As an atheist, I am often asked the question, "What is the meaning of life for an atheist?" I am myself sometime confused whether as an atheist do have a purpose in life or I am just living and waiting for an end to my life? Mirza A.

Good question -- something that a lot of people worry about. Tolstoy famously fell into a deep depression about this very question. He ultimately decided that the only way to find meaning in life was through faith, and he embraced God. But many philosophers have disagreed that this is the only route to meaning, and they have argued that meaning in life in possible even if God does not exist. In part this depends on what we take "meaning" to be. You put it in terms of "purpose", but tht might not be the only way to think about it. Philosophers like Richard Taylor have argued that we can find meaning by seeking inner fulfillment -- living a fulfilled life is to live a meaningful life. Alternatively, other philosophers like Peter Singer have argued that we can find meaning in life by adopting objectively worthwhile projects, ethical projects. By doing good -- be it working to end world hunger, or curing diseases, or fighting injustice -- we can infuse our lives with meaning. And yet other philosophers attempt a hybird picture, combing these two views. Susan Wolf, for example, argues that we can find meaning through active engagement in projects of worth, that is, we need to find worthwhile projects that bring us personal fulfillment.

I hope this helps somewhat. You might also be interested in this article on happiness vs. meaning that just appeared in the Atlantic:

I think the meaning of life is to give life meaning.

I find helpful the idea of being in the now .. the past is all gone, forever, period, it no longer matters. The future is not yet. Be here now!

Here are some quotes I find helpful:

“Human life is founded on kindness and concord, and is bound into an alliance for common help, not by terror, but by mutual love.”


“Courtesy, kindness, justice and love are the keynotes by which we may come into harmony with practically anybody.”

Bill Wilson

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit.

The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love ...”

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”

Marcus Aurelius

"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."

" The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings."

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

" Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule."


If you are depressed you are living in the past.If you are fearful and anxious you are living in the future. If you are atpeace, you are living in the present moment.

-Lao Tzu

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