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Thread: The secular meaning of life

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    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
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    If we accept it as true that we need a meaning of life (something more than plain nihilism) and that the belief in the inevitable progress of humanity is dying... what will replace it?

    I think that's why religion is getting a come back

    What do you guys think, and what can we do about it?
    I think the thing to do about it is promote humanism. That is, that humankind is the measure of all things. In a totally connected and interdependent world we need to recognize that the suvival of the entire human race is in the individual interest. This should always be kept in mind as the goal when making decisions either as governments or as individuals. It's the ultimate expression of Kant's Categorical Imperative: "Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law." That should be the basis for anyone's purpose. Meaning goes hand in hand with purpose. Meaning is everything that goes into what we as humans have become. This is revealed in the study of science and history. The search for meaning reveals what we need to do in order to survive. We might not answer the ultimate questions concerning the meaning of life, but the ultimate purpose is survival. As far as I can see that is what distinguishes life from non-life. And anything that promotes human survival should still qualify as progressive, if not necessarily everyone's definition of progress.

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    The idea that humans are the apex of creation is the source of many of our problems. The simple fact that if the oceans die we die does not seem to be realized by many.

    Any world view has to recognize we exist in an ecosystem not apart from it. The wild and commercial bee die off a decade or so back could have had catastrophic effects, reduced polarization. I remember Hannity on FOX whing about tax dollars on the problem.It is the Genesis derived view humans are special and all else serves us.

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    I'd propose something like 'enlightened naturalism'.

    Find meaning by embracing the meaningless and realize that this is the starting point to an authentic and aware life.

    Everything else is a form of delusion.

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    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Considering how many people are either religious, sport supporters, politically activists or all three.... I think it's pretty clear that you are not normal. Most people are part of some tribe or another which they try hard to fit into.
    Possibly most people but I believe there's a significant minority who is just pleased to have activities where they will meet other people and do something together. You will notice that a horse and an ass will stick together when kept in a field big enough that they could instead keep away from each other. We're like them. We're gregarious. Nothing religious about that unless you redefine religion to suit your theory.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    I think communal rituals intended to unite communities across ages is religious rituals. I think sports qualify extremely well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post
    Religious rites are thought of as a way to communicate with an actual spirit. Nothing like that for supporters.
    I don't agree that's a necessary qualification. It's too narrow. Sweden has several pagan religious rituals we perform anually. All our "Christian" rituals are just pagan rituals left, pretty much intact. Which make no sense in a Christian context. These have survived in spite paganism being a dead religion. It has been for almost a thousand years now. Yet, these rituals survive. Christianity today is pretty much a dead religion in Sweden. That ain't stopping us keeping all those religious rituals alive also.

    We need an explanation other than "religious rituals is a way to communicate with an actual spirit" to explain how these have survived in Sweden.
    What has survived in Sweden is not the religion, it's the rituals. Rituals void of any religious significance. It's just a pretext and an occasion to get together. We're gregarious. Big deal.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post
    That being said, sport may well deprive religion of its oxygen if supporters go support Manchester United instead of the Church.

    And sport may also play a similar function as religion for many people. I personally think that most religious people have always been only pretending. I don't think anything more than a small minority of people were ever really religious at any time throughout history. So, maybe it's some of the same people who were religious who are now football supporters. Just maybe.
    I see religion in functional terms. Anything that replaces the functions of religion is religion.

    I don't think they are pretending at all. I think it's just you who haven't understood what religion is. This is what it is. God/the spirit is the least interesting part of religions.
    I agree with that. Let me repeat. I don't think most people practicing a religion are really religious at all. They're there to be part of a community, feel protected and loved, to conform and avoid feel apart etc. And then the few who will insist in the spiritual dimension are essentially deluding themselves that what they have in mind is the same as what the next person does. So, yes, religions have only become possible because essentially people have a general tendency to gregariousness and to rituals. Yet, gregariousness and rituals are not what people call "religion".

