Agnostics explore the meaning of life in matters of the intellect, follow their reason as far as it will take them, without regard to any other consideration and agree ‘not to know’ because they have no definitive scientific evidence of the existence of a greater power, such as a god. Religious zealots are often viewed as ignorant by agnostics’ because of their blind following of a supreme being which may or may not exist. Agnostics will often question the existence of a supreme power because a lot of modern religious beliefs have no basis in modern logic; therefore blind following of popular religions is viewed as an easy out for people who chose not to think for themselves. On the other end of the spectrum, unlike atheists, an agnostic uses a more scientific approach to their belief system. An agnostic knows that just because there is no physical proof of the existence of a higher being, it does not automatically mean that one does not exist. An agnostic views an atheist on the same plane as a religious zealot; often because the belief that human beings are the pinnacle of intelligence and there are few things that we do not or have the potential to understand. The realization of knowing that “we cannot know everything” is the backbone of the agnostic belief.
Atheists do not believe God created the universe nor that they need scientific evidence to prove this. Atheists, are quite sure that this life is precious and should be lived to the full but do not all regard an objective meaning or purpose as necessary — or even as positive.
The Buddhist sūtras and tantras do not speak about the meaning of life but about the potential of human life to end suffering, for example through embracing cravings and conceptual attachments. Buddhists practice to embrace with mindfulness the ill-being (suffering) and well-being that is present in life. Buddhists practice to see the causes of ill-being and well-being in life. For example, one of the causes of suffering is unhealthy attachment to objects material or non-material. The Buddhist sūtras and tantras do not speak about “the meaning of life” or “the purpose of life”, but about the potential of human life to end suffering, for example through embracing (not suppressing or denying) cravings and conceptual attachments. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from both suffering and rebirth.
Mahayana Buddhist schools de-emphasize the traditional view of the release from individual Suffering and attainment of Awakening (Nirvana). In Mahayana, the Buddha is seen as an eternal, immutable, inconceivable, omni present being. The fundamental principles of Mahayana doctrine are based on the possibility of universal liberation from suffering for all beings, and the existence of the transcendent Buddha-nature, which is the eternal Buddha essence present, but hidden and unrecognised, in all living beings.
According to the Christian Bible the reason we are here is for God’s glory. We were created by him according to his desire, and our lives are to be lived for him so that we might accomplish what he has for us to do. When we trust the one who has made us then we are able to live a life of purpose. How the particulars of that purpose are expressed is up to the individual. Life’s purpose in Christianity is to seek divine salvation through the grace of God and intercession of Christ. The New Testament speaks of God wanting to have a relationship with humans both in this life and the life to come, which can happen only if one’s sins are forgiven. In the Christian view, humankind was made in the Image of God and perfect, but the Fall of Man caused the progeny of the first Parents to inherit Original Sin. The sacrifice of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection provide the means for transcending that impure state. The means for doing so varies between different groups of Christians, but all rely on belief in Jesus, his work on the cross and his resurrection as the fundamental starting point for a relationship with God. The Gospel maintains that through this belief, the barrier that sin has created between man and God is destroyed, and allows God to change people and instil in them a new heart after his own will, and the ability to do it.
In all schools of Hinduism, the meaning of life is tied up in the concepts of karma, the cycle of birth and rebirth, and liberation. Existence is conceived as the progression of the soul across numerous lifetimes, and its ultimate progression towards liberation from karma. Since Hinduism was the way of expressing meaningful living for a long time, before there was a need for naming it as a separate religion, Hindu doctrines are supplementary and complementary in nature, generally non-exclusive, suggestive and tolerant in content. Most believe that the ātman (spirit, soul)—the person’s true self—is eternal. In part, this stems from Hindu beliefs that spiritual development occurs across many lifetimes, and goals should match the state of development of the individual. There are four possible aims to human life, known as the purusharthas (ordered from least to greatest):Kāma (wish, desire, love and sensual pleasure), Artha (wealth, prosperity, glory), Dharma (righteousness, duty, morality, virtue, ethics), encompassing notions such as ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth) and Moksha (liberation, i.e. liberation from Saṃsāra, the cycle of reincarnation). Particular goals for life are generally subsumed under broader yogas (practices) or dharma (correct living) which are intended to create more favorable reincarnations, though they are generally positive acts in this life as well. In short, the goal is to realize the fundamental truth about oneself.
