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Where Do We Find Meaning?

Yesterday on the Friendly Atheist blog, Hemant posted a a clip from an upcoming Christian film called, “Blue Like Jazz.” The clip posted shows a debate between a Christian and an atheist with an audience member asking a question, “Where do we find meaning?”

Here is the clip:

Now I have a lot of issues with the clip as does Hemant, but let’s focus on the question of meaning. This is how I would have answered the question about meaning in that setting:

It depends on the meaning of the word meaning (laugh). Seriously though, if you are referring to one singular purpose like that of writing for a pencil, then I don’t think you are going to find it. But if you are referring to a purpose greater than yourself, something to strive for, then I see no reason why we should limit our meaning or purpose to just one thing or to allow someone else to tell us what the meaning or purpose in our own lives should be. This is the great existential question of human existence and I for one am glad that we live in a society that gives us the freedom and the tools to answer it as individuals rather than imposing some answer from an invisible deity from on high on us. We have the freedom to create our own meaning in our lives. For me, one of the meanings in my life is my children. But I also find meaning in learning about the world around me and in advancing human knowledge, fighting for human rights, and human dignity. Today, I find meaning in refuting ridiculous beliefs which are detrimental to human well-being and which stifle freedom.

What do you think of my answer? How would you answer this question?

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  • Joshua thurmond

    Meaning cannot be a blanket prescription, or the same across the board for all. It is not to be found in one, or any combination ancient text, or some trumped up new age quantum mechanical pantheistic mambo jumbo. Although, I suppose it is possible that it could be used as a guide, or compass. However, I wouldn’t suggest putting to much stock in anyone else’s understanding of it all. As tempting as that may be, it is nothing more than the lazy mans way to finding purpose. Finding it through someone else’s book, or god, or path, will almost assuredly lead you astray, and unfulfilled. No true answer can ever be found through that means. It will leave one continually yearning for more; never quite satisfied by these ephemeral approaches. The wonderful part is, finding meaning isn’t as hard as the mystics would have you believe. They would like you to believe it’s not possible without their help, or without their “god”. The fact is, only the individual can answer that question honestly and truthfully, and no one else. Indeed, until people stop asking others what the meaning of life is; until people stop being lazy, stop being scared to search for this illusive meaning on their own terms, and start trying to figure it out for themselves, one will never get the answer that is deemed sufficient. My meaning is different than yours; your meaning is different than your neighbors; your neighbor will find meaning on his own, and you will too, if there is even such a thing to find? What I know for sure is that you will not find it searching in the same place has your neighbor. If there is true meaning to be found, it will be you who find it, through your own path, and through your own struggles. It won’t come through a quick fix. As in asking some imaginary ghost to come live in your heart. Or imagining your reality to be different.