Atheists and the purpose of life

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by splitpea, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    Starting a new thread to prevent hijack.

    This begs multiple questions:

    First, define purpose.

    Secondly, why is purpose or the belief in the existence of a god necessarily comforting?


    In any case, as an atheist (who if pressed will admit to being agnostic in the sense that I cannot prove the absence of a god, but identifies as an atheist because all the evidence or lack thereof points to the nonexistence of deities) I will try to answer this question. (please excuse the iPad keyboard typing, I know it sucks)

    First off, I don't think a human has any more purpose to their existence than a mountain. Both have a cause for their existence (plate tectonics/evolution+reproductive instinct). Both serve a role in multiple systems (affecting weather and climate, evolution, and even human history / affecting family, friends, society, human history, ecosystems,etc). But I don't think either exists for a purpose, unless you count a human as existing so that it's genes can make copies of themselves. Neither were assigned their roles or created for them -- those are simply the ways they happen to interact with the world around them.

    A person can give themselves purpose in another sEnse by choosing one -- be that to make the world a better place, to amass great wealth, or to broaden the horizons of science. Bt I'd say that now were just playing on the flexibility of the English language -- we're talking about purpose in the sense of a chosen goal, rather than an assigned role. (if you talked about the purpose of a piston in an engine, you're referencing the function it's supposed to accomplish, not an aim that it has.)

    Purpose in the assigned role sense is unnecessary, and purpose in the goal sense can come from within.

    As for external sources of comfort, I mostly live without any such thing -- I find strength within myself. Yes, even in the darkest times, and I've been through some pretty dark ones. I don't need some promise of ending up in a mythical happy fluffy place after i die to keep me going. Sometimes it helps, yes, to daydream about a completely different existence (or simply to focus on work and distract oneself), but I know that that daydream is not and never will be real. What I do know from experience will be real is a moment in the future when I will smile again and laugh and be glad to be alive, even if life is hard.

    If I wanted to, I could probably find comfort in my own insignificance on the scale of the world, let alone the universe -- certainly I occasionally find awe in it. In the scheme of things, my failures and fears and pain really don't matter one whit.

    There's also a degree of comfort in the notion of nothingness: when I die, my troubles will be over. I won't experience happiness after death, but any pain and anxiety will end too. That seems like a fair trade to me.

    And finally, one can find comfort in friends and family, in moments of pleasure -- looking back at those in memory and looking forward to new ones -- and in the moments that make you feel like you can contribute something of value to the world.

    None of those things require a deity or an afterlife.
     
  2. macrumors 603

    MorphingDragon

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    #2
    The narcissist that is mesays that people are lazy and need a higher power to get their A into G.
     
  3. thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    What does that have to do with narcissism?
     
  4. MorphingDragon, Nov 26, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012

    macrumors 603

    MorphingDragon

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    #4
    1. Grandiose sense of self-importance
    2. Arrogant attitude

    Squishy theists need to learn that life in itself is worth living for.
     
  5. macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

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    #5
    The quest for the purpose or meaning of life bores me. We can all agree that meaning is personal and that we don't have the right to impose that on somebody else, or we can keep killing each other over whose meaning is best.

    Personally, I'm really enjoying being alive, and that's good enough for me. I have lots of goals, but I don't equate that with meaning.


    [​IMG]
     
  6. macrumors 68030

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    #6
    The "purpose" of life to an atheist is to experience life and enjoy yourself.

    There's no need for "comfort".


    edit:
    ^^ whs
    purpose is irrelevant. chances are we'll never know, so just enjoy your time here.
     
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Jackintosh

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    #7
    “There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”
    ― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

    Dawkins' view here is that meaning comes from within.
     
  8. macrumors 68000

    Sydde

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    #8
    Your purpose in life is to faithfully serve Og. If you fail to do this, Og will consign your everlasting soul to an eternity of torment in the Phlegethon. Now, listen to me an I will teach you what you need to fulfill your life's purpose, how to properly serve and avoid eternal torment.
     
  9. macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    What thread is this thread an offshoot of? Being a competent theist? It looks like this thread will be equally bewildering.

