A big hello to all the unbelievers :) I'm new to this site- so to start off, I'd like to share some thoughts and see whether there are any other people here who have had a similar experience to me- especially if they have any advice.

What I'm referring to is what my friend and confidant has helpfully termed for me, the 'side effects' of atheism. I've been a confirmed atheist for about 5 years now, after a period of about 3 years soul searching, prior to which I was a Christian. I'm happy to be at this stage in my journey and in many ways, as I'm sure many of you will agree, letting go of delusions has been the most liberating and positive experience of my life. I might also add here that, as well as being an atheist (i.e. not believing in a deity) I am scientifically minded in other aspects of the 'supernatural', and don't believe in either an afterlife or the soul. I accept evolution, and universal chaos, as the ultimate reality. And most of the time, that sits fine with me.

However, I've started to realise why people are so quick to delude themselves. But since my mind will not logically allow me to do that, I have to learn to overcome these feelings rationally.  For me, there have been a few things that I am finding hard to 'overcome' and make peace with. Here we go...

-First, there is the slow realisation that we are all fundamentally alone. Has anyone else experienced this loneliness? No matter who we are with, or how many friends we have or how deep our relationship- we are all single units... we experience our deepest emotions alone. We are alone inside our heads. It probably doesn't help that I'm part of an atheist minority in a world obsessed with god. Anyway, I can only describe this recent realisation as an 'emptiness', and I'm not surprised at all that most people try to fill this with the notion of an all knowing, all loving father figure.

-Not only are we alone, but we are also incidental. Our lives are a mere puff of wind that will be extinguished forever in the amount of time that, in relative, universal terms, is the mere blink of an eye. We don't matter- and nothing we do matters. And I'm sorry to sound depressing here- it's reality, nonetheless- that we will all die. Everyone we love will die. As we get older, we'll watch them go, one by one- and then it'll be our turn. I really do doubt whether most people have actually faced this reality up front. It certainly takes some time to come to terms with. I think it could probably be rightly described as 'existential anxiety'.

-Since there is no god, all we have is the world we're in and our fellow humans that inhabit it. And here's where the main problem lies: humans suck. They kill and massacre their own kind, they lie, they discriminate, they cause animals to suffer, they destroy the planet, they steal, they rape... yes, these are extreme behaviours but even the average human- who may not necessarily be bad- is fundamentally selfish. Evolution necessitates that- we have to survive. Each to their own and each looking out for themselves. I can understand why this reality would necessitate a doctrine which calls us to love each other, and why this important truth has been clung to for thousands of years. I can also understand why people would cling to the notion of a beautiful, peaceful afterlife... oh absolutely. Because the reality of this world is pretty hard to take sometimes.

Perhaps emotion is a weakness in evolutionary terms.... I can tell you for sure that when I look around and see the state of the world at the hands of cold hearted humans, I feel more alone than ever. And sometimes I think, well- maybe after 70 or so years on this world, I'll probably be more than happy to turn my back on it.

Any thoughts anyone? Has anyone else been through this period of coming to terms to reality? I'd love to hear about your feelings and experiences and how, if at all, you cope with them.

Tags: atheism, death, evolution, humans, reality

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The more you know about the universe the more you realize that we are infinitely insignificant, our mere existence is nothing but the universe expressing itself in a blip on the timeline of everything. But I also came to realize that we are incredibly significant in how lucky we are to even exist as a species let alone you and me. Yet that still doesn't give purpose or meaning to our lives, quite to the contrary, our lives are meaningless and purposeless. So I can relate to you when you said that humans (in general terms) suck, but I also find people amusing, I enjoy the uniqueness of character in everyone that bothered to build a character of his/her own, I see how rare they are and that's why I value them.

Emotions are indeed a weakness, but that doesn't make them a bad thing, they are rather a primitive biological mechanism to survive in this world. I found that keeping emotions in check with reality always helped me have emotions that are justified, worthwhile, and can have more than an imaginary value. That being said, I always have hope for the future, I have hope in science and technology, they are the only thing that truly gives meaning to our existence. Of course in the grandest scheme of things, that doesn't give our lives any meaning at all, but hey, we still do not know a lot about ourselves let alone the universe. I find not knowing a driving force behind everything I do and everything I am, the mere idea that I do not know makes me itch like a cocaine addict, always want more, and always want to learn more about interesting things and unique people everywhere.

