BuzzFeed compilation: How do atheists find meaning in life?

Author Tom Chivers sometimes writes at Buzzfeed, where he’s a welcome exception to the usual clickbait-compilers at that site (see my post on his nice article  about how doctors would like to die). His latest effort involved interviewing several of us heathens about how nonbelievers find meaning in life. As you well know, theists seem deeply puzzled by this question, a sign that they can’t think outside the God Box, and can’t even see what’s around them.

Chivers’s piece, “I asked atheists how they find meaning in a purposeless universe,” surveys a broad spectrum of scientists, writers, and humanists. The answers, I hope, will put an end to this persistent and annoying question. Here’s my answer, which was given by phone so is a bit choppy:

Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist and author of Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible

“The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me don’t worry about what it’s all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isn’t about anything. It’s what we make of this transitory existence that matters.

“If you’re an atheist and an evolutionary biologist, what you think is, I’m lucky to have these 80-odd years: How can I make the most of my existence here? Being an atheist means coming to grips with reality. And the reality is twofold. We’re going to die as individuals, and the whole of humanity, unless we find a way to colonise other planets, is going to go extinct. So there’s lots of things that we have to deal with that we don’t like. We just come to grips with the reality. Life is the result of natural selection, and death is the result of natural selection. We are evolved in such a way that death is almost inevitable. So you just deal with it.

“It says in the Bible that, ‘When I was a child I played with childish things, and when I became a man I put away those childish things.’ And one of those childish things is the superstition that there’s a higher purpose. Christopher Hitchens said it’s time to move beyond the mewling childhood of our species and deal with reality as it is, and that’s what we have to do.”

The subtitle of Chivers’s piece is “If there’s no afterlife or reason for the universe, how do you make your life matter? Warning: the last answer may break your heart.” So of course I’ll put up the last answer:

Jan Doig [JAC: I’m not sure who she is, but she’s wonderfully eloquent]:

“Three years and nine months ago I would have declared myself agnostic. Then my husband died without warning at the age of 47. My life fell to pieces. This is no exaggeration. As the terrible days passed in a fog the same question kept forming. Why? Why him? Why us? I was told by well-meaning friends that it was part of God’s plan and we would simply never know what that was. Or from friends with a looser definition of religion, that The Universe had something to teach me. I had lessons to learn.

“These thoughts caused me great fear, anger and confusion. What sort of God, even if he had a plan for me, would separate a fine. kind, gentle man from his children. Why would God or the Universe look down and pick on our little family for special treatment? Why a good man with not a bad bone in his body who had never raised a hand to anyone. My best friend for 29 years. Any lesson the Universe had to teach me I would have learned willingly. He didn’t have to die!

“I thought about it a lot. I was raised Catholic so guilt ran through me like writing through a stick of rock. Had I been a bad wife? Was he waiting for me? There were days when if I had been certain of a belief in an afterlife I might have gone to join him. It was a desperate time. I needed evidence and there simply wasn’t any. I just had to have faith and believe.

“One day as I was sitting on his memorial bench in the local park I suddenly thought: what if no one is to blame? Not God. Not me. Not the Universe. What if he’s gone and that’s all there is to it? No plan. Just dreadful circumstances. A minor disturbance in his heart lead to a more serious and ultimately deadly arrhythmia and that killed him in a matter of moments. It is a purely scientific view of it. I may seem cold or callous but I found comfort in that. I cried and cried and cried, but that made logical sense to me and brought me great peace.

[JAC: This reminds me of Christopher Hitchens’s statement after his diagnosis of cancer. As he said at the time, “To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?”]

“My heart and head still miss my husband every day. I treasure everything he gave me and I love him as much today as the day he died. But I can remember him happily without wondering what we had done to deserve this dreadful separation.

“So I declare myself atheist (and humanist by extension) and my friends shake their heads. I stay on the straight and narrow without the guiding hand of a creator or any book of instructions.

“I’m not a religious or a spiritual person. (For some reason many of my female friends are shocked by this admission!) I don’t believe in God or the Universe. I don’t believe in angels, the power of prayer, spirits, ghosts or an afterlife. The list goes on and on. I think there is a scientific meaning for everything even if we don’t understand it yet. I find meaning in every day things and I choose to carry on.

