Lifelong atheist: How to live without despair?

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Discussion by: Merrick
I’m in my 30s, and have been an atheist since I remember thinking about these issues. I suppose it is because my parents did not expose me to religion prior to the age or reason? In any case, I’ve never been happy about it. I tried a few times in my youth to become a believer, but I just can’t do it. The idea that there is a loving God is, obviously, patently ridiculous. Religion seems to obviously be an attempt to suffuse meaning into a meaningless world and remove the fear of death. But without it, how do you fill these two very human needs?

For me, it is miserable because I am consumed by terror of death and the meaninglessness is casts on my entire life and everything I love. I’m wondering how other atheists find a way to move forward during the time we must. Yes, I tell myself the Epicurus arguments “Where I am, death is not. Where death is, I am not.” And I’ve considered that living for the “moment” is all we have. But these things don’t soothe me, and I go into months of existential dread here and there.

How do other atheists find positive feelings about life?

100 COMMENTS

  1. I guess you’ll have to be content with Epicurus. Compared with the madness of stone or bronze age religion it is very soothing. Living with the idea that I could end up in Hell or in a heavenly North Korea would be extremely depressive for me. Just like everybody I’m afraid of dying, but being dead someday doesn’t scare me at all.
    And yes, seek something you can enjoy that takes away morbid thoughts. For me it’s science, knowing as much as I can about the universe I live in.

  2. I don’t think there is a universal answer to this, which would apply to humans. The important question here is, what would it take to fulfill you? For example, would the idea of immortality really put you at ease (and have you fully considered the negative implications of that concept)? What precisely is your definition of meaning (in my experience, that is a very vaguely defined term)? What is more important to you, the state of “being meaningful” or having a meaningful impact on the world around you? Do you know at all what exactly it is you’re looking for, or do you just have a feeling that “something is missing”?

    I’d be interested in your answers. And perhaps answering these questions will be helpful to you as well.

  3. Try being an atheist and childfree… Which I am.

    Anyway, to me it always comes down to what I get out of life personally. I want to connect to people so I do. I want to travel so I do and I hope to give something back to the community when I can.

    We all seek value in our lives. It all depends what you as an individual value. That is the way I see things.

    Life is only meaninglessness if you see it that way. There is no happy pill that the religious have that makes copping with life any easier. They all fear the same things we do whether the admit it or not. The fundies pretty much live a life in utter terror if you ask me. Something I would never want. We all go through stages of our lives where we are up and down. It’s only natural. To me the key thing is to make the most of it and get out of it what you want. Learn more, have more friends, family, whatever works for you. Just be sure you’re doing what you want. Take time for yourself as well.

    It is easy to get down but I personally decided that I’m only here for a short while, might as well enjoy it.

    Also I’m about to turn 42.

    • In reply to #4 by Nick LaRue:

      Try being an atheist and childfree… Which I am.

      Anyway, to me it always comes down to what I get out of life personally. I want to connect to people so I do. I want to travel so I do and I hope to give something back to the community when I can.

      We all seek value in our lives. It all depends wha…

      I agree, sometimes it’s hard to keep positive. I think what religion can teach us is to think of others worse off than ourselves, appreciate life and to take a step backwards. Meditation helps too. As I always say I believe in good.

      Caz
      Business Consultant
      http://www.itwx.co.uk/
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  4. Why would you be afraid of death?
    Are you afraid of the eternity before you existed?
    Do you think that the eternity after you exist is going to be any different?

    Be happy that you do exist, for the time that you do. It would seem a waste of your brief existence to worry about not existing.

    Think of the chain of replicators that have come such a long way to produce this individual gene survival machine that is you. Just think of the amazing fact that not a single one of your ancestors before you died young allowing that uninterrupted chain of genes to flow from the very first living thing all the way to you.

    Just think of Epicurus’ philosophy of striving to maximise happiness and minimising harm in this one precious and all too brief life that you do have.

    Now, that’s real meaning for you. :)

    • I have to agree with you, unfortunately. I consider myself “agnostic”. I believe that if a real atheist ever existed, he or she would prefer or at least consider dying right away. The main difficulty with our so called atheism today is the lack of insight into what “not being” means. All what exists or ever existed is relative to your own existance. Therefore, after the 50 year old man in a small tribe dies, who really knows if he ever existed? Most importantly, from his perspective, since he doesn’t exist, how can “he” mind if he helped humanity or was a good father o a good scientist or brought enlightment to the human species. He DOES NOT EXIST. FROM HIS INEVITABLE FINAL PERSPECTIVE HE NEVER EXISTED!!
      So my dear Merrick, I , like you, having understood what really not existing means, live a not so happy life, fueled mainly by inertia. Religious people are fueled by the hope of great afterlife, so called atheists fueled by the idea that somehow their legacy will matter to them even when they, from their final, most important perspective, never, ever, existed……………………….

