How to find spirituality or a sense of deeper meaning as an atheist / agnostic

surface

Executive Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2006
Messages
7,974
I dont like to refer to myself as an atheist, because that word, just like the word "bigot", has lost its meaning. I call myself a nihilist.
I get you but there are many overused/misinterpreted words like that. Theory means idle speculation for many. For example, I have a theory that Mmusi was a ANC cadre sent to destroy DA from within. Oh really, is it my theory now? So did you stop using word theory as well ? e.g. what would you call germ theory of disease?
 

Arksun

Expert Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2010
Messages
1,550
I get you but there are many overused/misinterpreted words like that. Theory means idle speculation for many. For example, I have a theory that Mmusi was a ANC cadre sent to destroy DA from within. Oh really, is it my theory now? So did you stop using word theory as well ? e.g. what would you call germ theory of disease?
100%. You hit the nail square in the bollocks.

The word theory gets misused a lot by the ignorant. Where the word gets used in regular speech, like where you about your theory about Mmusi being a mole - in that context suggesting theory meaning something simple like a hunch. It annoys me a lot when people take that definition of the word theory into discussions about scientific theories, especially in an attempt to discredit the theory of evolution, where the word means something else entirely. I'm sure that annoys you too. I usually tell those people to test the theory of gravity by jumping off the roof of a tall building.

Hell, even the word nihilist has lost its meaning. People now think nihilism is a depro circle-jerk, where it's in reality quite the opposite.
 

oRiX

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2010
Messages
199
"We are stardust."

The most beautiful idea science has. If spirituality is the feeling that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, Carl Sagan has a few perspectives that can really fill you with amazement.

"Humans are the way through which the universe understands itself"

It's kinda spiritualist 1970's but it really helped me to cement my position that being an atheist doesn't mean you have no depth of feeling or capacity to be awed. It explains our impermanence and our duty to ourselves and our species. Just keep moving forward.
 
Last edited:

grok

Honorary Master
Joined
Dec 20, 2007
Messages
20,747
I'm no expert in all this but have you considered getting a dog? Preferably a big one that you can wrestle & get physical with. People have therapy dogs for all kinds of things nowadays, why not for deeper meaning/spirituality?
Taking care of a living being will give your day meaning, and as a companion you'll find no better than a 4-legged playful doofus who looks up to you.
 

saor

Honorary Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2012
Messages
22,738
Getting to meaning might take some meandering...

Q: How did the universe come into being?

And a response I like is that it's not necessary to think of the answer as a thing; that thinking about what gave rise to our universe as something singular is to think about things in human terms. It's as though we were frogs in a pond, pondering the source of the stream that flowed into this place. And we might be tempted to think of it in singular terms, with our ribbit language and ideas.

But the eagle with its broader perspective would see that the source isn't singular - the stream is part of a greater unfolding of nature in which in makes little sense to point at a particular cross-section of that unfolding (like pointing at the rain) and assuming that's the complete story.

And if we view our universe as emerging from a greater unfolding of something even more indescribable to us as evaporation is to frogs, then we can see our universe and everything in it as part of a great unfolding.

And from perspective of unfolding is an opportunity to be at peace.

Because when we regard ourselves as reality unfolding, we can accept ourselves as we are. We haven't fallen from grace or fell short of any glory. We are as we are - as natural a part of reality as trees and tigers.

crack-12.png
But then something happened.

A crack appeared and the strings were cut and I found myself at the bottom of a dark hole. And the ground that gave way was the realization that in a great unfolding, there is no inherent meaning. There is no purpose or plan described to which we might orient ourselves in our search for meaning.

But the beautiful thing about being at bottom, is we're at the best place to start building something from the ground up. If we find ourselves as beings who deem meaning important - then we can create it. And this is the meaning that matters. When we release our dependency on meaning being externally defined and instead recognize our own ability to define it for ourselves - then meaning isn't elusive. But it still takes work and a willingness to walk your own path.

So rejoice that that universe has no inherent meaning.
And be glad that we can create it for ourselves.
 

Bobbin

Executive Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2009
Messages
7,042
So rejoice that that universe has no inherent meaning.
And be glad that we can create it for ourselves.
My take is that we don't know if the universe has any inherent meaning. But even if it does, we can never possibly know either.

Subjectivity/rationality... your mind... consciousness/awareness... the bubble of your complete knowledge... whatever you want to call it... cannot really know the external. It can only try symbolize what it observes/detects relatively from the external.

These symbols/thoughts are nothing but representations completely prone to error, misinterpretation, bias and always a degree of uncertainty.

To really know the universe your mind has to be the universe. Seems impossible to me.

Make sense?

