Author Topic: Atheism and meaning  (Read 6499 times)

Shaker

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Atheism and meaning
« on: August 25, 2015, 09:32:37 AM »
Interesting Buzzfeed article by Tom Chivers on the responses to his questioning of atheists if and how they find meaning in their lives:

I Asked Atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe

http://goo.gl/dcmTf3
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Udayana

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2015, 10:34:41 AM »
Interesting, but they are each suggesting "tricks" to avoid staring into the abyss and getting "stuck", mesmerised,  there.

Ie. They find ways to avoid the question and can get on with their lives. They are free to do that but some people want or need more.

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Outrider

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2015, 10:43:10 AM »
Interesting, but they are each suggesting "tricks" to avoid staring into the abyss and getting "stuck", mesmerised,  there.

Ie. They find ways to avoid the question and can get on with their lives. They are free to do that but some people want or need more.

No, they say that they see no evidence of meaning outside of their life so they find meaning within it. Why is that any more or less of a 'trick' than seeing no evidence of meaning outside of their life so presuming that it's there and building a religion about it?

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Shaker

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2015, 10:57:52 AM »
Interesting, but they are each suggesting "tricks" to avoid staring into the abyss and getting "stuck", mesmerised,  there.
Isn't using the word "trick" a means of trivialising what these people say? No doubt it's all down to subjective perception but nothing in the article to me reads like a "trick" - all the responses come across to me at least as deeply serious, well thought-out and, in some cases, highly moving. Nothing of the "trick" about them.

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They are free to do that but some people want or need more.
Doubtless; but as any atheist would say, the fact that you might want/need it doesn't mean that the thing you want/need is actually there.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 11:09:20 AM by Shaker »
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Udayana

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2015, 11:17:15 AM »
There is nothing there. Hence the "tricks":

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The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me donít worry about what itís all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isnít about anything. Itís what we make of this transitory existence that matters.

Acknowledges superficially that there is no purpose, then pulls one out his pocket. Why does it matter what we make of "this transitory existence"? It obviously doesn't.

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I canít stop the inevitable so Iíll just enjoy what life I have got, while Iíve got it. I wonít, after all, be around to regret that it was all for nothing.

Ie. Doing his best not to think about it. That's perfectly acceptable but everyone is not able to do that. Why enjoy it, why not end it , if it's all the same at the end of the day?

... etc ...
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Shaker

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2015, 11:32:50 AM »
There is nothing there.
It seems to be a very great deal to me.

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Acknowledges superficially that there is no purpose, then pulls one out his pocket.
You're glossing over the difference between ultimate and proximate purpose(s). In the absence of the former, there are only the latter - the transient, subjective things we do that matter to us while we're alive. In some cases a few exceptional people have purposes that go on beyond their own individual death and who remain an inspiration to those who come after: the Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings and Nelson Mandelas of the world, etc. That's for the exceptional few: most people find meaning and purpose in more private and personal concerns - their children; a garden; the books they write; music and so forth.

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Why does it matter what we make of "this transitory existence"? It obviously doesn't.
Because with the exception of people like Keith Maitland, most people find that they lead better, happier lives if they consider that those lives have worth, value, purpose, meaning - if they have things to do and to pursue that give shape and colour to their existences. People whose lives lack - according to them - worth, value, purpose and meaning are the obvious but also the slow-motion suicides: the chronic substance abusers (alcoholics and other drug addicts), aimless drifters and so forth. Ernest Hemingway painted the wall with his brains when he was no longer able to write because his memory for words had been fried by repeated sessions of ECT. His value-system and his meaning had gone, so he shot himself. What had always given his existence purpose had been removed.
 
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Why enjoy it
I have to say that this sort of fatuous and facile question always sounds as though it comes from someone who has never enjoyed anything. It's the flip of asking "Why is pain bad?" - if you've experienced pain you know why it's bad. Likewise if you've ever enjoyed something - anything - then you know why enjoyment is good.

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why not end it , if it's all the same at the end of the day?
It is all the same at the end of the day, and in cosmic terms we are barely here for a day. ("The summer of a dormouse," as Byron put it). But with the few exceptions such as the aforementioned Mr Maitland, most people would rather have a nice day than a crappy day.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 11:40:23 AM by Shaker »
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SusanDoris

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2015, 11:39:50 AM »
Udayana

I certainly do not interpret what I've heard so far as you do which I think is a very negative way.  I see the positive side of things straight away.
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Outrider

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2015, 11:43:53 AM »
There is nothing there. Hence the "tricks":

No, there's nothing beyond 'here' - there's more than enough here to be getting on with.

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Acknowledges superficially that there is no purpose, then pulls one out his pocket.

No, it points out that there's no externally mandated purpose - that doesn't invalidate self-determined purpose.

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Why does it matter what we make of "this transitory existence"? It obviously doesn't.

To whom?

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Ie. Doing his best not to think about it.

Or focussing on what does count, rather than what doesn't.

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That's perfectly acceptable but everyone is not able to do that.