    You may redefine the term if you like but then you should start your pitch with that to minimise the confusion. Else, you're just using a private language.

    Nothing to do with me not understanding religion. I've always been interested in the phenomenon and it's really not plausible at all that I don't understand it!

    You might just as well claim that ants and termites are obviously religious.
    EB

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    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    The idea that humans are the apex of creation is the source of many of our problems.
    First, creation (really evolution with natural selection) has no apex.

    The simple fact that if the oceans die we die does not seem to be realized by many.
    Then they need to be educated on that fact. It's part of humanism's goal.

    Any world view has to recognize we exist in an ecosystem not apart from it. The wild and commercial bee die off a decade or so back could have had catastrophic effects, reduced polarization. I remember Hannity on FOX whing about tax dollars on the problem.It is the Genesis derived view humans are special and all else serves us.
    Genesis is not science and Hannity isn't a humanist. It's based on tribalism and isolationism. Such theistically derived survivalism strategies are suicidal in today's global environment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I'd propose something like 'enlightened naturalism'.

    Find meaning by embracing the meaningless and realize that this is the starting point to an authentic and aware life.

    Everything else is a form of delusion.
    To expand on this a bit (it was written from my smartphone), I think there are roughly two states to human life: delusion, and non-delusion. Of course one can't be all knowing and there will always be blind spots, but there can be an awareness of the universe as essentially materialistic and driven by natural laws.

    The kicker there is that this awareness should be the secular person's end goal, because it is the starting point of a life that's driven by reality and not fantasy. Once you realize that the things that happen to you are essentially dictated by your understanding and interaction with the material world, then you gain the ability to act in the world with intention and understanding, rather than delusion. You see things as they really are and consequently exist in the world as it really is.

    Goal setting is another thing entirely. Once you're aware of how the world really works you're basically free to do whatever you want. In one sense this is absurd, but in another sense this is the most free you will ever be, and the only way you can be free. There is no inherent meaning to this besides the experience itself.

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    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    ...
    Goal setting is another thing entirely. Once you're aware of how the world really works you're basically free to do whatever you want. In one sense this is absurd, but in another sense this is the most free you will ever be, and the only way you can be free. There is no inherent meaning to this besides the experience itself.
    Well said rousseau. You are free to be what you are when you become aware of what it is that you are. Freedom is the experience of being in harmony with one's self. Not the being, in and of itself, but the relative awareness. Mankind is not "condemned to be free" as Sartre taught. It must be a rational, conscious choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    ...
    Goal setting is another thing entirely. Once you're aware of how the world really works you're basically free to do whatever you want. In one sense this is absurd, but in another sense this is the most free you will ever be, and the only way you can be free. There is no inherent meaning to this besides the experience itself.
    Well said rousseau. You are free to be what you are when you become aware of what it is that you are. Freedom is the experience of being in harmony with one's self. Not the being, in and of itself, but the relative awareness. Mankind is not "condemned to be free" as Sartre taught. It must be a rational, conscious choice.
    I think for a lot of people evolution and biology kind of act on them rather than vice versa. People act as if they are making conscious, deliberate choices, but I think usually evolutionary tendencies drive the desire, which drives the behavior. Society then packages all this up into a tidy narrative that makes it look pretty and normal, and then most people glide through their life checking the right boxes at the right time and reacting to their own internal biological and social cues.

    The free person, on the other hand, is able to say 'the materially smart thing to do would be this, but I'm going to do this other thing anyway'. Evolution still drives their behavior, but they're aware of it and their executive functioning acts as a stronger counter-balance.

    Further, just knowledge in general... a lot of natural laws act like really useful heuristics to understand why things are the way they are and why they work the way they do. This understanding and perspective frees you uncertainty.

  9. Top | #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post

    First, creation (really evolution with natural selection) has no apex.



    Then they need to be educated on that fact. It's part of humanism's goal.

