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What is the True Meaning of Life?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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Why was I born? Why are we here? These are arguably the most common questions asked throughout history by children and scholars alike. The answers to these types of questions about the true meaning of life are virtually endless and may come from any discipline such as philosophy, psychology, spirituality, science, and religion.

The true meaning of life is religious devotion.

Many people in the world feel that their true purpose is one of devotion to their religion. Nearly all religions have a supernatural being. The followers are supposed to connect with the higher power and do good works in the name of the deity or creator that will benefit humankind. Atheism holds the opposite stance; that there is no supernatural being or Creator. Atheist views usually express that life is evolved and look for non-religious meanings to explain life’s true purpose. The Golden Rule that holds that humans should treat others as they would themselves is a strong purpose in many religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Muslim and Jainism as well as Buddhism.

The real meaning of life is mostly a biological one.

Some people feel that the purpose of life is to continue humankind through reproduction. Since the end of life is death, they argue that the creation of more humans is the most important thing. Otherwise humanity would cease to exist.

The humanist approach to the question of life is that it is mainly about reproduction and the expansion of humankind. There are different types and stances of those who call themselves humanists, but most humanist views see one’s individual purpose as being able to fit in with the needs of humanity as a whole.

Many humanists express the view that the true meaning of life is our connection to others: biologically, socially and culturally. It’s important to note that many humanists that view humans as constantly evolving beings see the true purpose of life as one that could possibly change.

Life’s true meaning is to make the most of life on a personal level.

One answer to the question of the meaning of life is that humans are here simply to just enjoy life and strive for a happy existence. Sigmund Freud, the Viennese doctor who invented the psychological therapy method known as psychoanalysis, called this view the pleasure principle. The main idea behind this stance is that humanity is meant to experience maximum pleasure and minimum pain.

The humanistic branch of psychology, most associated with Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, grew out of a need for more personal meaning than Freud’s psychoanalysis was thought to offer. Humanistic psychologists concentrate on individual potential and purpose in life. Many people do see personal achievement and the purpose of their own place in the greater world to hold the basic meaning of their lives.

Existentialists hold the philosophical viewpoint that humans make individual choices in this existence known as life. French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre said "Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself." In this view, personal freedom may be seen as having the potential of both positive and negative outcomes depending on the choices one makes.

Life’s true purpose is to advance or help humankind.

Many people feel that the true point of life is to be forgiving, grateful and help others. This outlook often contains views that humankind should help end suffering and strive for equality and human rights for all people. Life’s meaningful purpose in this view includes the desire to devote at least a part of one’s life to meaningful pursuits that benefit those in need.

There can be many variations on what it actually means to help others. Many people may feel the answer to what their life’s meaning is about is to contribute to society through their work. Others may feel that it’s important to help discover technological or other types of advances to aid in the positive progress of humankind. Some people may see following their principles as their most important purpose in life.

Transhumanism is a school of thought that suggests the meaning of life is to improve the human body by extending that life. Transhumanists seek mental and physical improvements in humankind such as through technological advances concerned with stopping the aging process. Transhumanist views hold that since life began through evolution, it is up to evolved humans to control and extend the quality of life.

The question itself is meaningless.

Some people answer that there is no point in even trying to find the true point of life because the question is just so deep. This viewpoint holds that humankind will never be able to discover the answer(s), so the question itself becomes meaningless. Others deem the question of what life’s true purpose is as meaningless because they view life as an existence with no deep meaning attached to it.

The logical positivist view of philosophy, also called the logical empiricism, involves both empiricism and rationalism. Empiricism holds that knowledge can be gained through observational evidence. Rationalism stresses that empiricism alone is not enough to provide complete knowledge, so verification is needed.

The logical positivist approach to the verification of something considered to be meaningful is that something must be able to be logically or cognitively determined to be true. Since the logical positivist verifiability criterion cannot prove the answer to the question what is the true meaning of life? positivists tend to view the question as meaningless. This view has been criticized by philosophers such as Karl Popper who thought falsifying criterion should be used to test true statements rather than relying on verifiability criterion alone.

There is no meaning to why we are here.

German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche’s view of nihilism voids human existence of having any meaning. Nihilism is named for the word nihil which is Latin for nothing. Nietzsche considered Christianity’s concern with the afterlife stronger than its occupation with life on Earth, so he considered the meaning of life empty.

French philosopher and scientist, Rene Descartes, asserts that life may not even be real, but rather may only be a dream. He questions the reality of our physical bodies. Some people hold the view that the true meaning of why humankind is here is the result of either accident or coincidence.

