Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, Vol 24, No 2 (2016)

Do You Need God for Meaning and Purpose?

Gleb Tsipursky
Issued Date: 21 Dec 2016


While mainstream opinions and some scholarship suggests that we need God for a sense of meaning and purpose, this article proposes an alternative thesis. By digging into the data, it demonstrates how religious contexts provide the kind of atmosphere conducive to the development of meaning and purpose. Then, it shows that neither belief in God nor church attendance are needed for a strong sense of meaning and purpose. The article highlights how non-religious societies helped their members lead meaningful lives full of purpose. It ends with specific research-based strategies for reason-oriented people to develop a personal sense of meaning and purpose.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/eph.27424


Barth, K.1933. The Epistle to the Romans. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Batson, C. D. and E. L. Stocks. 2004. “Religion: Its Core Psychological Functions.” In Handbook of Experimental Existential Psychology, edited by J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole and T. Pyszczynski, 141–155. New York: Guilford.

Bell, C. 1997. Ritual: Perspective and Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bergan, A. and J. T. McConatha. 2001. “Religiosity and Life Satisfaction.” Activities, Adaptation & Aging 24: 23–34.

Boyle, P.A. 2009. “Purpose in Life is Associated with Mortality Among Community-Dwelling Older Persons.” Psychosomatic Medicine 71: 574–579.

Boyle, P.A. et al. 2010. “Effect of a Purpose in Life on Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment in Community-Dwelling Older Persons.” Archives of General Psychiatry 67: 304–310.

Brassai, L., B. F. Piko and M. F. Steger. 2011. “Meaning in Life: Is it a Protective Factor for Adolescents’ Psychological Health?” International Journal of
Behavioral Medicine 18: 44–51.

Cooper, M. 2003. Existential Therapies. New York: SAGE.

Crabtree, S. and B. Pelham. 2008. “The Complex Relationship Between Religion and Purpose: Worldwide Data Show Religious Conviction Isn’t necessary, But It Helps.” Gallup, December 24.

Cranney, S. 2013. “Do People Who Believe in God Report More Meaning in Their Lives? The Existential Effects of Belief.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 52: 638–46.

Epstein, Greg. 2009. Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. New York: William Morrow.

Frankl, V. 1946. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon.

Goleman, D. 2006. Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. New York: Bantam

Gorbachev, M. S. 1995. Memoirs. Translated by G. Peronansky and T. Varsavsky. New York: Doubleday & Company.

Harris, Sam. 2014. Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kabat-Zinn, J. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hachette.

Kim, E. et al. 2013. “Purpose in Life and Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction Among Older U.S. Adults with Coronary Heart Disease: A Two-Year Follow-Up.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine 36: 124–133.

Kim, E. et al. 2013. “Purpose in Life and Reduced Incidence of Stroke in Older Adults: The Health and Retirement Study.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research 74: 427–432.

Lambert, N. M. et. al. 2013. “To Belong Is to Matter: Sense of Belonging Enhances Meaning in Life.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39: 1418–1427.

Okulicz-Kozaryna, Adam. 2010. “Religiosity.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 13: 155–169.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1957. Existentialism and Human Emotions. New York: Carol.

Seligman, M. 2002. Authentic Happiness. New York: Atria Books.

Sillick, W. J. and S. Cathcart. 2014. “The Relationship Between Religious Orientation and Happiness: The Mediating Role of Purpose in Life.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 17: 494–507.

Steger, M. F. 2012. “Making Meaning in Life.” Psychological Inquiry 23: 381–385.

Tsipursky, G. 2011. “Integration, Celebration, and Challenge: Youth and Soviet Elections, 1953–1968.” In Voting for Hitler and Stalin: Elections under 20th Century Dictatorships, edited by Ralph Jessen and Hedwig Richter, 81–102. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

———. 2014. “ ‘Active and Conscious Builders of Communism’: State-Sponsored Tourism for Soviet Adolescents in the Early Cold War, 1945–1953.” Journal of Social History 48: 20–46.

———. 2015. Find Your Purpose Using Science. Westerville: Intentional Insights.

Tu, W. 1985. Confucian Thought: Selfhood as Creative Transformation. New York: State University of New York Press.

Warren, Rick. 2002. The Purpose Driven Life. Michigan: Zondervan.

Watts, A. 1966. The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. New York: Vintage.

Yalom, I. D. 1980. Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.

Zuckerman, P. 2008. Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment. New York: New York University Press.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy