The despair of being an athiest

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Guy Smiley
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The despair of being an athiest

Post #1

Post by Guy Smiley »

Hi all, I actually joined this group many years ago, but have been inactive for a pretty long time (and was never that active in the first place).

Anyway, for the past couple years as I've gotten a little older, I've started fearing death more than before. Add to that that I've been reading A Very Short Introduction to Consciousness (which I'm liking by the way), which has reminded me that my free will is a complete illusion, and that I'm actually just a DNA-transmitting automaton.

So it's got me down. Anyone have ways of dealing with our depressing situation? I'll hear prominent atheists talk about meaning in their lives due to friends and family, but I gotta say, I'm just not buying it. I was a Christian for about ten years, and I really miss the whole meaning-of-life part that went with it.

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Post #11

Post by Goat »

bernee51 wrote:
Goat wrote:
Guy Smiley wrote:
Haven wrote:I know how you feel -- I hate being an atheist. Hate it. I am an atheist only because it is where the evidence leads. That's it. It's not a rosy outlook, that's for sure, but it's the truth.
Well this does make me feel better, just knowing that I'm not the only one.
I don't care for 'meaning'(Whatever that is), and I'm always rather confused to find others who do.
Now that I think about it, yeah I guess I'm not as upset about this as I thought. Life is kinda like Minecraft :). What's the point of Minecraft? Whatever you want, really. And people love it.

But the shortness of it all will continue to bother me. Though it does beat going to Hell...
SHort??? You will live an entire LIFETIME.. Make the most of it!
Life's experiences tend to fall into three categories - pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. The ones that get our attention are the first two, the neutral is hardly noticed. The first two, however, account for only a small part of the overall experience of life. This means, in effect, that the vast majority of our experience, th neutral, passes us by unnoticed.

What can we do not be more engaged in life?
Having been through a period of time where life was unpleasant., I find that everything gets my attention.. even the simple thins.. so .. no.. I notice even the neutral things.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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Post #12

Post by DiscipleOfTruth »

For the stronger part of atheism the belief is that God doesn't exist. As a strong agnostic (if the term makes any sense) I find myself thinking I will fix everyone by believing in nothing lol. For the most part though, I admire how people can believe there is or isn't a god. I find myself in a neutral area on that scale and get fustrated at my limited ability to feel sure if there is or isn't a god out there.

I see possible reasons why one could exist. Then I see possible reasons why one couldn't exist. Finally, I feel the lack of knowledge that I don't know now, and the lack knowledge that I may never know which would enable me to confidently believe either or.

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Post #13

Post by Guy Smiley »

DiscipleOfTruth wrote:As a strong agnostic (if the term makes any sense) I find myself thinking I will fix everyone by believing in nothing lol. For the most part though, I admire how people can believe there is or isn't a god. I find myself in a neutral area on that scale and get fustrated at my limited ability to feel sure if there is or isn't a god out there.
Well to be clear, I think that God doesn't exist, so you might call me a strong agnostic. And I think with that definition, any scientifically-minded "atheist" is really a strong agnostic.

But I personally don't think that distinction is very useful. It sounds like you are unsure but "think there is no God," so I'd categorize you as an atheist too :P.

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Re: The despair of being an athiest

Post #14

Post by SailingCyclops »

Guy Smiley wrote: Anyway, for the past couple years as I've gotten a little older, I've started fearing death more than before.
Why? Are you fearful when awaking from a dreamless sleep? Nothingness, non-existence, should not invoke fear.

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.� ― Mark Twain

Perhaps there exists a spark of religiosity in your mind? An unfounded but lingering fear of an afterlife punishment perhaps?

Bob

Religion flies you into buildings, Science flies you to the moon.
If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities -- Voltaire
Bless us and save us, said Mrs. O'Davis

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Guy Smiley
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Re: The despair of being an athiest

Post #15

Post by Guy Smiley »

SailingCyclops wrote: Why? Are you fearful when awaking from a dreamless sleep? Nothingness, non-existence, should not invoke fear.
Hmm, I guess "fear" is probably the wrong word. Maybe "dread" is better. And certainly "despair" is still accurate for how it makes me feel.

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Re: The despair of being an athiest

Post #16

Post by Thatguy »

Guy Smiley wrote:
SailingCyclops wrote: Why? Are you fearful when awaking from a dreamless sleep? Nothingness, non-existence, should not invoke fear.
Hmm, I guess "fear" is probably the wrong word. Maybe "dread" is better. And certainly "despair" is still accurate for how it makes me feel.
Sounds like the Woody Allen joke about complaining about the food at a resort: The food's so bad. And such small portions.

I can see how a person could see life as meaningless and too short. I don't. One tries to make the best of it and the best way to do that that I can think of is to make it better for those around you. It would be nice to stick around and see how it all comes out, but we can't. So relish it all the more because we know life's temporary.

As we get older we live with more and more death. I wonder what it is about death that causes you to despair. For me, it's another Woody Allen moment- I don't fear my own death, I just don't want to be there when it happens. The only part that brings anxiety is the idea of hurting others by my death. I have no problem with what happens to me, I know that I won't mind it at all.

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Post #17

Post by Jake »

I actually quite enjoy knowing this is the only life I have. I wouldn't ever want to enjoy eternal paradise for EVER. That would become a life of utter tedium and boredom. Live life for life itself. I find it to be its own reward.

However, I would like to point out the possibility of cryogenic preservation. It's something I have yet to research thoroughly, as I don't anticipate death any time soon, but I certainly wouldn't mind attempting to extend my life, not out of a fear of death, but out of a will to keep living and enjoying my life.

