Debate and Discussion

The Purpose of Life
TheMidge28 at 10:25AM, March 25, 2008
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What is the purpose of life? If there is no God, no spiritual realms, and if everything just exists in the physical? How does existence be meaningful with that kind of setup?

Its a good question, but it presupposes that “purpose” is important for an atheist. Not everyone finds value in having a purpose for their life or anybody else. Most like to live each day in and out for themselves and their personal satisfaction. Seems like a selfish nihilistic existence but for many, it works.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:24PM
StaceyMontgomery at 11:18AM, March 25, 2008
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I know lots of atheists and we often discuss such things - they don't speak in terms of “themselves and their personal satisfaction.” They speak of purpose, and of service to their families, their communities, and their ideals.

Atheists, I guess, are a pretty varied bunch.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:55PM
TheMidge28 at 12:14PM, March 25, 2008
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I know lots of atheists and we often discuss such things - they don't speak in terms of “themselves and their personal satisfaction.” They speak of purpose, and of service to their families, their communities, and their ideals.

Atheists, I guess, are a pretty varied bunch.

yeah not just Atheists, but the whole human race are a varied bunch. :) We all come in so many shapes and colors and we all have our own perspectives and desires. When I used the terms “themselves and their personal satisfaction” I was working under the context of a utilitarian/hedonistic(and this term is not being used in a negative religious light) framework. From that point of view all choices are derived from a pursuing the most satisfaction for themselves. And in the terms of your friends this would apply as well. They pursue service to their families and communities because this brings them the most satisfaction and personal pleasure. And these ideals you speak of they have are probably very similar to those of others that are non-atheist. Its okay if we all share similar ideals. It allows us to co-exist.

But do you really speak about purpose?

I am not trying to be sarcastic with the question, but asking it honestly.

and my next question would be why do you ask or discuss purpose?
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:24PM
freefall_drift at 2:40PM, March 25, 2008
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Funny you should ask. I just found this….
Someone
Too many people live for no reason at all. They seek to make more and more money, or they seek to make themselves famous, or to become powerful, and whether or not they attain these objectives, they find their lives empty and meaningless. This is because they have confused means and ends - money, fame and power are things people seek in order to do what is worth doing.
What is worth doing?
That is up to you to decide. I have chosen to dedicate my life to helping people obtain an education. Others seek to cure diseases, to explore space, to worship God, to raise a family, to design cars, or to attain enlightenment.
If you don't decide what is worth doing, someone will decide for you, and at some point in your life you will realize that you haven't done what is worth doing at all. So spend some time, today, thinking about what is worth doing. You can change your mind tomorrow. But begin, at least, to guide yourself somewhere.

For me, the purpose of life is to do what is worth doing.

And once it's put in that context, my answer is easy. What is worth doing is… Do my best to raise my son to be a good adult, tell some stories that have a point of view through art and word, cook some good meals, get laid every so often, be a good friend to my partner, family and friends, and be gainfully employed.
There may be more, but that's it for now.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 12:31PM
StaceyMontgomery at 9:21PM, March 25, 2008
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TheMidge28
But do you really speak about purpose?

I am not trying to be sarcastic with the question, but asking it honestly.

and my next question would be why do you ask or discuss purpose?

Well, as I said earlier in this thread, Humans are story/narrative based creatures. That means our purpose in life is to find purpose.

I would expand on that and say that as an Atheist, it seems especially my responsibility to find the purpose to my life - to make my life worth living, to make it have value. Since i don't believe that the answers are written in the stars and handed down to from sources that can never be questioned or corrected, it's my responsibility to think about that - and hopefully, go somewhere with it.

I should tread gently here when I speak of other atheists i know, as they would surely answer the question differently - but I do not think I know anyone who would call their life “free of purpose.”
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:55PM
arteestx at 9:36PM, March 25, 2008
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TheMidge28
But do you really speak about purpose?

I am not trying to be sarcastic with the question, but asking it honestly.

and my next question would be why do you ask or discuss purpose?
My purpose in life is to find out what the #%@* is happening in Lost.

Oh, you're talking about a higher purpose?

Hrmm…. discussions I've heard around secular humanism talk about the purpose of bettering humanity. And yes, we can do that by taking care of our families, personal satisfaction, etc., that's part of it. But there's also a deep-seeded need to take care of our species as a whole. It's instinctual, in fact. When a tragedy occurs, perfect strangers will risk their lives to help others.

