Life: What is its Meaning?
Life – is there a meaning to it? This is a question I’ve often asked myself. Just like anyone who has a question that they feel must be answered, I’ve found myself searching eagerly amidst an army of online articles, blogs and even YouTube videos, as well as library books to attempt to find the answers.
Do you want to know what I found? Nothing.
Nothing was satisfactory enough to explain the mass amounts of pain and horror that many have to face daily. For what reason do they suffer in such extremes? For an eternal paradise after death? For spiritual growth? For nothing at all? Each argument I’ve found can be criticised.
Let me start with one of the most common answers I’ve seen repeatedly during my search. Many of the sources I’ve read which have reflected a certain religious belief, have all claimed that if you live your life in accordance to the wishes of a divine source and have abided by certain rules, then you will have passed this test of life and will as a reward spend an eternity in paradise. These same sources have also stated that if you, on the other hand, fail to abide by these rules and beliefs then you will have no choice but to spend an eternity in hell. This would mean that life is nothing more than a trial. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
For me, the purpose of life doesn’t seem as black and white as this.
I could go into all sorts of details that would take me off track, but for the sake of simplicity I will state one of my main objections to this theory: This “trial” seems way too harsh to be set up by an omnibenevolent god. Consequently, it is not a very plausible purpose. The whole argument stems from what I’ve previously mentioned: “If one doesn’t accept or believe in God or do as God says, then God will send you to hell forever”. This can be criticised because it doesn’t seem to matter that there may in fact be reasons as to why individuals choose not to follow the path of God, or even religion. I am convinced that our creator (if there is one) would take these reasons into great consideration if he were omnibenevolent, and wouldn’t give out rewards or punishments based on so few factors.
Let’s for a second imagine that you’re a male in your late thirties who has gone out to search for your child. The reason for you doing so is because your child was conceived one night and the mother left the area shortly afterwards. You’ve only just managed to track them down and find out where your child lives.
When you reach the address you see your child playing in the front garden of a small semi-detached house. Overjoyed, you open the gate and approach the child with a smile on your face. The child, who looks to be no older than eight or nine, sees you and stops playing but doesn’t make a move to come near you. Puzzled, you frown before asking, “I’m your father. Why won’t you come and say hello, or embrace me?”
The child scrunches up their face and says, “Why should I believe you? There’s no proof that you’re my father.”
What do you do?
For the sake of argument, let’s just say that there are no methods of proving the truth – such as getting a DNA test. The child also doesn’t look like you but looks like their mother, so there is no physical resemblance. Upon hearing this, do you curse them and unleash enough pain on them to last an eternity for not believing in you, or do you understand where they’re coming from and try to be there for them anyway; without punishing them for not believing you?
I know what I would do. The former option seems like a very primitive way thinking when surely god is supposed to be the very opposite – full of grace, intelligence, and compassion. Therefore, to me, this belief is flawed and so this purpose of life isn’t believable. *
Heaven sounds like a nice option, although if hell may not exist for the above reason, then does heaven?
Maybe. Perhaps not.
There is another belief which insists that everyone can eventually go to heaven or experience eternal peace, once their soul is ready to do so. It’s believed that this can be achieved despite the wrongs that you have committed on earth, and despite having no belief in a divine source. I have to admit that this seems more like a loving option, but it doesn’t seem to have any justice involved. I will first talk about this point before I link it to the purpose of life.
Think about this: While no one can deny that the above idea is pleasant, I’m sure that if our creator is wise and just, then there must be some (perhaps less extreme) form of punishment for those who have done extreme wrong.
To alter this belief then, one could say that after death you will experience a punishment that matches your wrongs in terms of length, severity and type. Only then can you experience peace – once you’ve sincerely learned the errors of your ways and have gone through an ‘atonement’ of sorts.
Of course, this altered argument has errors too. These errors must also be considered to aid your understanding of where I’m coming from, before I can link these points back to the important question of what life’s purpose may be. Bear with me…
So, how does this altered argument have errors?
For starters, the idea of what is right and what is wrong is very subjective. In most cultures, it is generally accepted that senselessly killing another human being is wrong. In some tribes, however, killing a firstborn female straight after her birth is considered the norm and is not considered wrong at all. In addition to this, one could argue that the idea of murdering has simply been made to be wrong for no other reason than this: humans don’t like it. Maybe then, our creator has given us no rules and therefore no one will be punished after death because there are no wrong acts that they have committed in life.
This brings us back to the belief that everyone can have peace in the afterlife despite their acts on earth.
