One of these searches was a deceptively simple question: "How do atheists find meaning in life?"
I call it "deceptively" simple because I'm fairly certain that the obvious answer, "By doing things that matter," isn't what the querent was looking for. That is, after all, an answer to the broader and altogether more useful question of how people find meaning in life - and that wasn't what the searcher asked. He, or she, asked how atheists find meaning in life. And that's... interesting.
Just by specifying atheists, the question implies that that sort of people might have (or do have, or ought to have) unusual trouble finding meaning in life. Which, in my experience, is not the case at all - though I don't have any actual scientific data handy, I haven't found that atheists are particularly more or less prone to feeling that life has no meaning than religious folks are. Religious beliefs are the sort of thing that sound like they should make a difference in whether someone feels like their life has meaning, but as a practical matter there's no connection - at least not as far as I can tell.
So there's the second answer: religious beliefs don't correlate to a sense of meaning, so atheists find meaning in life the same way everybody else does. For further clarification, scroll back up to the obvious answer I offered above.
Then there's the Socratic response: answer the question with a question. In this case, I'd ask: "How do Christians find meaning in life?" Consider the following thought exercise:
Christians, as a rule, believe the world was created by a being who is all-knowing. That means that everything you do, God knows about. Everything you're going to do, every decision you will ever make, God already knows about and always has. As far as God is concerned, all your choices are already made. So how can anything you do have meaning?If that sounds a little odd, a little off to Christian ears, well... it's supposed to. My point here is that asking "How do atheists find meaning in life?" sounds just as strange, just as wrong.
On top of that, Christians believe that God is all-powerful. That means that anything that needs to be done - spreading the Gospel, helping the poor, teaching immigrants to speak English - He could do, Himself. Sure, the Bible says that God wants his followers to do certain things, but it's pretty much make-work; it's just to keep you busy and let you feel like you're accomplishing something. How could anyone find meaning in that?
Look, if you want to get good answers, you have to ask good questions. This one isn't a good question. It's too caught up in its own assumptions. It depends too much on the answers to other questions that haven't been asked yet. But that aside, I hope this post will at least point you off in the general direction of an answer.
What about you? How do you find meaning in life?
1. I assume that the searcher was a Christian. This is mainly because fixating on atheists seems to me to be most common among Christians, and modern American Christians in particular.