My purpose is clearer now without religion

December 9, 2007 at 12:01 am 35 comments

DirectionAn anonymous poster asked this question on one of my blogs:

What do you think our purpose in life is then?

Many Christians believe there is no purpose without God. Of course, one of the most quoted Old Testament verse is:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Who would not want to believe that the Creator of the universe cares enough about them to have a great plan for their life? In fact, when witnessing to a non-believer, one of the favorite phrases used is “God has a plan for your life.” Really now?

If you read further in Jeremiah 29, you will discover these verses:

17 yes, this is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like poor figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth and an object of cursing and horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them.

Ok. Does God have a good plan for my life or will he send the sword, famine and plagues against me?

In my opinion, this whole system of contradictions, uncertainty, condemnation, and schizophrenia really clouds one’s purpose in life. To have a clear mind helps me focus on who I would like to be. This brings me to a point of our wager which I believe to be my purpose in life:

….to live my life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place.

This is so much easier to do when I’m not judging homosexuals or couples living together outside of marriage or the young girl who had an abortion. I can do my part to demonstrate kindness and compassion and in making the world a better place without trying to somehow fit 21st century life into the archaic superstitious rituals of a tribe of desert nomads who lived thousands of years ago.

- The de-Convert

Entry filed under: The de-Convert. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Challenging Religious Myths 1: No Morality without Religion Atheism vs. Theism 1: Independence in Thought

35 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kerrin  |  December 9, 2007 at 11:30 am

    The de-Convert,

    What do you think our purpose in life is then?

    This is a great question to wrestle with. Your answer:

    ….to live my life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place.

    seems like a great start to answering the question. Do you think it’s possible for a person of religion to live with this purpose?

    Did you know that God is speaking to two different groups of people in that passage of Jeremiah?
    The first part is to the people of Israel. The second part you quote is directed at the captors of Israel the Babylonians.

  • 2. The de-Convert  |  December 9, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Kerrin,

    I do think it’s possible but the point of my post was that it is more difficult to do with religion than without. Within most churches, it’s hard to, for example, love a homosexual.

    I do know Jeremiah was speaking to two groups. The big question is which group is an individual in? How do I know if god has good thoughts towards me or is he going to send plagues on me? In other words, when you tell someone “God has a plan for your life,” it’s not necessarily a good thing.

    Paul

  • 3. kerrin  |  December 9, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Paul,

    You are right in your assessment of Christian religions often making it difficult to live with that purpose. If only they would seek to apply Jesus’ words: “Love your enemy.” Instead we see them live with more self-righteousness towards others, especially homosexuals.

    There have been many times in my own life where I have been self-righteous towards others. I think that is more because of who I am as a human, my natural tendencies, and less about my moral code.

    To “Love your enemy” is a difficult thing but wouldn’t you agree that that is a truly tolerant way to live?

    The big question is which group is an individual in?

    I would say that we cannot definitively know, which group someone else is in, but I do think that you as an individual can know which group you are in.

  • 4. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 9, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve always found the desire for an external purpose itself the most objectionable and distasteful aspect of religion. To the extent that I have “free will” (whatever that means) I’m not going to submit my will to anyone else’s purposes, not even a god’s — to do so would be to suborn slavery.

    Even if there were a god, and even if that god made its purposes manifest, I would on general principles object and resist to the extent that I was physically possible to do so to the extent that its purposes were contrary to my own.

    Of course, since there isn’t a god making its purposes manifest to anyone, the desire to submit one’s will to “god’s” purposes always entails submitting one’s will to the purposes of some human being who claims to speak for god. Divine slavery thus reduces to ordinary authoritarian submissiveness.

  • 5. Dan Marvin  |  December 9, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Secular Humanism is a religious worldview. As you know a worldview comprises one’s collection of presuppositions, convictions and values from which a person tries to understand and make sense out of the world and life. It colors the way people interpret life. I have been looking at some things about this subject of a worldview lately. Maybe you all can help me understand the atheist worldview.

    A Christian worldview can answer many crucial life-questions about life that secular humanism or atheism worldview cannot. A very brief list of some of these are:

    1. How did the world and all that is in it come into being?

    2. What is reality in terms of knowledge and truth?

    3. How does/should the world function?

    4. What is the nature of a human being?

    5. What is one’s personal purpose of existence?

    6. How should one live?

    7. Is there any personal hope for the future?

    8. What happens to a person at and after death?

    9. Why is it possible to know anything at all?

    10. How does one know what is right and what is wrong?

    11. What is the meaning of human history?

    12. What does the future hold?

    There are plenty more but these are basic questions we all have. Christianity and God’s word explains all of them quite easily. Occam’s razor would be a great point here. How does secular humanism or atheism explain these questions?

