When tackling a question such as "What is the meaning to life?", it would do us well to understand what exactly we mean by purpose, for every word has multiple meanings in all its different contexts. A person may or may not be cognitive of the distinctions between the ideas referred to by this word, so any position must clarify its terms to enhance comprehensibility. There are 2 dichotomies which I will be focusing on:
Next, I will briefly explain the different ways in which purpose may be used.
So to answer the question: Can our lives have purpose(A/B)? Absolutely. But can our lives have purpose(C)? This is a distinction of paramount importance. One must realize the extent and confines of their conclusion, for if they have worked out a problem using some limited conception of purpose, and then adapt it to encompass and breathe life into a purpose that exists in itself, then he has just committed a semantic shift fallacy perhaps even without his knowledge. On paper it may all appear the same, but someone proclaiming to have found purpose must have some conception of what that "purpose" is, and that conception makes all the difference. Some people tend to drop their intellectual guard after some time, perhaps weary of being unable to grasp what they seek, that they start to confuse purpose(A) or purpose(B) for purpose(C). They may even be satisfied in their abilities to choose some worthy goal to live their lives for, or consciously work towards being a model citizen in some arbitrarily chosen system to follow. I risk controversy for saying what I'm about to say, but it is not wrong to do either, even whether that system be a system of God or some system of naturalism drawn from scientific principles such as Evolution as inspiration (such as a system backed by Christopher Hitchens). Neither are wrong. But I do believe in intellectual honesty -- as long as a person recognizes and accepts that his purpose is either purpose(A) or purpose(B), but not purpose(C), and be honest and forthcoming about that revelation, then I should also accept that in the face of overwhelming unknowns and absurdities it becomes necessary to adopt a "purpose", whatever it may be, or face eternal stagnation wrestling with a spectral problem that may as well be epistemically impossible to solve.
Many thanks Jonathan. What a wonderful piece of writing. Very well written.