3/02/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Dethblight ~
After I left Christianity, I spent quite some time looking for a "replacement philosophy". A philosophy is a nice thing to have... it's a nice neat little package we can show to the world when they ask us what we believe. It is the distilled essence of who we see ourselves to be. Everyone else has an ism, so we feel like we need one as well. Even with atheism, many people treat it as a belief system, or a summary of beliefs, rather than the lack of belief that it actually is. But maybe that's the problem. It occurred to me about two months ago, that maybe I don't need an ism, or a replacement philosophy.
Ironically, once I stopped looking for a replacement philosophy, one kind of fell into my lap. Once I stopped looking for a replacement philosophy, I stumbled onto the same basic idea that Epicurus and Bentham had before me. It seems to me, that once you remove God from the equation, life becomes meaningless. Most people, if you say "life is meaningless" automatically see this as a bad thing... but is it really? Well, let's look at what that really means.
Meaningless is only bad if you've come to expect everything to have meaning. In order for anything to be meaningful, someone or something has to assign meaning to it. So if there is no God to assign special meaning to life, existence, etc, then those things are... well, they just are. And that's the trick, not trying to figure out how life can have meaning without God, but rather realizing that something does not have to have meaning to be good. That relies on a subjective viewpoint.
However, if nothing has any value assigned to it, then things are only valuable in and of themselves. I'll say it again, because it is absolutely key... if there is no force to assign meaning to a thing to make it good or bad subjectively, then the only value that thing has is that of which it is self-possessed. Things are only good insomuch as they cause or promote pleasure, and things are only bad insomuch as they cause or promote pain. It is that simple.
The great secret of life is no big secret at all. It's been sitting there in plain sight for anyone who is interested to see. If it's not hurting anyone, and it makes you happy... go for it. Now I could drag this on for pages and pages like any REAL philosopher would... defining pleasure, defining pain, examining ambiguous cases... but there's no need for all that. This is a very basic, common-sense type thing, and in most situations, it is quite clear whether a thing is causing pain or pleasure, and which one it causes more of.
Call it what you want... "live and let live", "can't we all just get along", whatever. Now if I could just come up with a quotable quote to summarize years and months of serious "soul-searching" (haha) and self-examination... how about: "Only once you have realized that life is meaningless, does life start to take on true meaning." (hey, that's pretty good!)