“The sun comes up and I have a chance to be kind to anyone who crosses my path because I can. I make that choice for myself and nobody has to tell me to do it. I am right with myself. I try my best to do my best, and if I fail, I try again tomorrow. I support myself in my own journey through life. I draw my own conclusions.

“I find joy in the people I love. I love and I am loved. I find peace in the places I visit. Cry when I listen to music I love and find almost child like joy in many things.This world is brilliant and full of fascinating things. I have to think carefully for myself. I don’t have to believe what I’m told. I must ask questions and I try and use logic and reason to answer them. I believe that every human life carries equal worth. I struggle with how difficult the world can be but when we have free will some people will make terrible decisions. No deity forces their hand and they must live with that.

“Life is a personal struggle. Grieving is never an easy road to travel. It’s painful and lonely at times but I use what I know to try to help when I can. I try to be loving and caring with my family and friends and have fun. I will cry with friends in distress and hear other people’s stories and be kind because it does me good as well. I listen and I learn. It helps me to be better. Life without God is not a life without meaning. Everything, each and every interaction is full of meaning. Everything matters.”

Among the others interviewed are Susan Blackmore, Gia Milinovich, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Adam Rutherford. There’s a commonality among the answers—I’d like to echo Darwin in saying that “there is a grandeur in this view of life”—and the common theme is that we all recognize that there is no ultimate purpose or meaning of life, at least in the theists’ cosmic sense, but that we find meaning in our activities and relationships. That’s not much different from how theists find meaning in their quotidian life: note the convergence between what many of the atheists consider their “purpose” (“Be kind to loved ones and strangers”, “Do something good for society”) and the so-called Meaning Given by God. In the end, the quotidian life is all we have.

Chivers’s article should be bookmarked as the definitive response to a nonsensical question that religionists raise time and time again. They may not like the answers, but, given what we know about the universe, they happen to be true.

74 Comments

  1. Dominic
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    I cannot understand why people need to see meaning in things!

    There is just stuff!

    • Sastra
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      I think it’s because they confuse personal meanings which we all have about stuff (and we are ‘stuff’ ourselves) — and cosmic meaning. To a sloppy, childlike essential-nature mode of thought so-called cosmic meaning somehow entails that things really truly mean something all the way down. Therefore you’re not “wrong” when you say you love science or cats or whatever stuff you personally care about.

      Otherwise, you are.

      It all comes down then to what we mean by ‘meaning.’ The meaning they give to “meaning” is very mean, far too mean — and then it makes them mean.

      • Posted August 11, 2015 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Bill.

        /@

      • Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think theists intend any one meaning of “meaning” in this context. I don’t think they know what they mean. If pressed for specifics, I think most theists would um and ah a big and then come up with things like “what gives you joy”, “what pleases you”, “how do you deal with anxiety”, “how do you find peace”, etc. At which point a perceptive person would realize that magic is not necessary for pursuing these things. We all, theist and atheist, do in fact make our own “meaning”. It’s just that theists find their answers to those questions and then add “because god”.

  2. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    nonbelievers find meaning in life

    I find it hard to conceive what that question even means. What is a “meaning in life”, and what would I do with one? Can I get a tax rebate if I’ve got a meaning in life?If I have a meaning in life, do I get fries with it (from the philosophy graduate behind the counteer.Will it affect my house price. Do I have to carry a sign warning people of the presence of a meaning in my life – like a leper with a bell?
    I have a sock, in a rock. Does it have a meaning in life (considering it’s not alive, except for a minor surface film of bacteria)?

    • Dominic
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      Agreed. It is as meaningless as questions about Fre* Wil*!

    • Posted August 11, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      I love my brick!

      /@

    • Filippo
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      I wonder what that “legal person,” the corporation, considers to be the meaning/purpose of life, what with dis and dat corporation touting its “mission.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      I always found this question perplexing as well…my whole life I thought it was such a strange question. Shouldn’t we try to be happy and kind to others and by extension try to suffer and cause suffering only under extreme circumstances where no other option exists? I didn’t understand why people always sought for meaning and purpose.

    • Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Well, whatever “meaning in life” means to a theist, the one thing it can’t mean is anything that leaves out god. If you leave out god when talking about your “meaning in life” the theist will counter “but that’s not really “meaning”. As in, like, meannninnggggg.”

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 13, 2015 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Was that last “meannnnnnnnnggggg” them having a stroke?

        • Posted August 13, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          If I weren’t a decent person I’d say “one can hope”.

  3. Gordon Hill
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    The question, “How do atheists find meaning in life?” is flawed in its premise that being an atheist, theist or whatever, is an objective descriptor. We are humans first. Our theistic view is but one of many.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Exactly. “How do theists find meaning in God?” is basically the same damn question.

      • Gordon Hill
        Posted August 11, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        When asked about my birth, my Mom liked to say, “The doctor said, ‘It’s a boy… I think.'” Everything else is conjecture. I call myself a non-theist because I think the theos concept, pro or against, is indeterminate, hence a waste of time… which I hope I haven’t just done… 😉

        • Sastra
          Posted August 11, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

          Be careful about running the lack of absolute certainty or black-and-white distinctions into “so everything is therefore indeterminate conjecture” territory. Sorites, etc.

          Philosophy itself isn’t a waste of time, and the God Question is after all ‘where the action is.’ Asking and answering it brings in physics, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and a whole slew of stuff that matters to us.

          • Gordon Hill
            Posted August 11, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

            Good points. Concur. Mine is that I avoid the absolutists. Love philosophy. Jaspers is a favorite, especially his assessments of other philosophers.

  4. JohnE
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    “How do atheists find meaning in life?” I’ve always thought that this was an utterly ridiculous question asked by people who have never actually given the matter any real thought. Are the questioners genuinely suggesting that the ONLY thing that can possibly give their lives meaning is the prospect of spending eternity worshiping some celestial overlord? Really? Their families, their friends, their jobs, their books, their hobbies, the arts, their travels — none of that gives their lives any meaning? I’m calling B.S. on that preposterous suggestion.

    • Posted August 11, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Yes — the answer to the question, “How does an atheist find meaning in a purposeless universe?” is, “In exactly the same way as a believer does, except God.”

      If a believer has no purpose in life except God, then I think we can only feel sorry for them.

      /@

      • JohnE
        Posted August 11, 2015 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Agreed.

  5. BobTerrace
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    One of the most frustrating statements I hear is “everything happens for a reason”.

    This is true in the scientific sense of cause and effect of matter in the universe but almost no one who says that phrase means it that way.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      No, they mean everything happens for a plot-style reason, as if our lives were stories and we the main characters. Sometimes the Author is an outside-of-ourselves God, and sometimes the Author is ourselves-as-God. And in the end it all works out and it turns out everything was necessary because it all fits perfectly into the Best Result Ever.

      It’s what I like to call the Playpen Theory of Reality.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      When someone says this to me or a group I’m part of socially, I counter with, ‘No, everything happens from a cause,’ and hope nobody mentions quantum events. ‘Reason’ is teleological and, as Sastra says, is at the heart of a personal narrative of whatever sort, though one preferably with a ‘happily ever after’ denouement.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 12, 2015 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        “‘No, everything happens from a cause,’”

        I like that!

  6. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Why do some people need God to give their life meaning (or purpose for that matter)? If a friend of mine has the audacity to tell me what the meaning or purpose of my life is, I would kindly tell him to sod off. I prefer to be the captain of my ship, thank you very much.

  7. John Crisp
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Fine stuff, but Jerry, do you have a secret that you’re not sharing? At one point in your interview, you say: “We are evolved in such a way that death is almost inevitable.” Almost?

    • BobTerrace
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      HELA cells

    • EvolvedDutchie
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      I noticed that too. I think it shows the professor’s scientific mindset: always leave room for the possibility to be proved wrong!

    • Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Well, it depends on the definition of organism. Certainly all humans die, but one might consider that microbes that split over and over again are immortal in some sense. An individual microbe dies, but an identical copy of it lives. That’s what I was referring to, though I guess not very clearly. I certainly wasn’t referring to Jesus!

