Is there reason and purpose for our existence? Would it make life easier if there were?

My wife and I have these discussions all the time. She says there's no reason and purpose and I say that its up to us to find our own reason and purpose.

She seems to think that it would make the suffering we have to endure in our life easier if there were a reason and purpose behind our existence.... and she may be right but I think that that reasoning is built upon a framework of religious conditioning. She thinks that ignorance is bliss and that people who have a belief in a 'reason and purpose' behind our existence have an easier time of it than those that don't.

The main focus of our discussions are 'why' do we suffer? What purpose is there in suffering? And the relationship of these things to existence and happiness.

What purpose is there to life if we have to endure such suffering? What's the point? To me... I just jump outside the box on the question. We exist. We are here and we can't change that... we feel pain.. We suffer... but we also feel joy..and happiness and love, wonder, awe, etc.

We don't experience continuous happiness all the time... just like most of us don't experience continuous suffereing all the time.

I'd like to hear commentary on any of the above and also ask what reason and purpose you folks have found that motivates and helps you deal with this world and this life.

What makes you happy? What brings you peace?

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I agree that there is no grand universal meaning to life. However, our lives have very personal individual meaning to each of us. I wrote a similar blog to this just the other day. Take a look if you wish: http://www.thinkatheist.com/xn/detail/1982180:BlogPost:132605?xg_so...
Hey James,

Yes, this is pretty much my position as well... but I still don't like to use terms like 'random chance' and accident to much. The universe operates under natural laws and things don't happen PURELY by random chance or accident... There are events, actions and reactions, that determine and shape things to a degree. The birth of our sun wasn't just random chance alone but was dependent on other physical factors.. supernova, big bang, bouncing branes, etc. Just because there's not a cosmic consciousness behind these events doesn't mean they just happen out of the blue either. There's natural laws behind them.

The same goes for life on this planet. Was it purely random chance or did certain physical conditions and natural laws come together to bring about the 'spark' of replication? The same goes for the individual life... 'sperm and egg' had to come together under the right conditions.

Random chance, in my opinion, would be like magic, like life popping into existence anytime and anywhere regardless of physical conditions or natural laws. A volcano erupting isn't an accident. It isn't a mad god paying out retribution....but it isn't purely random either. There are natural forces at work. Lava pools and tubes, pressure, fault-lines etc...all go into determining where and when an eruption takes place. One of the arguments creationists try to use against the theory of evolution is that it happens by random chance..and this couldn't be further from the truth.

I don't know if life has a purpose but it does have properties. It continues. It adapts, it evolves.

We are born, we consume, we replicate, we die. Life does these things. Is there a cosmic skydaddy meaning to all this??? I dont' see anything that points toward such a hypothesis. I do agree with you that individual lives are full of meaning.

We evolved the ability to find faces and patterns....and 'meanings' as well.
I think "meaning" and "purpose" are simply human constructs and depend on subjective opinions. So in short, I think we make up our own meanings and purposes, either for our individual lives and what we hope for, or for another person's life or actions when remembering them.
Oh Gosh, I was having these very thoughts just the other day. For what purpose are we here I do not think we can know. It seems like yesterday I was a happy little girl, surrounded by a loving family thinking of the future, and now I am 74, feeling as young as ever but seem tormented by the injustice in the world, where life is dealt so differently.
I am at peace when surrounded by my family knowing that they are all well. I have experienced a suicide in my life of a young girl so I have known pain.

Yes I agree we are here and we cant change that but I am trying to do a little bit such as signing petitions against the wrong doings of this world. perhaps that is the purpose of my life and also to bring in to this World a family that is good and kind.
Hi Elaine,

I like what you are doing and trying to do... and try to do the same myself. We make our own 'meaning' and 'purpose'... Life isn't 'pointless' just because a God isn't behind it.

I hear a lot of people say... 'What's the point'?....and my answer is that that is something for each individual to figure out for themselves.

Yes the cup can be half-full or half-empty.... but that isn't the only way of looking at it. It can also be full, one half full of liquid and the other half full of air.

The 'point' as I see it is 'We are already here' and can't change that.' Do we sit around and gripe about life being 'pointless' just because there isn't a God with a preordained divine plan for our existence. ? To me this is similar to christian arguments that if there wasn't a god that people would just go around raping, pillaging and killing each other.... (God's existence didn't stop people who believed in him from raping, pillaging and killing so I don't see how his absence is going to cause those that don't believe in him to suddendly start doing these things.) Nor do I think that everyone will just give up and kill themselves because there isn't an intelligently designed purpose to our existence.