Even just some of the many answers to the questions about the true meaning of human existence can start our minds thinking up interesting questions. For example, we can think of how our answers would change depending on our current view of destiny. Is our destiny already decided when we are born and do we let it happen somehow? Or, do we choose our destiny as we grow from our experiences? One way to grow in our search for meaning is to be open to the perspectives and viewpoints of others in their quest for true meaning – this can only bring humanity closer together.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon980698 — On Dec 06, 2014

If anyone thinks that Christianity is about doing good works for God in order to go to heaven, that person could not be more wrong. Following rules is not the way to salvation. That is why Christ died for us so that the law would then be fulfilled. It is by His grace alone and the we are saved and not by works.

The universe and all creation shows God's glory. That is our purpose.

By anon342880 — On Jul 24, 2013

Ask any woman. Any man's true purpose in life is to provide mortgage payments and health insurance. If you don't believe this, you're lying to yourself.

By anon319311 — On Feb 12, 2013

If there was a God, why would he make three laws -- loss, theft and harm -- that are broken on a daily basis by everyone!

There has got to be good and evil, the same as right and wrong. Everything repeats itself and goes around in circles. We are all superhuman, but it's down to the individual to find it within themselves.

We were created, but not by man! We are all energy along with everything else in the world put together by a single organism/parasite which is really the true superior being and has been around since the very beginning, evolving and morphing into whatever it had to become to enable it to survive.

There always has to be an opposite in order for it to survive and since man started cleaning up the planet from bacteria and producing things for financial gain, the energy level is so great that in time the end of the world will arrive with a big bang! We are all equal because of the fact we're the same organism/parasite from as little as a slug to an elephant, or krill to a whale!

By anon316106 — On Jan 27, 2013

The meaning of life is to distract ourselves from the fact that we are going to die.

By anon251495 — On Mar 01, 2012

The purpose of life... Well, I think it’s fair to say that there is no single right answer. Maybe there is no "answer" at all but there is no harm in stating my opinion so here it is: I believe that life boils down to happiness. I think life is just something to enjoy not analyze every aspect. Because frankly, nobody "knows" what the purpose of life is or if there’s a great meaning in afterlife and so on. So maybe the simple thing to do is not to worry about “why?” and just live.

Honestly, I feel like people's constant search for the meaning behind things often leads to more confusion and headache and that the answer to such questions most likely would make no ultimate difference anyway. I mean why should it? The way I see it is that you live and you die.

So make good use of your time and stop with questions that lead nowhere. Besides, isn’t happiness the ultimate thing that drives us and most of our actions (obviously with certain limits and boundaries)? Happiness is something substantial (not to attack what is or isn’t substantial) so strive to be happy, truly happy (whatever that maybe for you), and the rest will seem meaningless.

By eromenos — On Nov 25, 2011

The ancient Greeks thought that the purpose of all humans was to create "happiness". The Greek word translated as happiness really translates to "good spirit." Plato based his entire philosophical outlook upon man's search for a sense of well being.

Many centuries later, Eleanor Roosevelt was quoted as saying something like, "happiness is not a goal in life but a by-product." This implies that life holds other more important goals that, when pursued (I assume successfully)they in turn produce this sense of well being.

Even more recently, a movie called "The Big Chill" has one of its minor characters ask the question, "Isn't being a good man among our fellow men enough to sustain us anymore?"

Is being good, good enough? Is being happy the end all? Is there something out there for us to find that eventually turns on the light bulb that says "This is it!" and we know our purpose?

All I know are four little things and they aren't helping my happiness quotient any, but maybe they can lead me to the answer some day.

1. My wife is dying of cancer, and she smokes. Lesson 1 is don't smoke! If you are now, quit. If you aren't then for goodness' sake don't start. You do not want to go through what my wife and I are going through now, and we are just beginning. I shudder to think about the next few months or years.

2. Don't work too hard. Work is fine, I guess, but too much for too long will send you to an early grave and unless you have already figured your purpose in life, and workaholism is the answer, don't burn yourself out for meaningless goals like money or attention or even power.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. I worry constantly about every aspect of my and my family's life and it gets me nowhere but depressed. Granted, I have a lot on my plate, but spending most of my life as a failure has shown me that worrying about failure doesn't necessarily help - at least not me.

4. The last thing is, except for living and loving, it's all pretty much small stuff. For some reason, there doesn't seem to be much else worth fighting for. And who knows, I may even be wrong about that.

Just a few musings from an amateur philosopher who realizes that the only thing he knows is that he knows damn little.

By anon230929 — On Nov 21, 2011

Just think about it: how would life be if we knew all the answers? You are -- your mission on earth is to -- and you will expire on ---. execute. Blah. Hey, take a deep breath, and try to live life rather than rationalize it.

Life is not a concept to be grasped. The truth is, no one knows what life really is, and that is what makes life interesting. "The unknown gives art its beauty and life its magic."

By anon217768 — On Sep 26, 2011

Looking at the universe logically and as unbiased as I am able to, I find no meaning. Humans have a narrow and ignorant view of the universe. I am unable to find a meaning for life other than to create more life which in it of itself I see no true purpose. I envy those who have faith in their religions for they do not see themselves as an empty biological machine.