Will I find the world uninteresting in the next 70 years or so? I simply do not know, in fact, I know that the world will be radically changed in that time frame I cannot wait to see it all unfold, I wouldn't want to die out of accident, I want to control my own death, I die when I want to. There's literally an infinity of things I'd love to witness and be involved with, death is the last thing I'd think about right after building an elaborate fireworks setup around my own house and let it all then blow up V-for-Vendetta style.

Would it be fair to say that whether we are religious or not we are still “alone”? I just think that this side-effect is a positive one for we learn to live our lives with a more mature and adult sense of reality. For some the purpose of their lives is to venerate an imaginary entity and have their outlook and thinking coloured by that philosophy.

Those of us who that have embraced the philosophy of life that flows from understanding that there are no gods and no second life must reach a point where we know that (as evolved creatures) we will die. Once we come to terms with our own mortality we look at everything differently. That is the most important thing we need to do. Once we accept that fact we can live fuller lives.

There may be some sadness felt with this outlook but only in a sort of poetic sense. Maybe sometimes on a dark night we do long for more but most of the time we get to see much more beauty and truth. There is a magic to reality (as Dawkins would say) that people miss if their heads are kept bowed.

We should rejoice in the fact that we are able to understand our own insignificance in the Universe. Our life can have whatever meaning we wish to give it. So I don’t think having these thoughts are a side effect of Atheism – I think they are the rewards of Atheism. Embrace them and seize the day. Someday it will be our time to die and all the moments of our lives will be washed away like tears in the rain.

 

As I approach the so-called "Golden Years" of my existence I have come to terms with my finiteness. I believe there is something to be said for living in the moment and extracting happiness from the simple things in life. Most of our lives become too complicated and rushed [referring to those living in the western hemisphere among the noise and chatter of capitalism]. Having a few truly good friends to rub elbows with and appreciating the amazing complexity & beauty of our natural world keeps my boat floating. Quality is the issue, not longevity.

Endless life has no value. Carpe Diem. Any other notion is just cold comfort and "pale shelter".

-First, there is the slow realisation that we are all fundamentally alone. Has anyone else experienced this loneliness? No matter who we are with, or how many friends we have or how deep our relationship- we are all single units... we experience our deepest emotions alone. We are alone inside our heads. It probably doesn't help that I'm part of an atheist minority in a world obsessed with god. Anyway, I can only describe this recent realisation as an 'emptiness', and I'm not surprised at all that most people try to fill this with the notion of an all knowing, all loving father figure.

Yes, we are all trapped inside our own psyche, which is opaque to others, just as theirs are opaque to us. But this was a philosophical problem before modern atheism. Hell, we have a pre- or sub-conscious mind that our conscious mind is aware of only in retrospect or obliquely. This mind actually makes all of the decisions we THINK we make consciously and using the mythological "free will."

-Not only are we alone, but we are also incidental. Our lives are a mere puff of wind that will be extinguished forever in the amount of time that, in relative, universal terms, is the mere blink of an eye. We don't matter- and nothing we do matters. And I'm sorry to sound depressing here- it's reality, nonetheless- that we will all die. Everyone we love will die. As we get older, we'll watch them go, one by one- and then it'll be our turn. I really do doubt whether most people have actually faced this reality up front. It certainly takes some time to come to terms with. I think it could probably be rightly described as 'existential anxiety'.

Have you ever thought about this? The universe itself is in much the same position. It is expanding at an increasing rate and someday far in the future, will effectively be so widely dispersed and "cold" that it will cease to exist as well. Not only will you and I be long gone and forgotten, but so will the entire universe.

-Since there is no god, all we have is the world we're in and our fellow humans that inhabit it. And here's where the main problem lies: humans suck. They kill and massacre their own kind, they lie, they discriminate, they cause animals to suffer, they destroy the planet, they steal, they rape... yes, these are extreme behaviours but even the average human- who may not necessarily be bad- is fundamentally selfish. Evolution necessitates that- we have to survive. Each to their own and each looking out for themselves. I can understand why this reality would necessitate a doctrine which calls us to love each other, and why this important truth has been clung to for thousands of years. I can also understand why people would cling to the notion of a beautiful, peaceful afterlife... oh absolutely. Because the reality of this world is pretty hard to take sometimes.

We are selfish and only interested in promoting our own species. That puts us in the same group as squirrels and hawks, cheetahs and gazelles, cows and wolves. We are just another animal.

So, in other words..it's even worse than you thought.

Welcome, Sarah.

I came to the realisation I was definitely going to die when I was about 7 years old, and I sat on the stairs and howled.  My mother could have chosen to indoctrinate me then and there into a religion and more importantly an afterlife, but she didn't.  She just comforted me and said it wouldn't be for a very long time and I had lots to do before then. 