I don't think meaning and purpose cease to exist just because God doesn't. In fact I think 'God' is one of mans early attempts to find meaning and purpose to existence.

Just because the God answer didn't work doesn't mean that we have to give up on finding meaning and purpose in our lives.

I don't see life as pointless. Meaning and purpose have been helpful in our evolution else they wouldn't continue to be a part of the human condition.
I also agree with this...
What would we be missing if we were never born? Experience. To me, life is about experience. The purpose of life is to acquire the greatest breadth and depth of experience while you can.

Joy, pain, love, hate, boredom, transcendence, profession, family, insight, ignorance . . . they're all good as long as you learn from experience.
I like this... because I'm of the 'exploring' bent of mind. Stretch the boundaries and break right through them... who knows what the limits are?
The more I learn about physics, biology, and psychology, the better I am able to put things into perspective. GG hits on the point about how I feel about purpose in life. It is really a human construct and there is no inherent intent or design in the universe. There is the nature of reality that we describe with laws, but this flirts with the anthropic principle when applied to human purpose. For the record, I see the anthropic principle as a conceit of hindsight. Until some cosmic genie comes along to tell me differently, I don't think I will worry too much about purpose of life other than it what goals and activities make me happy.
let's accept her assertion that reason & purpose are good.
ask her: why do you want a reason & purpose forced upon you?
isn't it even better that not only can you live with reason & purpose, but you can choose your own?
I like these sorts of questions because I've been on both sides of belief.

The alleged Reason and Purpose of Christianity was/is wrapped up in God's inscrutable plan. The churches I attended instilled in me the idea that I had to find out what God's purpose for MY life was, and no one was quite able to promise I couldn't screw it up or miss it if I didn't recognize it when I found it. The Meaning of Life is unknown because no one can really say WHY God created any of this, and the pat answer that is always flung at difficult questions is, "We cannot know the mind of God."

Christians, to me, don't seem to have any advantage from their belief in purpose since they don't know what that purpose is. For me, I was more anxious because I believed I had to find out what God wanted me to do, and I had no better tools for this than feeling led this way or that. Any event could be a sign.

Back in 2006, a series of events changed the course of my life. I was unhappy living in Nashville and wanted to go live with my dad in Oklahoma so we could start some sort of creative/artistic endeavor together. I was waiting tables at the time and seemed to be having a long streak of bad luck there. The management had announced if servers were late three times, they would be suspended. I was never late but, in a short period of time, ended up being late three time due to uncontrollable circumstances. I was suspended for a week so I took this to mean God had given me the chance to drive to Oklahoma and decide if I really wanted to move there.

Seven hours in to an eight hour drive, I got into an accident and totaled my car. I had done a lot of praying on the trip and thought God was trying to get my attention somehow through this wreck (and overlooked the fact that I was being a careless driver). It became a big test of faith for me, and I had to figure out whether or not the right decision was to abandon my roommates in Nashville because God had pretty much stranded me in OK, or go back to Nashville and find a way to survive without a vehicle.

This whole decision-making process caused a lot of anxiety. Instead of making rational decisions, I was trying to FEEL my way through; trying to listen to God's voice. Well, I'm not crazy, and I never did hear voices in my head. As much as I wanted to let the signs lead me, my logic won the battle and I went back to Nashville in a clunker Grand Am that cost $600.

All this to say... purpose can only put your mind at ease if you know what the purpose is. I feel we have to come up with our own purposes, reasons and goals, just like you said. I never took any comfort in knowing God's plan was to destroy the earth in a giant fire-ball and then... ? After the book of Revelations had been fulfilled, WHAT was the purpose? To save humanity whom God had condemned? To prove that He was The Shit? Was it really a giant bet between God and Satan, like it was with Job? Are we all just pawns in some sick game?

All the reasons given for the creation of life seemed very trite and petty to me. And they still do. Life is for living, and that's it. If we want it to mean more, then it can because we can make it. If that's not good enough for people, then I don't think their religion actually makes them feel as good as they claim; they still feel hollow and aimless.
Well said. I've also been on both sides of belief. My father was a minister for over 40 years...and one of the best people on the planet I might add.

His 'purpose' was his personal spiritual growth... he thought. But I think his purpose (in my mind) was people. There's never been a more tireless helper, joy-spreader, loneliness fighter ever. He wasn't worried about winning souls to christ....but about showing them by example how to work together, help and support each other and be strong during lifes shitstorms. He genuinely liked, loved and cared about people.... You would be extremely hard-pressed to find a more unpretentious person.

He taught us to think for ourselves and for that and a whole lot more I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

His was a life with a purpose.....and it inspires me to this day.

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