What exactly do people mean, if they mean anything at all by it, when they use the word 'meaning' from a philosophical perspective? Meaning to me seems to be one of those things that 'everyone' knows but no one can define - a little like qualia, in a way. You can't describe what Red looks like (though you might, with some advanced science, be able to link certain wavelengths of light to certain neuron firings in the brain), but you 'know' what someone means when they say 'red'. The same thing, I think is true when someone talks about the 'meaning of life'. What they are actually talking about isn't a definable thing - for example, if the universe were created as a video game for God's little son Jesus to play with, then that, from the standard definition, should be the purpose, the meaning for the universe. But that wouldn't satisfy anyone - it'd probably just depress them. "There must be a deeper meaning!" they might say. The thing is, by definition of purpose, that should exactly 'click' with most people's mental apparatus, and yet, it doesn't, just as a description of red's wavelength and frequency doesn't 'click' with people's understanding of the colour red. But when, if ever, does 'meaning' seem to 'work' in people's minds? Well let's look at religion. The only people, other than nature-worshipping 'atheists', like Richard Dawkins (I mention him too much here, I think), who ever claim to have meaning in their lives, or to know the meaning of life are the religious. But when they talk about meaning, they never have a clearly definable little snippet to give you. No cute little proverbs, just a feeling - just a fuzzy feeling of well-being, accompanied by some idiocy such as 'God works in mysterious ways' or 'Only God knows' or 'I'm content in God's plan for us'. They don't know the meaning of life either, but the 'meaning' switch in their brains is clearly set to the on-setting permanently. So is the endless modern quest for meaning simply a disguised quest for fulfillment in a world that is so different from our ancestral environment? Maybe - or maybe it's simply a need for religion, or some other kind of spirituality. With the vast numbers of religions out there, seen in every ancient society - who's to say that it isn't something almost necessary in humans? Perhaps it serves some sort of social function - but truth be told, it hits centres that pure pessimistic atheism at its core can never even hope to strike. I think the general thoughts on religions in the atheist-sphere is that they are simply highly spreadable meme-plexes - a series of memes that spread remarkably easily in the human mind, and in doing so, by evolutionary processes, therefore are in abundance in society. But what I'm thinking is, if this is indeed the truth, why have a meaning cluster in the brain? What is the point of it, even if religion is simply acting as a neurological parasite?
I foresee two scenarios: either religion is a necessary component of humanity, for reasons to do with society and meaning-deficiency is a real mental health problem caused by its lack, OR the meaning button evolved to broadcast happiness and contentment to others, perhaps with one's job or one's position in society, and has been corrupted by philosophy's search for answers where there are none fulfilling our human needs.