      The idea that death is a result of natural selection (antagonistic selection favoring earlier reproduction but with the consequence of later senesecnce) is one that I mentioned, but of course didn’t have time to expand on it.

      • Posted August 11, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        I wish no life forms ever had suffered, or ever would, but that’s not the way of life.
        I wish we were smart enough to solve all our problems, but don’t think we can, or will.
        (I hope we can solve some, at least.) We are one of a series of alpha species that have
        evolved, most of which have died off. If our species dies off, some other life form may
        evolve to take our place and, perhaps, they’ll do a better job than we have. If all life on earth doesn’t die off, we (or they) may have become technologically advanced
        enough to have left this planet to settle on another. At some point, all life on earth
        may die off. Of all that dies now, or then, our molecules disperse back into the
        universe to recombine as something else; hopefully, something better. It would be
        best if no life exists on this planet in approximately a billion and a half years since our sun is expected to incinerate earth then. Solar systems and planets don’t last forever. We do not have unlimited time to solve the problems of overpopulation, hunger, equitable distribution of property and wealth, etc., before it is time get the heck out of Dodge. But, whether or not we can solve our problems or escape to another
        planet, in one way or another, our molecules will survive; just not as us.

        • Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          And then, of course, the heat death of the universe will be pretty final. If it occurs.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I prefer to think of prokaryotes as having “death” since the maximum number of individual cell divisions is capped, at least usually (see below). One of the original halves is used to accumulate the genetic damage they can’t repair, and ages and dies after ~ 200 divisions or so.

      In contrast I read recently a claim that there is at least one yeast that could be immortal given sufficient nutrients. If well supplied it repair all damage, apparently, as fast as it appears:

      “It has been known for decades that the yeast cell [S.pombe] replicates symmetrically, and it is not alone with that feature. But usually, the cells still leave a healthy cell and an aging cell. On the other hand, the yeast cell divides the damage between the two cells of the next generation. … But the results of the speed of each generation’s replication were astounding – the number of generations did not affect the cell’s dividing speed, implying that these cells do not age.

      Even though these cells do not age, it does not mean that they are immortal. Under ideal conditions, true, they can divide the damage evenly and spread it thin across the board. But under stressed conditions, the cells do leave a mother cell and a daughter, leading the mother cell to die off.” [ https://lifeintheuniverseatcc.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/the-immortal-cell/ ]

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        [My bold]

      • Kevin
        Posted August 11, 2015 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        If S.pombe does the same thing it did a moment earlier, temporarily it’s caught in time. Mortality is really frozen.

        Like a hydrogen atom, captures a photon, spontaneously decays and repeats. No information is stored in the system. In one sense, timelessness is immortality. Capable of reproducing an effect forever. In this way mortality is will probably be constrained only to system that cannot retain information longer than that system’s life cycle.

  8. Randy Schenck
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I wonder how does a person find meaning in life by fantasizing about some place you go to exist after you die. The idea that any living thing would pop back to an after-life defies anything we know about life and the thought of it improves nothing while you are here.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      I get the feeling a lot of that talk originates with adults not wanting to disappoint children when the family pet dies. The roll their eyes skyward and mumble something about a better place for Spot, and once the lie is registered, it’s easier to keep repeating the lie than addressing the truth. 20 years later, the child has grown, but will carry on the tradition with her own offspring.

  9. kelskye
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    There was a documentary that came out a few years ago called The Nature of Existence. One of the things in the movie that struck me was a Christian who confidently declared that the purpose of existence was to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and saviour. Apart from being wrong, what struck me about the comment was how useless it was. It gives absolutely no guidance on anything relevant to living, nor any direction on what kind of life one ought to live – indeed, given that religion is primarily passed down from parent to child, the purpose of existence if fulfilled at the youngest age, with only complacency and doubt to guard against.

