Showing posts with label purpose. Show all posts
Showing posts with label purpose. Show all posts

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Atheist Values

Differences in outlook - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

Most non-believers I know are interested in social values and the direction of human evolution, neither of which is bounded or delimited. Much of the thinking in this area is found in fiction, that most do not recognize as atheist until you realize that nothing in the fiction depends on God. Steinbeck for example superficially uses religious themes in East of Eden but it is one of the most profoundly humanist books I have ever read and reread frequently I might add. Similarly for Grapes of Wrath. None of the major characters can or do get any help or guidance from God in their attempt to create a livable society for the propertyless. Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Pournelle-Niven are all working out the ramifications of social structures without God. Ostensibly telling fictional stories about the future, they are dealing with real situations that exist in societies today, and working them out without the help of God. And not incidentally showing how such societies can work quite well in many cases.

The other, much more difficult source of information about atheists working out the problems of living is to observe the lives of graduates of the top universities. Very few get their direction or inspiration from God in working out the messy and unbounded problems of making a contribution to their society through their work, perhaps in business, but frequently in a non-profit, the arts, or academia, living and raising families that will carry their values and aspirations forward. Most are too busy to blog, but an interesting source that many depend on is peers in the social networks on line. Almost always simply links to interesting idea sources, but once a trusted atheist acquires a following others feed links that are reposted for those interested. This source is obviously quite new. And used by Churches effectively to promote religion, but the secular world is using it effectively as well.

I am not sure how any of this might help us find common ground, as it appears to me that God solutions are necessarily static and conservative, and the atheist solutions fluid and nebulous. Uncertainty is part and parcel of an atheist life, as the only certainty is death. Living in a way to justify having lived is an important issue for most atheists. God won't help.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Meaning, Purpose and the Afterlife

Is This Life All There Is?. - Beliefnet

the meaning will vanish. the very moment the person dies. it will be as if they had never been on this earth because:

Ain't no because. This is just flat wrong morally, factually, spiritually, and in the words of Fler0002

It sounds] like a plan that not only creates fears of what happens after death, but also creates in humanity fears of each other. Fears of any tolerance for anything other than what is sanctified by the church. Fears that turn into hatreds. Fears that turn into witch hunts. Fears that turn into jihads, crusades, and terrorism.

1. they will have no awareness of having been on earth.

They will have been acutely aware of living, knowing each day that they are making differences in the lives of others. Major or minor, each difference reinforces their membership in that great and dominant species of humanity, which exists for the purpose of making a difference in the lives of other humans and indeed many other species on the planet. <

2. all people who ever knew them will eventually depart earth, leaving no one behind to 'speak good things about them.'

So what? Those people if they did their job as a human being well and influenced them properly and effectively will have continued their Legacy and built on all that is worth while in that legacy. They don't need to be remembered by name although some will be. But 'There is no limit to what you can accomplish if it doesn't matter who gets the credit.' Ralph Waldo Emerson, d. April 27, 1882. I am relatively certain that he did not consider this quote one of his major contributions to humanity. In fact it was buried until Truman resurrected it, or reinvented it. But please note that all the people who knew Emerson are now departed from the earth. But others who never knew him are still speaking good things about him.

meaning... getting up and going to work, does exist, albeit temporarily. so long as one does NOT contemplate purpose, ie why do I / everything exist.

the moment one assigns zero value to purpose, they run the risk of waking up to the fact that any answer they may have assigned to meaning...becomes worthless in the end.

Only a theist can assign zero value to purpose. If purpose comes from a non-existent or at least numinous and indefinable God it is no surprise believers assign zero value to the purpose of being human.

My purpose in life is far from zero. It is to make as much difference in the lives of other humans and others dependent on humans as possible. I am extremely careful to insure that the differences I am making are good for the individual and for the society of which I am a part. I may not always succeed, but I can normally repair the damage, and part of my purpose as a human is to do whatever it takes to do so.

and many people spend hurrendous amounts of energy trying NOT to have to admit this to themselves out of fear there is no value to anything.

They are called believers in the afterlife.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Solving Existential Nihilism


Welcome to existential nihilism. You must solve this problem for yourself or you will fall prey to the first religion that provides the response that Unitarian Universalist minister Forrest Church noted that religion is: quite simply, "our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die."

Hint: on the wall of my shower I have the fossil of an invertebrate fossilized ~half a billion years ago. It ingested and excreted and died. Probably reproduced but we can't know that. Once you can explain that creature's contribution to a child's sand castle you can possibly be immune to the attraction of God. Otherwise enjoy the pie in the sky after you die. It will help you get through the day.

