Famous(?) Atheists answer: How does your life have meaning?

#1
Taken from the sludge bucket of humanity,aka, Buzzfeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomchivers/when-i-was-a-child-i-spake-as-a-child#.jsKrN22Wp

As expected there are your token "religion is childish" quotes along side "religious fairies" and the typical "atheists are the only ones with the courage and intellect to see reality as it really is" garbage. Also, when will Susan Blackmore ever be acknowledged as the single most overrated psychologist in history?

What I found interesting were two things:

1) that a rejection of God was more like a rejection of religion and a Judeo-Christian God. As if it's an either/or type of situation (again with the false dichotomies).

And

2) The comments after the article. I was floored by the number of people who claimed to be comforted by the thought that their life has no meaning. Not just ok with it, comforted.

These things were interesting to me because belief is often presented as an either/or type of situation. I'm always surprised at how little thought and effort many put into their actual beliefs. It's as though they think you can only either believe in the Judeo-Christian God, or none at all.

It was also interesting that so many are ok with the idea that life is inherently meaningless. It got me thinking about the idea of economic materialism and philosophical materialism being closely tied. How convenient it is for an economic and even political system that human beings believe that their lives are ultimately meaningless, and that its best they live, buy and consume for the present.

One last point, isn't it interesting that Atheism is increasing in the wealthy "developed" world? Could it be that those who enjoy a life of relative wealth and luxury are those who can afford to believe that this life, with all its comfort and decadence, is all there is? What do you say to those whose life has been suffering on a level most of us in our wealthy, priveleged positions could scarcely even imagine? How do you tell them to find the meaning in a life of abuse, starvation or endless war?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#2
I'm perfectly happy that my life has no cosmic meaning. First of all, I have no idea what it would be. Second, it frees me to develop my own meaning and purpose. Third, it eliminates the potential farce of thinking that I'd discovered a cosmic meaning when all I'd done was pick my own meaning and then made it sound important.

As far as economic materialism is concerned: What sort of cosmic meaning would reduce my desire for materialistic stuff, if that's the sort of person I am? I supposed I might believe that obtaining stuff would be frowned upon by the authorities in the afterlife, but that sounds rather silly.

For folks who suffer, I give them sympathy and try to help them overcome the suffering. Surely you're not suggesting that we appease them with religious platitudes about how much better it will be after they die.

~~ Paul
 
#3
For folks who suffer, I give them sympathy and try to help them overcome the suffering. Surely you're not suggesting that we appease them with religious platitudes about how much better it will be after they die.
No, I'm not suggesting that. But it's an honest question. And while offering sympathy and easing suffering is great, what do you tell them? Sorry your life is shit, but the good news is it doesn't matter anyway? Seriously. The only person who can spout off those platitudes are those who have never had to live a life of such suffering.

See, for all the posturing many prominent Atheists do in regard to "arrogance" in religion or spirituality, they don't realize how hipocritical it is to tell someone who is suffering greatly to grow a pair and stop believing in childish fantasies. Is this not arrogance as well?

I noticed, you didn't actually answer the question, Paul. What do you tell them? How do you look such a person in the eye and tell them their suffering is meaningless?
 
#4
Don't let them wind you up, Vault. To come to their conclusion they have to ignore a vast mountain of evidence that says otherwise, they have to be just as blinkered as any religious fundamentalist. Their arguments are simplistic/childish in the extreme ...I love the really insightful "the universe is infinite so we are therefore irrelevant" :) Class ! that is if your about 12.

Anyway, I'm not posting at the moment so it's hello and goodbye and what happened to Kai ? :) all the best
Oh, I'm not riled up, it's standard issue really. I was more surprised by the comments to the article than the article itself.

I seriously just want to see one someone like Coyne or Harris go toe to toe with someone whose life has been a literal hell on Earth, look them in the eye and tell them their life is worthless and meaningless. Let's see their courage then. Let's see how they really are when confronted with a reality that isn't that of their priveleged class. Let's see how they really are when they don't have a podium or a computer screen to hide behind.
 
#5
Taken from the sludge bucket of humanity,aka, Buzzfeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomchivers/when-i-was-a-child-i-spake-as-a-child#.jsKrN22Wp

As expected there are your token "religion is childish" quotes along side "religious fairies" and the typical "atheists are the only ones with the courage and intellect to see reality as it really is" garbage. Also, when will Susan Blackmore ever be acknowledged as the single most overrated psychologist in history?