      • In reply to #78 by Erick Sell:

        I have to agree with you, unfortunately. I consider myself “agnostic”. I believe that if a real atheist ever existed, he or she would prefer or at least consider dying right away. The main difficulty with our so called atheism today is the lack of insight into what “not being” means. All what exists…

        We have insight into ‘not being’ every night when we go to sleep. One minute you’re trying to get to sleep, the next minute you wake up missing several hours. It seems to me death must be the same without the waking up part.

      • In reply to #78 by Erick Sell:

        I have to agree with you, unfortunately. I consider myself “agnostic”. I believe that if a real atheist ever existed, he or she would prefer or at least consider dying right away.

        I think you have been listening to theist nonsense about atheists. There are “real”, or “strong”, atheists on this site, and as far as I am aware, none of them take this view.
        The mistake is based on the theist view, that if the dogmatic objectives and delusions of their chosen religion are removed, no philosophies will exist.
        It is simply a statement of ignorance and denial of other philosophies (especially Humanist ones), by people who have relinquished their capabilities to think through their own philosophies.

        The main difficulty with our so called atheism today is the lack of insight into what “not being” means. All what exists or ever existed is relative to your own existance.

        Nope! Our egocentric views of reality are just that. Views! – Material reality was here before we were born, and will continue after we die.

        Therefore, after the 50 year old man in a small tribe dies, who really knows if he ever existed?

        Millions of people have died and been long forgotten. Nobody knows details of their existence except in a few cases where some evidence has been preserved. Tribal peoples often respect ancestors for the legacies of knowledge they have left.

        Most importantly, from his perspective, since he doesn’t exist, how can “he” mind if he helped humanity or was a good father or a good scientist or brought enlightment to the human species.

        History is full of examples of people who did “mind” what inheritance they left to future generations, and … . many who did not care at all. Much the same as at the present time, .. .but that is nothing exclusive to atheism.

        He DOES NOT EXIST. FROM HIS INEVITABLE FINAL PERSPECTIVE HE NEVER EXISTED!!

        The universe does not care if individuals understand reality or delude themselves about “afterlives”! Delusions merely assist those manipulating populations rather than facilitating evidence based thinking.

        So my dear Merrick, I , like you, having understood what really not existing means, live a not so happy life, fueled mainly by inertia.

        We did not exist before we were born and were none the worse for the (lack of) experience. I expect much the same after we die, – as millions of organisms and humans have done before us. I have never found this knowledge to reduce my happiness in the least.

        Religious people are fueled by the hope of great afterlife,

        It’s a bit of a waste dedicating your life to counting points towards a fantasy prize you will never collect, when you could have done so much more with it!

        so called atheists fueled by the idea that somehow their legacy will matter to them

        An atheists “legacy”, will only matter to them while they are living, but many like to leave affairs in good order for their children and future generations. Many inventions, buildings, food production systems, and infrastructure (transport, water supply, communications, power grids) are legacies left by earlier generations of scientists. Theists tend to leave churches, mosques and temples, which are not much use for anything except spreading their religions.

        even when they, from their final, most important perspective, never, ever, existed…….

        This is very confused! We exist for a lifetime, no sooner, no later. Our existence may be of benefit to, or to the detriment of, others, – present or future. There is no evidence that theism causes more benevolent behaviour. Indeed , there is a smaller percentage of atheists in jails than for most religions.

        • Thank you for your comments. I consider my self agnostic, and a non activist against the religion (to lazy or scared of getting my head cut off or just a nasty repply during a family dinner. I tend to avoid unnecessary cofrontations.
          Now, to give you a “flavor” of how it bothers me to see thing the way I do, think about a nice answer for this one:
          Lets say you discover that mother nature will give a fantastic, unic experience which you will enjoy for the night and you will enjoy it and be able to share it with your loved ones for tonight only. The catch is that after the night ends, you will not only not remember it happening,but you will also not remember been told you were going to get it (the wonderful experience). So , my question is, how much can you possibly care about what happened last night if you will have no way to remember it nor remembering that you don’t remember it? To me it lloks like for all you care it never happened……
          Now, substitute “experience” for “my life” In reply to #80 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #78 by Erick Sell:

          I have to agree with you, unfortunately. I consider myself “agnostic”. I believe that if a real atheist ever existed, he or she would prefer or at least consider dying right away.

          I think you have been listening to theist nonsense about atheists. There are “real”, o…

          • In reply to #87 by Erick Sell:

            Now, to give you a “flavor” of how it bothers me to see thing the way I do, think about a nice answer for this one: Lets say you discover that mother nature will give a fantastic, unic experience which you will enjoy for the night and you will enjoy it and be able to share it with your loved ones for tonight only. The catch is that after the night ends, you will not only not remember it happening,but you will also not remember been told you were going to get it (the wonderful experience). So , my question is, how much can you possibly care about what happened last night if you will have no way to remember it nor remembering that you don’t remember it? To me it lloks like for all you care it never happened…… Now, substitute “experience” for “my life”

            I think you are stating the obvious – that we will not care about our lives once we are dead, and will not have the capacity to remember anything once we are dead.
            That is why we should care about our lives and our communities, while we are still alive, rather than wasting our lives trying to earn “Brownie points” from some imaginary god towards an imaginary after-life which is not going to happen.

