As Atheists we are compelled to look at the world differently. Once we arrive at the conclusion that there are (probably) no gods we must look for a different set of answers to the bigger questions in life. At some point we realise and admit to ourselves that we only have this life to live. Death is the end of our existence. That is the crux of what Atheism implies. It is not the most pleasant thought to consider and we would all like more time but that is what we get for being realistic about life. Once we acknowledge this fact or truth we can then get on with living our lives to the full.
The meaning of life is what we want it to be. Our time is not wasted on our knees in praise of some supernatural non-existent entity. We must search for our own answers and go where the knowledge we discover takes us. We think about each discovery with a more critical eye and we have developed a healthy sense of scepticism because “we won’t get fooled again”. We are more eager to learn new things. I think one of the most poisonous things about religion is that it takes away ones “self” or uniqueness and turns people in sheep. It suffocates our natural instinct to look over the parapet and ask questions.
The “goddidit” way of looking at the world removes the desire to learn. Just drinking the Kool-Aid and never challenging your doubts or asking questions is a weakness. Making new discoveries is one of the trait of our species. Our evolution has depended on us making new discoveries. We got this far not by asking “Why are we here” which presupposes there is a reason but by asking “How come we are here” which compels us to venture out and make discoveries..
I would lose interest in life very quickly if I had not more questions to ask and nothing new to discover. I want more knowledge all the time. I have always been like this but I am certain that once I acknowledged my atheism to myself that my way of looking at the world changed and changed for the better. Knowledge does give us power. It encourages the development of our critical thinking skills so we can make better decisions. It allows us, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, not to have to pay attention to the man hiding behind the curtain.
Knowledge is power but it does not have to be “heavy”. Knowledge allows us opportunities we would not otherwise have had. It sets us free. Knowledge, like atheism, makes us more mature adults. It makes us more responsible individuals. Too much knowledge could feel overpowering but Atheism (or not thinking magically) gives us a powerful skill set and a better way of handling the responsibilities and discoveries that knowledge gives us. So more knowledge please as thinking atheists would say. We are all in this together :-)
I think one of the most poisonous things about religion is that it takes away ones “self” or uniqueness
To me the opposite is true. The religious look for "eternal life for ME. IIIiii can't die. I'm too important." Atheism lets us (forces us) to see that we are all ONE. Our whole planet is but a mote of dust. How insignificant, then, are our puny lives.
MikeLong, your post appears to say your life is insignificant, puny.
If it is, I recommend a bit of narcissism.
Enough to raise your self esteem; not enough to make you clinically interesting.
Well actually, Tom, my self esteem is very high - perhaps too high. My personal self esteem compares my self, my attributes, and my skills with others. In my eyes I mostly come out ahead (especially, I might add, in general life happiness and self-fulfillment,). My contention is that the entire human race, combined, is puny and insignificant. To think that the God who created the entire universe would have some personal relationship with the human race (much less ME, personally) is laughable.
Mike, your parenthetical much less ME, personally says more than I feel able to communicate.
I can tell you that I understand exactly how you feel about this. I have always had an intellectual curiosity and a desire to understand "the truth" because empty explanations always left me unsatisfied (like being told "because I said so" by your parents when you asked why you couldn't do something).
In my late teens I was diagnosed with endogenous depression - a depression not linked with an external event such as a bereavement but instead a depression "from within". There are of course many factors but I still think a large part of it was my realisation as I grew older and read more of how much there was to know and how little I knew of it. Each step towards a greater understanding just seemed to open whole new fields about which I knew nothing. In my young mind I really felt a sense of despair and overwhelming that I was incapable of attaining all the knowledge I required to have a proper understanding of the world.
I even started to think with the naivety of a teenager that if I dedicated enough time or tried harder I could gain enough knowledge that I could make the world a better place or solve some of the big problems.
It was at this time that I felt exactly how you did about incurious people. It amazed me, and I envied it, that people could live a "tiny" life ignorant of almost all things that I considered worthy and important (scientific discoveries, philosophical arguments). Most galling of all these people were far happier than me even though I pompously dismissed them because they were not nobly struggling for the truth. The phrase "ignorance is bliss" rang very true for me.