By anon198575 — On Jul 20, 2011

Our meaning is to worship God? Confused and blind? Really? From a common sense point of view I'll tell you: I'll imagine that I'm God and saved my people. I will set them free and tell them to go and have fun, enjoy life. I wouldn't ask for them to workship me or fear me. Who is really blind?

Go and have fun and enjoy every moment with your loved ones! That is life.

By anon189438 — On Jun 23, 2011

i believe the meaning of life is to exist as one (humankind). without anyone, you are nothing. To exist in a reality known as our world i believe to exist with others and to live my life among them. do not look for the meaning of life. just look for the meaning of living it. if you don't live your life, well, you might as well not exist at all.

By anon187817 — On Jun 18, 2011

I think the meaning of life is to live your life accordingly to your God or whatever makes you happy. If there is a God and heaven and hell, why not believe? It doesn't hurt to trust in a higher being.

Life is hard and so far the one thing that has gotten me through is someone who loves me and i can love back. I think for me love is the reason of life. Not only from Jesus Christ my savior but also the love of my wife. Without anyone we are nothing.

By anon180389 — On May 26, 2011

Maybe there is the meaning of life, but I have never heard one that would convince. There are chances that a god created our world, or that we will reincarnate, but when filtered through my knowledge and observation of life these chances are very slim, so it would be stupid to decide to believe in them.

To reproduce makes a bit of sense, but it's not the meaning of existence of our mind, it's just what our bodies are designed for. So as far as I know there is no meaning of life at all. I don't even know how to live it. But I guess that I would seek happiness even though it's meaningless. Any one qho thinks like me?

By anon172213 — On May 03, 2011

actually what is the real meaning of life? nobody knows. it is hidden and the creator hides it because he is powerful and omnipotent, so we should not run behind the meaning of life because life is life and it has a different meaning which is true but in a different way.

By anon164560 — On Apr 01, 2011

I find it funny how most of all the comments are saying how foolish it is to believe in God or to be Christian. This article opened up so many different points of view that people carry as their true meaning or no meaning to life, and some of them sound pretty ridiculous to me.

But it seems having a belief in God gets the most ridicule. Thank you Jesus for telling us about these things with your time on earth. Matthew 5:11- "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."

By anon145816 — On Jan 24, 2011

You have to quit notions of 'religious' search for meaning. Although Nietzsche's nihilism tends to exclude our 'purpose'. He did say that the 'true purpose of life is Art'. So create. Quit the religious nonsense. It truly is delusional.

By anon103117 — On Aug 10, 2010

Religion works for some people. It's like a crash pad, they like to think that if they put faith in a higher power and do what's asked by their God or Deity that they will be rewarded in the afterlife.

But what if you were born somewhere else other than America, somewhere where there was no god and all freedom of religion was stripped from you? Does that mean that that person won't be rewarded? God (if you believe in him) wants you to worship him and do what's right by him, but what about what's right by you?

God says slavery is fine, is it fine with you too? God has flaws just like all of us and you shouldn't aspire to be like him. We walk this Earth every day and see problems that need fixing, and God, no matter how many times you pray to him will not fix them! Only you have the power to do that!

So if anything, believe in the power of yourself and you can help cure this disease filled world!

By anon92779 — On Jun 30, 2010

the lord is patient, and will wait for you.

Things happen in the world for reasons, and nothing is ever in vain. innocent people die, because they were here to die, to teach or sacrifice their lives. nothing is done for no reason.

the devil tests us and God allows it, manly because he knows you're ready for it. Stop confusing yourself with non-existent gods. there can only be one, Christ, and he won't give up on you until you know him. he lives and it's very sad for those who know him and still deny he's God.

our purpose in life was planned already, but God loves us so much he gives us a choice: the choice to accept him and as soon as you say he's God. he takes over and guides you accordingly. we were all made for a reason and some of your purpose was to die. sad but true.

Time is running out for you.

By anon92095 — On Jun 25, 2010

The meaning of life is definitely reproduction for all animals including humans. Once one is not able to reproduce the body starts to deteriorate and it is downhill from there on. The question is why?

By anon84321 — On May 14, 2010

The only meaning to life is what you give it. You are born and die, enjoy what is between. If you are happy praising God, praise him. If you are happy being so called sinful do that, just don't get arrested or your happy level may drop a bit.

By anon76071 — On Apr 08, 2010

The truth is, lfe is what you make of it. The meaning you put behind it is your own. The way you live it is your own. It's an endless debate who's right who's wrong. Who cares?

Over time you lose interest. Why struggle with who's right and who's wrong? Why debate? Will it truly make a difference?

Just live your life the way you want. I don't need someone to tell me how to live. I make my living the best way I know how.