          • I agree with you. No brownie points should be asked and are we know are not given. I do enjoy most of my days by helping others and learning more…about anything and everything. I enjoy it. I guess, I accept and aknowledge my short existance and that of my loved ones, then I get can of sad to know for a fact as the Christopher Hitchens said: “the party does not end, it is just you who leaves it, but it keeps going without you”. I do have a new question; I assume just like we read and learned and have enough brains to understan and accept there is no god, I would assume the same has to be for a pope. One would think that sooner or later a bright, non-corrupt one at the end of his own existance would say, “the hell with it, I don’t have any family the vatican maffia will kill, so I will have to tell the truth, that we should not worship the spaghetti monster”……..but why he does not? I can’t accept they don’t have the brains, the knowledge, etc……do they know something ELSE we don’t about living our lives?
            In reply to #88 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #87 by Erick Sell:

            Now, to give you a “flavor” of how it bothers me to see thing the way I do, think about a nice answer for this one: Lets say you discover that mother nature will give a fantastic, unic experience which you will enjoy for the night and you will enjoy it and be able to…

  5. I had many of the same feelings when I first came to terms with not believing. However, I was lucky that it largely faded within a few months, not completely, but enough to go on living.

    I do take some comfort in pondering all of the things I’ll never have to deal with. Our species is probably due some unpleasant payback from the environment. I’ll probably be gone before the worst of that hits. (Our children are a different matter.) I’ll likely never have to deal with a large asteroid strike, a super-massive volcanic eruption, or some other extinction level event. I’ll never have to deal with the death of our sun or the long slow heat death of the universe.

    Finally, I’ll never have to deal with eternal boredom. Imagine still living after you know everything, have done everything, and experienced everything a trillion times over. Existence itself would eventually become a type of hell, unless you could end it. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like the option to continue until I’ve decided that I’ve had enough, but I’m pretty sure the fate we have is better than mandatory eternal life.

    If you have existential anxiety that won’t go away, you might have clinical depression or an anxiety disorder. If so, consider therapy or psychiatry. Scientific medicine might be able to alleviate it.

  6. Seems you get into a loop of anxiety and obsessive thinking. If it is interfering with your life, it might be a good idea to try a medical approach. Keep in mind that general practitioners are not really competent to diagnose and prescribe even though some might when they should be giving you a referral. Keep in mind that episodes of untreated true depression increase the likelihood of relapses.

    Are you afraid to go to sleep? I don’t know if it would help any to separate death and dying. If you take religion seriously, you have cause to be worried about both. If you don’t harbor religious beliefs, the main issue is dying which is a legitimate cause for trepidation.

  7. @OP – For me, it is miserable because I am consumed by terror of death and the meaninglessness is casts on my entire life and everything I love. I’m wondering how other atheists find a way to move forward during the time we must.

    Why should the inevitability of death stop you from setting your own meanings and objectives in life. Theists will tell you that they are “fulfilled by their beliefs in after-lives”, but none seem keen to progress to sampling these, although many waste their lives pandering to imaginary gods.
    It is possible that you have picked up some theist misconceptions about god-free satisfaction in the one life we have.
    Decide what you want to make of your life and what you would like to pass on to children or others. Purposes are what we choose to make them!

    I am a lot older than you, but have no such fears about eventual death. Only the wish to make the most of my life while I have it, and to avoid the more unpleasant forms of death or disability. Death is eventually inevitable. Don’t let thoughts of it spoil your life for years in the meantime!

    • In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

      Death is eventually inevitable.

      It’s really not, of course. Whether it takes us ten years, a hundred years, or a thousand years; eventually we will solve this. Barring an extinction event, most of the humans that will ever live won’t have to die, not from aging anyway. The immortal ones will read about our ephemeral lives in utter horror, and rightly so.

      (Sorry, OP, that won’t help. Listen, I got some of the existential dread too, but I’m positively giddy about being alive, that trumps everything! Please consider it some more, I sincerely hope you get there.)

      • In reply to #17 by Nigel S:

        In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

        Death is eventually inevitable.

        It’s really not, of course. Whether it takes us ten years, a hundred years, or a thousand years; eventually we will solve this. Barring an extinction event, most of the humans that will ever live won’t have to die, not from aging a…

        SciFi Fantasy Bollox.

        I predict that our descendants any number of thousand years from now will look back at primitive ideas like the above, and laugh.

        • In reply to #35 by OHooligan:

          I predict that our descendants any number of thousand years from now will look back at primitive ideas like the above, and laugh.

          What exactly is the universal limit to lifespan then? If the last thousand years is any guide at all, it’s useless to even imagine what they can do, so forget about predicting. What we do know is problems are solvable.

          • In reply to #40 by Nigel S:

            In reply to #35 by OHooligan:

            I predict that our descendants any number of thousand years from now will look back at primitive ideas like the above, and laugh.

            What exactly is the universal limit to lifespan then?

            How long does a vehicle need to last? We are, after all, vehicles for the already-immortal genes we carry. The idea that a particular vehicle wants to last forever, that’s what they’ll be laughing at. Even after they’ve solved the interesting curious intellectual puzzle of how to do it, as you predict.

          • In reply to #45 by OHooligan:

            How long does a vehicle need to last? We are, after all, vehicles for the already-immortal genes we carry. The idea that a particular vehicle wants to last forever, that’s what they’ll be laughing at. Even after they’ve solved the interesting curious intellectual puzzle of how to do it, as you predict.

            You don’t really see yourself primarily as a vehicle for genes; you’d quickly lose interest in living. Genes are trivial, consciousness is not. The idea that our descendants will solve the problem and yet decide to carry on dying as usual is unrealistic in the extreme. It’s the will to live that’s been the driving force behind evolution all this time, not some desire to perpetuate immortal genes.

          • In reply to #50 by Nigel S:

            It’s the will to live that’s been the driving force behind evolution all this time, not some desire to perpetuate immortal genes.

            Couldn’t agree less. The genes that build a vehicle with the will to live (long enough to pass them on) are the ones that get passed on. Your will to live is just one part of the evolutionary bag of tricks your genes have built into you. You’re a vehicle. Get used to it, and enjoy the ride. It’s not going to last, so don’t waste your time. The enjoyment part may be a side effect, but I think not – good vehicles are ones that enjoy the drive, that rejoice in the way they handle the curves of life. And we’re all descended from a long long line of successfully road-tested vehicles.

            Note that you don’t need to have children of your own to be a functional part of the gene-propagation vehicle fleet. Siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and all other humans carry some share of your passengers. You can benefit them in other ways, including making the world a better place, spreading health, happiness and peace. I don’t mean you should take this as a conscious reason for doing something, I mean that a vehicle that feels good when it does something beneficial for its passengers is a better vehicle than one that doesn’t.

            If our descendents develop any more wisdom than the best of humanity so far, I fully expect they’ll be laughing all the way to their own individual graves at the Quest for Immortality, considering it immature nonsense, a phony comfort for those still in fear of their own deaths, and which, like religion (I hope), our species will outgrow.

            Live long and prosper. But not too long.

          • In reply to #53 by OHooligan:

            You’re a vehicle. Get used to it, and enjoy the ride.

            I know I am but I don’t care about that, nor should anyone. The selfish genes built us as tools to achieve their own mindless ends. Now we’re in a position where the tables have turned; we can use genes as tools to achieve goals of our own. That’s something to celebrate.

            If our descendents develop any more wisdom than the best of humanity so far, I fully expect they’ll be laughing all the way to their own individual graves at the Quest for Immortality, considering it immature nonsense, a phony comfort for those still in fear of their own deaths, and which, like religion (I hope), our species will outgrow.

            You must realize they’ll be immortal anyway. Once discovered, they will undergo the anti-aging treatments, if only to relieve themselves from the agonizing suffering that comes from their bodies breaking down. I’ve seen that up close and it can be truly horrific. Now, some people don’t want to live forever, but they don’t want to die tomorrow. I fully expect that on any particular day they’ll be able to think of something more interesting to do than going to the death clinic to off themselves.

            Don’t worry about eternity; probability denies it. The goal is to try and approach the point where experience no longer holds untapped potential. Wasted potential is really the thing to fear, not death itself. When it’s all done, let’s say a handful of stupendously lucky people managed to live, I don’t know, a million years before accident struck. That’s still only 0 % of all the time there is. It’s not that ambitious. I cannot understand why you’d want to limit yourself unnecessarily.

          • In reply to #59 by Nigel S:

            In reply to #53 by OHooligan:

            they will undergo the anti-aging treatments

            Yes. A few old bangers will be lovingly preserved, worn parts replaced, repaired, refurbished, and will trundle along well past the demise of the bulk of their peers. While more recent models race past them, with the fresh outlook that comes with being genuinely young. There’s a good chance they’ll gang up on the oldsters, force them off the road, get out of the way grandpa, stop hogging the resources to preserve your ancient hide, stop being so selfish. Another twist in the age-old conflict of interests, competition for finite resources.

            Good topic for sci fi drama, and I think it’s been addressed many times, an elite few clinging to their longevity and wealth, while the short-lived poor live and die in a blink of their eye. A recent example (not a very good one) was the movie “In Time”, where nobody looked like they were over 30.

          • In reply to #60 by OHooligan:

            Now the argument is it will be too exclusive, and cause too much conflict over resources. Note that you can raise the same objections to any advances in medicine. It’s the nature of problem solving that every time you solve a problem you’re looking at fresh problems to solve. What, these are the fundamentally unsolvable problems then? It’s nothing but blind pessimism; you can use it as reason not to veer from any status quo.

  8. I have not been plagued by feelings of dread or misery, quite the opposite upon my deconversion, but I certainly understand where you are coming from. On the topic of death, one thing to consider is the way other animals approach death. While they can they do their best to escape predation, but when it is their time to go there is no fear. You have heard the stories of dogs and cats who disappear to a quiet spot under a bed or in a closet. On meaninglessness, I find it marvelous that the purpose of my life has not been dictated to me by some faceless deity somewhere. The very fact that I was born at all, that I live in a time like this when we can talk about these things as we are, when we know enough to be awed but still have mysteries to solve: that is satisfying enough. If I die tomorrow–the timing would not be my first choice mind you–I would still count myself fortunate to have been here. And you know what? We won’t know we’re not here, just like we didn’t before we were born. One generation makes room for the next.