But the need to better humanity can go even deeper. One of my favorite examples is the Constitution. This was not given to us by God on top of Mt Sinai, this was not transcribed through some angel, the Constitution was written by flawed, imperfect people (not all of them religious, at least conventionally) who did their best to figure out a system that would have the best chance of giving all of us freedom and liberty. And in bettering humanity, you make the world a better place for yourself to live in as well.

So the secular humanist would argue you don't need God or higher power to give purpose in your life. Finding your own path to better humanity and yourself (whether it's politics, songwriting, teaching, firefighting, whatever) is why atheists discuss purpose.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:02AM
TheMidge28 at 6:34AM, March 26, 2008
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No, I am not talking about a higher purpose, arteestx… I was talking about Lost. ;)
But seriously not even a higher purpose. Just a purpose for your life. With all honesty, I don't talk about having a purpose for my life. I don't sit with friends and family and have that conversation or wrestle with coming up with an answer. I just live. What I do doesn't define me. I don't need a purpose for my life to have meaning for me. So that's why I find it a bit strange when those who do not believe in a god desire to have a defined purpose and discuss this often with others.

And this goes for anybody, atheist or otherwise, why have a purpose for your life?

and Stacy, I understand you hold the axiom, Humans are story/narrative based creatures as one of your precepts to define your world, but I don't hold to that same axiom. plus I don't see how from that precept you come to the conclusion that the purpose of life is to find purpose. The question why? still is unanswered.

and as I just said, I am one who would say I am free of purpose.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:24PM
HalJones at 1:23PM, March 31, 2008
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The Bible says we were created to glorify God.

Meanwhile, science is a creation of man to try to explain his existence through the observable world. But it seems to indicate we are “created” to die.


My purpose seems to be to make comics not everyone can understand and to really tick some folks off. But that's just me.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:42PM
arteestx at 8:48PM, March 31, 2008
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TheMidge28
With all honesty, I don't talk about having a purpose for my life. I don't sit with friends and family and have that conversation or wrestle with coming up with an answer. I just live. What I do doesn't define me. I don't need a purpose for my life to have meaning for me. So that's why I find it a bit strange when those who do not believe in a god desire to have a defined purpose and discuss this often with others.

And this goes for anybody, atheist or otherwise, why have a purpose for your life?
Well, I don't think atheists talk about it often. It's not like every week you sit down with your buddies and say, “so what's the purpose of your life this week?” But I think it comes up in some discussions whether you want it to or not.

Believe me, if anyone finds out you're an atheist, then it won't be long before you find yourself getting into a discussion with some religious person about how one can ever be moral, have purpose, etc. if you don't believe in god. So it helps if you've thought about what the purpose of your life could possibly be other than following Jesus.

Like I said, I don't think it happens often or is something that atheists dwell on. But it does come up. So it helps if you've thought about it and have some way to discuss it.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:02AM
Salsicoruc at 10:47PM, March 31, 2008
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Even without a god, there has to be purpose. Otherwise what good is all this headroom? All this abstract thinking? Even if your purpose is just to live and die.

Do you have to believe in a god to have a purpose? I would think if that were the case a lot of godless/atheist/agnostic/secular contributions would be going to waste. But since the earth wastes nothing, I don't think that is the case. I think finding a reason to live or to feel self value is far more important than knowing if there is or is not god. So desire for purpose exists independent of a deity.

Hmmmm. I believe that the purpose of life is to be and to do, to learn and to teach others.

OK. The purpose of physical life is to be, and in being, allow everything else to be. That is, you live, you take life and resources, you die, and then you decompose and then it's everyone elses turn to share you. You become dirt and gas and different tiny little cells again and other things take in what you leave behind and they are and do. I live so that others die, and I die so that others live.

In metaphysical (I chose the word metaphysical because I do not like using the word “spiritual”-I mean something akin to sentience)life, one has to find a reason to live the physical life and consume, or die and share. One has to decide how long they will consume physically, and to balance out their consumption they should give metaphysically. And so in life, I think it is important for one to find something to enjoy and exert all energy into, something that you would feel empty without. And then you should share the idea with those around you. Give metaphysically so others can consume.

But I have a tendency to like circular theories (like things-never-stop circular, not faulty-logic circular) and this is too long allready.

TL;DR: purpose of life (imo)= do and be … doobeedoobee
Why? so as not to waste I guess?
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:19PM
ronin356 at 12:31PM, April 1, 2008
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Humans are story/narrative based creatures.

That's about as close to an absolute truth as this agnostic is ever going to acknowledge.

Jesus did use stories and parables to illustrate his beliefs, for example the parable of the sower.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 3:10PM
TheMidge28 at 8:24PM, April 1, 2008
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so for you arteestx, the reason why you have a purpose is so you can answer someone else's question?

asking for clarification.
because if that's why someone should have a purpose for their life it seems a bit silly to me.

and Salsicoruc, you have defined what the purpose is for you but why have a purpose at all? What is “headroom” and “abstract thinking”? I understand we have thoughts and ideas and imagination but does that presuppose the need for purpose?
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:24PM
Salsicoruc at 12:09AM, April 2, 2008
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By headroom and abstract thinking, I mean the ability to stop and wonder “Why am I here?”

And I just read his question as asking ‘what’ and not ‘why’. I don't mean to say that there isn't the question ‘why’, I'm just saying that I was focused on adressing ‘what’.

Why not have a purpose?



I suppose that there's really no need for a purpose, but since we have the ability to wonder about it…hm

I might feel inclined to remit the statement
myself
there has to be purpose
. But I wasn't thinking of a purpose as being some devine role to fulfill, but rather as something to do. Like, “well, since you're here-”

Uhm. So why to have a purpose? So that you have a goal to exert your energy. For the lack of anything better to do. …because everyone is cosmically bored.

Better yet, here's my short answer: Shrug.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:19PM
StaceyMontgomery at 6:07AM, April 2, 2008
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TheMidge28
And this goes for anybody, atheist or otherwise, why have a purpose for your life?

and Stacy, I understand you hold the axiom, Humans are story/narrative based creatures as one of your precepts to define your world, but I don't hold to that same axiom. plus I don't see how from that precept you come to the conclusion that the purpose of life is to find purpose. The question why? still is unanswered.

and as I just said, I am one who would say I am free of purpose.


Well, I think there are two reasons to think of life in terms of “a purpose.”

The first, as I've said, is that it seems sort of inevitable to me that humans try to take the events of their lives and form a story out of them. We create a narrative about our life with consistent themes as a way of making sense of things. I base this idea on the work of Marvin Minsky (and others) researching the nature of human intelligence. It appears to be a function of intelligence to abstract meaning out of data - even totally new meanings - therefore, we tend to look for meaning in our lives, and then to pattern our lives after those meanings. This is not a good or bad thing, but it may be an inevitable one.

The second reason is a moral one. As the wise man said “I object to intellect without discipline; I object to power without constructive purpose.” I simply think that life comes with a moral responsibility - at worst, to do no harm, and at best, to be of some value. Now, since i don't believe that the Universe delivers us a “revealed truth” that defines exactly what that value should be, it follows logically that it is our responsibility - as intelligent beings - to think about and consider our lives and put them into the context we see around us.

At least, i would say that those are the primary reasons that I think in terms of my life's “purpose.” Of course, neither of these ideas tells me what that purpose should be - there, I think, each of us subject (and prisoner too) their own conscience. But then. that's the whole point.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:55PM
worstcase at 7:42PM, April 3, 2008
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TheMidge28
Its a good question, but it presupposes that “purpose” is important for an atheist. Not everyone finds value in having a purpose for their life or anybody else. Most like to live each day in and out for themselves and their personal satisfaction. Seems like a selfish nihilistic existence but for many, it works.

That seems like it would be a depressing existence.

but thats just me.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:51PM
Atom Apple at 6:35PM, April 7, 2008
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And if God does exist what is the meaning of life?
i will also like to know you the more
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:07AM
plas at 12:47PM, April 8, 2008
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What is the purpose of life?

to make babies!

:P

now for a non-joking answer. One of my favorite singers (Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon) once said that “I think that each one of us has our own God inside of us, we just have to find him.” and I think that really applies to this. No one answer will be right for everyone, and what is right for me is definitely not right for anyone else. So I think imposing some sort of definitive answer on this with generalized application is a bad idea.

That being said my own personal philosophy lies somewhere along these lines.

When I leave this earth I want to know that my life has had some sort of significant lasting impact on the world that changes it for the better. I, personally, want to die knowing that I lived the best life that I could, according to my own personal moral system, and know that I never made a decision that sacrificed my own morals for the sake of something else. I want to live a “good” life.

What the definition of “good” is… well I haven't lived nearly long enough to even begin to define that. Hopefully when my time comes I'll have some sort of idea, for now though, I'm still feeling it out :D
I has no picture :(
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:46PM

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