By anon68930 — On Mar 05, 2010

So our meaning is to worship god and love him for his sacrifice for us? He made us to establish a kingdom?

I should make my kids worship me and love me for my sacrifice to them. But then would I appear vain or arrogant to the rest of the world? and if i made them establish my kingdom here would i get arrested for slavery? Wait a second -- God is all seeing and all knowing and he has a master plan. He plans for me to enjoy, live and experience the world. His plan for you is to worship him constantly and build some kingdom. Wow, thank you God it would suck to be some people .I love God's master plan for me.

Will you have to worship him for the rest of eternity or just waste the rest of your life doing that?

By anon65468 — On Feb 13, 2010

As if any great being or "god" would want the idolization and worship from such feeble things as people. grow up!

By anon60339 — On Jan 13, 2010

Do you mean the true meaning of life is dependent on religious matter?

By anon59056 — On Jan 06, 2010

Do you think the people that have been beheaded by terrorists prayed like nothing else that if there is a god, now is the time to come forth?

Mate, they got their surprise.

I love the saying, "God works in mysterious ways."

In other words, they don't understand and have no real way of explaining their beliefs. Then they ramble on to some meaningless quote which leaves you wondering, "why the hell did i ask?"

Religion relies on people believing in something greater than themselves, something so big that no man could truly understand.

They call it faith. Those that don't have that faith call it "blind faith". The belief of something that has no evidence of existing.(enter retort about human race and our beautiful world here.)

"Wake up and smell the coffee; it's a fools paradise."

By anon57059 — On Dec 19, 2009

I start with the name of Allah the most beneficent and the most merciful: We as human beings try and see everything in the realm of what our minds accepts as true or believable. The question of people dying. Well as you are human, you expect a hand to appear from the sky and make things right. This is not the case. God has created this world, has defined laws like laws of physics, laws of nature etc and he chooses not to interfere in them. Why, because he can, simple?

Imagine if we see a hand appearing from the sky to help us, then I don’t know about you mate but I for one will kneel before him asking for forgiveness and His mercy.

To be quite honest, it is up to Him to decide why he chooses not to interfere in the worldly affairs. It’s like someone asked me can my God (as he sadly puts it) make a stone which he cannot lift? The answer for this question is simple. He is God and He can do everything but I cannot judge Him in a worldly fashion, as He is above it all.

Our limited minds and our worldly affairs prohibit us from thinking beyond what our mind accepts as reasonable (and expecting yes or no is just a human way of answering a question but is it a trick question to the Almighty – I don’t think so).

This entire debate aside, this doesn't mean that you cannot ask for His help. He will help you in the worldliest way possible, but you should have the sense to know it as a help of God. Next time if you need help, then close your eyes and pray from the bottom of your heart for Him to help you. Irrespective of you being the biggest sinner, irrespective of you not believing in Him before. Just ask and mate, you are in for a surprise.

By anon56584 — On Dec 15, 2009

anon38711, I wonder if you are like most other Christians and even really know or understand anything about your own religion. Obviously you do not.

Without giving you countless examples of the invalidity of the Bible, I simply suggest that you actually study the Bible, cover to cover, along with proven historical documents, and do so (if possible) with an objectionable view point. Then and only then can you make an informed decision, rather basing your beliefs on the brainwashing you have received for the better part of your life, which is simply the beliefs of others who received the same bed time stories. After all, how wholeheartedly did you believe in Santa Claus until someone told you he didn't exist?

By anon52756 — On Nov 16, 2009

What comments can I as a human make about life and death? The only thing that each person should do is to believe in the saying:

"Do unto others as you would have done unto you."

By anon51910 — On Nov 10, 2009

"go look for it before it's too late."

Typical religious threat "hurry, hurry, you're running out of time, join us, join us.

Anyone who has experienced a loved one die a slow painful death will know in their hearts that there is no great being or god or whatever.

If there was, how could they let so many innocent, defenseless men, women and children die at all, let alone the monstrous ways in which some do.

Go through history and most of the wars are religion driven, instilling fear in the common man.

If you kill more than the other man, your god is the greater, for it was his will which allowed you to massacre more than your foe -- what a crock.

Honestly, i wish there was an almighty, but the way the holy men (salesman) work on earth pushing the "join us or you'll miss out, suffer, burn etc." just is so lame.

I'm sure someone (religious) will read this and have pity for me (maybe even pray for my soul) but at least I'm honest with myself and don't hang on to some faint hope of a great afterlife.

I'm happy with this one.

By anon51646 — On Nov 08, 2009

Read the book of mormon. Truly pray about it. You will find the answer! :)

By anon38711 — On Jul 28, 2009

Our meaning? Is to worship god and love him for his sacrifice for us! He made us to establish his kingdom on earth. You people are so confused and blind. god is our creator and

each and every one of us has a powerful purpose. go look for it before it's too late.

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