The Instigator
ben-gurion
Pro (for)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
feverish
Con (against)
Winning
19 Points

For Atheists There Is No Meaning Of Life

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
feverish
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/22/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,372 times Debate No: 8737
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (18)
Votes (5)

 

ben-gurion

Pro

My resolution states that an atheist cannot explain away his intelligent, sentient existence- in other words, his existence is just a part of the ecology, and he himself has no reason to live. Theists, however, believe that they exist in order to serve God (this goes by Judaism, Christianity and Islam) or other related reasons.

Atheist- One who disbelieves or denies the existence of a God, or supreme intelligent Being. http://dictionary.reference.com...

Sentient- Characterized by sensation and consciousness. http://dictionary.reference.com...

Existence- Continuance in being or life. http://dictionary.reference.com...

Ecology- The branch of biology dealing with the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment, including other organisms. http://dictionary.reference.com...

My opponent must present reasons for the continued existence of mankind from the atheistic perspective- he must bring possible meanings for life.

I hope this will be a lively discussion.
feverish

Con

Many thanks to my opponent for instigating this fascinating debate and I take this opportunity to cordially welcome him into the DDO community.

I will keep this first round fairly brief because I feel that as instigator and Pro my opponent should be making some arguments to prove his resolution and because I believe my initial position is a fairly straight-forward one.

An atheist's existence can easily be explained and there can be much meaning to his or her life.

My opponent fails to define 'consciousness' or 'meaning of life', perhaps the two most intangible concepts he refers to.
I will use the top definitions I got using the define tool on google:

Consciousness-an alert cognitive state in which you are aware of yourself and your situation; "he lost consciousness"
http://www.google.co.uk...

-The meaning of life constitutes a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of human existence. http://www.google.co.uk...=

To explain the sentient, conscious existence of humans without recourse to fantastical myths of supernatural creation and design we need only look at the theories of science and primarily evolution.

Like all animals human beings have senses and are conscious when awake.

Intelligence is a trait that greatly benefits individual and species survival. Humans have evolved sufficient intelligence to be very good at reproducing and surviving. http://www.bartleby.com...

The significance of continued reproduction and survival is the reason and the biological purpose for the continuation of human life. Therefore one possible meaning of life.

This applies to atheists, theists and agnostics alike.

I have more to say but I think that will do for now, I look forward to my opponent's arguments and rebuttals.
Debate Round No. 1
ben-gurion

Pro

Thank you for accepting this debate.

"I will keep this first round fairly brief because I feel that as instigator and Pro my opponent should be making some arguments to prove his resolution and because I believe my initial position is a fairly straight-forward one."

Generally I would agree with that, but in this case I simply deny any reason for individual existence, therefore my burden of proof lies with me having to rebut any possible reason.

"My opponent fails to define 'consciousness' or 'meaning of life', perhaps the two most intangible concepts he refers to.
I will use the top definitions I got using the define tool on google:"

I accept those definitions.

"The significance of continued reproduction and survival is the reason and the biological purpose for the continuation of human life. Therefore one possible meaning of life."

Survival and reproduction are not the reasons for the continuation of human life. Rather, the continuation of human life is the reason for survival and reproduction. But what is the reason for the continuation of human life?

My contention:
Materialistic desires are meaningless, seeing as one dies anyway-and what has he gained from his riches, food etc.? Ecclesiastes http://www.biblegateway.com... (a fantastic book, which is part of Writings, which in turn is part of the bible. I have brought the main theme.)
And yet atheists have no otherworldly strives, so from their point of view everything is materialistic, so everything is meaningless, and so there is no meaning for life.

I have affirmed my resolution. So far I am happy with the way this debate is turning out.
feverish

Con

Thanks Ben and I'm glad you're happy.

"Generally I would agree with that, but in this case I simply deny any reason for individual existence, therefore my burden of proof lies with me having to rebut any possible reason."

An interesting opinion, however I do feel that I should warn you that some voters on this site may take a dim view of debaters who only rebut without posting arguments.

http://www.debate.org...
As my opponent will see from this link it is a hotly contested issue on this site, some think the instigator always bears it, some say it is always Pro, some expect both sides to offer some arguments which is the opinion I tend to take.

-----
My opponent's only rebuttal:

"Survival and reproduction are not the reasons for the continuation of human life. Rather, the continuation of human life is the reason for survival and reproduction. But what is the reason for the continuation of human life?"

