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.
The first one: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2550
The second one: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2722
But seriously, there's a lot of good in people too. Think how much shittier it'd be if there weren't any at all?
well i agree with you that man kind sucks big time.
however i disagree with you that we are alone .. we are like 7 billion people all over this planet .. we have each other .. we are not alone .. i have this idiotic idea of world peace where everyone lives and let live , where every one's purpose is to help the others and make their life easier, if he can't then at least do no harm .
we need to evolve a little bit more to grasp that idea.
I know how that feels, but as much comfort as the God-figure provided in terms of someone to talk to, someone to witness your virtues and to condemn other peoples bad actions - there was the flipside of shame, guilt and condemnation. We are insignificant, since God isn't hanging on our every prayer and waiting on the edge of his seat to see what choices we'll make, but we are part of a pretty amazing scientific world, a complex natural cycle and we interact with it. We are significant to the world and to each other.
As an archivist and music historian I cannot help but to relate philosophy and life perspectives to compositions which, at least, support your ideas and, at best, expand your perspective to something more satisfying without ever sugar-coating or denying what you're experiencing. (In truth I just love making mixtapes.)
Lyrically, the obvious track that comes to mind while reading your thoughts about the brevity and insignificance of human life is "Do You Realize?" by the Flaming Lips.
But I always strive for something more powerful than "obvious" singles.
I can think of no man who simultaneously spoke of both humanity's insignificance AND greatness in the universe than Carl Sagan. I've no doubt you're familiar with many of his memorable statements from the Cosmos series as he described our "pale blue dot" so humbly and poetically.
Melodysheep’s Symphony of Science produced a dozen-or-so songs and music videos utilizing snippets from Sagan, Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jane Goodall, and a number of other scientists to craft inspirational pieces all about the Rational and the Known world.
If you haven’t seen it already, here is “A Glorious Dawn,” feat. Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking.
And in response to the isolation and emptiness you feel about humanity’s place in the universe, listen to Sagan, Richard Feynman, NdGT and Bill Nye speaking in “We Are All Connected.”
But perhaps no contemporary piece celebrates inspiration and human potential better than “We Stopped Dreaming” – a spoken word rant by NdGT backed with the magnificent “Arrival of the Birds” and “Transformation” by The Cinematic Orchestra.
I sincerely hope that these tracks bring you a bit of joy in our insignificant blip of existence, or at the very least, a smile.
Do You Realize is one of the many great tracks on that album! Good pic.
That album is a must for all futurists!
I'm not going to have much to say about your issue with us being fundamentally alone inside our heads; maybe it's just because I'm an introvert, but to me this is natural and nothing to be upset about. My own mind is the only place I am afforded the luxury of perfect privacy! So I wouldn't want any other being inside my head, sharing my thoughts. (To paraphrase Hitchens, it would be like a cosmic dictator that can convict you of thought crime.) That is far more frightening to me than to be alone inside my own head.
As to the fact that we are incidental to the universe, our lives the blink of an eye...well, there's no reason to prefer a cosmic perspective over a more modest one. If I mean nothing to the greater universe, then the greater universe ought not to mean very much to me and my emotional well-being. Now, don't misunderstand—we should know the truth of our place in cosmic history and we should strive to learn all we can about our universe, but why dwell on it and let it become depressing? Think of it this way: are you depressed by the fact that there are about 7 billion people in the world you will never meet, who don't even know you exist and couldn't care less about your life? I'm not, and I doubt you are. I am a little more interested in the opinions of those in my own country, and a little more so of those in my own state and city...but by a huge, huge margin, my well-being depends the most upon my interaction with my own family and friends. As limited in size and duration as that circle may be relative to the cosmos, it's pretty big to me. So to be blunt: yes, the universe is huge and old and indifferent (which is fascinating), but so what?
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 have to take issue with that, because it's just wrong in evolutionary terms. All the evidence of hominid evolution paints exactly the opposite picture: we are one of most social species this planet has ever seen, and that is precisely the key to not only our survival but to our overwhelming reproductive success. The only sense in which we are genetically selfish is in the notion that we benefit ourselves by taking care of each other and working together. We look at the world and see all the bad things people do to each other, but we overlook the extraordinary triumph of civilization in which we all live. It's a testament to our devotion to one another that we all think we could do an even better job of living together, isn't it? So by our own standards, absolutely, we suck to each other. By all means, let's end discrimination and poverty and war. Given how far we've come, let's not quit now!
Sarah, you stated the issues so well that I will walk out on a limb and say you are, or will do well as, a writer.
Your bit on our each being alone refreshed my memory of a couple of minutes in a little-known short movie built around a painting in the Louvre titled Two Nudes Bathing, and the idea that in love people become no longer alone.
My 82 year-long eye blink improved when I quit my violent parents and their religion. My blink improved again when I realized my good health, more when I found work I liked, and hugely when I found my own power.
Some humans do suck. I learned to recognize those who don't suck.
Emotion? 'Tis the curse of the thinking class. Descartes didn't feel; he only half-was.
Yeah, so ... deal with it. That's how it is for every living thing.
Thank you all for the thoughtful responses to this post.
With the exception, perhaps, of Mr. Paynton's curious contribution, I've taken a lot from what has been said here.
You have to get your head in the right place, look at what you have with a glass half full perspective. Yes our lives are so short in comparison to the age of the planets, but that is not our perspective, our perspective is our lifetime. Think about what humanity has achieved in the last decade, the last century, the last millennium and what it can achieve in the future.
Newton once said "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." The intelligence of the human race is cumulative, step into that timeline and add to that cumulative intelligence. Even if it is just to help persuade another religionist to realise the truth, another step toward removing the shackles of religion at some point in the future. Everything we do and achieve has an effect on some part of the human race, so try to make what you do and say count.
As for being alone, you always have been. The only thing that has changed is your perception. God or Jesus were never there, you just thought they were, now you know they are not. The people around you who love and care about you, and who you love and care about, have not changed, they are the ones that mean something.
We need never be truly alone in this age of communication, someone will always take your call, text, tweet, pm. In fact I have more of a problem trying to get some 'alone' time to think and plan!
Remember that the chances of you actually being conceived,being born and living at all were all down to a huge chain of risk laden circumstances, so celebrate being alive and do something with the life you have. Enjoy!
"Intuition" sounds to me like a word with no credible basis. Either it's a sense which gives us information or we get information through applying logic to previously existing logic.
WTF is intuition?
I've seen intuition defined simply as unremembered experience.
I'm half-expecting you to assert "Nothing is unremembered!" Will you?