  9. An off-the-beaten-track suggestion would be to read ‘Starmaker’ by Olaf Stapledon, in it is a kind of imaginary history of the past and future of the universe, culminating in an organization of all sentient life in the universe and collectively ascending to meet the creator of the universe.

    The point of it is to bring to mind the enormous timescales involved in our universe, and the idea of the collective fate and goals of our species being more important than that of the individuals.

    Seems to me that there are some deep, dark things buried in your subconscious. There’s no easy, logical path to escape your dread, you will need to face this head-on if you are ever to have hope of overcoming it. Just know that it is indeed possible to escape it, and from there reach greater heights than you can even imagine right now. You can do it, you will be okay.

    • In reply to #10 by utopia:

      An off-the-beaten-track suggestion would be to read ‘Starmaker’ by Olaf Stapledon, in it is a kind of imaginary history of the past and future of the universe, culminating in an organization of all sentient life in the universe and collectively ascending to meet the creator of the universe.

      That is the best SciFi I ever read. Then read Sirius. It is very hard not to speculate it could be a true story.
      The scope is breathtaking.

  10. Alright, I KNOW I will probably get some flak for this, but I read Chan Buddhist writings as well as Confucius. Not only that, but I find solace in both. I of course am very realistic about what I read, but sometimes I need to just relax and think about some nice philosophy. I suppose this comes out of habit (I am only 6 months out of my preaching, and a year out of faith) but the comfort I get from eastern philosophy usually does the trick for me. That and indulging EVERY random and spontaneous desire every once in a while. I spend a junk-ton of money on my telescope, but it gives me solace looking through it, knowing that no matter what my crazy religious family or stressful humans are doing, the universe is still just carrying on without them.

    Pick up an extra hobby, one that you are truly, truly passionate about – the heat of passion usually breaks the icy hands of depression from around my neck.

  11. I’ll assume this article is sincere, though I’m very surprised that an atheist would be troubled by “meaning of life” or even “end of life” issues.

    Should the question “meaning of life ” be posed? I can’t see that life is supposed to have meaning, it just is! That’s not to say that we shouldn’t live the best sort of life we can in the time we have. I’d recommend reading “The Good Book” by A C Grayling, as well.

    Death itself doesn’t bother me, but the thought of having to endure a lingering, painful death is very troubling. I’d like to think that I’d approach the end-stretch with courage, but I may not. Who can say? Everyone is different and I’ve been told by professionals in the field, that having faith is absolutely no guarantee of approaching inevitable death with equanimity.

  12. As others have suggested I would get some professional help to at least tease out if this is more than the usual human existential dread and maybe a touch of anxiety, obsessiveness, depression etc. Even mild versions of these things can be a bloody curse.

    Michael

  13. How do other atheists find positive feelings about life?

    Well, that’s your problem right there. Instead of focusing on Death, focus on Life.

    There are plenty of things in life to be cheerful about. And the best thing you can do, is participate in a positive way. Be remembered, be on the good side of humanity and push it in the right direction, contribute in your own way. And if you are so vain you REALLY want to achieve immortality, win a Nobel prize in fundamental physics. Sure-fire hit.

    I don’t have any existential feelings any more. Purely on that perspective, there is basically no need to stress about it, because there is nothing you can do about it anyway. It’s hard to let go of a sense of control, but there are times where things are outside your grasp, and you either accept life on its own terms, or do like most people, indulge in a comfortable flights of fancy, which I find utterly worthless, and actually damaging. I used to go through a sort of reverse Pascal’s Wager approach. Although fun it may be to ponder such things, ultimately it’s an exercise in futility.

    So yeah, “Always Look on the Bright Side Of Life”, ect…

    BTW, look here (about 3/4 in) and see that you are not alone in that particular existential predicament.

    I could probably post a few of Hitchens’ last interviews where he discusses his view on his imminent death, or even Richard Feynman’s interviews, Carl Sagan…. There are many people to draw inspiration from, and to see how lucky we all are (some more than others).

  14. Firstly, yes, people fear death, that is natural and expected, since non-fearing people die out.
    But it sounds like you have an overly strong fear. Probably it is nothing to do with death itself, but your state of mind. I recommend going to the pub with some mates, phoning your family to say hi, reconnecting with some old friends, find hobbies, don’t work too hard, sleep well, go for a walk each day… these sort of things.
    I think when you get old, you kind of don’t mind death so much… my gran seems fine with it.

    Why do you think people’s lives are meaningless just because they die? You leave an imprint on every person you ever meet, and every interaction you have with the world.

  15. Happiness through chemistry. Also ACT.

    Speaking for myself, I almost always feel pretty good since I started taking daily omega-3 fish oil supplements. Also, a good quality double espresso coffee (like the one offered at Starbucks) really gives me a good mood boost.

