Since we've been discussing absurdity without god here, I've been thinking a bit on life and meaning.
About 5 years ago, my father sat down across from me at the kitchen table as I was reading the newspaper. As I was used to being accosted by the occasional rant from him about politics, I prepared for another rant about what was going on in the political world.
He took a drink from his cup of iced tea and gave a small sigh.
"What's the meaning of life, Tim?"
I was rather taken aback. My father was talking about something more abstract than how many men Maury had exonerated that day.
"I'm not really sure. I guess to me, it's however we make it."
My father looked at me blankly as he often does.
"To me, my meaning in life is you. Reproducing and raising you to be a capable person."
Granted, this recollection is far from exact, but the feeling is still the same. My father is religious, but he never shows it, unless I'm arguing the validity of gay people adopting. So to some extent, he believes in a god that has plans for him and by extension, me.
As atheists, we are often told that we cannot have meaning without religion. So my question to you all is: if you feel the need for meaning in your life, how do you create it?
I look at my wife, and know that I love her, and she loves me. I look at our son who I watched grow from a wee infant into a wonderful young man. I look at our dogs, and see their joy at simply being with us. I look at the world and the universe in amazement. What more do I need?
I actually have a whole blog dedicated to critical thinking and the meaning of life. I think both are important topics. Critical thinking is not just about debunking, but improving thinking and addressing the biggest questions (is there a god, what is right and wrong, what is the meaning of life) in a reality based way.
I am sorry that is a lame answer, but I write about the meaning of life all the time and I am too lazy to write again :P
I think it's exactly as you say, it is what you make of it. Life has no meaning in any objective sense, it just is. If you want any sense of meaning, you ned to come up with one for yourself. Whatever makes us happy in the end. Doug's got the right idea.
I also think it is helpful to note that the pagan Greek and Roman philosophers wrote a ton about purpose and meaning without evoking God(s). They viewed morality as the study of living a happy and flourishing existence instead of a list of commandments. To see what I am talking about, check out Epictetus' Manual and the diaries of Marcus Aurelius.
I have always defined the "meaning of life" as reproduction. All organisms (things that have "life") strive to reproduce. All other actions (like eating, sleeping, moving, etc....) are used as a tool to reach this goal, or try to. I am not sure if this is the type of answer you were looking for, but as an alternative I present this.
To create your own "meaning" to existence, you should find some-thing you care about and make that thing the best it can be. Picasso made art, Einstein made science, Hitler made Nazis (not a good example), most humans make babies and some humans make friends, dogs make "barks", cats make "meows", and you make [blank]. It does not have to be good; it just has to be your best!
Aside from the number 42, the meaning of life(on a philosophical level) is to find the meaning of life.
Said another way, the meaning of life is to find meaning in your life. I think this is similar to both Doug's and Zach's answers but is said in a more condensed way.
For me, the meaning of (my) life changes depending on what is on my mind. With my partner, the meaning of my life is to make her happy, build a family together, and whatnot along those lines. At work, the meaning of my life is writing code to achieve the goals/requirements set by my clients. Sometimes I struggle with the nature of the world, what am I striving for in this life that will matter after I am gone? Why bother continuing?
Damnit, now you got me thinking...
I have toiled on this subject for going on a year now, the only answers I come up with are more questions. Presuming that religeon is just a means to an end, meaning an "easy" answer to the big question, does all other non beleiving humans have no meaning? What about animals? It is a relative situation, from my perspective Is there a point? Should there be? As cliche' as I know it sounds it is what you make it. In my opinion, I derive meaning from simply existing, others don't see it this way, and that gives me more meaning in that there is always discourse.