Naturalism: Every second of your life is meaningful, by B. T. Newberg

The theme for the rest of this month at HP is “Finding Meaning”.  Monarch, by Laura Stevens

Image contributed by Laura Stevens

A common reaction to naturalism is that it means nothing matters. On the contrary, it means everything matters.

Nothing can magically escape the web of cause and effect.  All things are interconnected by this chain of meaningful action.

Every second of your life is meaningful because everything has consequences.  Whatever you do, feel, or think builds habits and sows the seeds of cause and effect.

Thoughts have consequences.

Feelings have consequences.

Actions have consequences.

So act responsibly.

Because every second of your life is meaningful.

Don’t forget to comment below.

The author

zsx9kPJB. T. Newberg founded HumanisticPaganism.com in 2011, and served as managing editor till 2013.  His writings on naturalistic spirituality can be found at PatheosPagan Square, the Spiritual Naturalist Society, as well as right here on HP.  Since the year 2000, he has been practicing meditation and ritual from a naturalistic perspective.  After leaving the Lutheranism of his raising, he experimented with Agnosticism, Buddhism, Contemporary Paganism, and Spiritual Humanism.  Currently he combines the latter two into a dynamic path embracing both science and myth.  Professionally, he teaches English as a Second Language.  He also researches the relation between religion, psychology, and evolution at www.BTNewberg.com.  After living in Minnesota, England, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea, B. T. Newberg currently resides in St Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and cat.

Next Sunday

NaturalPantheistbiopicoaktree

Next Sunday, we continue the theme of finding meaning with NaturalPantheist, “Finding Purpose and Meaning”.

The theme for late autumn here at HP is “Death and Life”.  Send your writing and art to humanisticpaganism [at] gmail.com by November 6, 2013.

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4 Comments on “Naturalism: Every second of your life is meaningful, by B. T. Newberg

  1. Interesting poll at the end, John. I ticked “acting responsibly” and “meditation”, but I would also add “contemplating my relationship to others and the world.”

    There are two really big research-based reasons that I know of to support that last one.

    First, people tend to feel less meaning in life when isolated or poorly connected, socially. Perhaps it is an evolutionary adaptation that makes most of us seek the company (and support for survival) of groups.

    Second, our Western view of the natural universe comes out of the Christian model of it as an artifact of the Creator, and though many of us have gotten rid of the Creator we still retain the idea of it as an artifact. This can be seen in the famous quote by Weinberg: “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it (also) seems pointless.” Only an artifact can have a “point” to it, so if you experience the universe’s pointlessness as a lack, you are likely unconsciously viewing it as an artifact. When our brain perceives an artifact, it intuitively looks for the intention or purpose behind the artifact. When it can find none, as we find in the naturalistic universe, it feels meaningless or “pointless.” If instead we view it as something that just *is*, then we experience not a sense of lack but rather surprise and elation at the marvelous patterns that emerge from it.

    So, I find it very important to re-envision society and the universe as one big interconnected whole with a creative power of its own. I am not an isolated being in an alien universe, I am it and it is me. Nor is it an artifact, but rather a vast presence that has created itself. Contemplating my relationship to others and the world thus becomes a powerful wellspring of meaning for me.

    • Thanks B.T. I had never made the connection between the conception of nature as creation and the need to find intention behind it, but I can definitely see the connection. It’s interesting your observation that we naturalists have removed the creator but left the idea of creation intact.

      • >It’s interesting your observation that we naturalists have removed the creator but left the idea of creation intact.

        Well, not all of us, thankfully. But many of us. I think those of us who rail against the mechanical metaphor for the universe are reacting against that residual artifact idea. As we move toward a more accurate metaphor of the universe as having a dynamic, creative power of its own, we gradually leave that old artifact idea behind. The Epic of Evolution/Big History narrative helps a lot with that, I think.

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