Monday, 11 May 2015

Without god, what's the meaning of life?

It's common for theists to ask without God, what's the meaning of life? I got into a frustrating discussion about that recently. 

The initial question must be, of course, what's the meaning of life if there *is* a god? Even if there is an afterlife must there be an after-afterlife for the afterlife to have meaning? As Bret Kreis (@sgtawesome1ea on twitter) said "How many turtles deep must we go?" 

What is meant by 'meaning' anyway? When it comes to the meaning of life I think 'meaning' is like when people talk about being 'spiritual' - it's a word often used, but not really understood. 

What if negative thinking theists are right, and without god life does have no meaning? So what? I'm not aware of any obligation for something to have meaning for it to be enjoyable. A sunrise, a thunderstorm, and a rainbow can all be enjoyed and I'm pretty sure there's no meaning behind them. They are what they are. We have a life, can we not just enjoy it for what it is? 

During my discussion about life's meaning, the person I was talking to said "It's not logical that such highly developed life forms as humans are here for no reason.

The statement seems somewhat contradictory. The person is arguing that humans were put here by god, but also says that we're 'developed'. Maybe it's just an error of language, but things that develop don't appear 'as is'. A history of evolution by natural selection (with the odd mutation thrown in) is a far more reasonable and satisfying explanation for why there are humans on Earth than 'they appeared magically'. 

You'll note that rather than 'no meaning' here the person uses 'no reason'. When it comes to the big question of life, reason, purpose, and meaning seem to overlap somewhat. 

There are reasons there is life on earth but I don't believe life is on Earth for a reason. Humans are the products of a series of natural events. We can get from 'life' to 'human' with no god required. We're not the end result though and we're certainly not the goal. Providing we don't wipe ourselves out somehow, we'll evolve over time to become a species that will no longer be considered homo-sapiens. We're a stepping stone from one life form to another. We may even split into two or more species. Imagine a world where we homo-sapiens are the common ancestor to two or more of Earth's future inhabitants. 

Humans seem to suffer from a certain arrogance that comes from our self-awareness. We're aware of our own mortality. We know that if we're lucky we get maybe 8 decades on Earth. Some of us get a bit more, too many of us have far less. With the realisation that this is such a brief amount of time comes a desperation for there to be more to it for it to 'mean' something. It's like we think we're owed something, just because we realise life ends. But as I said above, can we not just enjoy it for what it is? It seems to be good enough for the rest of the animal kingdom. I don't think I've ever met a dog that wasn't happy and enjoying its life. Does it think there's 'more'? Does it think its life has to have meaning or purpose to be enjoyable? I don't know for sure, but I highly doubt it. Give a dog food, water, a rub on the belly and a stick to fetch and they're pretty content. Why must we have the promise of something more to make the most of life? 

Unlike our canine (and bovine, feline, equine, lupine, delphine, etc..) friends, many humans fear the idea that this is all we get and as a consequence things such as god and an afterlife get invented for the purpose of making people feel better. But all the warm fuzzy feelings, all the hope, and all the ignorance they can muster isn't going to make their god a reality. 

I don't think life itself has a meaning, but one can give *their* life any meaning or a purpose they wish. Without God, what's the meaning of life? Who cares? 

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