial objects seem to be striving for a balance of sorts. Pressures create explosions, destruction becomes creation, bits of matter find each other get rounded into spinning balls from all that gravitational orbiting, and under the right conditions, at the right time, perhaps support life. Sometimes we can take some metaphorical comfort in recognizing ways to understand the nature of life.

Living creatures, from what I can see, have an innate predisposition to produce, grow, absorbing resources from around them, and then they themselves become a resource eventually in the circle of life.

As for meaning in human life, I think we all discover talents within ourselves that we can offer to the world, where ever there is a niche to be filled, whether it's manual labor, creative ideas, nurturing care, etc. We find a way to interact and play a part in the drama that is our web of life.

When we fail to be productive, we might ponder the reason we are here and fall into depression. We then only have to look back on what good we have done in this life and celebrate that, keep on doing what our talents allow, and if nothing else, create a happy secure place for those around us.

Thank you for sharing


I find meaning in ethics, being as kind and respectful as I can toward others. This is what makes me happy.


I don't know that life has some great meaning. I make mine meaningful to me and that is all I can do.


My life has meaning because of the love I share. Everybody I have ever loved in any way will carry a piece of me with them wherever they go forever. Through my family and friends, my love will spread all around the entire world and maybe someday into space! I have added one amazing person to the world's population and helped raise him and his brother to be kind, thoughtful, respectful, and loving people. My pets have better lives for having lived with me. My plants thrive and eventually grow large enough to share clones with my plant loving friends. I try very hard to do no harm. I also try to live in this moment and enjoy and appreciate as much of my life as I can.


Everywhere. You just need to look.



I think the 'reason' we are here is to take care of the planet. I think we've failed.


none of that leaves a vacuum for me I understand your second paragraph very well and agree with you yet I find my life incredibly meaningful , fun and learning being uppermost. I think I have said this before -damn that short term memory! but life is what I choose to make it and I can choose to bitch about it and enjoy that or choose to do some really nice things that I will also enjoy- My motto - enjoy the moment i'm in. Of course there are hard times always lying in wait and if you have a history of 'enough' it is plenty buffering for the downsides.


I came across this quote a few months ago, it is attributed to Albert Camus; "The meaning of life is whatever I'm doing at the moment that keeps me from killing myself." I think that works for me.


No there is no fundamental purpose, we are just machines that our genes built so they are protected and multiplied, and they do it just because the ones that did could replicate, so it is a kind of random stuff.
We are intelligent, and we have conscience, so we can interact with the few meters around us, and have fun, pleasure, pain, sadness, desire.
For the universe it does not matter if you became a serial torturer and killer or a catholic saint, you are free to do it.
For the same evolutionary mechanism the societies that focused on a minimal level of cooperation worked and flourished, the civil rights era where we are now is the apex of that (and probably it will evolve more).
So the objective I choose for myself is primarily to live a good life and secondary, to live behind me a better world than I received, this includes improve my community, educate my kids (when I get some), Advance science etc.

  1. no, it is not a good argument against "atheists". I have never, not once, had anyone use the "what about the meaning of it all" argument in a convincing way, so it is not good in that sense, and it fails all logical considerations, so it is not good in that sense either.

  2. I do not belief there is "purpose" to life and the universe.

good in the sense it stops religious people from letting go of religion. It’s not good in the sense it actually is logically sound. People need purpose and meaning in their life. A lot of suicidal or depressed individual will mention exactly lack of purpose or meaning to express their feelings of depression.

Religion has the advantage over atheism of offering meaning despite the fact it’s false. If there was a good, broad secular argument for purpose and meaning of life, religions would be in serious trouble.

@Lucignolo oh, good as in "effective for the purpose", got you, thank you for clarifying that for me.

yeah, for those scared of the void, it works to keep them from taking the final step to letting go of their superstitions. in that sense, I think it is important to show them ways to create meaning for their own lives.

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