Other people's alleged lack of capacity - can they not do it, or do they not want to do it? - does not invalidate the fact that this works perfectly well for him.

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Why enjoy it, why not end it , if it's all the same at the end of the day?

Exactly - if none of it makes any significant difference on the cosmic scale, why not just look at the human scale?

O.
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Udayana

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2015, 12:45:36 PM »
Udayana

I certainly do not interpret what I've heard so far as you do which I think is a very negative way.  I see the positive side of things straight away.

Hi Susan,

I do not think I'm being negative, though I may be reacting to "over positive" statements. In fact, objectively, there can be no negative or positive here as, remember, there is no ultimate purpose or direction.

I think they could just say "There is no purpose or meaning, do whatever you feel like", or  declare honestly their purpose "I feel I am here to enjoy my life and family, have a career, drive fast cars, save trees or whatever ...".

Such a statement being  on an equal footing with: "I feel I must follow Christ, Buddha, some book in a forgotten language, Islam, or whatever ..." or "I'm happy enough blotted out on H" and so on.

Ultimately, we don't know and can admit that or pretend that we do know something, personally, to avoid feeling too uncomfortable.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 12:47:54 PM by Udayana »
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Leonard James

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2015, 12:49:26 PM »
Udayana

I certainly do not interpret what I've heard so far as you do which I think is a very negative way.  I see the positive side of things straight away.

Hi Susan,

I do not think I'm being negative, though I may be reacting to "over positive" statements. In fact, objectively, there can be no negative or positive here as, remember, there is no ultimate purpose or direction.

I think they could just say "There is no purpose or meaning, do whatever you feel like", or  declare honestly their purpose "I feel I am here to enjoy my life and family, have a career, drive fast cars, save trees or whatever ...".

Such a statement being  on an equal footing with: "I feel I must follow Christ, Buddha, some book in a forgotten language, Islam, or whatever ..." or "I'm happy enough blotted out on H" and so on.

Ultimately, we don't know and can admit that or pretend that we do know something, personally, to avoid feeling too uncomfortable.

Very true!

Gonnagle

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2015, 01:23:11 PM »
Dearest Atheist,

Musing on atheism, well you have been around for a long time, nothing new under the sun.

The people in the link all seem to be a well educated lot, no not another argument about are atheists more intelligent than theists, just about who has been asked.

A difference, being a Christian is a way of life, I am told atheism is not.

The article talks of meaning, I would argue that a big part of science is the search for meaning, and no, most theists are not happy with godidit.

The article talks about reality, as I type this millions of Christians are doing just that, dealing with the harsh realities of life, working with the poor, the hungry, battling mans greed, why!!

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Outrider

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2015, 01:35:53 PM »
A difference, being a Christian is a way of life, I am told atheism is not.

As Christianity is the background of our culture, it's easy to forget that Christianity is not the opposite of atheism, theism is. Theism is not a philosophy, it's a position on a singular issue, and atheism is the opposite position.

Humanism - which is one of the most prominent philosophies that atheists adopt if they look for a formal description - is a corollary of Christianity, with a statement of assumptions and moral precepts upon which to base judgments.

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The article talks of meaning, I would argue that a big part of science is the search for meaning, and no, most theists are not happy with godidit.

As a scientist, I'd have to disagree with that. In the main, science is a search for mechanisms and tendencies from which explanations can be derived, but not 'meaning'. Meaning only happens inside people, science is the exploration of the natural world which (in the main) happens whether people are there or not.

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The article talks about reality, as I type this millions of Christians are doing just that, dealing with the harsh realities of life, working with the poor, the hungry, battling mans greed, why!!

Millions of people - Christian and otherwise - are doing that. At the same time, millions of people - Christian and otherwise - are a part of the greed, a part of the explanation for why people are poor, hungry or facing harsh realities.

O.

Gonnagle.
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Hope

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2015, 01:53:13 PM »
Udayana

I certainly do not interpret what I've heard so far as you do which I think is a very negative way.  I see the positive side of things straight away.
Whereas I would view your interpretation, and that of others on your side of the debate, as relatively negative.  To me, it is a very limited, narrow interpretation.
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Shaker

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2015, 02:16:24 PM »
What's negative about it?

It's only "limited, narrow" if you assume, as you do, that there's something outside/above/beyond it. Needless to say that this is merely a belief you happen to hold for what you recently confirmed were incredibly poor reasons and which you have signally failed to substantiate with anything even remotely resembling evidence of any kind whatever.
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Gonnagle

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2015, 02:24:25 PM »
Dear Outrider,

Excellent reply, thank you.

A background to our culture, meaning it affects our thinking.

I wonder how many atheists would admit this and to what degree.

As for meaning, I was using it in its most broadest term, meaning of life, the universe.

Gonnagle.
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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2015, 03:55:34 PM »
Dear Outrider,

Excellent reply, thank you.

A background to our culture, meaning it affects our thinking.

I wonder how many atheists would admit this and to what degree.

As for meaning, I was using it in its most broadest term, meaning of life, the universe.