This is a fairly nonsensical argument, a little bit like the chicken and egg conundrum in that one cannot exist without the other.
Human life could not continue without survival and reproduction therefore they are indeed reasons for the continuation of human life.

As conscious beings we seek out what brings us pleasure. We have evolved to find pleasure in things that aid our survival and reproduction, things like food, shelter and sex, the same way we have evolved to fear disease and castration.

If you are ever lucky enough to reproduce and have children of your own, you will know that it brings great pleasure and a feeling that you have been part of something amazing and that your life now has meaning. This is true whether you are atheist, Jew, agnostic, Christian or Muslim.

Pleasure can bring meaning to life.
Reproduction certainly can.

'No it isn't' is not a good rebuttal.
-----

My opponent's only contention:

"Materialistic desires are meaningless, seeing as one dies anyway-and what has he gained from his riches, food etc.? Ecclesiastes http://www.biblegateway.com...... (a fantastic book, which is part of Writings, which in turn is part of the bible. I have brought the main theme.)
And yet atheists have no otherworldly strives, so from their point of view everything is materialistic, so everything is meaningless, and so there is no meaning for life."

My opponent argues that to an atheist "everything is materialistic". This is simply not true and my opponent provides no evidence to support this opinion.

Pleasure is not material.
The wonder of childbirth is not material.
Appreciation of art transcends the material.

I am very pleased to see my opponent bring Ecclesiastes into this debate, I agree that it is a fantastic book and I have quoted from it myself several times on this forum before. I love all of the "it is useless, it is like chasing the wind.."

"Although traditionally ascribed to Solomon (who is identified as the author in the text), it was clearly written much later (c.300 BC)."
http://qanda.encyclopedia.com...

It is the woeful, despairing cry of a pious worshipper of God who receives little reward for his faith, ( a bit like some sections of Job) , these are some of my favourite bits:

"God has laid a miserable fate upon us." 1: 13

" 9 What do we gain from all our work?10 I know the heavy burdens that God has laid on us." 3

"2 I envy those who are dead and gone; they are better off than those who are still alive.3 But better off than either are those who have never been born, who have never seen the injustice that goes on in this world." 4

"2 God will give us wealth, honor, and property, yes, everything we want, but then will not let us enjoy it. Some stranger will enjoy it instead. It is useless, and it just isn't right." 6

".5 Yes, the living know they are going to die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward; they are completely forgotten.6 Their loves, their hates, their passions, all died with them. They will never again take part in anything that happens in this world.
7 Go ahead - eat your food and be happy; drink your wine and be cheerful. It's all right with God.8 Always look happy and cheerful.9 Enjoy life with the one you love, as long as you live the useless life that God has given you in this world. Enjoy every useless day of it, because that is all you will get for all your trouble.10 Work hard at whatever you do, because there will be no action, no thought, no knowledge, no wisdom in the world of the dead - and that is where you are going."

All from: http://www.biblegateway.com...

I would argue that this could be interpreted to suggest that even with God life has no meaning.

It is interesting that the author does not encourage us to look forward to our rewards in heaven but rather to enjoy what we can during our short time on Earth which hardly supports my opponent's points. In fact he doesn't seem to believe in an afterlife at all, which I guess explains why as a religious person his life is meaningless.
---
I feel that I have presented several meanings of life that do not rely on any religion or belief in an afterlife.
Life has meaning without religion. For everyone, including atheists.

I look forward to my opponent's final round, perhaps we will be able to go a little deeper into what life is truly about.

Thankyou.
Con.
Debate Round No. 2
ben-gurion

Pro

"An interesting opinion, however I do feel that I should warn you that some voters on this site may take a dim view of debaters who only rebut without posting arguments."
As you can see, I ended up giving a contention, so no harm done.

"This is a fairly nonsensical argument, a little bit like the chicken and egg conundrum in that one cannot exist without the other.
Human life could not continue without survival and reproduction therefore they are indeed reasons for the continuation of human life."
It is very sensible, seeing as the cause and effect chain does not work forwards and backwards. The chicken and egg conundrum is completely different as it denotes the chicken's cycle of life. I am not debating the human's life cycle, rather the reason for the human's life.

