As atheists, we’ve all been asked this question before. If there is no god, how does your life have meaning?
Aside from this question being a deep cutting insult to all humanity, it’s also completely absurd. It’s like asking, “How does your life have meaning without pants?” It’s just so fucking random and arbitrary. Who the fuck gave deists and gods a monopoly on doling out meaning?
Nonetheless, let’s tackle this nasty bitch head on.
Once again, this was triggered by me reading something I probably should have stayed really fucking far away from. I was just trying to figure out if I could find a blog post or an article that explained what, exactly, the thinking behind the question is. I had a momentary lapse of judgment in thinking that someone, somewhere, could make sense of the assertion that life cannot have meaning without god. I don’t know why, or how my brain decided to hiccup like this but it led me to this.
This article casually lulls you into thinking you’re not going to be brain fucked with desperate reaching, by making a bit of sense in the beginning. The author, James Anderson, examines what we mean by the word “meaning” and I say he gets it square on the head.
Meaning, he says, is broken down into 3 components: purpose, significance and value. Agreed. At this point in my reading of the article, I’m just shocked we haven’t talked about serving god, so I’ll take it. Purpose, of course, is what your life is for. Significance is all about our lives adding up to something greater than ourselves and of course, value is talking about what our lives add to the world and were they worth living.
All of these things are fair, and I fully agree. So far, Jimmy is making sense.
Jim-bob expands his definition of meaning, breaking it up into two sources: meaning from outside (objective meaning) and meaning from within (subjective). I am still in total agreement at this point, and my tensions are easing: maybe this article won’t be completely the fuck insane.
And then, Jimmy Jeebot spews this:
On the Christian view, it’s easy to see how human life in general, and individual human lives, would have objective meaning in all three senses defined above. Our lives would have a purpose, one defined and revealed by our Creator. One of the best summary statements ever formulated comes from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end [i.e., our highest purpose] is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Moreover, our lives would have significance as part of God’s wise and sovereign plan for his creation. And as creatures made in the image of God, designed to commune with God and with one another, our lives would have tremendous value.
What the actual fuck.
I’m just going to go ahead and be brutally honest with you, I have no idea what the fuck this means. Our lives have value because we look like an old fucker we’ve never even seen? Our lives have value because we think we can talk to him? Our purpose is defined by the creator and yet he never tells us what it is? Sounds more like a test than a purpose… and doesn’t that absolve us of any responsibility for finding our own purpose? We are a significant part of his plan?
Let’s cover a few facts, ones that have been proven using the scientific method:
The Earth is 4.5 billion years old.
It is located in The Milky Way which is in the Local Galactic Group.
The Local Galactic Group contains more than 54 galaxies like our own.
Beyond our galactic group, is the observable universe, strewn with other galaxy groups, and reaching beyond 46 billion light years.
Beyond the observable universe is the universe, potentially infinite.
In comparison to all that is, I am but a microscopic speck.
And you want to tell me I’m part of the plan set in motion by some fucker who made all this? That’s like my kid having a plan for every piece of dust that settles in the lego castle he just built.
Jimmy genius thinks he has this shit in the bag, because he continues with his drivel by asking where an atheist could possibly get objective meaning from. Then, to prove his point, he brings up evolution and how evolution could not be the source of objective meaning. He quotes famous atheists as saying the universe is inherently purposeless to really nail that shit home like christ to a cross.
Is evolution really the only option we need to talk about? I think there is purpose bestowed upon us through the process of evolution, and that is to do our part to help our species survive. This isn’t a conscious life choice, however, it is being done for us in the genes we carry around and pass on. But aside from that, objective meaning is meaning that comes from outside of one’s self. So it can come from anything that is outside of one’s self.
Prose Before Hoes
In my worldview, objective meaning for a person’s life is his legacy. Can you actually tell me that without god, Hippocrates’ life would have had no objective meaning? What about Michelangelo? Shakespeare? Carl Jung? Beethoven?
Of course they have objective meaning – they are long dead and we are still talking about them today. How much more objective does shit get? How much more meaningful can a life be? These people, and many more, have changed the landscape of human thought and culture. They’ve altered educational curriculums and added to our understanding of ourselves. They’ve instilled deep feelings of passion and creativity in generation after generation. They’ve saved lives and they continue to do all of these things, and as long as our current written record exists, they will continue to do so.
