Susan K Perry Ph.D.

Creating in Flow

Can You Find Purpose in a Godless World?

It is indeed possible to feel meaningful in an earth-bound world.

Posted Oct 07, 2018

It does not occur to most young children that the world has a "deeper meaning." That is, deeper than what they already see, feel, experience, and expect. It is only later, as we grow and learn, that we discover the universality of death and thus begin to wonder about our own futures.

Are you a believer in a religion that expects you to indoctrinate your children in that religion? If not, then it behooves you to pass along your reasoning for what you do believe. It is possible to do so in a way that gives your children hope. That is, the realistic hope that life contains its own meaning. Nothing supernatural need be added to get the most out of life. All it takes is determining one's own purpose.

Finding Purpose in a Godless World: Why We Care Even If the Universe Doesn't by Ralph Lewis, M.D., a Canadian psychiatrist, with a Foreword by Michael Shermer, is a sophisticated amalgam of science, philosophy, and the humanities, along with a bracing splash of the ice-cold water of truth.

Finding Purpose is not a simple-minded recipe for overcoming apathy or depression. But for agnostics and atheists and others seeking clarity, it offers some serious and encouraging food for thought. Lewis's approach is liberal, liberating, and non-judgmental. (He also blogs for Psychology Today.)


The following facts are a mere introduction to Finding Purpose. Ponder them as brain-ticklers, and read the book itself for complete context.

1. Making positivity the ultimate ideal, as much of our society tends to do, as well as over-estimating the influence of the "spirit" (and of "free will"), may lead to self-blame in many, and "are a recipe for bitter disappointment," writes Lewis. "The reality of life is harsh,"

2. Goal-directedness, or purpose, evolved biologically to contribute to survival and reproduction.

3. An optimal level of stress enhances motivation and performance. As in the rewarding state of consciousness termed "flow," too much stress leads to anxiety and overwhelm. Finding your individual optimal level of effort, and perhaps working to change how much stress you can handle, is crucial to keeping you motivated rather than giving up.

4. We want to know that our lives matter. Not by the universe, if you're a non-believer, but by people. We have evolved to care about one another, regardless of whether or not the universe (or a god) cares.

5. Though we each die, the impact of our lives remains for a longer time. By contributing our efforts to build a more cooperative and caring world, we make ourselves matter.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel