Those are the four big questions, aren’t they? Any philosopher worth his salt has taken a stab at one or more of those questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Is there such a thing as good and its converse, evil? Where are we going?
Meaning is the big question for me. When I lose my grip on that one, the colors start to fade.
Lately, I’ve noticed some interesting threads on the Amazon forums about what people believe. There are quite a few self-declared atheists and agnostics in those threads. What I always wonder, in conjunction with atheism, is, where do you derive meaning if you’re an atheist? Seriously. Where do you derive meaning for your own life? If you are the result of random chemical interactions, where do you get your meaning? I’ve heard some people trot out answers having to do with continuation of the gene pool, improving society, fulfilling one’s self, but those are basically all meaningless horse manure answers.
I’d love to hear Richard Dawkins answer that question. And I mean answer it without ducking and jumping all over the place like a greased pig. Where do you get your meaning for life? Why should life have any meaning at all? I don’t see how random interactions of chemical processes can generate meaning.
Hmm. I guess I’m in a pretty grumpy mood. I wonder if Lady Gaga thinks about the meaning of her life?
8 thoughts on “Origin, Meaning, the Nature of Good and Evil, and Destination”
Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment, you can’t ask people what the meaning of their life is, and then, when they answer, dismiss it as meaningless horse manure. Because that would say that you weren’t really asking in the first place; it was a rhetorical question for the sake of hearing yourself talk. Just sayin’.
I’ve recently had some discussions with some atheistic or agnostic or whatever-ic people along these lines; I believe some of them would answer that life doesn’t have to have meaning, it just is. (That’s not something which would work well for me, I’m just restating what I heard.)
I wonder if Life thinks about Lady Gaga.
Hmm. I’m considering your devil’s advocacy…
Well, I’m still convinced that horse manure is a reasonable conclusion. When I’m asking the question in the first place, it isn’t necessarily just rhetorical because I don’t have foreknowledge of how they’re going to answer. At any rate, regardless of motivation (me or them), the so-called meaningless answers still are horse manure, aren’t they?, because, well, they simply don’t mean anything.
The thing I wonder about all the people answering “life has no meaning” is why they continue to choose to play by the rules.
I think it’d be horse manure (incidentally, is that manure “for” horses, to make them grow better, or “generated by”? No, don’t answer that.) if it was a kind of unthinking response on their part, just sort of drivelling along. But if it’s a well-thought-through response, if “fulfilling one’s self”, for example, really *is* the meaning of their life, then it’s horse manure on your part to dismiss it as such. Your question is a rhetorical question if you are unwilling to accept anything as an answer that’s not in line with what you consider to be self-evident; even if you do not know what answers are coming, if you’ve already pre-determined that there *is* no other answer than what you would give yourself, the question becomes rhetorical.
As for meaningless-life atheists and playing by the rules, good question…
The answer that one atheist makes, as quoted (with video evidence) on The Truth Project, is that life doesn’t have ultimate meaning but it has proximate meaning. Which, as I understand it, is his belief that we create meaning for ourselves with our actions, beliefs (or lack thereof), hobbies, etc.
The problem with that philosophy is that what do we do when someone’s proximate meaning for themselves is derived out of harming others? Atheists and the like have left no opportunity to provide a standard for “good” or “bad” meaning, and they’re left to, at best, a “majority rules” mentality.
I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around the idea of creating meaning for ourselves, for myself. Where would you begin with that? I honestly can’t figure out how to start. Let’s see…I find ultimate meaning in taking care of my family. I suppose family is a fairly profound thing for anyone. The implications it has in terms of time, grief, joy, etc., are huge. But, even then, the fact that there are no foundations means its just an aimless, drifting piece of momentary profoundness (profundity?) floating through a cold cosmos.
Right on, Jason.
By the way, there is no such thing as an atheist. (http://www.thinkatheist.com/group/buddhistsofthinkatheist/forum/topics/theres-no-such-thing-as-an)
Any claim of ultimate truth that denies Jesus’s atoning work on the cross is worse than manure. Manure is a rather polite word picture. Rather, atheism/agnosticism is dangerous and evil on a most fundamental level and risks eternal consequences. We will all live forever (read the wonderful book To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal if you have doubts) and what we believe and profess now will determine our experience forever. There are no second chances, no purgatory, and, I believe, no hope for the person who dies believing that their good works will suffice. “For it is appointed unto man once to die and then comes judgement.” (Heb. 9:27) I look forward to the mercy and grace of my Creator on full display in that moment, but only because I chose to die with Him and live for Him.
I’ve always wondered if being an atheist, or, rather, attempting to be an atheist, is akin to trying to imagine what color “nothing” is.
Exactly, good works will not suffice… They’re essentially meaningless by themselves. And they’re doubly meaningless if you have no absolute foundation (God, in my estimation) that can provide you with the plain old meaning of what “good” really is (ie., if we’re only the product of chance and time, there’s no logical room in that sort of existence for the idea of “good”).