James Randi Educational Foundation(JREF) president D.J. Grothe has recently contributed to a wonderful book project called A Better Life 100 atheists speak out on joy & meaninfg in a world without god. In this short video, D.J. talks about meaning without god.
I strongly agree that we should concede the point that there is no “ultimate meaning”. Not only is it a useless errand searching, but it is even more foolish to claim to have found it. The popular religions answer no real meaning questions, they just hide them behind other questions which are unanswerable by definition, and also by repackaging proximate meaning, such as family.
Let us suppose that you are a Christian because you want to feel a sense of ultimate purpose. What is the ultimate meaning of your existence? To serve a god? Why? Is it because s/he created you or the universe? Even if true, that would merely be an observation of power, not wisdom, purpose or intent. Few would defend the claim we should listen to people merely because they have power (take for example, the Pope, Kim Jong Il, etc..,). Is it because the creator made you? This seems like an extension of the meaning we all get from family, except that relationships with human family members entail shared experiences and cannot be denied to exist.
Is it the promise of heaven? But what is good about heaven, but seeing and being around loved ones? You might say, an escape from the pains and sufferings of mortal life. Sure, but such a goal only exists because you have a body and sensation to begin with. With them comes the drawbacks, but also the pleasures. They’re a package deal. You lose one, you lose them both.
It seems to me, everything identifiably good about religion’s ultimate meanings are ordinary proximate meanings available to us already. Pascal’s wager is a fool’s bet: why trade wonderful things you know for sure are good and that you possess, for promised invisible ones no one is sure exist? Is that not the pitch of every snake-oil salesman in history?