There are lots of things that inspire me. There’s inspiration in books and film, art and music. In people too, of course. The most inspirational people to me are people who dare to follow a dream, people who think in options and possibilities, not in risks or impossibilities.

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Where is the Nextcloud assistant?

Nextcloud logo

I have always seen the benefits of the cloud. Having your data readily available wherever you are in the world, is extremely convenient. Similarly I’ve always been wary of the cloud. Putting your data in the hands of private businesses for free? There has to be a catch, right? And there is: they use it for profiling, data mining and training their AI all while allowing various government agencies access to this information. The answer to my worries is Nextcloud, a secure and private cloud platform. Nextcloud does pretty much everything I want but there’s one thing I am missing. Where is the Nextcloud assistant?

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Should bakers opposed to gay marriage be forced to bake a wedding cake for gay couples? This is the discussion I got involved in on Twitter with Gideon. Unlike many debates on Twitter, this one stayed civil and didn’t descend into profanity and calling each other stupid, which was refreshing. I had to leave the debate due to it being 2:30 AM but the question kept me thinking for a while. Finally, I arrived at what I think is the position that makes the most sense to me. No doubt others will have differing opinions.

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The meaning of life

The meaning of life

It’s been a while since I posted so I thought I might try to deal with one of the bigger questions to ask: what is the meaning of life? Religious people often remark that without belief in God, atheists can’t possibly have meaning in their lives. To put the argument simply, it goes like this: if you don’t believe in God and you’re just the result of natural selection, you’ll die and that’s it. So what’s the point of it all? I have touched upon this a little bit in a previous post but I will attempt a deeper dive here. What is the meaning of life? Let’s see if we can find out.

The meaning of meaning

Before we can answer the question ‘what is the meaning of life’, we need to establish what we mean when we ask that question. The word meaning can refer to the value of someone’s life, the purpose of someone’s life, the significance of someone’s life or a combination of these.

The value of someone’s life refers to the intrinsic value of that life. Is the life worth anything, does it matter at all?

The purpose of someone’s life is related to a goal or goals. These can be lofty ideals like working for world peace or curing cancer or they can be more close to home like being a good parent or loving partner. In short, it answers the question: what is my life for?

Lastly, the significance of someone’s life refers to the contribution that this someone is making to the human race or the universe as a whole. Am I leaving the world a better or worse place by living my life?

It is clear from this short exploration, that the question “what is the meaning of life” is a very fundamental and multifaceted question and that there is no easy answer. It also shows that the answer is going to be a personal one and one that may vary throughout the course of ones’ life.

Meaning without God

Religious people will argue that it is impossible to find meaning in life without God because God is the creator of everything and the source of eternal life. Our lives only have value, purpose and significance through God. They have value because they are created by God, they have purpose determined and revealed by God and our lives have significance because they are somehow part of God’s plan.

So if there is no God to bestow meaning upon our lives, our lives are meaningless? Can the meaning of life only be bestowed from the outside or can it be bestowed from the inside as well?

Outside meaning and inside meaning

As an atheist, I believe I am the result of evolution, a biological process. Biologically speaking, my life has a meaning or a purpose at least: to assure the survival of my genes by passing them on to subsequent generations. In doing so, I am contributing to the success of Homo sapiens, my species. This may seem a rather mundane and base meaning compared to the lofty assertions of the religious but at least it has the benefit of being demonstrably true.

Meaning doesn’t have to be bestowed from the outside, though. I have seen it argued that it is logically impossible for a life to give itself meaning just as it is impossible to lift yourself off the floor by your bootstraps. A meaningless life can’t bestow meaning upon itself.
This seems to me an erroneous way to look at it. It is not life that bestows meaning upon itself, the value is bestowed by the cognitive processes in one’s brain. These processes, while dependent on life, are different from that life. I can reflect upon my existence in a way that life can not. We don’t expect bacteria to ponder the question of the meaning of life but thanks to our big brain, we can.

Another objection that I have seen raised against people bestowing meaning on their own lives, is that it is completely arbitrary. What some may find a meaningful existence is completely different from what others may find a meaningful existence. A person may think that sitting at home playing video games gives meaning to their lives.
In my opinion, arbitrariness is not a convincing argument against the validity of the meaning someone chooses to place upon their own lives. Even if someone should choose to play video games all day and think that a meaningful existence, who am I to say that for them, this is not a meaningful existence? Isn’t that just me judging someone else’s choice in life from my personal perspective?

A meaningless question

Ultimately, I think that the question “what is the meaning of life” is a meaningless question. Through some evolutionary pressure, Homo sapiens has developed a big brain which enables him/her to ask deep, probing questions. That doesn’t mean these questions will ever have a satisfactory answer or are answerable at all. Why am I here? What is the purpose of the universe? What is the meaning of life? These are deep and important questions, questions we need to ask ourselves because the answers to these questions determine our outlook on life. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that there is a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. The benefit of being an atheist is that you get to pick your own answer.

The lure of Google

I’ve been using smart phones for a long time, in particular the top range Samsung Galaxy line of phones. As most of you will probably know, these phones are Android based and come pre-loaded with lots of software from Google. You pretty much need a Google account to use them. Google software is generally pretty good and on top of that it’s free to use. I understand the lure of Google like no other. There’s just this nagging feeling that I can’t seem to shake.

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