It is interesting that you note that during times of high emotion the world becomes a simpler place. I believe this is because this emotion forces one into the here and now. A large part of the process I had to go through to recover from my depression was to learn to restrain my thinking to just that which was occurring now. It was very hard for me because I didn't want to let go of my curiosity for the larger questions but in the end I had no choice. The only way through it was to temporarily become like the people I had internally sneered at for their lack of intellectual desire.
Now I am older and the depression is behind me. I am able once again to ponder the big questions because I always have the ability to return to the now when it is necessary. I still catch myself reading a new, exciting topic and burdening myself with responsibility for understanding it fully. At these times I have to take a break and return to everyday - my family, etc.
Many people early on choose not to go down the hard path of pondering weighty topics because there is an easy alternative - if anything becomes difficult or overwhelming or burdensome simply discard it. If a resolution to an issue is really required then often this is the time they invoke the big responsibility absolver (God or something like it).
So yes, I get it. It is lonely to be someone who does not wish to absolve responsilbility and would rather face hard facts about life, death, suffering. It is lonely because it is not what most people want to do or want to understand. But for me, it is the only way I can operate. If only praying someone would get better would make me feel better. How much simpler life would be. But it does not. If only believing that someone is watching over me and will grant me everlasting life after death would make me feel more warm and fuzzy. But it does not. We cannot avoid who we are and how we think. We can only do our best with what we have been given.
I would not change anything about who I am. For me, reading something like "Consciousness Explained" by Daniel Dennett is difficult but the rewards that a "Eureka" moment bring when something that was previously a complete mystery at least becomes partially within my grasp is worth a thousand "comforting" moments brought on by daydreaming that someone, somewhere is looking out for me.
I'm sorry to hear that you are having a lot of difficulties at the moment. I'm glad though that you have realised that attempting to pass these off to a supernatural being is not healthy in the long-term. It takes a lot for someone to abandon that path and decide to make it on their own so kudos to you.
I would encourage you to keep fighting. It is difficult and tempting to give in with easy ways out but these ultimately will not bring you happiness. Without the true belief of a fundamentalist each resignation to a "higher power" only brings temporary respite. Ultimately the same malcontent creeps back.
Instead, as hard as it is, look to find happiness and answers in the everyday, however small. Friends, family, hobbies, whatever it may be. If there are difficulties in one, or many, areas of life, look for respite in others. This puts you in more control of being happy.
I never understand people who say "You will be happy once you give yourself to God". Even by their own admission, "God works in mysterious ways" so how can it be a good thing to place your happiness on a being that is capricious at best. This is the prize that we atheists win. Once we have learned the skills, inner contentment is within our own control. We don't need anyone else to provide it for us and, importantly, no-one has the power to take it away.
Once you win the fight (and I know you will) you will have done the hard bit. Once everyday matters take priority the past and the future have less of a hold on you.
I know what you are talking about, Belle. Just last week I had to hand deliver an affidavit to my lawyers' offices ( I do not have a car due to some stupid decisions), I had to use public transport and got lost. Here I was walking for Five and half hours to a place that could have taken me 15 minutes walk! I remember reflecting on my life as a Xian that at that moment I would have been praising god for teaching some kind of a lesson. The pain of reality faced me that I took for granted, I did not pay attention and I was paying for my stupidity. True, hard facts are just that- hard but they have been helping me to take full responsibility for anything happening to me.
Belle, I see several questions there. I will take on one of them.
...life is lonely when you are "intellectual"....does anyone else get what I mean by that? Or is it just me?
If by "intellectual" you mean doing well, or very well, on IQ tests, it isn't just you.
I did very well on such tests and in school found other boys' talk about cars and sports deadly dull. At recess and lunch I either stood nearby and said nothing or went somewhere and read.
It left me socially retarded, which is how I describe some members of Mensa. A Mensa woman told me Mensa men knew clever ways to be cruel.
I'm 83, and doing stuff that challenges me is the only remedy I've found. Some of it requires me to be with people. I still read a lot. Non-fiction.