On top of this, to an atheist, there may not even be a reason to find an objective meaning for our lives. Why do we need some outside force to validate us? But should we desire that, an atheist can certainly find objective meaning on a vast scale like the men mentioned above, by making incredible contributions to the human collective knowledge and culture. We can also find meaning on a much smaller scale, leaving behind a family, or colleagues and friends who will carry on our work, our love, our teachings.
The other way to look at objective meaning, is the meaning of life as a whole. Why do we exist at all? What is the meaning of this? In answering these questions, I will concede, life has no meaning. The Universe went on for billions of years before us and it will for billions of years after. I’m okay with that. Why does there need to be meaning for why we are here, collectively?
So now, Jimmy Jeebot tries desperately to tackle subjective meaning. An atheist usually believes that subjective meaning chosen by oneself, for oneself, he insists.
Well, of course an atheist believes that – it is the very definition of subjective.
Mr. Anderson takes issue with this though, because, as he says,
If the meaning of life is subjectively determined, then anything could become the meaning of life depending on one’s personal preferences and predilections. Sitting around all day eating donuts and playing video games could just as well be the meaning of life as finding cures for illnesses. A suicidal person would be entitled to make the meaning of life the destruction of his life. Worse still, a homicidal person would be entitled to make the meaning of life the destruction of other lives.
Of course, subjective meaning means we determine it ourselves. That is, as mentioned previously, the goddamned (no holy) definition of the fucking word. It does mean that anyone can say that anything is the meaning of life. That is the nature of subjectivity! Jesus Christ on a bumper sticker. Just because you don’t like the meaning someone else has chosen for their own lives, doesn’t mean it’s not subjective meaning. And just because someone asserts that something is the meaning of their life, it doesn’t mean that we must allow them to follow through with their meaning (homicidal, suicidal).
Moreover, if we go back to evolution for a moment, perhaps a suicidal person killing themselves is eliminating a suicidal gene from the human race and over time, no more humans will be suicidal? Is self-sacrifice not the ultimate in meaning (I’m looking at you, Jeezy)?. I mean, I personally believe suicidal tendencies come from personal trauma and hardship, but who’s to say there isn’t a way evolution can eliminate it all together eventually? It’s a cold way of looking at things, but no one said life is warm and fuzzy. We are all adult enough to know it’s anything but.
James, apparently, does not understand this:
Once we recognize that the meaning-from-within view requires us to treat Osama bin Laden’s self-ascribed purpose on an equal footing with our own, that position seems considerably less appealing.
Oh, motherfucker, no. It doesn’t put it on equal footing. All it means, is that Bin Laden considers his meaning of life to be something that is morally wrong. Just because someone asserts that something is their meaning of life, doesn’t mean we have to like it, respect it, or let it happen. All it means, once again, is that is the meaning Bin Laden has given his life. Lest we forget, he chose this meaning through god.
Another objection Jamie-cakes has to subjective meaning is :
If your life is meaningless to begin with, how could any of your choices be meaningful or meaning-creating? How could meaningful choices arise out of a meaningless life? Can you get things off the ground by simply choosing that your choices be meaningful?
How did he even type these questions out? I mean, really, was he paying attention to what he was saying? How does meaninglessness in the beginning force meaninglessness on us for eternity? It doesn’t. Especially in the case of subjective meaning. He’s just blathering nonsense now.
At this point, it appears James has decided to choose comedy as the meaning of his life because he says, “I don’t deny for a moment that your life is very meaningful. But that’s true in spite of your atheism, not because of it!”
Who ever said meaning came from my atheism? Atheism is simply, not believing in god. That really has no affect on how I live my life, my actions, outside of not going to church, not praying and not being a general dunce.
this argument against atheism is nonsensical at best and it honestly hurts my brain to have to read what these people suggest. Honestly, I sometimes think that deep down inside, these people know how fucktarded the shit they say is, but they do it anyway because they are either in denial or holy fucking antagonists.
What’s your take on meaning? Where does the meaning of life come from?