    ***** d-C Editor’s Note ******

    The above questions were written by Dr. John MacArthur in his column What’s your Worldview?

  • 6. snowqueen  |  December 9, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Dan – Christianity doesn’t ‘answer’ those questions – rather it provides a set of answers which you can only accept if you believe in a personal creator God. So it is only a set of answers based on blind faith – not universal, rational answers at all. The problem with Christians is you want to have certainty, you want TRUTH as if such a thing were possible. It makes you feel safe and secure – fine, if you want to live in ignorant bliss. But if you really care about the world and your fellow humans I would suggest you start using that phenomenal brain in your head and start thinking instead of blindly believing.

    So let me answer your questions as an atheist.

    1. We don’t really know but there are some interesting hypotheses such as the Big Bang theory.

    2. Reality is a complex concept. There is ‘reality’ in the physical, material world that can be described by science and experienced by us when we interact with it. There is the ‘reality’ of our experiences which may only be personal and not generalisable – something that may be ‘real’ to me may not be ‘real’ to someone else. So that’s a form of relative reality. Another form of relative reality is the ‘reality’ born of our linguistic nature – one person’s ‘terrorist’ may be another person’s ‘freedom fighter’, for example. Knowledge is predicated upon the social, political and historical context in which it occurs in human experience. It is rarely something fixed.

    3. Another complex question. We know a lot about how the basic aspects of the physical world functions through Newtonian physics – that’s how we can send people to the Moon and back. We know increasingly more about how things function at an atomic and subatomic level through quantum physics – that’s how we’ve been able to build computers. We have some excellent ideas of how the geological and meteorological worlds function though with less certainty as we can’t predict earthquakes and hurricanes with the same kind of accuracy as we can gravitational forces. When we get to human systems things get even trickier because we are getting into non-predictability so things like economics, politics, ecology are only understandable through fuzzier knowledge. How *should* the world function? Well mostly that is a ridiculous question as we can only answer it from a human perspective. But from that perspective it’s still unanswerable because it assumes there exists some rule book. Of course people have tried and continue to try to make up rule books all through history but somehow or other that never works. In fact the whole idea of ‘function’ is simply a human construct that is only meaningful in human language much like other constructs like ‘progress’.

    4. Extremely varied

    5. Whatever one says it is. Choose wisely.

    6. In a way that ensures the survival of the species in whatever social, historical or political or geographic situation you find yourself in. Generally co-operating with others and causing least harm seems to work well for humans. Fighting and telling others how to live hasn’t served us well at all. In fact the Abrahamic religions are the cause of most of the wars at the moment – hopefully they’ll give up soon and let us have our planet back.

    7. Of course there is! What an amazing thing it is to be a conscious creative animal who has invented language and technology! I just hope we don’t waste it. Life is amazing if you realise that THIS IS IT!!! Thinking that life is just a precursor to some fictional life after death means you never have to engage fully in life, form real relationships or want to make the world a better place. You might think you do in God’s name but when push comes to shove you’ve always got your fantasy of heaven to fall back on – the ultimate insurance policy that means you can opt out.

    8. You die. So enjoy your life now and experience every precious moment. Make the most of it.

    9. Because of the way our brains have evolved and because we had the bright idea of storing information outside of our heads in the form of symbols.

    10. Right and wrong are contestable concepts which only exist when people agree upon them They are contingent on circumstances, social, cultural, historical etc. Ethics are based on certain principles that are agreed upon but are not universal. In the UK we have principles about not harming others, we have decided to adopt the human rights framework and so on to guide our ethical decision-making. Because our species depends on co-operation, many of our ethical principles are about promoting things like tolerance, freedom, helping others, telling the truth, not stealing etc. They are expedient. Morals on the other hand are religious rules which are often useful but often absolute and do not allow for contingencies so are rather a blunt tool.

    11. Whatever we say it is! It’s our history after all.

    12. We don’t know that’s what makes it interesting. However, there won’t be much of a future if the Abrahamic religions don’t stop vying for supremacy in their ridiculous wars so the money could be spent on something useful like education, health, alternative fuel development, the arts, proper care for older people, etc etc etc

  • 7. HeHasSailed  |  December 9, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Snowqueen,
    I don’t think Dan Marvin will take your reply seriously. Since he copied and pasted most of his comment from here:

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v1/n1/whats-your-worldview

    I don’t think he takes his own comments seriously.