I have found the unique solution that works for me to avoid the trap of existential nihilism. It may not work for all others, but in fact others have found my solution useful in avoiding that trap without resorting to Pascal's wager. But it is not "the solution" to how to live life. It may not even be the best solution to how to live life. But for someone with my training and background or a similar background it may help them avoid existential nihilism and Pascal's wager assuming they find neither useful to live life.

No matter, if everyone in my tribe of educated rational humans finds meaning in doing whatever they can to improve the lives of all those in their chosen tribe that they can and improve their own lives in a way that others look to them for help, comfort, love and inspiration, the world would become a much better place in spite of the nihilists and the fundamentalists total lack of contribution to the welfare of the human tribe.

How much each achieves is really irrelevant. Some will be able to do more than others, some will be in the right place at the right time to make a huge difference in someone's life that will enable that person to go on to be a major player in the community. But like the invertebrates on my shower wall, by surviving they provide the foundation for something better than they are.

Objectively it might be better for the human race if all existential nihilists chose the Glock solution to their problem and those who chose to bet on Pascal spent their entire life on their knees begging for salvation. I am convinced that neither is better for the human race, or for the universe, than some solution that avoids both. Objectively it might well be better for the universe or at least the earth if no humans existed. I don't buy that argument but I cannot prove it wrong, objectively or subjectively.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On Rainbows

This ought to be fun - Beliefnet :

"A rainbow does not exist at all without both an photosensitive device and an interpreter of the image produced by that photosensitive device. Therefore the interpreter creates the rainbow for the purpose of at the very least entertaining the interpreter, See video 5M+views. If a rainbow had no purpose you wouldn't even know what your fairies were talking about, because you never would have noticed one."

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Significance of Humans

Atheism is life-affirming - Beliefnet

If with respect to the human race, then the importance and value of what I do in my life are insignificant unless the human race is somehow significant.

"The human race is the result of countless generations of living organisms that succeeded in staying alive long enough to reproduce. The human race is the currently most successful step in that process. After 3+ billion years or so I would suggest that the step is not insignificant.

If in some small or big way in my life I can contribute to helping my fellow humans not only stay alive but want to do so and enjoy the process while they are alive, then I share in the significance of that step in the process. In a real sense I am a significant step in that 3+BY process. Probably a very small one, but a step nonetheless.

I don't need to inflate my ego by thinking some infinite God gives a shit about me. Available evidence indicates that in the unlikely event that God exists, Hesh is as blind, pitiless and indifferent to me as is the universe. This bothers me not a whit. If I have made a difference in someone's life and been a good role model in doing so I am content. I have done my part to make my tiny step useful."

Infinite Ripples

Atheism is life-affirming - Beliefnet

If with respect to me, and my death is extinction, then the importance and value vanish with my death.

"If you have interacted with another human favorably in the course of your life, that is made that person's life on this earth a little more comfortable or pleasant, and that person 'Pays it Forward' in Heinlein's words, the ripple is potentially infinite. I would rather bet on that infinity than some God rescuing some part of me to endure in some wonderful place somewhen if I have said the right prayers and chosen the right God.

Jesus while he was human said 'Love your neighbor [the Samaritan] as yourself.' His disciples and perhaps even the scribe that asked the question paid it forward and today one could argue that it makes Jesus immortal whether or not you believe the God myth.

Not all of us can have that big an impact, but if we can make the world just a little better for those around us, I think we have paid our dues for being alive and our importance and value will survive."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Accountable to Everything

Individual or Collective Accountability - Beliefnet

The notion is this, or at least this is my interpretation of it. Consider your dependence on the community around you. Include your parents and their parents. Include other human beings ... not just immediate acquaintances, but those who provide services, grow food, print Bibles, whatever. Include all the organisms essential for making sure you have oxygen, clean water, agricultural products, building materials, and so on. Okay ... you are not an independent being. You are an extension of all that came before you, all that surrounds you, and all that will follow you. So, basically, if you harm anyone or anything, you harm yourself. This is where morality and ethics come from. Murder someone, you are murdering yourself. Steal from someone, you steal from yourself. Pollute the water, you are polluting yourself. Cut down a healthy tree for frivolous reasons, you cut down yourself for frivolous reasons. I think you get the picture. Morality and ethics—the sort the vast majority of people agree are 'good' practices—emerge from recognition that we are all interdependent ... all as in not only humans, but all living organisms. And it does not require a god, God, or anything beyond the observable natural world. In a nutshell, WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO OURSELVES, WHICH HAPPENS TO BE EVERYTHING.