    We have our ideals about what life is, and the realities of our nature. As ‘philosophers’, we can reason ourselves to all sorts of conclusions about what we ought to do, irrespective of how well it fits into our nature. At the same time, we live our lives on a moment-to-moment basis, with our biological needs and urges at the forefront. And there is that tension, and why life philosophers tend to be either vacuous or irrelevant. It seems we can be ‘philosophers’ all we want, but at the end of the day we are still human. And our meaning in life, if there’s any such thing, is going to be subservient to our wants and desires.

    Cat’s Cradle has a really nice passage that sums up the absurdity of it all:
    “Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
    Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’
    Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
    Man got to tell himself he understand.”

    • eric
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      One of the things in the movie that struck me was a Christian who confidently declared that the purpose of existence was to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and saviour. Apart from being wrong, what struck me about the comment was how useless it was.

      Its not useless, it’s directive: you are to spend your time acknowledging Jesus as Lord. Or earning money to acknowledge Jesus as Lord in bigger and better ways. Or convincing other people to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Or producing children who will acknowledge Jesus as Lord and who in turn will do all these things, so that the total amount of acknowledging that goes on inccreases.

      Which brings us back to the how the question “what is the meaning of life” means. For some Christians it appears to mean, “what am I supposed to do? What are my marching orders?”

      • Sastra
        Posted August 11, 2015 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        I really liked the point Bob Price made in his The Reason-Driven Life in answer to Rick Warren’s putrid and popular The Purpose-Driven Life: isn’t it just a mite conveeeenient that the leader of a huge and elaborate mega-church discovers and promotes the idea that, when it comes right down to it, the purpose of life is going to cash out into ‘volunteer a lot more at church?’

      • kelskye
        Posted August 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Funnily enough, the guy in the film was a Wrestler For Jesus – a version of TV wrestling only with a biblical themed performance. Looked really stupid, but then again, I’m drinking beer and posting on the internet.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 12, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      “Cat’s Cradle has a really nice passage that sums up the absurdity of it all…”

      And I’ve always liked the take in Hardin’s famous cartoon:

      funnytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/1999/02/199902032.jpg

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 12, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        test to see what WP’s doing now

        ://funnytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/1999/02/199902032.jpg

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          It’s apparently not adding in the https:// any more.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 12, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

            But still embedding.

          • rickflick
            Posted August 12, 2015 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

            That’s sweet.

      • kelskye
        Posted August 13, 2015 at 6:57 am | Permalink

        I like that cartoon – it sums it up quite well.

        I find it interesting in the context of the atheism vs theism debates as theists often are so taken by how remarkable their existence is that they somehow need the entire universe to be centred around that fact. As if once you answer all the contingencies of our existence, that there’s going to be a leftover why that somehow connects the questioner to the question. “Why is there something rather than nothing?” doesn’t just exist as some sort of question of metaphysics, but as a means of tying their own existence into the very reason for the cosmos to be.

        Indeed, the question doesn’t even make any sense as an argument for God until you factor in that the questioner is really trying to tie their existence to the fabric of the cosmos. It’s only then that it makes sense why they bring it up (though it’s not any less facile to make such a connection).

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 16, 2015 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          Oh, those humble theists!

  10. BKsea
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I am baffled how religion can give meaning to life. Most religion seems to imply that true life begins after death. Life on earth is really just a test to get into heaven, etc. To me that trivializes our lives and robs them of meaning.

    As a cancer researcher, I may one day help establish treatments that save kids with cancer and allow them to live full lives. I can only guess that they will have more opportunities then to fail the Test. Thus, my efforts to treat cancer can be seen as keeping kids out of heaven. Does that make me a bad person?

  11. Q-Tim
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Jan Doig’s piece makes quite a bit of sense to me—my wife of 14 years died four months ago, just after turning 40 and before I turned 40 myself… Fortunately for her, it happened suddenly and totally unexpectedly while she was sleeping, so she just fell asleep never to wake up… I find it comforting that she never knew that something bad was going to happen, and only regret (sometimes) that the same thing didn’t happen to me at the same time.

    Dawkins’s “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones..” have been running a lot in my head ever since. Indeed, I feel lucky for having been with such a wonderful person for these decade and half, which is an eternity compared with hadn’t known her at all…

    Also, mindfulness practice helps a lot—I should thank Sam Harris for selling me on it…

    • Sastra
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. I hope you continue to find support and meaning in contemplation of this world and the wonderful person who was in it.

