On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
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18-12-2014, 11:13 AM
On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
Although I think I've been an atheist at heart my whole life, only in recent years have I fully shed all identity with my Christian upbringing.

I am not aware that Christianity gave me a sense of "purpose" or "meaning." Yet oddly, having embraced atheism, I find myself thinking more about such lofty—perhaps illusory—ideas.

Because "purpose" seems to carry the implication that it is dictated or created by some external force, I prefer "meaning." I agree with Matt Dillahunty from "The Atheist Experience" that we can create our own "meaning." Also, "purpose" smells a little too much like Pastor Rick Warren for my tastes.

But I do find myself feeling a little bereft these days and I wonder how others here find "meaning" (if they do) and what that meaning may be. I am not looking for the glib—and valid—retort that we are here to propagate genes, etc., and I'm guessing some of you have given it more thought.

Thanks.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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18-12-2014, 11:17 AM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
(18-12-2014 11:13 AM)claywise Wrote:  Although I think I've been an atheist at heart my whole life, only in recent years have I fully shed all identity with my Christian upbringing.

I am not aware that I ever sensed that Christianity gave me a sense of "purpose" or "meaning." Yet oddly, having embraced atheism I find myself thinking more about such lofty—perhaps illusory—ideas.

Because "purpose" seems to carry the implication that it is dictated or created by some external force, I prefer "meaning." I agree with Matt Dillahunty from "The Atheist Experience" that we can create our own "meaning." Also, "purpose" smells a little too much like Pastor Rick Warren for my tastes.

But I do find myself feeling a little bereft these days and I wonder how others here find "meaning" (if they do) and what that meaning may be. I actually agree with the glib retort that we are here to propagate genes, etc., but I'm guessing some of you have given it more thought.
I learned eventually find it very liberating not to think of purpose, or worse still, "higher purpose". I'll have to meditate though on just how I came to that conclusion...

"I don't mind being wrong...it's a time I get to learn something new..."
Me.
N.B: I routinely make edits to posts to correct grammar or spelling, or to restate a point more clearly. I only notify edits if they materially change meaning.
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18-12-2014, 11:21 AM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
I don't need an externally enforced purpose "gawd".

We exist for a brief moment of time, live, learn, enjoy this brief period of existence and accept it for it's own inherent value, not for some other being's nefarious purpose.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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18-12-2014, 11:40 AM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
To enjoy life to it's fullest and, along the way, to help those around me to do the same - and, to the degree possible given my life situation, to help those not around me as well.

I am not accountable to any God. I am accountable to myself - and not because I think I am God as some theists would try to assert - but because, no matter what actions I take, thoughts I think, or words I utter, I have to be able to live with myself.
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18-12-2014, 11:51 AM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
Do you have anyone in your life that loves you? Because if you do what higher calling or purpose do you want than to love them in return?

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”~Mark Twain
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”~ Ambrose Bierce
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18-12-2014, 12:00 PM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
The capacity to assign purpose and meaning to just about everything is an evolutionary trait. Late at night something makes a loud and unfamiliar sound on the African savannah. The smart monkey decides that the meaning of this sound is that something large and unpleasant is on the prowl nearby and flees to safety. It may be wrong more often than not but it still survives to pass on its genes. The philosophical and inquisitive monkey wanders out to determine what made the noise and is eventually devoured by something that is large and unpleasant.

That worked well for our distant ancestors who had limited reasoning but once you apply it to even modestly evolved hominids they start asking absurd questions. What is the meaning of thunder? What is the purpose of life? God of course.

Once you realize that all meanings and purposes come from within you can give your life useful meaning and purpose.

---
Flesh and blood of a dead star, slain in the apocalypse of supernova, resurrected by four billion years of continuous autocatalytic reaction and crowned with the emergent property of sentience in the dream that the universe might one day understand itself.
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18-12-2014, 12:02 PM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
(18-12-2014 11:13 AM)claywise Wrote:  But I do find myself feeling a little bereft these days and I wonder how others here find "meaning" (if they do) and what that meaning may be. I am not looking for the glib—and valid—retort that we are here to propagate genes, etc., and I'm guessing some of you have given it more thought.