    I noticed that good chemistry can make you feel good even when the situation is difficult, while bad chemistry can make you feel crappy even everything is objectively fine in your life. A bad indigestion can make you feel nauseated, depressed, and suicidal, while a healthy light meal can make you feel enthused and energetic.

    Apart from that, my favorite self-help book is “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris. It’s based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). An important pair of concepts it presents is self-as-context (or the observing self), which is pretty much unchanging all of your life, as different from self-as-content, which is constantly shifting. You’ll have to look it up… Check the reviews on Amazon.

  16. Why is your life meaningless? You do not have to live for the moment, but you do have to live for something. Giving yourself to something greater than yourself can be giving yourself to something real. I volunteer myself, but you have to find your greater thing to infuse meaning into your life.

    We never actually die but are recycled. I will be in drops of water, trees, and the very air all breathe. I would think billions of tears of personal existence would rather pale in comparison with being star stuff and being star stuff again.

  17. It sounds to me that you’re too clever to be comforted by a quick fix like religion. Try any other quick fix and I’d expect the same result.

    It isn’t for us to say do x, y or z and you’ll be happy, that’s your job am afraid. What might provide a little comfort is that everyone, whether in blissful ignorance or grappling the concept, has had the same fear at some point or another (and I’d be sceptical of those who say they’ve figured it all out).

    To give my two cents, I’d say think about it some more, use your cleverness to figure out the thing that makes your situation better. I did the same and it helped clarify what was most important to me. It didn’t get rid of any fear of death, how could it, but my time spent is definitely more focused on the things I love.

  18. Laugh, love, live… For me, I don’t think I ever fear death (as an adult) because I have laughed, loved and lived plenty but then of course I think of those who love me and may depend on my support still and I get a bit sad. I guess is normal to think about those things.

  19. There are a few things that might be going on with you:

    1 – Ordinarily our attention only turns to existential matters when there is something lacking in our daily life. The solution is to direct your life more towards things you are intensely passionate about. Once your life is filled with a driving passion towards something then your existential thoughts don’t get much attention. They just fade away. This is how most people avoid existential problems, or recover from depression, simply by keeping their attention on something positive.

    As Epicurus says: “Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing”. So lead with your heart.

    2 – That said, there are times when we nonetheless turn to existential matters like:

    A – Fear of death. I’m 45 and any fear of death is well and truly gone. The only thing I fear is a prolonged painful death/old-age, which are rational fears. I think time will cure your fear of death. I’m not worried about facing any gods, it seems pretty obvious there are none.

    B – “The meaninglessness … [of] my entire life”. This implies there must be something more (X) that would make your life meaningful. But what could this X-factor be? If there was a life-after-death then why does that make this life less meaningful? If life-after-death implies this life is less meaningful then why isn’t life-after-death also inherently meaningless unless it is also followed by something more? Would your life be meaningful if you could live forever? That might get boring after a while. Would it be meaningful if you were embalmed/stuffed after death and put on display in a museum alongside a video of your life story? etc etc. The more you look for some extra meaning, the less meaningful it sounds.

    Bottom line: relax, life is what it is.

    Some buzzwords of motivation science these days are: Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. From a video on the science of motivation by Dan Pink:

    “And the good news about all of this is that the scientists who’ve been studying motivation have given us this new approach. It’s an approach built much more around intrinsic motivation. Around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, because they are part of something important. And to my mind, that new operating system for our businesses revolves around three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses.”

    Usually people find their purpose in servitude to their family, community or nation i.e. if you’re not busy raising a family then you might need to find your purpose in fighting for some cause that makes life better for your community. This presumes a strong identity and belonging to a community, which takes some doing in a world which increasingly advocates that we should abandon local identities in favour of some nebulous global identity. Basically we evolved to serve our stable local tribe, but we live in a chaotic global unstable world. So you’ve got to somehow recreate your community, your tribe, amidst a chaotic borderless world. Or something like that.

    Mind you, this is a male perspective. We males love solving problems in the interest of the tribe. But alas, I’m no expect on the female mind. Good luck.

  20. A few moments ago a man died. He was about 50, and spent his entire life in a small, isolated tribe in Papua New Guinea. Nobody outside the group ever knew he existed, nor ever will know, and he will leave no discernible mark upon the world: his fears; his hopes; his loves; his passions; his despair; his happiness, all have come and gone and have no meaning beyond the people who knew and loved him.

    Do you find this description empty and nihilistic? I look at it and see a human being who did feel all of those emotions and went through the multitude of experiences which comprise a life lived: the “firsts” of childhood; the tumult of adolescence; the wisdom of age. Companions and lovers; jokes and songs; laughter and mourning.

    Each of us is equally insignificant. Do you think this man’s friend cares one jot about your life or mine? Of course not, just as your friends feel nothing when you describe him to them.