What I found interesting were two things:

1) that a rejection of God was more like a rejection of religion and a Judeo-Christian God. As if it's an either/or type of situation (again with the false dichotomies).

And

2) The comments after the article. I was floored by the number of people who claimed to be comforted by the thought that their life has no meaning. Not just ok with it, comforted.

These things were interesting to me because belief is often presented as an either/or type of situation. I'm always surprised at how little thought and effort many put into their actual beliefs. It's as though they think you can only either believe in the Judeo-Christian God, or none at all.

It was also interesting that so many are ok with the idea that life is inherently meaningless. It got me thinking about the idea of economic materialism and philosophical materialism being closely tied. How convenient it is for an economic and even political system that human beings believe that their lives are ultimately meaningless, and that its best they live, buy and consume for the present.

One last point, isn't it interesting that Atheism is increasing in the wealthy "developed" world? Could it be that those who enjoy a life of relative wealth and luxury are those who can afford to believe that this life, with all its comfort and decadence, is all there is? What do you say to those whose life has been suffering on a level most of us in our wealthy, priveleged positions could scarcely even imagine? How do you tell them to find the meaning in a life of abuse, starvation or endless war?
I think there are all sorts of ways of coping with the world, all probably quite understandable for each person - if we were able to delve into their past experiences...

...but yes, I suspect that currently, we may have become somewhat trapped by our own clever ability to manipulate patterns to move information around. We probably need to - at least - have a discussion about the degree of control that should be exerted, over our freedom to create and alter patterns and their meanings. In particular, whether or not present controls over these freedoms are currently too tight, and too restrictive.
 
#6
I just skimmed the article, saw some things I agreed with, and others I didn't. Didn't really look much at the comments. I'll respond based on my own view.

1) that a rejection of God was more like a rejection of religion and a Judeo-Christian God. As if it's an either/or type of situation (again with the false dichotomies).
I'm not going to speak for any one entry, as I don't know what was going through their heads - I would just point out that what you're seeing is likely edited, and also written in a manner to be pithy rather than complete. Getting at the nuances involve much longer works/discussions.

In the western world the judeo-christian god is the most common example of a deity, certainly the most important one, and the one that most people will believe in. It shouldn't be surprising that popular writers will focus on it. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion, based on a short snippet, that this is the only deity they have conceptualized.

That said, there have been thousands of deities conceived over the millennia, exponentially more if you consider each theist has their own particular version within the greater model. The average atheist/theist will only be personally familiar with a handful leaving many versions outside of their contemplation. I'm not sure all that much should be read into this.

My suggestion is always: if you want to know someone's opinion on your particular version of a deity, put it to them directly. If they haven't heard of it, then you can tell them about it.

2) The comments after the article. I was floored by the number of people who claimed to be comforted by the thought that their life has no meaning. Not just ok with it, comforted.
I'm not sure why this should be surprising. Isn't that human nature, regardless of the belief? Wouldn't you expect most people to come to terms with their beliefs in a manner that makes them comfortable?

For what it's worth, I think there can be comfort/discomfort in both the atheistic and theist worldview.

The proposition that everything that is happening on this planet for a reason can be comforting or discomforting depending on what one thinks the reason is. One could argue, for example:
  • There may comfort in the notion that the suffering endured on earth is in order to help us evolve to some greater purpose, because the presumed purpose is positive.
  • There may be discomfort if the presumed purpose is negative.
  • There may be comfort in the notion that we chose to endure suffering on earth prior to coming here, perhaps because we view this existence as entertainment.
  • There may be discomfort in the notion that we chose to endure suffering on earth prior to coming here because we've been around for an eternity and most of the time we are just so bored out of our minds that we've resorted to masochism to get any kind of stimulation and keep sane.
  • There may be comfort in the notion that we are all parts of a mind-at-large and that we're all interconnected and just exploring ourselves, and that when we cause pain it to help us explore.
  • There may be discomfort in the notion that we are all parts of a mind-at-large and that we're all interconnected and just exploring ourselves in order to stay sane (or even worse, that we're already insane), and that nothing we do can really be right or wrong since its all just different experiences so we might as well just do what we want. If we're all one we're not really hurting anyone but ourselves, and in fact we are not even we - we're actually all alone.
  • There can be comfort in the notion that some being is watching over us and loves us.
  • There can be discomfort in the notion that some being is watching over us and sees us like a really cool version of grand-theft-auto, not really caring what happens to us individually except to the point that we entertain it.
  • There can be comfort in the notion that whatever suffering we are enduring has a purpose.
  • That can be discomfort in notion that something has purposefully subjected us to this suffering.
  • There can be comfort in the notion that our suffering is not deliberate.
  • There can be discomfort in the notion that our suffering is not deliberate.
  • There can be comfort in knowing that our consciousness disappears after death.
  • There can be discomfort in knowing that our consciousness disappears after death.