    Any world view has to recognize we exist in an ecosystem not apart from it. The wild and commercial bee die off a decade or so back could have had catastrophic effects, reduced polarization. I remember Hannity on FOX whing about tax dollars on the problem.It is the Genesis derived view humans are special and all else serves us.
    Genesis is not science and Hannity isn't a humanist. It's based on tribalism and isolationism. Such theistically derived survivalism strategies are suicidal in today's global environment.
    It has nothing to do with evolution, but the capacities evolution gave humans give us more power than any other critter. The western Judeo Christian view as humans set apart is derived from Genesis. The Earth exists to be exploited by humans.The idea that we actually live in an interactive ecosystem is foreign to that.

  10. Top | #30
    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post

    Possibly most people but I believe there's a significant minority who is just pleased to have activities where they will meet other people and do something together. You will notice that a horse and an ass will stick together when kept in a field big enough that they could instead keep away from each other. We're like them. We're gregarious. Nothing religious about that unless you redefine religion to suit your theory.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    I think communal rituals intended to unite communities across ages is religious rituals. I think sports qualify extremely well.



    I don't agree that's a necessary qualification. It's too narrow. Sweden has several pagan religious rituals we perform anually. All our "Christian" rituals are just pagan rituals left, pretty much intact. Which make no sense in a Christian context. These have survived in spite paganism being a dead religion. It has been for almost a thousand years now. Yet, these rituals survive. Christianity today is pretty much a dead religion in Sweden. That ain't stopping us keeping all those religious rituals alive also.

    We need an explanation other than "religious rituals is a way to communicate with an actual spirit" to explain how these have survived in Sweden.
    What has survived in Sweden is not the religion, it's the rituals. Rituals void of any religious significance. It's just a pretext and an occasion to get together. We're gregarious. Big deal.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post
    That being said, sport may well deprive religion of its oxygen if supporters go support Manchester United instead of the Church.

    And sport may also play a similar function as religion for many people. I personally think that most religious people have always been only pretending. I don't think anything more than a small minority of people were ever really religious at any time throughout history. So, maybe it's some of the same people who were religious who are now football supporters. Just maybe.
    I see religion in functional terms. Anything that replaces the functions of religion is religion.

    I don't think they are pretending at all. I think it's just you who haven't understood what religion is. This is what it is. God/the spirit is the least interesting part of religions.
    I agree with that. Let me repeat. I don't think most people practicing a religion are really religious at all. They're there to be part of a community, feel protected and loved, to conform and avoid feel apart etc. And then the few who will insist in the spiritual dimension are essentially deluding themselves that what they have in mind is the same as what the next person does. So, yes, religions have only become possible because essentially people have a general tendency to gregariousness and to rituals. Yet, gregariousness and rituals are not what people call "religion".

    You may redefine the term if you like but then you should start your pitch with that to minimise the confusion. Else, you're just using a private language.

    Nothing to do with me not understanding religion. I've always been interested in the phenomenon and it's really not plausible at all that I don't understand it!

    You might just as well claim that ants and termites are obviously religious.
    EB
    I'm using the definition if religion that Jürgen Habermas does. He looks it functionally. What does it do? God doesn't exist. So it can't fill them with magical fairy dust. Certainly not allow them to comune with God. Do they're not. Whatever perceived benefit it has must be something else.

    He, and me, think humans are too intelligent to invest just this much time and effort into something that's pure delusion. It has to have a tangible and practical pay-off.

    Atheists often use self congratulatory definitions of religion so they get to feel smug superiority. I think that's what you are doing. Your definition won't help you understand the world IMHO. It certainly won't allow you to respect parts of the religious life. And if you don't you won't find what valuable things there are to find in it.

    I see religion all being about building communities with people who might not have all that much in common. That's where the rituals and traditions come in. I think that's the core of religion. God is just an empty symbol to gather round. But its empty. All Gods have been. They're all mystical and ineffable for a reason.

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