Atheism is not necessarily a HAPPY realization. Because that's what it is. It isn't a belief. It's simply opening your eyes to the way the world appears to be. Growing up a Roman Catholic, they taught me that the apparent world, the world I knew through my body, was just a half-way house. "Real Living" would come later, AFTER death.
The world that i should aspire for was Heaven. How do I aspire for it? By denying THIS world! I almost grew up to believe, like every RC does, that the fabricated world was the goal for the whole of being. It is a concept that does indeed work like a drug.... Marx put it very well: "Religion", he said,"was the opium of the people." And being under the influence, as it were, can be quite comforting. You have a celestial father who loves you, a virgin mother, a super-human brother... whose death bought you a ticket to paradise. Assuming you play by the rules, you had eternity all worked out.
However, once you "wake up" from this fairy tale, it can be quite daunting. I had a pretty rough "death of god" experience. Life can look meaningless since religion supplied the ultimate meaning to everything for so long. The question for me ultimately became-- how do I live now? I found a way... in Nietzschean imagery. And I'd like to share it here....
How to Live Then?
Musings on Nietzschean Imagery: The Dionysian and The Apollonian
The Dionysian represents the shattering of the individual, of the self, and its immersion in nature (the world). The Apollonian represents individuation.
Metaphorically, the Apollonian is like a man in a boat floating on the infinite sea. The sea is reality-- indifferent, boundless. The boat is the world of illusion that man has created to keep him "secure" from the immensity of the sea. The Dionysian is the man in the water, indeed drowning in the sea and being subsumed by it-- like a drop of water dissolving in the ocean.
Another analogy... the Apollonian is like a dream, a fantasy. The Dionysian is like a state of intoxication-- when one is drunk his inhibitions are down, his sense of selfhood is diminished and he is in camaraderie (one-ness) with his friends.
How does one live? To live in the pure Apollonian state is to live in illusion-- pretty much the way a God-fearing man lives-- in a make-believe world where everything is ultimately ok.
To live in the Dionysian is to dissolve one's self. To risk madness before the meaninglessness of the world as it is-- godless and indifferent; inhuman and unjust; pointless and utterly tragic.
How to live, then?
As the post-Dionysian man, who has created a place for himself beyond the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Who accepts the world as it is, and instead tries to create his own human meanings in a meaningless world through art and self-creation.
He is the swimmer, neither cowering in his boat, nor drowning. Instead he's jumped into the water and swims with brisk strokes towards the direction of his choosing, creating his own goals for himself, and yet all the while knowing that he is not swimming towards any shore because there is no land. And he smiles at the depths because he has decided that he will simply enjoy the water while he still has life in his body. He is the atheist re-born: no longer torn between the craving to know and the despair of having known.
He is the sailor, who tethers himself back on his boat, and who steers boldly over raging seas. His boat now transformed from a symbol of mere illusion into a citadel of culture. His art, his music, his language, his literature, his politics are his sword and canon, his saw and hammer, his oar and rudder, his chisel and paintbrush, his violin and his oboe. He is a Renaissance spirit, who dances over the grave that awaits him with light feet, and who gazes bravely into the abyss with the gaiety of his art and music and the poignancy of his literary and religious symbols! As the creator of meaning and value…thus he tames the “world” under his feet and becomes master of himself.