Exercise #2. As Nonbelievers, Where Do We Find Meaning, Purpose, and Morals?
“Successful society requires religion” read the headline of an editorial published March 22, 2011, in The Daily Targum, the student newspaper of Rutgers University. The writer described research showing decreased levels of church affiliation in several countries around the world and expressed fear that the downward trend in religiosity would mean dire changes in how well societies functioned. “When you remove purpose and moral codes from people’s lives,” the editorial stated, “you’re just asking for trouble.”
I had to respond. As leader of the campus Humanist Community I could not let stand this all-too-common misapprehension that religion was necessary for morality and purpose to exist.
Two days later my letter to the editor was published with the headline: “Humanism gives ethics, purpose to people.” In it, I detailed some of my sources of meaning and purpose:
As a humanist, my focus is on this one lifetime, on this world and the people in it. My family is all of humanity. My history is told in the stars, in the fossil record and in the DNA of all living creatures. I am inspired by human efforts to explore every corner of our universe and our own natures. I am moved by photos of distant galaxies, by freedom fighters around the world, and by the touch of a child’s hand. I find beauty in the struggle of each human being to build a meaningful and fulfilling life. My purpose is to help them succeed.
I also quoted part of “Humanism and Its Aspirations” and concluded by saying: “This is certainly a good start if we wish to have…a successful society.”
So, now it’s the reader’s turn. How would you describe your sources of meaning, purpose, or morality? Please send us your answer to one or more of the following:
a. What about your family and history has informed who you are?
b. What inspires or moves you?
c. What do you find beautiful?
d. How would you describe your purpose?
e. Where do you derive your sense of morality?
Please fill out our forms below with your responses (maximum thirty words each). We will publish a variety of answers readers send in.