Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, April 28, 2016



The question of ‘What is the purpose of life’ has been debated for thousands of years. Both theist and atheist have been able to produce convincing arguments on the highly debated subject. Theists tend to hold the belief that purpose is given to them or created for them by a higher Being, or their Creator. Most atheist would claim that their purpose is created by them personally, and each has their own individual purpose. The main difference between the two, besides who or what is the source of the purpose, is that the theist’s purpose derives from an objective sense, and the atheists’ meaning derives from a subjective sense.
I first want to start with the purpose of the theist, and although there are many different beliefs even from this stance, I am going to be coming from the perspective of what I believe to be the purpose of life as a christian. What I believe to be the meaning of life is to glorify God and to be in relationship with Him. Now while I believe this is exactly what the bible teaches, and many other christians would agree with me, how that is actually played out in christian’s lives can look very different. Many christians today would say that the meaning of life is to serve God. While yes I do believe that is something we ought to do, I do not believe that to be our objective purpose in life. Mark 10:45 states “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” God’s original intent for all mankind was to be in a full on personal relationship with Him, but He also gave us the choice to choose to not have a personal relationship with Him. Even though we have turned away and chosen against Him, His purpose for us has not changed. He still wants us to have a personal relationship with Him, which He has made possible through His son Jesus.
Baggini states that the belief in an afterlife does not give us purpose, and I would actually have to agree with him. He states that if our belief in an afterlife gives us purpose, then we would always be looking towards the future, and never obtain purpose for our time on earth. As I stated earlier, God’s purpose for is not to believe in Heaven or Hell, and it is also not that we will one day, when we die, begin a relationship with Him (meaning we would be looking to the future purpose of the personal relationship). God’s purpose for us to begin a personal relationship with Him now, in our broken and fallen state, so that one day when we die, we will be in perfect relationship with Him, as it was intended to be in the beginning.
Since I believe my purpose is that of an objective sense, that does not however mean that I do not also have a subjective purpose. As a sub-purpose of my objective purpose, God calls me to many particular commands to fulfill in my time here on earth. Just some of these include telling others about Jesus and Him, putting others above myself, fighting against my core evil desires, and so on and so forth. Now, how I go about fulfilling these purposes is much like the view of the atheist. I believe God has left it up to me on what it is I want to be my subjective purpose, as long as it does not contradict His word and commands He has given me. God has left my subjective purpose up to me. I can become whatever it is I wish to be and  find my subjective purpose, and still fulfill my true objective purpose. When I become a nurse, I will be fulfilling what I believe to be my own subjective purpose, yet at the same time, still able to fulfill my objective purpose of being in a personal relationship with God.
Secondly, I don’t want to put words into other’s mouths, so I am going to be sharing to the best of my knowledge on what it is most atheists believe to be the purpose of life. Since their purpose is believed to not have come from a divine power, most atheist believe it is up to them to find their purpose. How this is done comes from a variety of ways. First, some believe their purpose is to find what their profession should be, set a goal, or fulfill a dream and be the very best they can be at it. The process of pursuing a dream or goal and becoming successful in that can be very fulfilling and have lifelong meaning. Even once they have achieved their goal, dream, or profession, their purpose does not have to end. They can continue to improve and better themselves and others through their purpose for a lifetime.
Other atheists believe that the purpose of life is to live their life in a way that it betters the lives of those who follow after they are gone, and to ensure that life indeed does continue on after we die, as proposed by Scheffler. The “afterlife” as proposed by Scheffler entails that our purpose comes from the fact that life will continue on after we die. Both the living and the dead are dependent on one another.
As I am sure there are many other theories proposed by atheists as to what the purpose of life is, these two are very compelling arguments and I believe truly can satisfy a subjective purpose.
In conclusion, it is necessary to point out that purpose, in both cases of the theist and atheist, can be lost. Even the objective purpose of the theist can be shattered. Personally for my beliefs, if evidence could prove that Jesus had not risen from the grave, then ultimately and objectively, my life as a christian would be meaningless. Many people have attempted to disprove that Jesus rose from the dead, but have been highly unsuccessful, which is one of the many reasons for my faith, yet for the sake of the argument, let's say it was in fact proven. Even Paul, the author of many New Testament books, states in 1st Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”. Now although my objective purpose would be lost, I would still be entitled to my subjective purpose.
For myself, the scary truth about subjective purposes lies in the realization that if those purposes I have made out for myself are taken away, which is a very likely possibility, should there be any other reason for me to continue on living? Christopher Hitchens explains, after he had been diagnosed with cancer, that he feared he would no longer be able to write due to his illness, and if that were the case, he states he would no longer have a purpose to continue on living. The sad truth about the world we live in, is that nothing is certain to last. If indeed our subjective purposes are taken from us, to what then do we account our reason to carry on as people?

1 comment:

  1. "If indeed our subjective purposes are taken from us, to what then do we account our reason to carry on as people?" - as you indicated, Scheffler and those who think like him recognize an objective (though not compulsory) purpose in the continuation of humanity as a people, after we've ceased to continue as individuals. That can only be taken away imaginatively (so far) by doomsday. But of course there probably will come a time in everyone's life, theist and atheist alike, when it is meeting the bare conditions of daily living is no longer tenable. That's when we need something larger in which to repose our sense of ongoing purpose. Is God really more objective than humanity, in this respect?

    But I'm uncomfortable with this language of objective and subjective purpose, and far more at home with the idea of inter-subjective mutuality of purpose, value, and commitment as a source of meaning that transcends what you're calling subjective purpose. We can work it out, together.