I could go on, in more detail of each one, but hopefully you get the point. There are people who take comfort or discomfort in any particular worldview.

It was also interesting that so many are ok with the idea that life is inherently meaningless. It got me thinking about the idea of economic materialism and philosophical materialism being closely tied. How convenient it is for an economic and even political system that human beings believe that their lives are ultimately meaningless, and that its best they live, buy and consume for the present.
Like I've said above, this can go both ways. But I will note one thing. The overwhelming majority of people on this planet (from any study I've seen) are theists. Whatever large trends you are seeing out there in terms of people and their goods will be dominated by people who are not materialists and don't belive the universe is ultimately meaningless.

One last point, isn't it interesting that Atheism is increasing in the wealthy "developed" world? Could it be that those who enjoy a life of relative wealth and luxury are those who can afford to believe that this life, with all its comfort and decadence, is all there is? What do you say to those whose life has been suffering on a level most of us in our wealthy, priveleged positions could scarcely even imagine? How do you tell them to find the meaning in a life of abuse, starvation or endless war?
Aside from the fact that I think you can present suffering in positive or negative ways in both atheistic and theistic worldviews the question you are raising here is: Should we comfort people based on what we think is true, or just tell people what we think will make them feel better.

I'm honestly not sure. Personally, I tend to want to know how things are but does this make me happier? I'm not so sure. I think I value it for reasons that are separate from happiness. This issue has been brought up as far back as Plato's Nobel Lie (though I think he put it in terms of deciding what is good for people rather than happiness, its been way too long since I've read the republic I can't recall.)

That said, I think there are pros and cons to most worldviews and whether we succeed in providing comfort or not depends on tone, delivery, and context.


(note, even here, I'm only scratching the surface of my overall view. I'm sure there is much I haven't addressed. If you want my opinion as an atheist on any particular aspect, just ask. I'll do my best to answer.)
 
#7
Should we comfort people based on what we think is true, or just tell people what we think will make them feel better.

I'm honestly not sure. Personally, I tend to want to know how things are but does this make me happier? I'm not so sure. I think I value it for reasons that are separate from happiness. This issue has been brought up as far back as Plato's Nobel Lie (though I think he put it in terms of deciding what is good for people rather than happiness, its been way too long since I've read the republic I can't recall.)
Using Plato's Noble Lie proposition in this context is presupposing materialism and/or atheism from the get go. Would it be a Noble Lie to encourage those who are suffering to see value in that suffering if that is indeed accurate? To speak of a God and purpose to life, if there is indeed one?

My problem is that Atheists presuppose atheism in every philosophical debate. As if atheism is the only logical choice. As if every debate on value must start from zero value.

Last I checked, we had not even the ability to explore nor understand everything there is to know, learn and discover about planet Earth, much less the far reaches of the universe. We know diddly squat about the true nature of reality. So to speak as though the jury has decisively come back with a verdict of no meaning to the universe is disingenuous. The most an atheist can argue is they do not believe there is no God, instead of these intellectually vapid proclamations of "There is no God!".

I think my point here is being missed. My point is that we have the luxury of debating such things in the first place.

Atheism vs. Theism is a first world problem if there ever was one.

Again, it's pretty easy to say "gee, I'm happy with my life. I find meaning in my everyday blah-de-blah". When your everyday experience is that of relative decadence. Like I said, try saying that to a child soldier in Africa, whose life experience has mainly consisted of violence, death, poverty and fear.
 
#8
Using Plato's Noble Lie proposition in this context is presupposing materialism and/or atheism from the get go. Would it be a Noble Lie to encourage those who are suffering to see value in that suffering if that is indeed accurate? To speak of a God and purpose to life, if there is indeed one?
No its not presupposing any particular base metaphysic.

