On meaning


Folks, many times theists berate atheists because we[ most of us I believe] realize the universe in without purpose. No design and no goal, things in nature are indifferent to our whims or feelings, they just happen. Our lives are inherently absurd and meaningless or as the writer of Ecclesiastes writes in Chapter 3

18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

Faced with this meaninglessness what does man do? You have to choices to choose life through christianity which is a denial of reality. It is a pessimistic view of life based on the mistaken belief that human beings are created by their god to worship him and revere him so that in future they may spend endless time singing hallelujah hosana! or you can choose to live knowing that life ends when the final curtain is drawn, that we have this one life to live to the fullest so that should there be another life elsewhere, the gods shall be proud that we lived a full life here and wouldn’t punish us for that.

One of the greatest teachers to have walked the surface of the earth, Siddhartha Gotama, said of the people who claim to have a passionate relationship with god to be like a young man who has declared he is in love with the most beautiful lady in the village but on being asked how she looks like admits he has never seen her! it is groundless, based on human consciousness alone and nothing more. It is not suggested to us by nature and therefore to claim god gives our lives meaning is to claim unicorns give lives meaning since the existence of the two are just conjecture.

For an apologist to write

The Christian, by contrast, admits right up front that there is more to the universe than physics and chemistry, that minds and meaning do indeed exist, and that we have ultimate purpose in life because there is an ultimate that exists, God. Without God, Dawkins is quite correct that there is no meaning in the question “why do we exist?” But with an infinite God, we have infinite meaning in the universe.

is to pretend to possess some knowledge that isn’t available to the rest of us. It is a mark of arrogance that can only be explained by assuming the author is so brainwashed into believing his religion as true that any other opinion that challenges his world view false short. And what does it mean to talk about an infinite god? Rather what does infinity mean? Isn’t infinity a human concept to describe large numbers the human mind can’t simply conceive and what infinite meaning do we have in the universe?

I contend that our lives are inherently without meaning, but that each of us has to create meaning in their lives. The believer through believing in transcendence hopes that his life has a greater purpose than just spreading his/her genes and the non believer believes that he/she has a duty to live a meaningful life here without attaching any meaning to superstition.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

35 thoughts on “On meaning

  1. Mike says:

    Well said my friend

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  2. john zande says:

    That, sir, sums it up. We must find meaning, and by our actions perhaps (just perhaps) others will follow us and change the entire direction of the human species.

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    • makagutu says:

      indeed that’s all we can hope for, that someone will be inspired to follow the paths that we have cleared

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    • If I may, I disagree. We do not ‘must find meaning’ unless it is that your simulation of the world requires that you have meaning for it. Some of us require no meaning… life itself is enough to justify this existence. To experience is to live, to live is to have meaning. I have seen so many things that it would burst my chest to feel them all at once. No sir, I do not need your meaning or anyone else’s meaning. To simply be here to do this, even if just the once, I find more provacative and meaningful than any complications of other lives. To simply contemplate the meaning of being able to contemplate meaning is to have lived. Why should I feel there should be more than this wonderous thing I have now?

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      • john zande says:

        But that is what i meant by “find meaning.” The experience “is” the meaning, and the experience is what other might also pursue… for their own ends.

        As a species, though, we do catch a collective wind. For better or for worse that sail is up and it would be irresponsible to not desire the track be true… or as close to a ‘truth’ as collectively possible.

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  3. tildeb says:

    In spite of the religious sales job, faith-based beliefs don’t create meaning; living does.

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  4. holly says:

    Well said. I could not help but pop on over there after following your linky…
    We have a choice to have meaning or not….we choose our meaning..
    the christian has the same…this life for them is not all their is…it is a blip or dot in the line of eternity (from their point of view)
    THIS life has little meaning…for them…unless they choose it…
    many do not…many focus on their “eternal home”
    others rejoice that iniquities will be forgiven…

    a small niggle….(because i am not over the free will thingy yet)
    “You have to choices to choose life ”
    if there is no free will…how is there…choice? 😉 ::evil grin::

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    • makagutu says:

      Since it’s a question of belief, i don’t think they would believe differently from what they have been taught since they were babies. Do you think there’s any one person who can tell you when they chose god to be the source of meaning? I think they first were believers then convinced themselves that there’s an ultimate meaning and their god is responsible

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  5. […] A fellow blogger once again speaks up against the idea that atheism means no meaning… HERE […]

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  6. aguywithoutboxers says:

    I’m having a bad day with allergies today, so I’m not really thinking (do I ever, truly?) clearly. One thought has always bothered me. Those who subscribe to a belief system are always trying to convert others to their way of believing/thinking. Is this because they are really trying to convince themselves, all over again, that what they “want” to believe is what they “actually” believe? I hope this makes sense. If not, then dismiss me as a victim of medicinal influence. Nice job, my Nairobi brother! Much love and naked hugs, even if I am a little feeble today!

