With or Without Meaning?
I see a lot of theological posts concluding that a life without God is a life without meaning… some even imply that if you declare that life has meaning then you must be saying somehow that God therefore exists.
A story, a lesson, a philosophical outlook can all inspire meaning.
The things that make us human can elevate some, while at the same time bring others to despair. What do you attribute to providing meaning to your life?
They’re technically right. Actually, I would even go so far as to say that even with God, life is meaningless. The problem is in the question itself, not the answers. When anyone asks, “what’s the meaning of life?” what does that even mean?
More or less, meaning signifies “purpose” or “reason.” Meaning, purpose and reason all possess the same feature though: they’re contextual or relational.
A fork has meaning, purpose or reason only in a specific context in relation to specific things: food and people —> fork for eating. Anger and people —> fork for stabbing.
We can also see that meaning, purpose or reason is something ASSIGNED by the observer, not inherent to the object. A fork floating in a void has no meaning because it has no context and no one to ASSIGN meaning to it.
So religious people take it as given that God is the ultimate observer. But why should that be the case? We could take it a step further and ask what is the meaning of God. Being God, it would presumably have no meaning outside of itself, and therefore be meaningless. A meaningless observer ultimately gives arbitrary meanings to what it observes.
You could also ask the question another way: what is the meaning of existence itself? There is no observer in a state of non-existence to care about anything, so technically, there is no purpose, reason or meaning to existence itself.
So as with many things, I would say the real problem is that people do not understand the question itself. The meaning I assign to my life is just as valid or important as the meaning a God might assign to it because they are both arbitrary.
To be technical (again, in another way), a meaning assigned by God is no different than a meaning assigned by myself, too. For it to have meaning to me, I must be the observer in both cases. So they are equivalent in that I am the one deciding to “accept” or create meaning.