As I described, I think many metaphysics can be presented in comforting or nonconforting ways. My point was that the comfort one gets from a particular metaphysic is a separate issue from whether the metaphysic is true.

My problem is that Atheists presuppose atheism in every philosophical debate. As if atheism is the only logical choice. As if every debate on value must start from zero value.
I guess some might. Depends on the atheist, and the topic/structure of the debate. In any event, I can't speak for others, only myself.

Last I checked, we had not even the ability to explore nor understand everything there is to know, learn and discover about planet Earth, much less the far reaches of the universe. We know diddly squat about the true nature of reality. So to speak as though the jury has decisively come back with a verdict of no meaning to the universe is disingenuous. The most an atheist can argue is they do not believe there is no God, instead of these intellectually vapid proclamations of "There is no God!"
As I've written elsewhere, and alluded to above, I consider the hard atheist perspective to be logically untenable so I would agree. That said, back when I was spending time on a religiously themed debate forum my recollection is that most atheists are soft atheists.

I think my point here is being missed. My point is that we have the luxury of debating such things in the first place.

Atheism vs. Theism is a first world problem if there ever was one.
I really can't comment on that. Seems to me that these debates occur in most societies, and have done so for centuries.

Again, it's pretty easy to say "gee, I'm happy with my life. I find meaning in my everyday blah-de-blah". When your everyday experience is that of relative decadence. Like I said, try saying that to a child soldier in Africa, whose life experience has mainly consisted of violence, death, poverty and fear.
I'm not sure why you think all atheists are happy go-lucky. While I certainly wouldn't compare myself to a starving child in Africa, I've had a good dose of personal suffering in my life. People close to me have had horrific things done to them and I've been right in the wake of the devastating effects.

Anyhow, as I said, I think you can spin most of these metaphysics in comforting and non-comforting ways. I don't believe there is ultimate meaning in the universe (note I said ultimate meaning, I think there is plenty of meaning by conscious beings within the universe). That doesn't mean I would go to Africa, go up to a starving child, and say: "haha, your suffering ultimately means nothing! Nyah nyah!" Or try to engage him in a philosophical debate. The fact is, that child's suffering means a great deal to them, and likely to people around them.

There are times and places for philosophical debate, other times it is inappropriate. Personally, I don't tend to discuss these issues with people who aren't looking for this kind of discussion. When someone who is suffering expresses their comfort to me that they derive from their belief in god I don't object or contradict them, or otherwise disparage their beliefs. If someone asks me my views I will tell them - while taking care to not cause offence and be respectful of their views.

Anyhow, I can't really speak for others. I was giving you my own answers to the questions that you raised, and my own approach and offering to elaborate if you wanted to prove deeper than soundbites from randoms on the internet.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#9
No, I'm not suggesting that. But it's an honest question. And while offering sympathy and easing suffering is great, what do you tell them? Sorry your life is shit, but the good news is it doesn't matter anyway? Seriously. The only person who can spout off those platitudes are those who have never had to live a life of such suffering.
Well, I do say that I'm sorry, but I don't give them any "good news" about how it doesn't matter. I think trying to help is the most important thing, if there is anything that can be done.

See, for all the posturing many prominent Atheists do in regard to "arrogance" in religion or spirituality, they don't realize how hipocritical it is to tell someone who is suffering greatly to grow a pair and stop believing in childish fantasies. Is this not arrogance as well?
I don't know anyone who says that out of the blue. If, however, some absurd belief is getting in the way (e.g., god doesn't want me to take my child to the hospital), then I certainly might suggest that an exception should be made in this case.

I noticed, you didn't actually answer the question, Paul. What do you tell them? How do you look such a person in the eye and tell them their suffering is meaningless?
I don't. Again, you're not suggesting that I could offer some cosmic reason behind their suffering, are you? What could such a reason possibly be?

The problem here is not that I believe there is no cosmic reason in principle. The problem is that I wouldn't have a clue what the reason could be even if I were to entertain the possibility.