Over the years, it has become an acceptable fate in my head.  I have had an incredibly full life, with wild joy and deep despair included.  When my partner died, I almost lost the will to live, but I did not have the will to kill myself either.  At that point, death seemed almost welcome.  And I met someone new and married her and now I live in Vermont rather than London,and have a new life here.

Just recently, I was in a car accident - the driver skidded on an icy patch on the highway, and spun in a circle and crossed the gully separating Northbound and Southbound traffic, and we ended up on the highway going the opposite way to the traffic, and managed to stop at the edge.  As it was all happening, I discovered something.  At the point where I realised we were going to crash, everything went into slow motion, and I had complete mental clarity.  I straightened my position in the front seat. made sure my seat belt was properly on, took off my spectacles and thought, "I'm probably about to die, how fascinating, I wonder what it will be like".   That was weird.  And of course here I am, and I didn't even break a nail.  But now I can add that I wasn't scared to face death, to my mental attitudes.

One of the most important things to come to terms with when you move away from religion to a position of atheism, is that nothing has changed.  The world is exactly as it always was, you are exactly as you always were, and the only thing that has in fact altered, is your perception.  That's all.  If you feel alone, you were always alone.  Invisible friends are not company.  Your dog or cat is better company. Try to understand nothing has changed.  You have just taken off your "fairy spectacles" and can see the wonders around you.

There are many video links that we can all post and share with you that may help with that isolation feeling.  Here is Alan Watts talking about it. (just under 4 minutes).

HI Strega,

Thank you for your reply, and for sharing that story and the video with me. It was quite moving...

I had a similar experience as a child. I remember being at school in the lunch queue and I started crying.... the teacher asked me what was wrong. I said it was my parents, and I think she assumed I was worried they would divorce or something- but, I remember that I was crying because I realised they would die. I can't have been older than seven myself. I think I was less lucky than you in that I was fed the 'eternal life through Jesus' story instead of being told the truth. Perhaps that's why it has taken longer for me to face this reality head on.

+1 to the vid.

"First, there is the slow realisation that we are all fundamentally alone".

Well, that is true, but my perception about it is different. This is what makes you unique, this is amazing! No matter how common, vague, or short your experience about anything is, nobody will experience the way you do. I found it amazing, also I wouldn't call it 'emptiness' since we are not empty, each one of us is fill with memories, experiences, thoughts, sensations, emotions. I mean, we are fortunate to have the ability to love. I love life.

"Not only are we alone, but we are also incidental"
Again, this is true, but I don't see it that way. We could say: 'Everything will end one day, even the Universe, so why to live?' Well, life is full of experiences, why we don't kill ourselves now if we are going to die later? I don't know why, but I know that almost every human prefers life over death (even the ones who attenpt to suicide, the ones who survive, they recall that they wanted to live). So, my answer is, something is better than nothing. I prefer to live a year than not to live at all, and this is when life becomes meaningful for me. Yes, I will live 'a wind' a 'puff' but that is better than nothing. Theists argue that the odds weren't on your favor to live. I say that it is true, although it doesn't prove God, I don't know why, I know how, and I enjoy life because of that.

"Since there is no god, all we have is the world we're in and our fellow humans that inhabit it. And here's where the main problem lies: humans suck"
True again, and yes it sucks, but this is also what makes me live. I want a better world, and I will fight for a free and better world, I'll fight the religous for the harm they cause to our world, and together we CAN, that is why is better life over death.

'To be or not to be?'
To be! I will pick to be every time.

Life generaly sucks, once you learn to accept that and stop worrying about it you will likely find more enjoyment from life than wishing it was otherwise . I guess i am a glass half empty sort of guy but i dont let it get me down. That just means it is time to finish my drink and go looking for a refill.

“You can’t trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink. Mine’s a double" - Terry Pratchett -small gods

Sometimes we win and sometimes we learn

Perhaps the only point of our incidental existence is to perpetuate our DNA.

Maybe to survive and evolve to a point when we can look back on our current state and see it as the painful adolescent stage of development that all species must endure and overcome.

If that is indeed the case then our lives might be better spent dedicated to our children and their future.

I think that goal of trying to create the best possible future for our species might be the answer to the emptiness and despair that reality can inflict.

That would mean coming together and agreeing on how best to proceed.

And is that not why some of us where drawn to join this site?

To connect with others who share our non belief?

Maybe this is a good place to start.

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