If there is no punishment after death and peace can be obtained straight away, then what is the point in life? Perhaps happiness is the answer to this. Perhaps our creator has simply put us on this earth to see what we can achieve. Or, if we are indeed parts of the creator and together we are a collective consciousness, then maybe we are here so that the creator (which is also us) can experience the universe in as many different perspectives as possible. **
Now I will go back to the altered argument about experiencing a just punishment before peace is received…
If we are fairly and not so severely punished for our wrongdoings i.e. we aren’t sent to hell for eternity, and if we can still obtain peace after our punishment in the afterlife, then maybe our purpose in life is to still try to be happy but to also learn to care for one another. As well as this, maybe our purpose is to be the best that we can be so that our punishment in the afterlife isn’t too severe – perhaps we’re alive to experience spiritual growth?
Maybe these ‘wrongs’ are decided by our creator, seeing as they are so subjective to us, and can’t always be agreed upon between different peoples and cultures.
Maybe we have a purpose in life to fully understand what these wrongs are? Remember, the view of the majority isn’t always the right view. If you believe that to fully understand right and wrong isn’t one of our purposes and you think that we have already evolved this completely, then take the view on homosexuality found in the early 20thcentury and also before that time. This view was typically, but not exclusively, found amongst the people of the Western culture. Nowadays, it wouldn’t be considered a good view to have – and rightfully so. Morals evolve and who knew when they really began. They will also most likely continue to evolve.
Although I am more inclined to agree with this line of thinking, it still doesn’t fully justify the point of life for everyone. Thousands of individuals around the world are suffering immensely – so what’s the point of life for them? How can someone fulfil this purpose of being happy, if they are neglected or are in constant danger? How can they strive for spiritual growth when their focus is on staying alive or unharmed?
If life is not compulsory for any reason, and is as a choice that has no real consequence in ending it, what then? This is not a satisfactory explanation.
Maybe that is why religion has survived for so long (not just religion, but this is one good example that I can think of). It gives some of us meaning. Even the idea of being reincarnated gives life a compulsive element to it. This is because if ending one’s life is considered wrong, a sin, or gives you bad karma in your next life, then life has purpose enough for it to be kept.
Things like religion allow individuals to keep going even when they don’t want to. Therefore, even though, in my opinion, religion can be toxic, it can be seen as helpful in encouraging someone to keep at life.
It is my belief that there is a danger linked to atheism in particular, and other views much like it, in that it can give you nothing in terms of what life is.
Make no mistake, many atheists (although they may not believe in a deity), may still believe in outer forces like karma – such as Buddhists. I don’t think that atheism is a bad belief to hold, or that it makes you a bad person. I do, however, think that if I were an atheist who also encompassed the beliefs that there is no karma or external force that has given life, then there would be no purpose to my life. You are consequently left with very few options bar the following: you have to make your own purpose.
This may be good enough for a lot of people. But what of those who have little desire to do so, or cannot make their own purpose as the power does not lie with them?
I feel as though since I have outlined so many different points I should end this with my own views on the meaning of life…
I’m very spiritual. I believe that we are conscious expressions of the universe looking to experience ourselves. There are so many of us so that we can gain experience of every single perspective imaginable. If you think about it, everyone’s life is slightly different – there are billions of little tweaks that could be made to every single perspective you can conjure up, meaning there are billions upon billions of perspectives. I don’t believe in hell and I’m not sure about heaven, although I believe peace can be obtained after death – although I don’t know what form that will take. That’s where I stand in general.
In terms of the point of life, I can only say that I agree with Teal on this (search her on YouTube and let me know in a respectful manner of what you think). I don’t think life is compulsory.
The truth is, no one can ever know the meaning of life, or what happens after it. There is no evidence to support any belief. It is something for you to decide for yourself. This can be a scary thing if your beliefs lead you to think that there is nothing after death, or if you don’t like what you believe.
Whatever its purpose, life is life and it can be both a blessing and a curse – no answer I have found is satisfactory; not even my own as it can be criticised. The thing I try to remember most is: “Pain is temporary, as is life.” You can take that as reassurance or not, it’s up to you.
Please share this if you found it interesting or be sure to leave your feedback and comments – as long as they’re respectful!
Until next time,
*I must make it clear that not all religious individuals believe this and it is not meant to be taken as a sweeping statement about individuals who belong to a certain religion. I was merely giving my reasons for not believing in this particular argument for the purpose of life; of which some religious individuals may hold.
**Search up Teal on YouTube if you want more information on this. She is a spiritualist who seems to have many interesting beliefs – a few that I agree with and like to listen to.
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