Relevant to Belonging to Life

Belonging to Life

Please tell me what 'belonging to life' means to you as it means nothing to me, so far.

“Love is not everything but we are less than nothing without Love.”

I think for me the realization of what 'belonging to life' meant was during the birth of my first child. I had no idea what I was in for the moment labor began. I had prepared for natural child birth, knew what physically was expected, but nothing prepared me for the 'force' that took over my body and mind. It was the most POWERFUL force I have ever experienced! It is LIFE that births us and it is LIFE that ages us and eventually takes our breath away. IMHO, it is life that owns us.
Wendyness from beliefnet

Thank you

I understand what you mean and I agree in the sense that we are biological, living beings, first and foremost. I understand it as 'membership' rather than 'ownership' -

The Buddhist says to the Hot Dog Vendor, 'Make me one with everything.'

This is my personal vision –

May I be one with every other living entity, that is to say, let it be that I become a member of the unity of all living things; may my life also be a positive contribution to all other living things, both while I am alive and on into the future through the efforts spurred by my legacy.”

From a PM response to Wendyness, with permission.

I have frequently noted that I am from from a long, long line of organisms that made enough difference in the life of at least one other organism and the environment that supported them to "say" lets make more of us. In most cases this was a purposeful choice, if only the prettiest hindquarters, but generally something more important than that, some evidence of something that would make the "more of us" a little better than either of us with a little nicer place to live in. That was the easy and fun part. Then came the fulfillment part to "more of us" the care, the feeding, the final "you are on your own now, carry on."

The fact that uncountable ancestors did just that is why I am here, and the drive to "carry on" is what makes me part of everything, or as Wendyness said owns me. The carrying on is much more interesting for humans, as they (and their dogs if Jon Franklin is correct.)have in a real sense taken control over their environment to the extent that the legacy scope is huge. We have domesticated our food sources, and to a lesser extent our social and intellectual resources. But it is in the social and intellectual areas where the drive to carry on has the most impact and most responsibility. It is no longer enough just to make "more of us." It is necessary to make the environment they are going to live in amenable to fulfilled living.

Religion may have been the earliest attempt to domesticate our social environment, and seems to have been dominant for most of the Holocene human history. It also seemed to be responsible for the human intellectual legacy and the suppression of same. The separation of the intellectual legacy from the religious was the next great change. The invasion of the intellectual institutions into the social area is perhaps the current challenge for those driven to preserve the human legacy. Whether we like it or not it seems that being one with life or with everything is now contingent on humans solving their social problems.

I frankly don't think religion is up to the challenge, and will be relegated to keeping the majority content with their lot in life. Those with the intellectual capability to remake the human social structure into the necessary cosmopolitan paradigm are now responsible for the human legacy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Purpose of Life

The blue roads of thinking: Is atheism compatible with God?: Comments: December 28, 2009 5:17 PM

J'C; ...Plus 5 for Fulghum, and 5 more for All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
I haven't found a God that can help any more than that.

EI: The 'points' should be yours; yours is the brilliant mind that recognized the value of Fulgham's ideas and pointed me toward him; I was just following your lead.

Thank You,

J'C: Fulghum is one of those rare people who speak profoundly in words we all can understand, and even get a chuckle out of if we can restrain ourselves from ROFL.

I get no points for having been introduced to his work, or introducing others. It is simply a necessity in the purpose of my life.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Aller Menschen werden Brüder

Heroes - Religion and the Human Mind - Beliefnet Community:

I'm interested to see you describe your heroes in terms of teaching you how to wrestle with the angel.

"Not so much how to wrestle with the angel, but how to deal with the victory. The Nicene God provides believers with a way to deal with a life in which lots of bad things happen and death is inevitable. Kill the God and you need to deal with a life in which lots of bad things happen and death is inevitable. Trying to do it alone is to deal with Neitzscheian nihilism or the existential angst of Sartre. In his Freude, Freude, Aller Menschen werden Brüder Beethoven gives his triumphant answer. Joy! Joy! All humans are siblings.

We can look to our fellow humans for all the answers to meaning and purpose, and how to deal with the bad things in life and its finite duration, with courage, optimism and joy. We don't need God with Herm pie in the sky after we die. We don't need God to make us feel good that there is something out there that cares if bad things happen. Or even to thank when good things happen. Aller Menschen werden Brüder and they care when I make their lives better. They care when I hurt. I can thank them for their help and support. And when my contribution ends if I have done well, they will remember me with pleasure and joy."

