In the beginning, there were people, and they were confused. They existed, they thought, they hunted, they gathered, they made more of themselves. However, why were they there? How were they there? How did the world around them exist?
It is commonly stated that religion and faith came from an attempt by our ancestors to explain the world around them. However, it was also an attempt to explain themselves. The who, why, how, what and when of conscious life could not be known in their life experiences. Therefore, they created their own answers according to their worldviews. Religion and the associated stories answered all their questions. Where did you come from? Well, in the beginning there was a cosmic egg, or Chaos, or God, or the Word, or clay or darkness. From there, the stories spiraled to answer all your questions, from the meaning of life to how you should ensure your group’s continued existence.
The basic tenet of most Western theologies answers the question of the meaning of life: we exist to serve the higher power, i.e. God. The codicil to this meaning is that you serve God in order to make it to the next life, or more specifically, the better version of the next life. Few people serve a higher power in order to make it to Hell unless, of course, they are serving Satan, but that is another subject entirely.
Of course, there is a question with this meaning of life. Is the meaning of life to serve God or to get to Heaven? While many may claim that this is the same thing, the intention behind the two is vastly different. It is like telling your children that if they volunteer at the local soup kitchen, they will not have to do chores for two weeks. Volunteering, like serving God, is a selfless and giving act. Doing it for the reward, be it two weeks of no weeding or an eternity in Heaven, is entirely selfish.
Many religions will offer an answer to the meaning of life. However, it is useful to consider whether they are offering a selfless or selfish answer.