"Atheism and Meaning in Life" in The Oxford Handbook of Meaning in Life

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Chapter in a Book

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This chapter takes the case of Sisyphus as a springboard for an examination of meaning in human life under the assumptions that there is no God, there are no non-physicals souls, there is no afterlife, reincarnation never occurs, and each human being’s death marks the permanent end of his or her actions and experiences. Different types of meaning that a life might have are distinguished, most importantly intrinsic meaning and extrinsic meaning, and various sources of meaning in life in a godless universe are identified. These include love, flow, identifying with or working toward something larger than oneself, responding to unavoidable suffering in a certain way, and contributing to social or individual harmony. Following that, some prominent arguments for the view that atheism implies that all human lives are meaningless are critically examined. The conclusion of that discussion is that the claim that atheism entails meaninglessness is implausible.