    But by the same token each of us is equally significant within the context of whichever life we happen to be born into: everything from our internal life to our interactions with others only has meaning inside that tiny bubble of context, and I think that’s the problem with the word, “meaning”: you see, everyone seems to assume that it has to be Big and Grand and Universal and Cosmic, but it’s actually tiny, (yet no less important).
    Your question encapsulates for me the very thing which theists often assume about us: that our lives are somehow devoid of beauty, poetry and emotion. I’ve never understood why they should think that, but perhaps it’s because we don’t have to play-act to prove our compassion.

  21. There is a good chance that the despairing person lives in a nice, modern, western country which means they don’t have the following things to worry about: famine, war, desperate poverty, snipers shooting at you, land mines, cluster bombs, rioting mobs of various religious sects, where to get clean drinking water, access to medical care, or access to education.

    It has nothing to do with a lack of religion, but like many people every now and then I feel down, start feeling sorry for myself, and generally just am in a funk. Then I tell myself I live in Canada, not Iraq. I’m safe, healthy, well fed, have leisure time, and three healthy kids. What the hell do I have to feel bad about?

    I live better than most people on the planet. I live better than most royalty for much of history. My world is filled with wonder, beauty, and good.

    Death? Well, we all die. Why worry about something you can do nothing about, is many years away and is completely beyond your control? Death will not cause you any pain. It will be an end, but no more than not having been born yet was an “end”. Life is too good, and too short to be wasted on worrying about things we cannot change. Embrace life and all the wonder it has to offer: family, friends, art, beauty, and science which is the portal to even more wonders.

    • In reply to #24 by canadian_right:

      There is a good chance that the despairing person lives in a nice, modern, western country which means they don’t have the following things to worry about: famine, war, desperate poverty, snipers shooting at you, land mines, cluster bombs, rioting mobs of various religious sects, where to get clean…

      In a nutshell!

  22. As I approach my 6th decade of life on planet earth I live with the idea of non existence on a daily basis. It can be, I agree, disspiriting to contemplate that all of ones life effort will eventually be put in the bin or, save for those who hold memories of us until they also fade to black. At the same time I find it liberating and empowering. Non existence is the leveller that at present everyone will… not experience. Everyone is headed over the cliff.
    I wish I’d had the clarity you have much earlier in my life. Your enlightened position in that regard gives you a big advantage at such a young age to pursue your personal goals.
    There is no universal meaning, it’s always personal or shared. Meaning is derived from our values (what’s important). If you’re unclear it can help to write a list of what’s important in different areas of your life. What’s in your life and what’s not?
    It’s important to me to be clear about what’s important and I go about bringing those things, experiences, learnings, comforts into my life as soon as I can. It also allows me to more easily discard things that are not.
    So I guess, come to think of it, I live in the space between nothing and something meaningfull.

  23. I am 65 y.o.and I cannot imagine a more despairing thought…than that I was to spend an eternity with my family (most of which I never got among with…some of which I truly despised) and friends (who I rarely see now…and when I do find that I have little to say). Think about it…eternity…a forever kind of life without being alive…and no way to end it. What is it that the Heaven believers think that they are going to do after they are dead…in Heaven…forever?? Go to Sunday brunch with their long lost…and never met…great, great, great, great…whatevers…and…eat? Drink? Play cards or golf? It is so far beyond absurd, that I get more consolation from a JK Rawlings book than I do from the “Bible” (capitalized not out of respect…but just to denote a specific book…like “Mein Kampf”).
    That said (and so much more unsaid)…I believe that the mind seeks order and meaning above all else. We want answers to our questions and are not simply satisfied with “I don’t know” and we shouldn’t be. So many of us (those who choose to ask these questions)…live with this uncertainty…struggling at times to understand…failing…and sometimes succeeding in finding answers…but the answers when discovered do not bring with them a sense of purpose or relief from the hopelessness that we feel. We are…as a species…unique in that our defining characteristic lies in our capacity to feel sorry for ourselves. The universe is indifferent to our existence and what we choose to believe about it.
    I have to go now…and never got around to giving you a rational response to your question…but I will think about it some more and be more prepared the next time(?) I write.

  24. Hi Merrick,

    This has already been pointed out, but I’m not sure that your angst is due to your atheism.
    You are associating both and establishing a causal link, but you may well be mistaken. Coming to grips with one’s mortality is not always easy, for sure. But that’s the common lot. Atheists and “believers” alike. It’s a big part of becoming an adult. Keep in mind that many if not most “believers” of most monotheistic religions (remember, original judaism had no place for the afterlife) are merely trying to convince themselves that death is not the end. Most “believers” have no certainty, regardless of what they claim. I’d even say that the loudest claimers are often the biggest doubters. Read Mother Theresa’s letters…
    So we’re all in the same (sinking) boat, from which some cling to an uncertain metaphysical lifejacket and exit.
    There are many books and studies about how people find meaning. About what enriches and enhances people’s lives. Helping others selflessly being one of the strongest life-boosters of all… Ultimately, we have to find our own way, which I am sure you will.