An alternative, humanistic approach poses the question “What is the meaning of my life?” They believe that the human species came to be by reproducing successive generations in a progression of unguided evolution as an integral expression of nature, which is self-existing. Human knowledge comes from human observation, experimentation, and rational analysis (the scientific method), and not from supernatural sources; the nature of the universe is what people discern it to be. Likewise, “values and realities” are determined “by means of intelligent inquiry” and “are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience”, that is, by critical intelligence. People determine human purpose without supernatural influence; it is the human personality that is the purpose of a human being’s life. Humanism seeks to develop and fulfil: “Humanism affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment that aspire to the greater good of humanity”. Humanism aims to promote enlightened self-interest and the common good for all people. It is based on the premises that the happiness of the individual person is inextricably linked to the well-being of all humanity, in part because humans are social animals who find meaning in personal relations and because cultural progress benefits everybody living in the culture.
Muslims believe that Allah (God) is one and incomparable and that the purpose of existence is to worship Allah. In Islam, man’s ultimate life objective is to worship the creator Allah by abiding by the Divine guidelines revealed in the Qur’an and the Tradition of the Prophet. Earthly life is merely a test, determining one’s afterlife, either in Jannah (Paradise) or in Jahannam (Hell). For Allah’s satisfaction, via the Qur’an, all Muslims must believe in God, his revelations, his angels, his messengers, and in the “Day of Judgment”. The Qur’an describes the purpose of creation as follows: Life on earth is a test; how one acts determines whether one’s soul goes to Janna or to Jahannam. However on the day of Judgement the final decision is of Allah alone. Allah may cover up short comings and allow some people to go to heaven even though they may have some sins in the record.
In the Judaic world view, the meaning of life is to elevate the physical world and prepare it for the world to come, the spiritual afterlife. This is called Tikkun Olam (“Fixing the World”). However, Judaism is not focused on personal salvation, but on communal (between man and man) and individual (between man and God) spiritualised actions in this world. Judaism’s most important feature is the worship of a single, incomprehensible, transcendent, one, indivisible, absolute Being, who created and governs the universe. Closeness with the God of Israel is through study of His Torah, and adherence to its Mitzvot (divine laws). In traditional Judaism, God established a special covenant with a people, the people of Israel, at Mount Sinai, giving the Jewish commandments. Jewish philosophy emphasises that God is not affected or benefited, but the individual and society benefit by drawing close to God. The Jewish mystical Kabbalah gives complimentary esoteric meanings of life.
MEANING OF LIFE EXPERIMENT
The Meaning of Life Experiment focuses on what we all have in common, rather than focusing on what separates us. Deep down, we are all human beings with some core values that we all share, which gives us a clue as to the Meaning of Life.
We believe that the truth of the Meaning of Life can only be revealed “through” us, not “to” us. It is not an intellectual idea, but a deep profound experience. Therefore by taking the experiment and using the tools, we go deep within ourselves and connect to our subtle nature, which is beyond words. Through this experience, the Meaning of Life is gradually revealed through us, and we come to our own conclusions rather than relying on the word of others.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) teaches that the purpose of life on Earth is to gain knowledge and experience. Mormons believe that humans are literally the spirit children of God the Father, and thus have the potential to progress to become like Him. Mormons teach that God provided his children the choice to come to Earth, which is considered a crucial stage in their development — wherein a mortal body, coupled with the freedom to choose, makes for an ideal environment to learn and grow. From the beginning, God has followed a pattern of revealing knowledge through chosen prophets. This instruction from God includes the concept of repentance as a lifelong growth process through which humankind continuously learns to make better choices by forsaking sin and learning from mistakes. Throughout this process, baptized members can regularly invoke the cleansing power of Christ’s atonement through the weekly ordinance of the sacrament. It is through the atonement that mortals are made worthy to return to the presence of the Father, where they can continue to build upon the wisdom gained during mortality and ultimately fulfil their end purpose, which is to inherit a fullness of God’s glory.
The Sufi view of the meaning of life stems from the Hadith Gudsi that states “I (God) was a Hidden Treasure and loved to be known. Therefore I created the Creation that I might be known.” One possible interpretation of this view is that the meaning of life for an individual is to know the nature of God, and the purpose of all of creation is to reveal that nature, and to prove its value as the ultimate treasure, that is God. However, this Hadith is stated in various forms and interpreted in various ways by people of Sufi faith.