The topic for my writing group today was “What is the meaning of Life.” And although this topic is obviously important to most people, it is one I personally have never pondered, and that has not seemed important to me. Maybe that is why my activities while a sniper in the Marine Corps has not greatly troubled me afterward.
Many people seem to believe that we, humankind, are the creation of a supernatural entity called God, that God had an intelligent purpose in creating us, and that this intelligent purpose is “the meaning of life.”
Out of courtesy, I do not propose to thrash over all the usual arguments for or against the existence of the biblical God, and still less to take a side. But even if God exists, and even if He had an intelligent purpose in creating us, no one really knows what this purpose might be or that it is significant.
However, based on humankind’s track record to date, you could rightfully surmise that our purpose might be to kill our fellow man, eliminate other indigenous life species, and utterly destroy the planet.
So, even if God exists, and if He actually had a benevolent purpose in creating us, it is really not clear what that purpose might be based on our history. And, whatever that purpose is, we seemingly would rather choose to do without it or simply ignore it.
You might object that not having a pre-determined purpose is to not have any meaning of life at all. But this is to believe that for something to have meaning, it must have been created with that particular purpose in mind and, moreover, must still be serving that same original purpose.
You also might object that talk about the meaning of life is neither here nor there because life is merely a prelude to some form of an eternal afterlife, and this, if you will, is its purpose.
But I can think of at least four arguments against this position:
- It is not at all clear that there is, or even can be, some form of eternal afterlife that entails the survival of the personal ego.
- Even if there were such an afterlife, living forever is not in itself a purpose. The concept of the afterlife merely displaces the problem to one remove, begging the question: what then is the purpose of the afterlife? If the afterlife has a pre-determined purpose, we do not know what that is, and, whatever it is, again, we most likely would probably choose to do without it.
- Reliance on an eternal afterlife not only postpones the question of life’s purpose but also dissuades or at least discourages us from determining the purpose or purposes for what may be the only life that we do have.
- If it is the brevity or finiteness of human life that gives it shape and purpose, then an eternal afterlife cannot, in and of itself, have any meaning.
So, whether or not God exists, whether or not He gave us a purpose, and whether or not there is an eternal afterlife, we are better off creating our own purpose or purposes.
So what should the purpose of our lives be? It should be whatever you choose it to be, whether it is to procreate, have fun, serve God, help our fellow men, society, or our families, it’s our life, and it is our own personal choice.