Friday, July 31, 2009

Purpose in Life?

Beliefnet Community > Thread - Purpose in Life?:
When looking at life in general, many things can be attributed to giving an individual purpose in life.
"I think purpose in life really boils down to make the people who are important to you happy. It starts of course with mom, but expands to family and the larger society of which you are a part. In general, happy friends means good things happen to you which is the selfish interest in having a purpose in life.

If you are part of a religious society buying into the religion will make your friends happy. If you are not, it may be a bit harder and take a lot more empathy and consideration for your friends, but for me it is worth it. I can pick and choose which friends are important to me and act accordingly."

The legacy space is of course part and parcel of the process of making my life a place where friends will be happy. It certainly begins with myself, but selfish indulgence does not do anything for friends, so making myself and my space a better place to be in both for myself and for those sharing it seems to be all the purpose I need.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Discovering Meaning and Purpose

Beliefnet Community > Thread :

As people learned that they could think for themselves and perhaps influenced by the 18th century metaphysicians began to question the source of their meaning and purpose in life. Some found it too difficult and fell back on their religious answers. Others perhaps questioned those religious answers and wanted to find out the reasons behind the God source of meaning and purpose. Usually they read their holy scripture for themselves and found major problems with the God depicted therein. At that point quite literally all Hell breaks loose. The individual, usually a teen as this is typically when this independent thinking breaks out, must find new ways of dealing with and controlling the new freedoms and responsibilities hesh finds hermself blessed and cursed with.

Art and music are basic, and experimentation with radical forms of both is common, and self indulgence in several forms are normally experimented with. But eventually most find a source of meaning and purpose in their lives, some back to their milk church, others to alternative spirituality, and some default to the entertainment world with its shallow substitute for meaning and purpose in life. Others use their brains and common sense, frequently in the context of advanced education to examine their lives and find meaning and purpose in serving the society they choose as their own. The choice is normally made deliberately and with considerable thought, although frequently economic considerations may cause some separation in economic and social milieu, but for most meaning and purpose in life is found in serving the society one chooses for hermself deliberately and with much forethought.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A life worth dying for.

Hell - Beliefnet Forums: "I suspect that I am much closer to death both in age and in the experience of the death of loved ones than you are. To quote a theist friend that I respect and admire who is now dying,

Birth and death are the hinges on which life hangs, insure you live a life worth dying for.
Forrest Church.

If there is anything after death, highly unlikely according to the evidence I have, it will have to be a continuation of the life one lived prior to death. Good people who paid attention to all their neighbors and tried to make their lives better will be remembered by those people well, and if there is any continuation of life will be able to meet those they have remembered well and those that remember them.

Whether or not there is a continuation after death, it is the fact of paying attention to all ones neighbors and trying to make their lives better that makes life worth dying for. Mistakes will be made, some neighbors have different and unknowable needs, but the mistakes will be of ignorance not some original sin that someone else had to die for.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Purpose in Life.

Looking for an Atheist - Beliefnet Forums:
Is it simply for the biological purpose of continuing the species?

This is a major misunderstanding of evolution and the universe in general. Biology has no purpose and neither does evolution. Evolution is just another scientific law. You put sodium and chlorine together you get salt. Not because somebody needs salt, or finds sodium or chlorine dangerous they are simply more stable as salt than separate. A species that is effective in filling an ecological niche has no purpose in filling the niche, but is a stable solution. The fact that filling the niche well increases the welfare and continuation of the species is a result not a purpose.

I have to find some other purpose in life than continuing the species because frankly a large part of my species is not worth continuing. Therefore I find purpose starting very locally. There are people whose welfare is integral with my own. They provide me with the intellectual challenge, love, sustenance and fun that makes my life worth living. By making my purpose to provide the same for those others I get a nice feedback loop that increases worth of all our lives. Although this starts locally, as one recognizes the importance of people outside of the face group ones purpose must expand as well to take into account the larger world one is a part of.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The source of meaning.

How do you think about death? - Beliefnet Forums: "My meaning comes from a single, observable universe that I occupy temporarily, and affect in a way that those important to me will have a slightly better place to occupy temporarily to affect for those that follow. I am a way point in an extraordinarily long sequence of individuals occupying their space temporarily leaving a legacy of something a little better for their successors. There were failures along the way, and perhaps I will be another, but my meaning comes from insuring that it isn't so. I can only do so much and must trust my successors to carry on when I am no longer able to do so, and I will die, if not willingly, with the confidence that I have given them the valuable and useful space to do so."