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  7. Ishaiya says:

    You’re going to like my post on ‘meaning’ then (that is when I get around to posting it!) 🙂

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  8. Ishaiya says:

    I agree with John here, by the way, anything that you spend any time being aware of or thinking of has meaning, otherwise you would pay it no heed. Like walking along a street, it’s a pretty automatic process, yet what do you remember of that experience? Do you remember the scenery? Maybe, maybe not, perhaps parts of it. Do you remember the thoughts you had as you strolled along? It depends on what was on your mind or what your circumstances were at the time. Were you walking alone? The thing is there is much you won’t remember from that experience, but what you do remember is the stuff that you had an emotional connection with, i.e. the stuff that had meaning that caused you to remember it. I think people should stop ‘mystifying’ the word and accept that it has validity. You cannot be detached or indifferent to anything because even that in itself is an emotional response.

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  9. Mordanicus says:

    The obsession with “the meaning of life”, is a side effect of our evolution. Our survival as species has been promoted by the fact that humans are purpose driven beings, which that’s why we are able to make plans such as hunting mammoths or building pyramids. Since many thing in our lives have a purpose, we are tempted to think everything has a purpose including our very existence.

    As explained by Mr. Dawkins the “purpose” of life is to ensure the immortality of our genes. However Dawkins also said that we should liberate ourselves from our slavery to our genes.

    Ps. I have finished reading “God Debris”. I will share my opinion about it within a few days.

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    • makagutu says:

      Once we are on the free fall of seeing everything as having a purpose, we start to ask questions that no one can answer one way or the other. Why can’t just living be enough, why does life have to have a divine sanction for it to be meaningful? I know our evolutionary background has created in us a need to seek truth and meaning but I think some of us are enslaved by these desire that the only explanation or meaning can be found in transcendence. Nothing down here is sufficient, nothing is valued only that which leads to heaven is seen as important, what a way to live!

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      • tagtraumer says:

        I think people resort to God when their imagination fails them, and they see nothing else they can think of to understand reality. We now days are fortunate to stand on the shoulders of giants of philosophy and science, and even if our own imagination would fail us, we can read what smarter people had thought about, and expand our own understanding. That is of course if we have the opportunity, and take time and effort to do so.

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  10. tagtraumer says:

    Your assumption is that universe is without purpose, but how do you know it is true? And existence of God has nothing to do with it. What is a purpose of a work of art, for example?

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    • makagutu says:

      My assumption about the universe could be wrong, but please tell me, have you discerned a purpose for the universe?
      A work of art can have a purpose; the designer may have wanted to educate, a sign of protest, ridicule or expression of emotion. In your comparison you commit a fallacy by comparing two unrelated things viz a work of art that is apparently designed and applying it to the universe.
      Why do you say god has nothing to do with it? I don’t understand that part.

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      • tagtraumer says:

        My point was that often art is created for the sake of itself, and not really any purpose. We don’t know how exactly the Universe is created, but the purpose of it may be similar, or rather, its purpose may be what its inhabitants like us assign to it. It gives a place for Life to exist, and Life is a worthy thing by itself. So maybe this is it – the purpose of the universe is to create a place where Life can originate.

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        • Mordanicus says:

          The question remains whether the existence of Life is by itself a worthy thing. And I think that this presumption is very doubtful, after all we had never existed, would have regretted it?

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          • tagtraumer says:

            we wouldn’t even have a chance to regret 🙂 Here is the thing though – if the life is not a worthy thing it itself, why should we not all commit suicide?

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            • Mordanicus says:

              Some people do indeed commit suicide for this reason. However that many people consider life to be worthwhile, does not prove anything. It is still just a subjective opinion. There is a subtle but important difference between 1. in general life is worthy by itself and 2. in general people consider their lives to be worthy by itself.

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              • tagtraumer says:

                Fare enough; but if we for the moment ASSUME that it IS, then we can derive a lot of practical conclusions from it. And the key is practical – because I believe this line of reasoning can actually improve people’s lives, so it has a philosophy with a practical application.

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        • makagutu says:

          you say very well it’s a purpose we assign to it. It’s subjective and I think you agree.
          Do you know of anyone who has been hurt by non existence?
          You talk of the universe supporting life, then killing the same life must also be its purpose.

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          • tagtraumer says:

            Subjective – sure.

            You can’t know if anyone hurt by non existence because they never existed, so that you can’t know about them.

            Aha, that’s a good question. The Sun will kill life on Earth, for sure, and the Sun is part of the Universe. And that’s where humans come in – they are the only life form that can prevent that from happening.

            Now there is a model of the universe that has it degenerating into particles, so eventually this will kill life, too. But it will happen MUCH later. So if a Life is a self-worthy thing, it makes sense to prolong it as long as possible.

            Thanks for your questions!

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        • tildeb says:

          It gives a place for Life to exist, and Life is a worthy thing by itself.

          Then why ‘make’ the universe to be such an inhospitable place for life?

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          • tagtraumer says:

            Probably because making it hospitable is very unlikely, so you need a lot of trial and error. My personal belief is that life exist on this planet only – its just a personal hunch, that’s all, nothing more. Earth is very hospitable to life, but it may be the only such planet in the entire universe.

            There are good wikipedia articles on this that argue both points of view – Drake equation, Fermi paradox, etc.

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  11. […] Here and here are reflections I have written about meaning of life. I think anyone who claims that without god, life has no meaning does not think, or has refused to think through the subject. […]

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