Atheists, How Do You Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe?

cosmosTom Chivers captured people’s attention recently when he asked a group of doctors ‘How They Would Prefer To Die’ and published the responses over at Buzzfeed. It makes for great reading.

He then announced he would be looking to speak to atheists for a similar project, specifically asking how atheists managed to find purpose in a seemingly purposeless universe.

I emailed over my thoughts on the matter, and the final piece titled ‘I Asked Atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe’ can now be read in full here.

I wasn’t sure whether my submission would be included – and as I scrolled through the contributions of prominent authors, scientists and public figures, I convinced myself it definitely wouldn’t be.

To my surprise, it appears I slipped through the net however, and my ten cents somehow ended up amongst the thoughtful answers of much brighter folk. Anyhow, here is my contribution:

“When we reject the imagined supernatural meaning from our existence, what we’re left with is far from a consolation prize. Sure, it’ll be messy at times, sometimes joyous, sometimes miserable, but it’s all we’ll ever know. And it’s ours. We invent comforting lies to distract us from one simple truth: Oblivion looms. So, what are you going to do about it?



“I choose to live, laugh, love, travel, create, help others, and learn. And I’m going to do as much of this as I can manage, because the clock is ticking. We create our own meaning, and there’s more than enough to be had. Seize it where you can.”

It was also great to see a number of #GSPodcast alumni featured, such as Alom Shaha, Andrew Copson, Michael Marshall and Jerry Coyne.

I think it’s great that this type of content is being published on a mainstream platform and I imagine as a consequence, it may challenge a few misconceptions about us heathens.

How would you answer this question? I’d love to read your answers in the comments.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.


  • It is with sizable arrogance and equally proportionate ignorance that certain religious types proclaim they are the guardians of meaning in life. The most baffling aspect of this stance is that meaning can only come from one place, from one being, god. Not from the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, a great achievement, a long struggle, none of these things have meaning without god. How so? I live without a belief in god and find meaning in all these things, and more ad infinitum.

    What I find amusing is that religious people spend a lot of time trying to communicate that this life matters not, that it is the afterlife we should be preparing for, thereby forgoing any meaning to be found in the life they are living. Indeed, the only life they will ever have. What a shame to shut yourself off from the wonders of life on the sinister promises created by our fearful ancestors.

    • It’s equally amusing to see those on the secular side unwilling / uncomfortable to really face reality. One of the most helpful atheist writers in this regard is John Gray, whose “Straw Dogs” was a huge push for me in the more nihilistic direction. In terms of atheists who do a poor job, Alom Shaha’s “The Young Atheist’s Handbook” is a textbook case of how to fudge the question. Among theists, Andy Bannister’s “The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist” does a well-executed filleting of Shaha and the Village Atheist end of the spectrum.

  • I am therefore I have meaning.

What do you think? Leave some comments!