In Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, Dan Barker writes:
Who said life must have meaning? Why can’t life just be life? My family has three cats, We enjoy watching them play, eat, sleep, lie in the sun and chase bugs. Do they ask themselves what is the meaning of life? Is their life any less livable because they possess no coherent purpose for existence? Since we humans have larger brains with a greater rational capacity and self consciousness than other animals we somehow assume we must be worthy of a higher purpose. Isn’t that arrogance?
To ask the question about the meaning in life one must first assume the presence of someone to bestow bestow that meaning. This usually amounts to granting the existence of a transcendent reality, a supernatural realm to which we can somehow relate in a “meaningful manner.” If you can live without the need for meaning in life, then you will likewise not need the invented frame of reference, the plan and purpose of a divine will. To many people life is its own meaning, and the word “meaning” becomes meaningless.
There are a lot of assumptions lurking behind questions like “what is the meaning of life” or “what meaning can life have for an atheist.” These questions always assume the truth of a number of basic theistic and religious attitudes not normally shared by atheists, something which can make it difficult for atheists to address these questions if not prepared.
The first thing an atheist should probably ask is: why must there be a “the” meaning to life? Why can’t there be multiple meanings to life — meanings and different and varied as the people living life? The second thing an atheist should do is point out the flaw in assuming that we need some outside force or entity to impose meaning upon us. Meaning, if it is to “mean” anything, must be the product of how we live and what we value. No other person can give meaning to what I do and, for the same reason, no gods — if any exist — can automatically give meaning to my life.