  • 8. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 10, 2007 at 8:23 am

    Secular Humanism is not a worldview. Metaphysical naturalism is a worldview but it is not a religious worldview.

    It is not enough to answer questions about the world; we would like to see at least persuasive answers; even better would be answers that are provably true. Answers that presume that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity chose iron-age savages (Christianity) or a pedophile bandit (Islam) as the recipients of privileged communication do not seem particularly persuasive.

    It’s also notable that Christianity gives very different answers to Dan Marvin’s questions between public proselytization and private practice.

  • 9. snowqueen  |  December 10, 2007 at 8:39 am

    lol HeHasSailed – I didn’t expect him to, it was just fun writing it. I think I may turn it into a meme for my friends.

  • 10. alternative meme « because I’m worth it  |  December 10, 2007 at 9:03 am

    [...] 10 12 2007  Never one to keep my fingers quiet, I responded to a blog comment over at de-conversion.com.  Basically the original commenter suggested that only Christianity could answer the questions he [...]

  • 11. The de-Convert  |  December 10, 2007 at 9:50 am

    snowqueen,

    Great answers to the John MacArthurs’s questions quoted by Dan.

    all,

    Please see snowqueen’s response here also:

    http://inherentvalue.wordpress.com/2007/12/10/alternative-meme/

    Paul

  • 12. Yurka  |  December 10, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    “Ok. Does God have a good plan for my life or will he send the sword, famine and plagues against me?”

    This is a silly objection. Have you ever read the book of Job? If you honestly want to examine scripture, why would you even say something this illogical?

  • 13. boxofbirds  |  December 10, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    “I can do my part to demonstrate kindness and compassion and in making the world a better place without trying to somehow fit 21st century life into the archaic superstitious rituals of a tribe of desert nomads who lived thousands of years ago.”

    Brilliant. This pretty much sums up my opinion of Christianity.

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  December 10, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Yurka:

    Expand please. I’ve read Job many times and I’m not making the connection between your comment and Snowqueen’s.

  • 15. kerrin  |  December 10, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    what do you guys think of my previous comment, before Dan hijacked this discussion with this non-comment comment. I’m glad someone picked up on that.

    By the way snowqueen very intelligent answers to those questions. All of which, would make for some great conversation… maybe some other time.

  • 16. James  |  December 10, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I read a news about shooting in church in Colorado. Don’t know much about the behind story. Anyway, the Rev. Ted Haggard, the founder of New Life Church, one of the largest church in Colorado with about 10,000 members, was fired last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard, then the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted committing undisclosed “sexual immorality.”
    I’ve seen this kind of happenings many times, especially from the senior believers, who might have been in faith for decades.
    And they commit such sins against god. I read God abhors those sins. Young believers who are passionate are so strict in their behavior, but as they grow old, they go astray.
    I thought, if you ever met God, the Almighty, how could you commit such sins agains God?
    The conclusion that I made? It’s because they don’t think there is God. They only use God ‘the conceptual Almighty’ for some purpose.

  • 17. Jersey  |  December 10, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Why do we always phrase “our purpose in life”? What if we really have, or what if want our lives, to have many meanings? My life is to be a wife, a mother, a student, a scholar, a barista, be kind, be generous, be as good of a human being I can be…see what I mean?

  • 18. The de-Convert  |  December 11, 2007 at 12:07 am

    Here’s Rebecca’s response to the “hijacked this discussion” questions:

    http://fictionalcorporeality.blogspot.com/2007/12/snowqueen-posted-these-questions-from.html

  • 19. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 11, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I don’t know. The questions seem mostly nonsensical bullshit. The theistic “answer” to each is just a variation on “goddidit”, (except #6: How should one live? The theistic answer is in absolute submission to the prejudices and superstitions of violent, genocidal iron-age goat… er… herders.)

    The only two questions with even passing philosophical interest are #1 (By definition, everything that exists cannot come into being; it would have to come from something else, but there isn’t anything other than everything for it to come from) and #6 (Each person must, by physical necessity, live as he or she chooses; if you want to know how I personally want you to live, you can ask the question directly.)

  • 20. Pete  |  December 11, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Hi there,
    There’s a website that helps everybody find their own purpose in life. Check it out: Spirituality Information. The One Question

  • 21. snowqueen  |  December 11, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    My netfriend Daniel has also done a set of answers at http://goodreason.blogspot.com. check out his deconversion posts while you’re there.

