The Meaning of Life (without God)

A common question Christians are curious about is: “What’s the point of life then?  What’s the meaning of life without God?  Why should we all be alive?”  There’s actually two parts to this question – “What’s the meaning of life without God?” and “Aren’t Atheists depressed?”  Atheism, religion, and mental health are a full response in their own right, so for this post I’m just focusing on the meaning of, or in, life.

(I want to clarify before launching into this that these are my personal views.  Now obviously, I think there’s some factual truth to them, and others share them, but I can’t promise you every Atheist you meet on the street will second them, if you’re trying to figure out what all Atheists are like.)

Okay, on to the point: what’s the point of my little life on planet Earth in this big universe?  If you mean on a cosmic scale… I don’t think there is one.  I don’t believe any deity put us here to worship them; we just evolved because we were the option the environment on Earth was suited for.  By which I mean, I don’t believe Earth was designed specifically for us, but rather that something was going to evolve and we happened to be it because that’s what the physical parameters allowed.  It’s like winning the lottery – the chances of you winning are small, but someone’s going to win.  We just exist on our blue dot and don’t have much importance in the grand scheme of the universe.

I know, I know, that does sound depressing.  For someone used to having the objective, cosmic goal of glorifying God, it can feel like you’re wandering around not knowing what to do or what the point is anymore.  I’ve been there in the past, I can relate.

But here’s the thing: we people make meaning.  Just because the universe doesn’t care doesn’t mean we can’t find things meaningful on our beautiful blue and green world.  We’re social creatures, and relationships are fulfilling.  We work to survive, and we find purpose in solving problems we encounter.

That may sound weak or shallow.  If you’ve lived with your brain trained to seek a “higher purpose,” removing a layer of meaning from our existence can feel weak or shallow emotionally.  I have two thoughts on that.  One, emotions don’t change fact, so if we don’t have enough evidence elsewhere (I’m assuming a previously-established atheistic view, but if you don’t like that, think of it as a hypothetical situation), how we feel about reality doesn’t change it.  And two, if you’re questioning your beliefs and are landing in this camp, give it time.  If you’re like me, once you have time to acclimate to the idea and retrain your brain’s schematics, you might feel better.  Atheists as a group aren’t going around desperately clutching at things to make our lives meaningful and to avoid depression; at least no more than anyone else for the most part.

In all honesty, it’s freeing.  The more something is available, the less we tend to value it, and that’s true for life.  If this life is our only one to use and enjoy and not just a precursor to an afterlife, then how we spend it becomes more important and meaningful, not less.  At least that’s how I see it on an emotional level.  (Granted, I am an optimist at heart.)  For another perspective, I have a friend who likes it because being insignificant in the grand scheme of things means he’s limited in his ability to screw things up.

TL;DR: As an Atheist, I don’t think there is any ultimate purpose to our existence, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our existence rich and fulfilling for ourselves.  And that’s perfectly fine, because being finite makes our lives more special.

Thoughts?

One thought on “The Meaning of Life (without God)”

  1. It’s so true that life is now more precious since I don’t have another one to look forward to. I’ve also found that without a deity to appease, it’s actually other people – actual, real people around me – who are the most important entities in life. Ironically, I care about other people (and my effect on them) way more now as an atheist than I ever did as a Christian.

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