How Atheists or Sceptics about religion have a sense of the value of life
 
"People say that we’re searching for the meaning of life. I don’t think that’s it at all. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive." The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell.


Comment: An occasional or rare joy at JUST being alive is all that is really needed. A meaningless life is tolerable as long as you think and know this experience can happen. Religion only adds to misery by offering answers that are not answers. You don’t actually need answers. You need the rapture.  So it is possible to have a meaningless life and be compensated by this flash of meaning. The psychological meaning of life matters not the spiritual or any other kind.
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You think life is worth living for you would not be here if you did not.
 
If you say life is worthless you must consider it worth your while to say that meaning you do consider your life to be worthwhile.
 
A sense of meaning is default and automatic and cannot be destroyed except by extreme mental melancholy - you have to be mentally ill.
 
You must make the purposes of your life yourself and you do that by living in the world and availing of its opportunities instead of trying to fool yourself with magic and prayers and sacraments and religions. There is no one purpose. It is cruel and manipulative and hypocritical and ignorant to say there is for we all get through the day by having countless reasons for living. Those reasons change from day to day. Our feelings change all the time.
 
Broadly there is the meaning as in why you would do good, why you would be happy and why you would suffer? The question for why do good is considered the paramount one. Indeed the others cannot matter if it does not matter. Do good is broad as well - it refers to what you do for yourself such as getting a good hair cut, eating responsibly as well as what you do for others. God and the meaning of life are too often linked together. Let us deal with that problem first and then explore how a sense of meaning helps with goodness, happiness and suffering.
 
Nihilism says you must make no definitive commitment to anything for it will not last and all things are fleeting. But to not make a commitment is to commit yourself to not making one!
 
The objections to getting meaning without God
 
People tell you you need to love God to have meaning in life.

 

A stunning landscape with rolling hills and stately trees has no meaning until you give it meaning. When you go and walk through it and enjoy it it gets meaning then. Believers say that. They say that we have no meaning either unless God exists and gives it to us by putting us into his lovely plan. They think you are valueless if there is no God.  But if you are valueless without God then if there is a God, he treats you as valuable.  But if you are not valuable nothing can make you valuable.  God does not really make you valuable. Its patronising and insulting. Better to make life meaningful without God if you have to do that! It will not lead to virtue but to passive aggressive faith. Do we see the hidden ingredient in faith that causes it to turn violent and enabling of violence so easily?
 
Incredibly Christians will tell a person how that person hardly registers in importance when you consider how big the universe is, how many people there are, and how long the universe has been around. They argue then that it is arrogant to say you can make meaning for your own life and do not need God to give it to you - a God who puts you in a vast universe and adores you with all his heart despite the unimportant status the universe gives you. But if there is no God or insufficient evidence there is nothing arrogant about trying to give your life meaning. It is not your fault that you are so small and being small does not make you insignificant. A tiny diamond is worth more than a hundred tonne of dirt. To tell you that you should not try to make the best if your life just because you are a dot in a vast universe is just cruel. It is obvious that you should still try. There is no alternative so in a sense there is no should about it.
 
Religion says that if you are just a collection of atoms you have no meaning. So they say you are more than that and there is a God and so life has meaning. You are intrinsically valuable. But you could still be a mere machine though you do not feel you are if there is a God. And what if God has some unexplainable way of giving you meaning if you are just a bag of atoms and bits and bobs?
 
Nobody can prove that faith in God or religion gives them meaning. Anybody who finds a way to feel reasonably in control of life will get a sense of meaning for we fear the mechanical and the random and the uncertain. Meaning does not come from the sense of control that religious faith gives. It comes from the sense of control that faith gives. Faith is more important and basic than religious faith. If you make a mistake with this control aspect and start depending on God that could be dangerous for it is looking for control in a disordered and unnecessary way.
 
Religion says that God and morality cannot be separated. Morality supposedly stands ultimately only on God. Religion then argues that morality is about what is supposed to be and the kind of person you must become meaning that morality implies there is a purpose for your life. This is the kind of logic that goes, "You can't call sunlight good. It is merely functional. It does a job." You cannot call your shoes good for they function as protection for your feet. But that is obviously deranged logic. Functional IS GOOD!