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Re: The despair of being an athiest

Post #18

Post by TheJoshAbideth »

Guy Smiley wrote: Hi all, I actually joined this group many years ago, but have been inactive for a pretty long time (and was never that active in the first place).

Anyway, for the past couple years as I've gotten a little older, I've started fearing death more than before. Add to that that I've been reading A Very Short Introduction to Consciousness (which I'm liking by the way), which has reminded me that my free will is a complete illusion, and that I'm actually just a DNA-transmitting automaton.

So it's got me down. Anyone have ways of dealing with our depressing situation? I'll hear prominent atheists talk about meaning in their lives due to friends and family, but I gotta say, I'm just not buying it. I was a Christian for about ten years, and I really miss the whole meaning-of-life part that went with it.
A little late to the ball game here, but put in my 3cents anyway.

For me it's a matter of perspective, and that I had to stop thinking about myself as an Atheist - but simply use the term to help explain myself concerning a particular position when it arrises... and instead think of myself from the perspective of everything else that I am. I make wine, am a father, a photographer of sorts, a husband, etc...

If I focus on myself as an atheist the outlook is bleak, because it is literally nothing. If I focus on myself as the many parts that make me up - and the pursuit of those things that I find worthy, then my meaning is only limited to the number of things that I can find worthy.

Maslow's concept of self actualization from his hierarchy of needs has been a good framework in this pursuit.

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Re: The despair of being an athiest

Post #19

Post by ProphetSHSU »

Guy Smiley wrote: Anyway, for the past couple years as I've gotten a little older, I've started fearing death more than before. Add to that that I've been reading A Very Short Introduction to Consciousness (which I'm liking by the way), which has reminded me that my free will is a complete illusion, and that I'm actually just a DNA-transmitting automaton.

So it's got me down. Anyone have ways of dealing with our depressing situation? I'll hear prominent atheists talk about meaning in their lives due to friends and family, but I gotta say, I'm just not buying it. I was a Christian for about ten years, and I really miss the whole meaning-of-life part that went with it.
Everyone feels pain when their illusions are removed and they're forced to deal with a more unpleasant reality. Quite a few folks so far have pointed out that meaning in life is what you make it etc. What I'd like to address is the other half of the balanced scales... What you *thought you had* when you were a Christian wasn't ever there. You're pining over something that was unreal. It's like a married person who finds out that their spouse had been cheating on them for years. They lived as if they were a part of a committed and respectful relationship, only to find out that the relationship they thought they had was an illusion. They might "miss" being a part of such a comfortable relationship, but the reality is that the part of the relationship they miss wasn't real. You might miss the comfortable illusion that the meaning of your life was someone else's business and already taken care of. I can see how that might be comforting to folks. But it's not being atheistic that's sad, it's allowing children to build their lives and self-esteem on top of illusions that will later be ripped away that is horrible.

So to maybe feel a little better, if you were a married person with a cheating spouse, wouldn't you want to know? Isn't it better to be dealing with life and reality as it exists rather than wrapped up in comforting lies? Isn't it better to have a chance to live a life of meaning rather than spend your life convinced someone else gave it meaning only to discover too late that you wasted your chance?

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Re: The despair of being an athiest

Post #20

Post by Darias »

Guy Smiley wrote: Hi all, I actually joined this group many years ago, but have been inactive for a pretty long time (and was never that active in the first place).

Anyway, for the past couple years as I've gotten a little older, I've started fearing death more than before. Add to that that I've been reading A Very Short Introduction to Consciousness (which I'm liking by the way), which has reminded me that my free will is a complete illusion, and that I'm actually just a DNA-transmitting automaton.

So it's got me down. Anyone have ways of dealing with our depressing situation? I'll hear prominent atheists talk about meaning in their lives due to friends and family, but I gotta say, I'm just not buying it. I was a Christian for about ten years, and I really miss the whole meaning-of-life part that went with it.
Hey I haven't visited this thread in a while. I'm actually an atheist now. I still have my days once in a blue moon when I get, I guess you could say depressed? Usually that turns around in a night's sleep.

The last time I was in despair, I was a fervent believer. I think my belief in god, or the way I conceptualized him was a trigger for severe depression -- or paranoia, idk.

I understand that most people who are religious find their faith as a source of comfort, others think it's the only way and if they leave it's worse (stockholm syndrome type deal). The second group, of which I was a part, fool themselves into thinking they need it and that it really does make them better and happier -- and in reality it doesn't.

I also realize that we aren't free agents. But this fact should not trouble us anymore than our own mortality; we cannot freely choose to live forever. Just because our behaviors are shaped by our DNA and the world we live in doesn't mean we can't change, and it doesn't mean our actions and beliefs don't matter. Everything has consequences.

As for the meaning bit... are you saying you're longing to return to a state where you believed in a cosmic meaning, even though there's no such thing? Like taking the blue pill on the Matrix?

You have to keep in mind that the meaning that is derived from believing in fantastical myths isn't based on anything, anymore than our lives are.

And "god" is just an empty term meant to explain everything from how the world works to how your life is going. Because it's the answer to everything, it really doesn't explain anything.

Even if everyone in your life, your family and friends, are horrible people -- even if you're in a bad situation ... just put your troubles in perspective. Think of all the millions of starving African kids who die from aids or bad drinking water on a daily basis -- and then think about your situation. You can eat and you have internet access.

You as a person can create meaning for yourself. Find a topic or a cause you care about. Get a job you want to get; and help feed some children in third world countries if that's what you're most passionate about. And then try to tell yourself you don't have any purpose. And then remember who wouldn't survive without you.

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