So how should we act then? If we all create our own meaning, who's meaning is right/wrong/bad/evil/good?
 

saor

Honorary Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2012
Messages
22,738
These symbols/thoughts are nothing but representations completely prone to error, misinterpretation, bias and always a degree of uncertainty.

To really know the universe your mind has to be the universe. Seems impossible to me.
I never meant to imply absolute truth.
I meant to imply that sometimes the best we can do is tell ourselves stories that resonate.

And in the face of an unknowable reality, a story that tickles my brain is that we are the engines of our own meaning; that we can dare to pick up the reigns and and give it a go. Like a newborn animal wobbly getting to its feet, we can feebly take a stab at shifting the locus of meaning from something out there to something that arises from within.

Your mind is presumably the part of reality you are most familiar with, so it makes sense that if meaning is important to you that you engage in the creative act of starting to sketch out meaning for yourself. And as silly as it might feel at times (because we've been led to believe meaning is only found 'out there'?), I think it's a useful approach to the question of meaning.

We can spend an eternity hoping to find it out there.
Or we can play the game of constructing it right here.
 
  • Like
Reactions: GoB

saor

Honorary Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2012
Messages
22,738
So how should we act then? If we all create our own meaning, who's meaning is right/wrong/bad/evil/good?
To step outside the question of this thread for a moment....I generally think 'meaning' is a silly word. I have things I enjoy doing and don't need to further consider those acts in terms of 'meaning'. The pleasure I take in doing something is the direct experience I enjoy. The post-analysis of questioning the meaning is a pointless step for most things.
 

Bobbin

Executive Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2009
Messages
7,042
To step outside the question of this thread for a moment....I generally think 'meaning' is a silly word. I have things I enjoy doing and don't need to further consider those acts in terms of 'meaning'. The pleasure I take in doing something is the direct experience I enjoy. The post-analysis of questioning the meaning is a pointless step for most things.
I think the fear here is one of moral relativism. With this allowance if someone takes pleasure in, or justifies, harming others (or me) there is no argument about his moral framework enabling his behavior being any more relevant or better/worse than the victim. His "meaning" is just as relevant as anyone else. It also promotes tribalism. And justifies all manner of conflict in ideologies and religions.

Again this is why I advocate for individualism. I always seem to arrive at this point as a favorable answer, hopefully not through some sort of confirmation bias or short sightedness - but I don't know.

So sure, I think everyone can pursue their own passion or meaning - but in the confines of their own privacy. That doesn't stop nations, religions, ideologies, groups or even personal behavior at all. It just stops or challenges the aggressive/trashy aspects of them. Individualism is a moral term, not a term meaning individual segregation as it is commonly interpreted as (because it has the word individual in it lol).

Not sure if that is agreeable?

EDIT: Well, I suppose if I were a collectivist I'd not seek your agreement :p
 
Last edited:

saor

Honorary Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2012
Messages
22,738
I think the fear here is one of moral relativism. With this allowance if someone takes pleasure in, or justifies, harming others (or me) there is no argument about his moral framework enabling his behavior being any more relevant or better/worse than the victim. His "meaning" is just as relevant as anyone else. It also promotes tribalism. And justifies all manner of conflict in ideologies and religions.
That fear is valid only if meaning implies motivation. But I've never really understood meaning to be that kind of thing. Meaning seems to be mostly a way of analyzing our actions at some later stage in an attempt to give it context & sense within a broader picture of reality. I'm advocating doing the same thing if that's your tendency, but simply to constrain the context & sense to oneself and your own view of the world.

If someone liked baking cakes, they might ask themselves as they lay in bed at night: "but does baking cakes have any meaning?'' And in this case trying to contextualize cake baking within some broader view of reality seems like the unnecessary step. Meaning is also not a motivating factor in their cake baking - it's a post baked-cake action they're trying to append to the act of cake baking. Maybe that's just something we habitually do as humans - seeking external validation for the things we do and we've called that habit 'finding meaning'. But I still don't really know what 'meaning' means for other people.

Dunno...meaning seems to be a very fluid concept but never really concrete.
 
Last edited:

GoB

Expert Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2008
Messages
1,490
IYour mind is presumably the part of reality you are most familiar with, so it makes sense that if meaning is important to you that you engage in the creative act of starting to sketch out meaning for yourself. And as silly as it might feel at times (because we've been led to believe meaning is only found 'out there'?), I think it's a useful approach to the question of meaning.
I came to a similar conclusion. Or maybe I have no concern with meaning, but only in fulfilling my needs... which are hard enough to discover.

I don't understand how someone can think their life is lacking meaning unless they have some nagging feeling/emotion/useful signal to indicate this?
And if there are reasons for this feeling, they can be broken down to needs to be fulfilled.
 
Top