 

If you say justice and love are nonsense you redefine justice and love for you say that it is unfair to say justice is real and you say it is unloving to tell the lie that love exists.  These things have nothing to do with God.  You cannot get away from the ideas of fairness and love.  Thus you do not need God for morality and it is actually immoral to think you do.  Fix your perception of justice and love instead of looking for God to ground a morality that is already grounded.
 
Religious emphasis on meaning and getting it from God is about honouring God not you. It is sought to please God and nobody else. That is the intention. If meaning made your life a misery and that others just as bad it would still be a duty if God comes first. People seeking happiness through meaning is ridiculous.
 
Why do good?
 
We should not need God or arguments to persuade us that good is good. We should simply see it. The truly good person sees good as good for its own sake. If we cannot manage that we will not be able to see our lives have meaning. We may need religion as a prop to delude ourselves but it is still a dangerous delusion. It is not the answer.
 
There is everything to be said for the fact that in relation to the meaning of life, you either see it is worthwhile for its own sake or you don't. Trying to find meaning shows that you are trying to find it artificially. It is like seeing beautiful flowers and searching for reasons to find them beautiful instead of just seeing them as beautiful. That would be forced and showing you are really trying to see what you cannot see. You end up pretending you see it or deluding yourself that you do.
 
If you enjoy the flowers, you simply enjoy them and do not have to check that you enjoy them. Checking will actually only spoil your enjoyment. It distracts from it. In reality you should be engrossed in the beauty. A sense of meaning and worth in life just happens. It is vile of religion to say you need God and religion to develop it.
 
The sense that your life is worth it will come from helping others. The best way to remain motivated and willing to help others even to the extent of greatly risking your health and life is to try and see the big picture. Try and see how many can benefit from and be inspired by your actions. If you see yourself as helping only a few, your motivation will not be very strong. Do not see just how many will be directly helped but think of the indirect benefits too. Perhaps the leper you treat will be able to find a wife and raise a nice family. Think also of the opportunities you are making - you give those opportunities to others even if they do not available of them. What matters is that you gave.
 
The notion that goodness has no real value without God or if we just all cease to exist one day is a bizarre one. And arrogant. Those who use this argument say that it has no ultimate value unless we live forever and there is a God.
 
The good you do has happened and cannot be made to not-have-happened. So its value has nothing to do with what you think of it afterwards or if anybody remembers it. Even if the universe dies one day, it will still have happened and still have been beautiful.
 
If giving what little bread you have to a hungry child is unimportant unless there is a God to approve of it and to remember it forever,
 
In summary, the good we do in this life has ultimate value without any recourse to God or everlasting life or religion. In fact they only get in the way of it - to what extent depends on the person. Good is independent of God and therefore independent of faith in God and so it follows that God then is not the same thing as goodness. So God is not God. An atheist can feel her life has meaning far more than a Christian can. Sadly, atheism has not grasped this properly yet.
 
Finally
 
What about the thought that if life and the universe make no sense then they ought to make sense? Camus asked that question.  He made sense for it is obvious that if you have to choose, "Nothing makes sense but it ought to", or, "Nothing makes sense and it ought not to" then you have to choose the first.  Why?  Because you still have two oughts so the first one is the wisest choice.  An ought not is still an ought.  Meaning is a default and you need to let it be a default.  Meaning as in default is good and all you need but meaning as in God is trying to get away from that so it is bad.

 

If a plan for your life is so fundamental then it is the plan that matters not who makes the plan. Religion says that God and religion gives your life meaning by making you part of a plan. They are hijackers. It is not their's to give.
 
Good is real. Even if there were nothing at all there would still be some good. Good is abstract but true but needs no maker. God only gets in the way so he is not the source of meaning in life. The meaning of life is an illusion - it is very complicated so you must be aware that life has meanings not meaning. If you have such a terrible day that you feel like ending your life, remember how everything changes and how complex it all is. The meanings of life then can work their magic on you tomorrow. You can plant the seeds of hope instead of magically thinking that belief in God is going to solve all your meaning issues. A doctor who gives you aspirin for cancer is not helping you. You need complex treatment that is subject to careful and responsible and constant revision.