    I definitely think this is a meme we should all spread – go for it! (and let me know)

  • 22. snowqueen  |  December 11, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    sorry that should have been http://goodreasonblog.blogspot.com

  • 23. The meaning of life. « Our Freedom of Espresso  |  December 11, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    [...] we each must decided what our lives’ purposes are, and then go from there. And what is mine, The de-Convert? …to live my life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make [...]

  • 24. The Meaning Of Life  |  May 1, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I think that purpose and religion are not connected with each other.

  • 25. drpauldyer  |  June 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

    You make some very good points here, but you I believe you’ve confused a couple of terms. We should conduct ourselves in a particular way, in other words live with kindness, humility, etc. However, this way of living is not the same thing as finding our purpose. Generally, the terms “life purpose” and “Calling” can be thought of as synonyms. And while I strongly agree with you that we are Called to use our God-given gifts and talents to make the work a better place, this general endeavor begs the more specific question of “how?” Answering the question about how and where to use our gifts and talents in order to make the world a better place is the question of finding purpose (or finding our Calling). And I believe this is one of the most important question of the human experience.

  • 26. Dr Paul Dyer  |  June 3, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I must also mention, that if we have a Calling, then there is One who calls. IMHO it makes no sense whatsoever to consider purpose with out asking what God’s role is in our lives.

  • 27. withheld  |  June 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    That is why The de-Convert uses the word purpose instead of calling. We don’t believe there is a caller, so there can be no calling. My life has no purpose in and of itself, so it is up to me to create a “life purpose”. That is kind of the point of this post.

  • 28. Ubi Dubium  |  June 3, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    This is really typical of the circular language twisting I see from xians that they use to “prove” their point. They call the universe a “creation” and then say that because it’s a “creation” there must be a “creator”. Same thing here. He says it’s a “calling” not a purpose, and then says that therefore there is a “caller”. Calling something by a word that assumes intent does nothing to establish that an intent is present. Mr. Dyer, such linguistic trickery will not work here.

  • 29. Quester  |  June 4, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Withheld, Ubi, other deconverts:

    How has creating/choosing one or more purposes to pursue with your lives been working out? I’m still working on choosing one, personally.

  • 30. ACN  |  June 4, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Hard. Intimidating. Scary.

    But it feels refreshing, I get to know that my choices are my own no matter what happens, and if I don’t like how things are working out I can even change my mind without worrying about opposing the divine plan of some deity.

  • 31. withheld  |  June 4, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I don’t know that I have much of an overall grand purpose that I can point to. How I live hasn’t really changed that much from when I was a believer. I am still a husband and a father, which takes most of my time and brings most of my joy.
    I think even acknowledging that I am flying blind is better than obsessing about what some inscrutable deity’s plan for my life might be.

  • 32. Ubi Dubium  |  June 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I think it’s always going to be a work in progress, and should be. Big overall statements of purpose are easy, things like “leaving the world a better place than I found it”. How I do that leads to more intermediate goals, like conservation, encouraging people to question their religion and raising my children to be conscienscious freethinkers. The real challenge sometimes is how to translate big statements of purpose and meaning down into day-to-day stuff.

    For instance, a recent goal of mine was to take the question of “why is religion so pervasive in human culture” and come up with an answer for myself that could be boiled down to a few simple statements, much the way we can quickly describe Darwin’s Theory as “heritability, variability, diffferential survival”. With a bunch of reading, especially of Michael Shermer and Valerie Tarico, I think I have done that. Now I have to figure out what’s best to do with that summary, how to use it to help others sort out their thinking. I’ll probably turn it into a blog post eventually.

  • 33. Quester  |  June 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Good points, all of you. One of my problems is that I have big thoughts, and little follow through. I’m lazy. But I do find it helpful to have a general goal in mind so that what I do actually do is pointed in that direction.

  • 34. David  |  May 22, 2012 at 7:20 am

    @ACN i’ve never been a believer, and now im going through a crisis, once i started using my brain more, the more i became aware of things, and yes, it is scary. Im still looking for a purpose, but i can’t think of anything, it seems illogical that there even should be a purpose, i fear that matter and time will never satisfy consious entities, atleast not until there is some massive breakthrough that brings humans closer together with freewill

  • 35. ubi dubium  |  May 22, 2012 at 9:23 am

    David,

    You create your own purpose, but you don’t have to figure out what that will be all at once. If you don’t find anything yet that you are passionate enough about to really take on, just learn all you can about questions that interest you right now. Maybe something will click for you, maybe not. But if, as the deconversion wager says, you live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place, that can be enough for a start.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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