Gonnagle.
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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2015, 05:46:33 PM »
As a sort of theist but one who is very uncertain about much of what theism is supposed to mean - especially about there being something of us that continues into an afterlife - I find meaning in the fact that I am matter - I have been something and will be remade into something else after I die (specifically tree food, as I've asked for a woodland burial). And I'm made from star stuff. The continual making and remaking - all interconnected, and on a cosmic scale.

This thing we call a soul, it's real for whilst we are here and I feed that by finding meaning in remade star stuff all around us. Snails are mind-blowingly awesome.

Jack Knave

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2015, 07:50:15 PM »
Dearest Atheist,

Musing on atheism, well you have been around for a long time, nothing new under the sun.

The people in the link all seem to be a well educated lot, no not another argument about are atheists more intelligent than theists, just about who has been asked.

A difference, being a Christian is a way of life, I am told atheism is not.

The article talks of meaning, I would argue that a big part of science is the search for meaning, and no, most theists are not happy with godidit.

The article talks about reality, as I type this millions of Christians are doing just that, dealing with the harsh realities of life, working with the poor, the hungry, battling mans greed, why!!

Gonnagle.
Science doesn't deal with meaning, just facts and data.

Emergence-The Musical

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2015, 12:09:01 PM »
Dear Outrider,

Excellent reply, thank you.

A background to our culture, meaning it affects our thinking.

I wonder how many atheists would admit this and to what degree.

As for meaning, I was using it in its most broadest term, meaning of life, the universe.

Gonnagle.
All of our background comes under the heading of our history; all ideas of what humans have believed to be god/s have originated in human minds and none, ever, has had any substance.
LOL
wwaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhh.......I FEAST on Sh*te New Atheist argument.

Emergence-The Musical

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #19 on: September 05, 2015, 12:19:49 PM »
As a sort of theist but one who is very uncertain about much of what theism is supposed to mean - especially about there being something of us that continues into an afterlife - I find meaning in the fact that I am matter - I have been something and will be remade into something else after I die (specifically tree food, as I've asked for a woodland burial). And I'm made from star stuff. The continual making and remaking - all interconnected, and on a cosmic scale.

This thing we call a soul, it's real for whilst we are here and I feed that by finding meaning in remade star stuff all around us. Snails are mind-blowingly awesome.
yes ''star stuff'' is one of the awe and wonder elements of scientism but is the idea merely romanticised? After all the elements that make each and everyone of us have probably been through numerous rectums before becoming us.

''Arse-stuff'' doesn't quite have the same ''ring'' to it as ''star-stuff''.
wwaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhh.......I FEAST on Sh*te New Atheist argument.

Leonard James

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2015, 12:20:47 PM »
Dear Outrider,

Excellent reply, thank you.

A background to our culture, meaning it affects our thinking.

I wonder how many atheists would admit this and to what degree.

As for meaning, I was using it in its most broadest term, meaning of life, the universe.

Gonnagle.
All of our background comes under the heading of our history; all ideas of what humans have believed to be god/s have originated in human minds and none, ever, has had any substance.

Absolutely true to date! Whether the future will change that we can't know.

Jack Knave

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2015, 07:47:14 PM »
As a sort of theist but one who is very uncertain about much of what theism is supposed to mean - especially about there being something of us that continues into an afterlife - I find meaning in the fact that I am matter - I have been something and will be remade into something else after I die (specifically tree food, as I've asked for a woodland burial). And I'm made from star stuff. The continual making and remaking - all interconnected, and on a cosmic scale.

This thing we call a soul, it's real for whilst we are here and I feed that by finding meaning in remade star stuff all around us. Snails are mind-blowingly awesome.
yes ''star stuff'' is one of the awe and wonder elements of scientism but is the idea merely romanticised? After all the elements that make each and everyone of us have probably been through numerous rectums before becoming us.

''Arse-stuff'' doesn't quite have the same ''ring'' to it as ''star-stuff''.
Very amusing!!! Puts a whole new meaning on the song Star Man...

Leonard James

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2015, 06:51:18 AM »

yes ''star stuff'' is one of the awe and wonder elements of scientism but is the idea merely romanticised? After all the elements that make each and everyone of us have probably been through numerous rectums before becoming us.

''Arse-stuff'' doesn't quite have the same ''ring'' to it as ''star-stuff''.

Being in the shit teaches us that life is not meant to be all sunshine and roses. We just have to learn from it that all we can do is make the best of it.

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2015, 08:39:26 AM »


Being in the shit teaches us that life is not meant to be all sunshine and roses. We just have to learn from it that all we can do is make the best of it.
Careful Len, that suggests purpose.
You might end up describing a universe where God is possible.
wwaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhh.......I FEAST on Sh*te New Atheist argument.

Hope

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Re: Atheism and meaning
« Reply #24 on: September 06, 2015, 09:12:08 AM »
No, they say that they see no evidence of meaning outside of their life so they find meaning within it.
Clearly they feel the need for meaning in life, O.  Surely, if they feel the need for it in their own lives, that must mean it exists outside of their lives?  Otherwise, where does the idea come from?
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