The meaning of life, is to love. It's through love that we find a sense of true fulfillment, meaning, and joy. It's only in our inabilities to do so, that we settle for something less.
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18-12-2014, 12:46 PM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
A hammer has a purpose, but it is also a tool.

Don't be a tool.

I create my own purpose. My purpose in life is to enjoy it and to help others enjoy it. I love to laugh. I love to teach and help someone else have those ah ha moments when they realize something wonderful.

I love to have those moments myself.

My purpose is not to hammer a nail of truth, but to build a bridge of connection with other people.

To me life means I get to go snow skiing. I get to hug my grandson or listen to beautiful music.

Life means I get to live.

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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19-12-2014, 07:58 AM (This post was last modified: 19-12-2014 08:04 AM by claywise.)
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
I appreciate these many responses.

I'm definitely aware of the evolutionary value of assigning intent or agency and seeking patterns, and in no way do I believe there is some objective "purpose" or "meaning" to any life.

At the broadest level I agree with Impulse — "To enjoy life to it's fullest and, along the way, to help those around me to do the same - and, to the degree possible given my life situation, to help those not around me as well." I also agree with those who suggest that love is key.

I don't exactly suffer from anhedonia or anything, but I confess that my moments of true enjoyment are fewer and further between than I'd like. I'm something of a loner, "introvert" in the sense that being around and engaging people tends to draw down my "social energy" and at a party you'll find me petting the cat or looking at the bookshelves in a back room after an hour or less. That said, I like to be onstage, I am a good public speaker and even schmoozer, qualities that have been an asset to my work and life. All of which is prefatory to saying I know a ton of people, am liked (I think) and even often recognized in my community, but I have nobody besides my wife and sister whom I could call "friends."

I'm a long-time hospice volunteer and I'm glad to be a companion to dying people — that certainly feels "meaningful." I'm a writer and when I'm deep into an article, book or research, that feels like "purpose." I am a bad surfer (living at mid-continent) but when I get the opportunity, I love it. I'm a daily runner — that makes me feel good and fit, but is rarely "fun" (though not not-fun; just sort of routine) unless I'm treading some new path somewhere. In the summer, I enjoy climbing 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, but I like to go fast as I can and so never do it with anyone else. Eating is good, though I lost a ton of weight and I like how I feel, so eating is seldom a "joyous" event. I didn't drink at all for years, but I definitely enjoy exploring craft beers, never more than one a day. I have pets and I adore them. My son is a senior in college, great young man, but very much off on his own. My wife and I get along great and she is remarkably fizzy, bringing joy to people all the time, compared to my more flat affect. I find the world incredibly despressing (though I'm not depressed). The war, cruelty, lack of compassion, foolish religion and superstition and on and on.

That's long, I know, but I want to be more specific. Perhaps it's my personal psychology, then, that leaves me feeling a little rudderless — or maybe it's just mid-life. Definitely not a crisis, but I'm keenly aware since embracing atheism of the life that has come before—I tend to judge it rather unworthy, frankly—and I think a lot about how to make the most of what's left.

I know the Christian fantasy that all atheists are in despair and amoral is complete horseshit. And listening recently to Ryan Cragun on Seth's show, I very much believe the statistical correlation between intelligence and superstitious/religious belief to which he alluded. Sometimes I think that people who don't think a whole lot must be the happiest. That said, my wife is incredibly intelligent, scarily so, and I know how burdened she is by knowledge of the world's ills. She's a life-long irreligious person, secular Jew with absolutely no background in superstitious belief. Somehow she is able to feel joy out in the world and bring smiles to the faces of her many friends and just about any stranger she meets. She never thinks of anything as ridiculous as "meaning" or "purpose" and despite her own deep internal sadness, she loves life....

I'm a rambler, but if anyone has further thoughts, much appreciated.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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19-12-2014, 08:04 AM
RE: On 'meaning' and 'purpose'
(18-12-2014 11:13 AM)claywise Wrote:  ...

But I do find myself feeling a little bereft these days and I wonder how others here find "meaning" (if they do) and what that meaning may be. I am not looking for the glib—and valid—retort that we are here to propagate genes, etc., and I'm guessing some of you have given it more thought.

Thanks.
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