    Why should a theist worry about an atheist or other Christians think? I'm guessing many here confuse the church/religion with God as if they the one and the same. In my view and experience, churches as a rule have more in common with somewhat exclusive social clubs than a group of people that wish to love/know God.

    These nut jobs from a baptist forum are a perfect example.

    http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?t=82927
     
  10. Huntn, Nov 27, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012

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    Huntn

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    #10
    Purpose: Improving one's self by gaining wisdom and ideally being able to facilitate that wisdom beyond the constraints of a human lifetime.

    First of all, I know that my participation thread is going to be a rough row to hoe. I'll do my best to describe my feelings. Be gentle! :p I am Agnostic. I have no proof of anything. The premise of this post is that I would really like there to be a basis for spirituality and a continuation of consciousness after physical death. If there is not, I can handle it. Imo, if there is something that points to the possibility of continued consciousness after death, it would be ghosts. It could be a human delusion, but I've read enough previously and seen enough through the show Ghost Hunters (acknowiliging laughter in the background), that I believe it is a possibility. However, I would never claim to know, unless I witnessed paranormal phenomena first hand. Unfortunately it is a show, highly susceptible to manipulation and fraud.

    As far as "purpose", I think many human beings want there to be a purpose to their lives. This purpose does not have to be projected upon them by a deity but created internally.

    If you go with Atheist- we just happened to appear, we just happen to learn things in our lives, all by chance, and when we die, there was nothing internal carried forward. Did I learn anything from my Great Grand Father? Did my Great Grandfather pass down wisdom to my Dad, who passed it down to me? Not really. All the experiences of billions of our predecessors, just vanish. What a waste! The Atheist argument can be made that our influence on others is knowledge and philosophical standards carried forward. I believe that argument can be made on the basis of technical and scientific knowledge carried forward. But for philosophy, it is not a sure thing. It seems like the human race runs in circles when philosophy is involved. ;)

    I imagine (I did not say "believe") if there is any purpose, a good scenario would be where we learn and carry forward lessons ourselves and be in a position to benefit ourselves or others from those lessons in a spiritual plane. This is not needing a deity to give us anything, nor to project a purpose onto us. There does not have to be a deity as Christians or Muslims imagine God, although my notion would not discount a deity either. In very general terms we know how to define a God, but in actuality, in a scientific manner, we have no clue. It could be imagined that a community of souls constitutes a deity. Ultimately, all that is needed would be a structure that facilitates the continuation of consciousness, plus or minus the deity. "Soul" is that handy mechanism. And it is very attractive to imagine a community of souls, carrying forward wisdom. Of course the Atheist says, "you are wasting a lot of energy imagining BS." So what if I am? I'm enjoying it. And it has absolutely no impact on my scientific views, because I won't let an old moldy book written by superstitious men to influence me in that manner. :)

    For those of you who can confidently say, I know there is no God and/or no spiritual life, I don't begrudge you those feelings, nor would I try to debate this, other than to ask, "why are you so confident?" In this realm there is no right or wrong. There is only what limits you place upon yourself to make a best guess about your existence. However I equate our existence to living in sound proof room without doors or windows. If you want to believe there is nothing outside, that is one option. I want there to be something outside. The odds are there is something outside waiting to be discovered.

    But before anyone decides to pick my post apart, I'll reemphasize, this is not my belief, but my hope. There is no proof, only a feeling. I want there to be a continuation of my consciousness because I enjoy being conscious! When at the stepping off point, I'll be waiting anxiously to discover if these feelings have merit or not. :)

    Again, I reemphasis my views are purely wishful speculation and I realize there will be a group of you too wise for such immaturity. My counter is that you, maybe wisely, are limiting yourself to what you think you know for sure, versus allowing philosophy, intuition, and your senses to dabble on the edge of what we think we know. There is no scientific method here, just a feeling conjured in my brain. Just the wonder I feel when jogging down a country road, watching the sun rise over the mountains and the grass bending in the breeze.

