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In Praise of Frivolity

“How can life have meaning without God?”

Pretty much every atheist or humanist I know has gotten this question. It’s often asked in a smug, passive-aggressive way by religious believers who seem to think it’s a real zinger, a deal-breaker of a question that we’ve somehow never contemplated. But it’s sometimes asked in all sincerity, by religious believers who genuinely can’t comprehend what meaning itself could even mean without a divine creator handing it to us from on high. And of course, we humanists ask it ourselves. We ask it of each other—and answer it for each other—when we’re presenting a positive, public face of happy, ethical, meaningful atheism. And we ask it of ourselves in private, in all sincerity, in our long dark nights of the soul-less. The thorny question of life’s meaning isn’t magically answered by a belief in God—but it doesn’t magically disappear when we let go of that belief, either.

When humanists consider this question of meaning without God, of what gives us meaning and how we create it, we often answer with The Big Things. Love. Art. Marriage and family. Friendship. Community. Charity work. Making the world a better place. The never-ending search for knowledge. All of which are awesome; all of which are central parts of how I create meaning in my own life.

But I’d like to add a few things to that list.

Dynamo donutsWhat brings meaning to my life? Donuts. Fashion magazines. Costume jewelry. Playing “Cards Against Humanity.” Pretentious overpriced cocktails with a lot of silly crap in them. Fooling around on Facebook. Looking at cute cat videos on the Internet, over and over and over again. TiVoing the Olympics and watching the really obscure sports we’ve never heard of. Coming up with a sexy, gorgeous, wildly inappropriate outfit to wear to the Dyke March. Padron peppers sautéed in hot olive oil until they blister, then sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Sitting on the sofa watching Project Runway and letting cats crawl all over us. The never-ending search for a perfect cup of decaf coffee.

I want to speak in praise of frivolity.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for The Humanist magazine, In Praise of Frivolity. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. RealityEnforcer, Roaming Bear, terror of the Boy Scouts says

    I have a minor quibble. There’s no such thing as perfect decaf coffee. :P

    Other than that, right on!

  2. stonyground says

    “How can life have meaning without God?”
    How can anyone be so divorced from reality to even think of asking this question?

    Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Music, Motorcycles, Cars, Beer, Wine, Whisky, Good Food, Sex, Creativity, Beautiful landscapes, Watches, Etc, Etc, for ever. You only get one life, there is no Heaven or hell, no afterlife, you have to live every second of your one and only life as well as you can, because you don’t get another chance. Believers in Abrahamic religions, don’t take my word for it, it is in your Bible, Eccleiastes chapter 9 Verses 4 – 10

  3. says

    As is my usual way of thinking, I’d like to turn this question around completely and come about it from a different angle. In response to the question, “How can life have meaning without God?”, I’d like to ask, “How can life have meaning *with* God?” No, really, I’m totally serious here! How can our lives have meaning if we’re nothing but little automatons, created by a very powerful being, for his amusement, and only for the purpose of praising him? He gave us brains which are capable of creative thinking, and thus capable of creating meaning in our lives, but we’re not supposed to use them. Instead, we’re supposed to simply sit around a tell God how wonderful he is, every day, every year. But he already knows how wonderful he is, so… what’s the point? Where’s the meaning in not thinking and simply being recording to tell someone something which they already know?

    I think I need to write my own article in my blog about this. Seriously, I think the original question totally misses the point and I like my new question in response much better, but then I’m just contrary like that! :)

  4. Matrim says

    Eeeeee! You play CAH!!! If you make it out to Skepticon this year we should totally play! I know “Pac-Man uncontrollably guzzling cum” gives my life meaning.

  5. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Posts like these also give my life meaning. Very well said Greta. I’ve always felt that one of the great things about not believing in an afterlife is that it allows me to savor the simple pleasures of life that could otherwise seem trivial or even go unnoticed. A couple weeks ago after playing tennis, my wife and I watched about a dozen bats feasting on a swarm of moths that were attracted to the flood lights above the tennis courts. The bats zigged and zagged with amazing speed and dexterity. And we just sat and watched for ten minutes or more. These are the moments that make life wonderful.

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