      I’ve just never understood how believing every human death is actually some form of murder-suicide is supposed to be more consoling than a recognition of the random nature of chance-and-necessity.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      So sorry to hear about you recent loss.

    • amarnath
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      You have expressed your sorrow so well that I feel elated rather than depressed. Words worth remembering.

      amarnath

    • Posted August 11, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Sincere condolences.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 12, 2015 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      So sorry for your loss, Q-Tim.

  12. merilee
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    sub

  13. Somite
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    A source of great joy for me is that as an atheist, I get to decide what gives my life meaning. How best to enjoy life is entirely up to me, and also my responsibility.

    I would resent that a purpose was assigned to my life, rather than chose it myself. It’s baffling to me how religious people prefer this option.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Well put!

  14. Sastra
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Consider 2 children. One of them was conceived for a particular ‘purpose.’ The parents want to raise an accountant so he or she can do their taxes. The other one is born to parents who don’t assign any special “role” for the child to perform. They will grow up and do whatever they want to grow up and do.

    Using the reasoning of the “we have to have been made for a reason” crowd the first kid is automatically lucky; the second is a pointless loser by definition.

  15. Posted August 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Please forgive me if this embeds… but I think it’s appropriate — Hitchens, shortly before he died, cracking wise… very wise, about the possibility of eternal life.

    • Posted August 11, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Nice!

      /@

    • Filippo
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Thanks! Perhaps the creator of this could do another, where Hitch speaks of us being shot out of our mothers’ uteruses, speeding toward a barn door studded with rusty hooks, nails and files, eh?

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 12, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Very nice! Wish they’d toned down the sound track a little, though.

  16. Posted August 11, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    As one would expect, Hitchens put it not only perfectly, but perfectly and succinctly.

  17. Sastra
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Heh, I ran across this response at Uncommon Descent.

    Apparently Jerry and the rest of us need to “Stop spouting self-contradicting pseudo-profundities.” Theists keep insisting they’re embarrassed for us, it’s just so stupid to find meaning without God. Plus hubris.

  18. Posted August 11, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Everything matters.

    Ain’t that the truth.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    ‘…guilt ran through me like writing through a stick of rock.”

    Is Ms. Doig’s “like writing through a stick of rock” an idiomatic phrase I’ve somehow missed? Anyone here familiar with this phrase, or know its derivation or meaning? (The simile I invariably reach for regarding the rapidity with which one substance propagates through another involves the implicitly vulgar, somewhat hackneyed, “green corn.” I’d be happy to have a fresh and couth option.)

    • stephen
      Posted August 11, 2015 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      “Stick of rock”refers to a type of what I think Americans call “hard candy” which is sold in British sea-side resorts.It is traditionally pink (exterior) and white (interior),cylindrical and with pink writing, e.g. a name or motto, running through it.

      • Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        Outside often pink; lettering often black though. But any colour combination is possible.

        The sticks are 1-2cm across, but start off much bigger, allowing the confectioner to create the lettering relatively easily. The software rock is then extruded and allowed to harden. See here.

        /@

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 12, 2015 at 12:46 am | Permalink

        Thanks.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 12, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          That was completely new to me, too. I first assumed it might have been a typo. Then I googled it, expecting to be directed back to the BuzzFeed article. I was most surprised to see a long list of citations instead.

          At the bottom of that search there’s a choice to search for “how do they get writing in a stick of rock?”

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 12, 2015 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    Jan Doig’s contribution is just beautiful.

  21. Posted August 12, 2015 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Life has no meaning. However, i am genetically hardwired to have a desire to live and to believe I actually live, even though my reason tells me “I” am actually dying each second of my life, and “I” do not actually exists.

    I believe that many of you are hardwired in a way which makes it impossible for you to understand my feelings (and vice versa).

    I was in high school when I first turly realised that there nothing after death and whatever I do, will have absolutely no meaning. next morning I tried to explain my feelings to one of my closest friends.He later said “do you know that szopen yesterday thought he could die during night and was to afraid to sleep?”


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