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Meaning and meaninglessness in an atheist's mind

I am an atheist.  I make comics and write a blog, both entitled 'Pointless Man'.  From these bare facts, one may arrive at two questions:

1) Do I believe life is meaningless?
2) In order to remain consistent and coherent in my thinking, should I believe life is meaningless?

and a corollary:

3) If I take life to be meaningless, should I (or be considered) a nihilist?

The short and overly simplified answer to these queries is, "No."

Religions tend to hold there must be some great arbiter (or set thereof) in order for there to be meaning.  Those who think so will naturally assume atheists either admit to no meaning at large or else have made a mistake somewhere along the line (aside from not adhering to some particular spiritual dogma), but it is not necessarily so.  After all, few will deny me the ability to comprehend what I have written so far or that I have a purpose in doing so.  Nor is it clear how a deity must be around for me to write this, understand it, or have some end in mind.  My ability to do these things without the apparent necessity of supernatural goings-on establishes that I can and do believe in propositions and actions, that I can (and do) follow some of my beliefs, and that I may attribute meaning to such things.  If grand questions of meaninglessness (or meaningfulness) subsist in the realms of action or propositions, then it appears I am capable of taking them on, and so doing to actively or tacitly attribute meaning to my own life, life in general, and smaller moments therein.

"But mustn't this meaning be universally accepted in order to be true?"

If so, almost nothing is true. for almost nothing is universally accepted.

"Then mustn't it at least be universally accessible?"

There are plenty of thoughts, occurrences, and factoids which are not readily or widely accessible, but which are nonetheless able to be related to as true statements.  I am the only person who could see what pen I originally wrote this with, but if the Prime Minister of Canada cannot tell what implement I used, should we say the tool didn't take part in the writing, or that none can know what did? Why should the big questions be different?

"Because it must be universally true, at least, right?"

Meaning depends at least partly upon context.  Life changes with circumstance.  Circumstances change with the environment.  There are, at least a dozen lives, circumstances, and environments today, and this is just one of several days.  Surely these are important to consider when asking about the greater meaning of things.

If there is no absolute arbitrator or legislator of meaning (which is the atheist position, of course) there may not be an objective, universal, & relatively simple truth we can sum up in a sentence or two which explains why and how everything is and should be.  Is that too disturbing to contemplate?

Were I to accept that a lack of spiritual intervention meant there could be no correct answer to BIG QUESTIONS, would that mean all possible responses would be wrong?  Or would it undo any notion of absolute right and wrong in such matters?  Were there no meaning, there would be meaningful bar to seeking or fashioning one's own ideas on the subject.

In grade-school arithmetic, every problem of addition has a definite and correct answer any average teen should be able to easily find, but is that the stuff of life?  Even from an early age, we know there are many good responses to questions like, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' or, 'What is your favourite food?' or, 'Why do you do what you do?'

"But what about your blog and comics?"

The title is both a commentary and a joke, not a credo.

"So you have the answer then.  What is the meaning of life?"

I make no great claim to these things.  I do what I like to do when I want to, as I can.  I do what I must, when I have to.

"Wait.  If you have no answer, isn't that the same as saying there is none?"

No.  I think I've already offered a decent response, but if I have failed to, it was through a quirk of my personality, not as a matter of rational consistency.  Thus I hold atheists who write things called 'Pointless Man' may believe in a broad meaning for things and remain coherent, even if I do not.

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Sorry...I typed that, and then I reread it later and felt that it was beside the point....

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  3. Not at all. I liked what you said, actually. Planning does sort of deny the supposition of nihilism.

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  4. Though, of course, a hardy religionist might just claim planning is a tacit admission of belief in the supernatural, somehow.

    Anyway, there's nothing wrong with just living your life without worrying about religion. It's probably healthier than bothering with stuff you don't believe in.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "planning is a tacit admission of belief in the supernatural"

    How?...because it requires faith for me to believe that I'll be alive in a couple years or so?

    I don't have that faith anyways. I kind of think of my life as a complicated deck of cards, and each day the odds of me drawing a specific card are remote, but I draw a lot of cards every day and so eventually I'll turn up a bad one...or one that seemed good on one day will turn out bad another...

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  6. Not because of faith in tomorrow, but because of belief in the importance of anything, which, despite what I have written, many would say requires belief in a deity to make sense. I obviously don't agree, but it's kind of an axiomatic thing for some folk.

    ReplyDelete

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