"As conscious beings we seek out what brings us pleasure. We have evolved to find pleasure in things that aid our survival and reproduction, things like food, shelter and sex, the same way we have evolved to fear disease and castration."
Pleasure is a temporary experience, and is forgotten almost instantly, and when one dies what did his pleasures matter? One cannot say "I have experienced pleasure, therefore my life has meaning." If so, then when his pleasure dies away, his life's meaning dies too?!

"If you are ever lucky enough to reproduce and have children of your own, you will know that it brings great pleasure and a feeling that you have been part of something amazing and that your life now has meaning. This is true whether you are atheist, Jew, agnostic, Christian or Muslim."
I am in no way demeaning the joy that childbirth brings, and yet I cannot see how this brings meaning to life. If so, if this is truly life's meaning, then how can the people that do not marry and have kids explain themselves? Is one who has had kids more valued and more meaningful than one who cannot have children, for various reasons? According to my opponent's arguments, a sterile person has no meaning to his life.

"My opponent argues that to an atheist "everything is materialistic". This is simply not true and my opponent provides no evidence to support this opinion."
My opponent is correct on this point; I concede that comment, and I will instead say this:
TEMPORARY desires are meaningless, seeing as one dies anyway-and what has he gained from his riches, food etc.? Ecclesiastes http://www.biblegateway.com...... (a fantastic book, which is part of Writings, which in turn is part of the bible. I have brought the main theme.)
And yet atheists have no otherworldly strives, so from their point of view everything is TEMPORARY, so everything is meaningless, and so there is no meaning for life.
My opponent's three examples show temporary experiences that ultimately come to nothing (with the possible exception of childbirth, and yet I believe that I have successfully refuted that part).

"I would argue that this could be interpreted to suggest that even with God life has no meaning."
The words of King Solomon are complex to the extreme-there are many opinions as to what he is trying to say. I will go by the view that says as follows: "King Solomon is trying to say that when all has been considered, man's entire duty is to serve god (penultimate verse), and deterence from that duty will resolve in a meaningless life that "has brought forth no fruits"." Tractate Bava Kama. In other words, once the presence of a higher power is accepted, life takes on an entirely different meaning, and all of a sudden human existence is not for itself, but is at the hands of another power (the reasons for that are controversial- G-d wants us to do his will, etc.).

"I feel that I have presented several meanings of life that do not rely on any religion or belief in an afterlife.
Life has meaning without religion. For everyone, including atheists."
I have proved otherwise-temporary experience cannot denote meaning for life. Resolution Affirmed.

"Thankyou."
No, thank you. This has been a refreshing debate.

As a last word, I urge the voters to vote not for what they believe, but for who made more respectable arguments.
Vote Pro.
feverish

Con

Thanks again to my opponent for this interesting and enjoyable debate.

"I am not debating the human's life cycle, rather the reason for the human's life."

Me too and as I said survival and reproduction are reasons for the continuation of human life. Organisms exist so that cells can duplicate themselves more effectively. This is a reason for life.

"Pleasure is a temporary experience, and is forgotten almost instantly, and when one dies what did his pleasures matter?"

Pleasure is not purely temporary.
Recalling pleasurable experiences can bring renewed pleasure.
Long lasting pleasure can be achieved through a loving relationship, through childbirth as discussed previously and also through less tangible means like the satisfaction of past achievements.

People often talk about one's life 'flashing before your eyes' when you face death. In this instance a life filled with pleasure would surely give more satisfaction and meaning than a life filled with self-denial and declined opportunities.

"According to my opponent's arguments, a sterile person has no meaning to his life."

Childbirth was only one of several ways I suggested that a person could find meaning in life. While a sterile person's life may have no biological purpose, it can still be filled with meaning.
Also by adopting or otherwise raising a child as your own a person can experience all the emotional life-affirming benefits of having children of their own, not least the satisfaction of nurturing and caring for an individual who may go on to have kids themselves.

"TEMPORARY desires are meaningless"

No, permanent desires are meaningless because they can never be attained.

"The words of King Solomon are complex to the extreme-there are many opinions as to what he is trying to say. I will go by the view that says as follows..."

As my opponent accepts that his interpretation of 'The Philosopher's' words is only one of many and I have provided a perfectly valid alternative interpretation, I don't think he can build much of a case around Ecclesiastes.
Negated.

----------------------
The meaning of life is of course totally subjective and I think arguing that any one thing is the only true meaning of life is intrinsically flawed as well as impossible to prove.
One's life has meaning only to the extent that one applies meaning to it.