~~ Paul
 
#10
For me to claiming there's no objective meaning defining our place in the universe, so I'm free to make my own meaning is like claiming there's no physical laws defining my place in the universe, so I'm free to make my own ones. Meaning is inherent in everything around us is my opinion, we might attribute our own on top of it and of course we do, but does that mean there is no inherent meaning? That proposition requires a leap of faith that wouldn't appeal to anyone who can discern the evidence all around us to the contrary. For example, gravity means something to me and my place in universe. It means for me (and everyone else on earth) that if I jump up where I am right now I won't fly off into space. Physical pain and the physiological laws that underpin it, means to me that putting my hand in fire will hurt and best I avoid it. I don't know or perhaps I'm misunderstanding you guys mean by meaning :)
 
#11
I think Arouet is right, and just about any metaphysical situation can be taken to be either comforting or discomforting, depending on how one approaches it, and often a mixture of the two, a contradictory mixture at that.

I see this in myself. I think it likely that there is a kind of "meaning" that operates from a perspective larger than myself...perhaps a kind of spiritual "lifeform" that spans the entire species or planet. BUT...that is not me, and I don't like the way it seems to imply that I am just a cell in a big toe, to put pressure on as fits the "larger organism"...BUT...I feel nothing about putting pressure on my own big toe cells all the time, to do something as simple as going from the bathroom to the kitchen...BUT I am more sensitive and intelligent than my real life toe cells...BUT I recognize there may also be a larger perspective I don't get etc...BUT

...and so on, flip flop, flip flop. I think this is natural. And I think it's caricaturish to imagine that something as complicated as existence can be reduced to "comforting" or "discomforting." There are profoundly comforting things in existence. And there are profoundly discomforting things.

Intellectually, I have no problem with the existence of a higher meaning though, and think it likely, though probably deeply "non-human."
 
#12
For me to claiming there's no objective meaning defining our place in the universe, so I'm free to make my own meaning is like claiming there's no physical laws defining my place in the universe, so I'm free to make my own ones. Meaning is inherent in everything around us is my opinion, we might attribute our own on top of it and of course we do, but does that mean there is no inherent meaning? That proposition requires a leap of faith that wouldn't appeal to anyone who can discern the evidence all around us to the contrary. For example, gravity means something to me and my place in universe. It means for me (and everyone else on earth) that if I jump up where I am right now I won't fly off into space. Physical pain and the physiological laws that underpin it, means to me that putting my hand in fire will hurt and best I avoid it. I don't know or perhaps I'm misunderstanding you guys mean by meaning :)
Heh, you're onto something by questioning what is meant by meaning. I think we tend to use it in different ways in this kind of conversation: it can indicate something of value, something that gives a sense of purpose, something that is special, and so on. Probably all of these things.

But I'm not sure what you mean by objective mean. If the universe as a whole is concious in a MAL type way, then it likely has meaning to it. But is that objective meaning? Or just the universe's subjective meaning.

When we refer to "meaning" I think it implicitly requires a subject. Things have meaning to me, you, the universe perhaps. Some things may have similar meaning to you and I, other things may have different levels of meaning to us.

Let's assume some deity type that has a sense of purpose for us humans. Does that entail objective meaning? Why? What if the purpose MAL (or whatever deity you want) has for me is something I would consider negative? For example, what if the fact that we have so much suffering on earth is really because this is some kind of bootcamp for an even harsher environment to come. Or perhaps we're something like cattle and death is really the process of our being consumed by the deity, who feeds off us in some way. Maybe going through suffering makes us particularly tasty. Maybe it feeds some of us visions, and sends positive messages so we don't get spooked prior to chow time.

Should I feel special because of this purpose. This example may seem ridiculous to you but think about it from the perspective of a farm animal.

And while this particular example is outlandish, I don't think the general possibility that if there is a deity its purpose for us may not be as benign as many think is necessarily so.

Here's another trait that people assign to the deity that I think provides them comfort: that this deity, if it exists, must be so different from us as to be incomprehensible. It's certainly possible. That said, I think to some extent this sentiment is driven by the fear that in fact this deity is not so different from us. That its wants, desires, fears, emotions are similar to ours, including its character flaws. Because if this deity shared traits with us then it might lead to the conclusion that it doesn't have our best interests at heart necessarily.

This is especially the case with MAL type deities, who ostensibly are exploring themselves. Bernardo, for example, pushes that accepting MAL should lead us away from seeking certain experiences. But if we are a part of MAL, and we are engaged in certain experiences, it seems reasonable to consider that MAL finds our interests (good and bad) as interesting as we do. That MAL likes his mix of iphones and porn, tearing each other apart, and praying, and near death experiences, and HDMA trips as much as the next guy.

