Whidbey Island Freethinkers Message Board › Creating a purpose in life

Creating a purpose in life

Stephen K.
Group Organizer
Langley, WA
Post #: 3
Psychologist Abraham Maslow argued that humans have a hierarchy of needs. http://en.wikipedia.o...­. Oversimplifying, if we lack oxygen, water, food, security from threats, we don't attend to much else. Once basic physical/security needs are met, we need/want other satisfactions, eventually getting up to intangibles such as "purpose in life."

Philosopher-anthropologist Ernst Becker argued that humans are obsessed with and psychologicaly crippled by their knowledge of their mortality. http://en.wikipedia.o...­.

I would argue that religion arose out of the following:

1. Difficulty of accepting the knowledge that we will die. (Aside from whales -- an assertionI consider dubious, we are the only creatures with an abstract awareness that we will inevitably expire.)

2. Difficulty that in accepting that life is not fair. That is, good is not rewarded and evil not punished in this mundane life.

3. We are social animals. Although a human beings can live separately, most of us crave contact with other human beings. Churches were among the earliest “viral marketing” networks. They provided tangible support (against hunger, illness, persecution) and an opportunity to socialize with relatively trustworthy people. Meetup secular groups strike me as recapitulating (in an odd and perhaps clumsy way) this aspect of church formation.

Thus (if I am correct), religious belief arose with claims that after we die we will live again either as ghosts/spirits; as reincarnated versions of ourselves, or as "souls" in imaginary places called Heaven and/or Hell.

Humans cope with the "existential dilemma" by sex/procreation; believing or pretending to believe there is a God; or by what Maslow called "self-actualization" or what the followers of Becker call "immortality projects," activities ranging from building pyramids to writing symphonies, to raising sheep to planting acres of wheat, from fighting wars to stopping wars, from murdering enemies to fighting diseases.

Bottom line: healthy human beings need “purpose.” Probably religious belief is lightly coded into our genome. Those of us who do not fall into the grasp of the religious meme still need a sense of purpose to fuel and energize our meetups.

I don't know if anyone else will read this discussion. If you do, I hope you will propose ideas that you think will provide a sense if purpose and interest as fuel for a Whidbey "meet-up."
Wayne B.
user 56597772
Langley, WA
Post #: 7
This is the one "problem" that has bothered me the most since I lost my belief in God. The purpose or meaning of life. As far as I can see it has no "ultimate" purpose or meaning. Sure, it has a lot of smaller meanings which is fine, but not so much when the emphasis is on "ultimate." Believing in the God mythology will delude you into a sense of purpose if you don't think too hard. This is why it is almost impossible to dislodge. Nihilism, which I think is the flip side of this dilemma can only be dealt with through Stoicism which may not bring very much comfort.

This is what bothers me about our "meet-up's." Don't get me wrong, I enjoy meeting and talking to like minded people. Perhaps this is the only place we have to run to. That goal in itself helps us. But is there anything greater? Anything better than just a social function? Should there be? Help me out on this members. Any feedback? Give us a sense of purpose and meaning.
Stephen K.
Group Organizer
Langley, WA
Post #: 32
It is quite likely somebody will have better replies, but I will respond and hope others do. My wife and I live on five acres of woods. We have lots of squirrels. They don't ask, "What is my purpose?" The eat seeds and nuts, make squirrel babies, and try to avoid being eaten by the owls and coyotes. We have an occasional coyote. It doesn't ask, "What is my purpose?" It catches bunnies, house cats, and squirrels, and makes baby coyotes. Last night, an owl hung out next to our chicken coop and the chickens clucked in terror.

Only we humans ask, "What is my purpose." Humans like to have sex. Lots of people think their purpose is to make babies. However, there are probably too many humans on our planet. So some people try to find ways to have sex safely and without making unwanted babies.

Like the squirrels, coyotes, owls, and chickens, we strive to survive, a product of evolution. Animals are curious, so we strive to learn things and solve problems. We are social, so most of us gather together. Then we say, "Now what?" We are social and we possess empathy, so we strive to help each other (most of the time). I am going to a couple of Red Cross meetings today, to help people prepare to survive an earthquake (most likely natural disaster on Whidbey Island).

We are creative, so we strive to express ourselves in music, art, literature, etc. None of these solutions are perfect., none are perfectly satisfactory. The best solution for most of us is do what we are best at, what gives us the most satisfaction in the moment (without causing harm) and to keep moving, until. Well, you know what happens in the end.
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