Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby DougP » Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:59 pm UTC

Levi wrote:I am going to start by saying that:

1. I am a Christian.
2. I have logical reasons for my belief. (e.g., NOT: I think there is a god because I want to go to heaven)

My question is posed to atheists:
1)How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist, and nothing that you do matters?2) Why do you keep going? 3) Do you ever have moments were you just give up because it's all futile? 4) How do you survive? 5) Do you just ignore the thought of death and run from it?

I'll address this point by point (by the numbers I added to the quite).

1) Its really quite simple for me. Its about making the most out of the time I have. You suggest that "nothing that [I] do matters." On the contrary, EVERYTHING I do matters, and matters a great deal. I've only got one shot at this, so I've got to do my best the first time around. Furthermore, everyone around me is in the same boat, so I feel a social responsibility to help the people around be when they need it, because they've only got one life to live and they deserve to have it be as good as possible.

2) Similar to number 1, I keep going because I don't get any other chances, if I were to "quit" that would be an awful waste.

3) Hmm. Perhaps. There are moments when I certainly get frustrated, but not necessarily because "its all futile." Occasionally I have some tough moments because I am very socially and politically active, and I see people worried more about an imaginary place they go when they die rather than the real world and the suffering around them, and what seems "futile" is the the thought they people will never get over their primitive superstitions.

4) I'm assuming this one is supposed to be a follow up to #3, so I'll answer it as such. I survive by knowing that if fuck it up, thats it for me, no second changes, gotta make it count the first time.

5) I came to terms with death a while ago. I can't presume to know what dying is like, but I suspect it isn't particularly pleasant. That being said, ceasing to exist isn't particularly depressing a thought. To paraphrase someone (maybe Douglas Adams? I can't recall where I heard this), "I didn't exist for billions of years before I was born and it never caused me the slightest inconvenience." I'm not even a little scared of death, but like I said, dying doesn't sound so great depending on the way you go, If im lucky, I'll go in my sleep and it won't matter, but I imagine bleeding to death or drowning or something would be pretty uncomfortable way to go.

To answer the broader topic about the "effect" on Atheism on my life, I'd have to say its overwhelmingly positive. Rather than worrying about how everything I do might impact my viability in getting into a magical cloud city, I can concentrate on making my life, and the people around me's life better here on Earth.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby icanus » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:40 pm UTC

I agree with much of what other people have already said - to me life seems more precious because it is limited, not less.

I do what makes me happy (which includes trying to make other people happy), and that's enough of an overarching purpose for me, though of course I have many subordinate goals and purposes along the way.

I've pretty much always been an atheist, so I never experienced the period of despair before readjusting that other people have talked about (or at least, if I did, experienced it further back than I can remember). I want to continue living my life because it's enjoyable. When It's not enjoyable, I want to continue in hopes that it will be enjoyable again once I've overcome whatever misfortune is currently standing on my neck.

I accept that I'm going to die sooner or later, and while I'm not particularly looking forward to the process of dying, which in most cases is to some extent unpleasant, the prospect of actually being dead is from my perspective nothing to worry about since I won't ever experience it.

While I realise that invoking the name of the Dark One, Richard Dawkins can bring a lot of people's mental blast-doors slamming down in a hurry, he rather eloquently summed up some of the reasons I, as an atheist, value my life.

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Here is another respect in which we are lucky. The universe is older than 100 million centuries. Within a comparable time the sun will swell to a red giant and engulf the earth. Every century of hundreds of millions has been in its time, or will be when its time comes, 'the present century.' The present moves from the past to the future, like a tiny spotlight, inching its way along a gigantic ruler of time. Everything behind the spotlight is in darkness, the darkness of the dead past. Everything ahead of the spotlight is in the darkness of the unknown future. The odds of your century's being the one in the spotlight are the same as the odds that a penny, tossed down at random, will land on a particular ant crawling somewhere along the road from New York to San Francisco. You are lucky to be alive and so am I." ( from Unweaving the Rainbow, complete passage here)

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby cerbie » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:57 pm UTC

Levi wrote:My question is posed to atheists:
How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end,
Um, the same way everybody does? If you think your life won't end, either it will be because of science, or simply delusion.
[knowing that] you will cease to exist,
Big assumption. I don't know that. Come to think of it, you don't know what will happen after death, either. You just happen to believe a construct that you were taught. I'm fine without knowing.
and nothing that you do matters?
Again, big assumption. I don't know that, either.
Why do you keep going?
Finally, a good one. But, every answer of, "life is fun," and "my legacy will matter" seems kind of vain to me. I go on, because some force in my mind compels me to. I have bits of other reasons, but none fully formed.
Do you ever have moments were you just give up because it's all futile?
Of course. The last eight years has been full of them. Every time a right was squashed, every time I saw the masses brainwashed to believe complete shit, every little bit eroded away from our already lax environmental protections, and every move that alienated other nations we should be showing love to...not fun, and not good at offering hope.
How do you survive?
Eat, sleep, work, feel comfort in not being the only one...
Do you just ignore the thought of death and run from it?
No. I find death a rather pleasant idea, actually, and generally think much less about it when I'm depressed. We all die. There's nothing to run from; nothing to ignore.

In general, I think you either get it, or don't get it. I never believed in anything Christianity did. I don't get that.

Posts like this (this being quote-sniping) add nothing to the discourse. Why are they so popular? Get out of this habit, and quickly, please.

DSenette: (...) on the whole, even a trained killer cow is kind of stupid.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby SunAvatar » Thu Nov 13, 2008 3:10 pm UTC

Before I continue, I should note that I actually think it kind of sucks that everyone eventually dies, and I'm very happy that there are medical scientists and singularitarians and others pushing us toward the day when that won't be the case. If I'm lucky, I'll live long enough to catch that train. So I'm not sure I can support anyone here who says life is meaningful because it is limited. I can't imagine a finite amount of time such that I would decline to live longer than that.

But the whole idea of eternal life is actually just a distraction from the main point. If life doesn't have meaning, it's not as if making it longer will give it meaning. Likewise, if an eternity of happiness is enough to give life profound meaning, I don't see why a lifetime of happiness shouldn't give life some meaning.

To answer the original question: I don't think there is any external ultimate meaning of human existence, but then I'm not even sure how I would know an ultimate meaning if I saw it. Suppose a tablet fell from the heavens and it said, I don't know, "The meaning of life is to get the high score in Guitar Hero!" Is this the meaning of life? If so, why should you even care? Can't you just, like, do whatever you want instead?
Non est salvatori salvator,
neque defensori dominus,
nec pater nec pater,
nihil supernum.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Menagerie » Tue Nov 18, 2008 8:18 am UTC

I am just as much an atheist as you, I just believe in one less deity.

Honestly, I don't worry about the end. All good stories come to an end. If I made the world a better place. If I stole just one smile from the grim grips of reality, if I left just one person better off than they were, then I think I've done enough, because it's more than many.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby clintonius » Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:08 pm UTC

In the OP:
Azrael wrote:Everyone: Please read the thread before commenting.

There seem to be a lot of newcomers to this discussion that post responses to the very first post ... 4 pages later. Most of what you're saying has been said before. Repeatedly.


It happened again. Locked.

kira wrote:*piles up some limbs and blood and a couple hearts for good measure*
*...pokes at it with a stick*

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