The point in, just because something may be meaningful, and of value to the deity, does not mean that we must share its sentiments. I certainly wouldn't blame the cows at the farm for considering humans to be monsters, evil creatures that if only they could defend themselves against.
I get the instinct towards assuming benevolence from a deity, if it exists. But given everything we know about the universe and the creatures in it, I'm not sure why we should start from that assumption.
 
#13
Arouet.

I still feel that has a kind of dualistic flavor though. What about the situation where there are hierarchies within hierarchies, that are actually "organically" a part of each other?
I can well imagine a phone call from the cells in my big toe "Hey you, stop oppressing us, we're independent beings of our own right and we get to choose our own meaning!"

"Guys, guys! That may be true, but you are ALSO cells in a big toe. That has to do with why you exist too. You exist in the first place because this larger thing you are a part of has a toe and needs to use it." And they might reply, "but there's these terribly meaningful things that we're doing such as reproducing and having families."

"(crackle) Um...yes, but those things are also the movement of the larger organism from "bathroom" to "kitchen" on a scale you aren't really equipped to grasp, and (unbeknownst to you) that's part of the reason you do them."

Etc.

However, I'm not sure the relation "deity" to "createe" captures that kind of "spiritually organic" picture accurately, as if it was Queen Victoria and her subjects. I'm more inclined to believe a perspective where we also ARE the larger organism, on another level, and the necessities here are such that we don't understand our expanded range of necessities there.
 
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#14
Arouet.

I still feel that has a kind of dualistic flavor though. What about the situation where there are hierarchies within hierarchies, that are actually "organically" a part of each other?
I can well imagine a phone call from the cells in my big toe "Hey you, stop oppressing us, we're independent beings of our own right and we get to choose our own meaning!"

"Guys, guys! That may be true, but you are ALSO cells in a big toe. That has to do with why you exist too. You exist in the first place because this larger thing you are a part of has a toe and needs to use it." And they might reply, "but there's these terribly meaningful things that we're doing such as reproducing and having families."

"(crackle) Um...yes, but those things are also the movement of the larger organism from "bathroom" to "kitchen" on a scale you aren't really equipped to grasp, and (unbeknownst to you) that's part of the reason you do them."

Etc.

However, I'm not sure the relation "deity" to "createe" captures that kind of "spiritually organic" picture accurately, as if it was Queen Victoria and her subjects. I'm more inclined to believe a perspective where we also ARE the larger organism, on another level, and the necessities here are such that we don't understand our expanded range of necessities there.
Your point is valid, of course, and while I gave a simplistic example earlier I don't think it contradicts anything I've said. There are complicated relationships among life forms in this planet. At times we are allies, at other times enemies.

What you've presented I think another example of entities sharing interests and meaning in some respects but not others.

Take bacteria that live in our bodies. They are indispensable parts of us, and there is even growing evidence that our bacteria make up impact on all sorts of aspects of our well being from whether we are obese to who we are attracted to.

In many respects we share common interests. But we also have vastly different perspectives about our body could conceivable mean to bacteria (if they had the capacity). To some extent our bodies are a battleground for bacteria as various kinds struggle for dominance. When I eat probiotic yogurt in order to bolster so-called "good" bacteria, to try to get them to dominate, how do you think this would be perceived by the so-called "bad" bacteria, who earlier were so happy when I shovelled all sorts of junk into my body allowing them to thrive. Should they as they die wish me well, feeling satisfied that they are dying for a good cause? Or should they consider me the enemy, and fight back.

How about a virus? It's funny, whenever I hear about energy healing, brought on by good intentions, and love, etc. I think to myself "to these guys realise that much healing goes on by killing the cause of the malady? Should the virus consider itself a "bad" thing? Or from its perspective is it just trying to survive in a hostile environment, with enemies all around. An environment (our bodies) that seems to be specifically hostile to it and intending it harm.

How about the germs who get killed whenever we wash with anti-bacterial soap? Should they be satisfied?

A more humourous example is the animated movie wreck-it Ralph about a video game villain who is not satisfied with his designed purpose and wishes to be a hero.
 