    What is to debate? Nothing substantive about spirituality. The only realistic debate would be about what are the prudent scientific, philosophical and spiritual limits we should stay within. And if anyone promotes the idea that we should restrict belief to only what can be proven, I agree with you, but that does not mean we are correct. The perfect is example is to proclaim, "God can't be proven, therefore there is no God." You might be surprised. I'm not promoting God, just making a point. :)


    We have self awareness and contemplate our existence. Mountains don't. :)

    Maybe theists believe that, but I don't. We determine our own purpose.

    Maybe you are stronger than most. If you'd acknowledge the human condition, human beings need constant comforting, possibly self imagined is good enough. :)

    Purpose is only irrelevant if you make it so. What thoughts do you have when taking the time to ponder what you are doing on this Earth?
     
  11. macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

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    #11
    The it can't possibly be all by chance fails when you have unlimited time/chances and the only way you could possibly perceive this is by one of those few chances working.
     
  12. macrumors 68040

    obeygiant

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    #12
    The purpose of life is procreation.
     
  13. macrumors G3

    Huntn

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    #13
    The question becomes do the entities known as you, me, us, we along with the sum of our obtained knowledge and wisdom carried forward in some viable, substantial manner? Or is the sum of our beings eradicated, cease to exist? Answer: unknown. I'm looking forward to discovering if I'll have the capacity to know the answer. ;)
     
  14. macrumors 6502a

    afireintonto

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    #14
    as an atheist, i view life as pure 100% unfiltered entertainment.
    and i know when i die, i won't have to watch any credits.
     
  15. macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #15
    Exactly. And those who claim to know are fooling themselves.
     
  16. thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Sure, you have an effect on others (be it the passage of knowledge or how your kindness (or lack thereof) influences your children's personalities or how your personal philosophy affects others lives (see also: Confucius, Hitler)), and after you die, your influence continues to affect the world.

    That's orthogonal to purposefulness. A hurricane reconfigures sandbars in a coastal area, and those changes remain long after the storm is gone. So do any effects the hurricane has on our activities or psyches or laws. The hurricane neither needs to have purpose, nor needs any sort of "spirit" that lives on in order for its influence to persist -- and neither does a human being.
     
  17. macrumors 68040

    MonkeySee....

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    #17
    I was just about to post something similar. Glad I read the thread first :eek:

    I'll have to read his book. I keep meaning to.
     
  18. thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    I started reading it. Even as an atheist I found the first couple chapters arrogant, condescending, and offputting.
     
  19. macrumors G3

    Huntn

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    #19
    You know based on what? :)

    Thumbs up! :)

    I'm not promoting that humans must have far reaching purpose across eons, although what humans possess is completely different than a storm and imo should not be compared. What we create in many cases is a product of thoughtful, logical intent, far different than a storm created by meteorological conditions or water flowing down a drain. We may both exist (humans and storms), but beyond that considering human thought processes, there is no valid comparison and it is a bad analogy to do so.
     
  20. macrumors 65816

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    #20
    The best way to start is to give me, errr, I mean Og, 20% of all of your earnings.
     
  21. macrumors 68020

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    #21
    The purpose of life is utter domination of the universe. From what I've seen, we are severely behind in this goal. C'mon people, we need warp drive already.

    (I'm not an atheist but I strive to just live the best way I can and try not to cause too much damage during my lifetime and maybe, possibly do my part to leave earth a better place than I found it. I don't know what happens after death and I don't really care because it doesn't matter much to me here and now)
     
  22. macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #22
    Warped drive is already a reality.

    That's what "we" are trying to overcome.
     
  23. macrumors 68040

    obeygiant

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    #23
    Gee thanks! Although, if you're addressing me, you must not know that I'm an agnostic.

    Don't confuse meaning of life with purpose. Biologically we're set up to propagate our DNA thru children are we not? If you had no other purpose I think it would be that. Just sayin!

    Otherwise just ponder the porpoise of life. :)
     
  24. macrumors 6502a

    afireintonto

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    #24
    I actually kind of like the idea of life having an ending credits, so you can see all the people who played a role.
    but i certainly don't know anything about what happens when life ends.
     
  25. macrumors 6502a

    skottichan

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    #25
    As a lesbian unable to bear children. Looks like i failed the purpose of life.
     

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