My opponent has not explicitly stated what he believes the meaning of life to be, but as he states that it precludes atheism and everything temporary, I can only assume that it is something along the lines of 'serve God so you can go to Heaven'.
The problem with this is that a life lived for this purpose only has meaning if your beliefs are in fact true.
Imagine there's no heaven (RIP J.L.) If this is the case then a life devoted to reaching Heaven is entirely meaningless.

All people of faith must experience doubt at some point and I would have thought that these doubts would become most acute when death is immediately anticipated. If you hold the conviction that there is no afterlife then a life of duty, devotion and sacrifice to religion is pointless and without meaning, as I argued regarding Ecclesiastes.

To conclude this debate, I will draw on the work of some of the many philosophers who have considered this age old question and come to conclusions that are completely at odds with my opponent. These are all from Wikipedia (lazy I know) but can easily be backed up elsewhere.

"In Platonism, the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge, which is the Idea (Form) of the Good, from which all good and just things derive utility and value. Human beings are duty-bound to pursue the good, but no one can succeed in that pursuit without philosophical reasoning, which allows for true knowledge."

http://en.wikipedia.org...

"Camus made a significant contribution to a viewpoint of the Absurd, and always rejected nihilism as a valid response.

'If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something that still has a meaning.' Second Letter to a German Friend, December 1943.

What still had meaning for Camus is that despite humans being subjects in an indifferent and "absurd" universe, in which meaning is challenged by the fact that we all die, meaning can be created, however provisionally and unstably, by our own decisions and interpretations."
http://en.wikipedia.org...

"the Cynic philosophers said that the purpose of life is living a life of Virtue that agrees with Nature"
http://en.wikipedia.org...

I believe that if the whole meaning of your life is to ensure survival in the afterlife, then your life itself has no meaning. It exists only to reach that end.
If you think you've led a good life up to now and your only reason for living is to serve God and enter Heaven, then presumably you would not object to your otherwise meaningless life ending right now. For most theists this is not actually the case.

However meaning can be found in life through many things, from reproduction to artistic achievement and from altruism to hedonism.
We give life meaning by giving it value.

"I urge the voters to vote not for what they believe, but for who made more respectable arguments."

I enthusiastically second this proposal, although unfortunately it is seldom the case in religious debates on this site.

Thankyou.

(My opponent is not Christian but I hope the second video does not offend any Christians reading the debate, the intention is levity not mockery.)
Debate Round No. 3
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by kukupser 7 years ago
kukupser
I think that religious people are able to choose their own paths, although they may be limited. As an atheist I think my meaning of life is to try to make the world a better place. I just don't need a God or anybody to tell me to do it.
Posted by aimeejoe 7 years ago
aimeejoe
Hey feverish; No I had not voted here yet. I don't know why. I am new to this site and I am just getting my bearings. I have cast my vote however so you can see how things went.
Posted by MrButtons22 7 years ago
MrButtons22
"What's the point of living if you could have a better life in heaven?" This is like saying, "What's the point in practicing if you are going to play basketball?" This life, according to Christianity, is a test of our faith in Christ, as well as our perseverence on earth. Everything the Christian does should be with Heaven in view. See I Cor. 3:11-15; and especially II Tim. 4:7-8 (which was written by Paul shortly before he was to be beheaded for his faith.).
Posted by Common_Sense_Please 7 years ago
Common_Sense_Please
I wholeheartedly agree aimeejoe
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
feverish
Hi aimeejoe, did you vote? and if so are you sure you voted the way you intended to?

I only ask because you seem to agree with me but my opponent got more votes around the time you commented, whereas I was winning before.

Maybe just coincidence, thanks for your comment anyway.
Posted by aimeejoe 7 years ago
aimeejoe
As an atheist I am actually finding MORE meaning to my life. Once I took off the blindfold of religion I could finally see the world and all of its glory. My life means so much more to me now knowing that this is my one ride and I better make the best of it.
Posted by I-am-a-panda 7 years ago
I-am-a-panda
The below comment was directed at atheist man.
Posted by I-am-a-panda 7 years ago
I-am-a-panda
Because of debates that weren't properly defined.
Posted by Amphibian 7 years ago
Amphibian
Its called hedonism.
Posted by atheistman 7 years ago
atheistman
Why are there so many retarded debates like this?
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aimeejoe
ben-gurionfeverishTied
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sadolite
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