#15
I think it can probably seem that way from our perspective, but I'm not convinced that nature is really a "battleground" on the larger picture. I think that's the legacy of Darwinism speaking, which has tended to focus up a particular perspective at the expense of others. And of course bacteria don't occupy the same category in our body systems as something like a heart cell or a liver cell. Yes, there's an aspect of nature that's like that. If I run a lot, then cells on the sole of my foot might complain that they are being sacrificed for the benefit of aerobic enhancements elsewhere, but in the larger life of the organism, that probably doesn't mean very much. It might be a similar thing with individual deaths of our own. They seem terrible to us, but we are really dying back into the larger organism, and its purposes. Just a notion, of course :)
 
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#16
Lets say there's a reason for our existence, would that reason trump all the reasons we make up? If there is, i don't know what I'd call it, so I said objective as opposed to subjective - those we make up.
 
#17
Lets say there's a reason for our existence, would that reason trump all the reasons we make up? If there is, i don't know what I'd call it, so I said objective as opposed to subjective - those we make up.
This is exactly what I've been talking about. You're talking about the value ascribed to us by some other entity.

Doesn't the value to you of that reason depend on what the reason is? Are you onboard with any reason, no matter what it is? Do you feel the need to support that reason no matter what it is?

My suggestion is that meaning is always subjective. Value is always subjective. Others may value me in certain ways that are different from my own value of myself.
 
#18
2) The comments after the article. I was floored by the number of people who claimed to be comforted by the thought that their life has no meaning. Not just ok with it, comforted.

Conversely, I am floored by the number of people who are comforted by ideas which are obviously made up. Regardless of whether or not there is some sort of meaning external to human endeavours, I'm not sure that any of the stuff we have made up about what that might be is true. And some of it clearly isn't (the "Rainbow Bridge"? Really?).

One last point, isn't it interesting that Atheism is increasing in the wealthy "developed" world? Could it be that those who enjoy a life of relative wealth and luxury are those who can afford to believe that this life, with all its comfort and decadence, is all there is?
I suspect that it's more to do with a need for hope (false or otherwise) when living a life of abuse, starvation or endless war.

What do you say to those whose life has been suffering on a level most of us in our wealthy, priveleged positions could scarcely even imagine?
I try to be truthful, helpful, and comforting. I don't happen to think that those must be mutually exclusive. More importantly, I try to change their lot, rather than find ways to make them content with their misery by offering false promises (by "false" I mean "I have no idea whether they are "true" or "false" and have no intention of making the distinction").

How do you tell them to find the meaning in a life of abuse, starvation or endless war?
The same things which give meaning to a life without abuse, starvation or endless war (if there is such a thing) - love for others, companionship, autonomy, physical and mental well-being, social well-being, etc. In particular, I recognize my responsibility to others with respect to "equal access to and delivery of basic needs services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life", rather than absolving responsibility by hoping magic will make it better.

Linda
 
#19
This is exactly what I've been talking about. You're talking about the value ascribed to us by some other entity.

Doesn't the value to you of that reason depend on what the reason is? Are you onboard with any reason, no matter what it is? Do you feel the need to support that reason no matter what it is?

My suggestion is that meaning is always subjective. Value is always subjective. Others may value me in certain ways that are different from my own value of myself.
It's an interesting one Arouet, because if there happen to be "top level" meanings that are synonymous in an important sense with laws or forces governing reality, then these could arguably be called "objective," whether or not they are also subjective to the governor systems.
 
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Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#20
For me to claiming there's no objective meaning defining our place in the universe, so I'm free to make my own meaning is like claiming there's no physical laws defining my place in the universe, so I'm free to make my own ones. Meaning is inherent in everything around us is my opinion, we might attribute our own on top of it and of course we do, but does that mean there is no inherent meaning?
Of course there is no proof that there is no inherent meaning. But how do you find it and how do you determine whether you are just making it up?

That proposition requires a leap of faith that wouldn't appeal to anyone who can discern the evidence all around us to the contrary. For example, gravity means something to me and my place in universe. It means for me (and everyone else on earth) that if I jump up where I am right now I won't fly off into space. Physical pain and the physiological laws that underpin it, means to me that putting my hand in fire will hurt and best I avoid it. I don't know or perhaps I'm misunderstanding you guys mean by meaning :)
I don't think gravity is what people mean by inherent meaning. If the mere existence of a pattern or a thing is inherent meaning, then, sure, there is meaning all over the place. But why is that meaningful in any interesting way?

~~ Paul
 
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