  25. Oh dear, welcome to the human condition. Faith as you have noted is not something that can be turned off and on at will. You are either capable of it or not. While religion may be consoling, give our current state of knowledge as it currently exists the religious option requires a degree of wilful ignorance, essentially castration of the reasoning faculties. If you want that kind of consolation you might as well just ask a kindly passing surgeon to give you a full frontal lobotomy.

    As others have noted here, I do not believe there is one meaning to life applicable for everyone. Some find meaning in having children, some in their work, some in causes or helping others, in friends and so forth. Your terror of death is entirely natural, we have evolved that way so we take some care of ourselves and don’t go rushing into hazardous situations every five nano seconds… religion is perhaps one way of coping with this but others have lived atheist lives and not fallen into dispair, they have found meaning, purpose and happiness. Perhaps you might address your own concerns in this regard in part by reading about these individuals. How did Darwin cope? He did a great deal of soul searching but like yourself was ultimately compelled to be honest with himself and others. Deists I submit also have something to say in this regard… Thomas Paine is one of my favourites and Epicurus as you have noted, Cicero, Lucretius… All these along with contemporary atheists may be helpful but ultimately we must all deal with existence in our own way.

    Thycidides said we are motivated by three things, fear of death, self interest and honour. Age and death are inevitable so make hay while the sun shines, leave as few regrets as you can behind you, have some fun and do something to make the world a better place for some one or ones before you leave it. Works for me!

    Very best wishes :[)]

  26. Fear of death is, to a certain extent, quite normal, of course. But if it is seriously affecting your life, and if you’re going through bouts of depression about it, as it sounds may be the case, then you should get professional advice to help with that.

    A couple of the things that give me positive feelings about life are:

    • We’re all unbelievably lucky to be alive at all. The odds stacked against our ever being born are astronomically small.

    • We are so lucky to be born at this time. For most of us living in the West at least, we have a life that is so much more comfortable and has so many more opportunities than any of our ancestors enjoyed. We are living at what is surely a watershed moment in history in terms of the quality of life many of us can enjoy.

  27. I’ll huck another atheist quote, just cuz I don’t see it here, paraphrasing Carl Sagan, ‘If you want meaning in your life, do something meaningful.’

    There may not be an answer, or at least answers may not be the answer but rather action.

  28. I wish Merrick well in her battle with existentialism/motivation. But just a word of caution to all the well-meaning commenters: lately I have noticed a lot of similar comments posted on forums where the authors seems to be faking existential angst, seemingly for the purpose of painting atheism in a negative light. You can usually spot such trolls by their (a) new user name with no other posts and (b) a failure to engage in conversation/debate i.e. they just post their message and never engage in discussion.

    We should always give the benefit of the doubt, in case someone like Merrick genuinely is struggling. Some atheists actually do struggle with depression and finding meaning in life, and we shouldn’t hold back in trying to help them. But just keep in the back of your mind those signs of a troll.

  29. I find meaning in creating something that will be valued by someone else.

    You can also find it by volunteering. Or, if you have a certain skill, teach others. That part of you will go on and impact many more people.

  30. Cue the song from Monty Python: Always look on the bright side of life…

    Feelings, including apparently the feeling of having one’s own free will (another discussion), are emotions which we now recognize as states of brain chemistry. Just need the right endorphin balance. ( I’m sure there are those that know a good deal more than me reading this site.)

    Mild imbalance can be fixed by simple lifestyle changes, like getting out more instead of prodding away at a keyboard like this. Major imbalances may need medical treatment, or other outside intervention. But watch out for witch doctors and the like, they prey on this kind of situation.

    When suitably in balance, all that angst just goes away, there’s far too much interesting stuff to get into to be bothered wasting time on it. Life’s too short. And that isn’ t meant to bring you down, it’s meant to inspire you to action, today.

    Love the Carl Sagan quote. What a guy.

  31. I am not sure anyone can give you an answer to that, but I suppose for a lot of us it what we leave behind that drives us in life.

    When I die I hope that people think well of me (not that it will affect me either way) but my life is driven by trying to make a difference for those that will follow.

    I also think it is what you expect from life. I for my own part have never thought that life owes me fulfilment, why should it, it is a human invention that came about because we perceive ourselves as special and that because we have a thinking brain it comes with a meaning to life, well I am sorry but it does not.

    We all feel different about death, for me, I feel indifferent about death, it is what it is and worries me less as I get older. Maybe that is because I suck more marrow out of life the older I get.

    I look at life now as one big classroom but without a strict timetable, I get to go from class to class at a whim, one day I am in a physics class and the next I am in biology and sometimes I am in a music class.

    It is a wondrous thing.

  32. The feeling is one I used to have as well when I was much younger. Now that I’m in my 70′s and being closer to the edge, I suppose I should be more afraid of death than ever before. But I’m not. Knowing that there was just absolute blank before I was born made me realize the same must occur at the other end. Similar to some folks being afraid of going ‘under’ during surgery, I have experienced this phenomenon several times. It’s the same kind of feeling…….Nothingness.
    Mark Twain said the same thing only more eloquently :
    “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.”

  33. How I reason with it goes something like this.
    Before we were born we weren’t here just like we won’t be here after death. I see them both as the same states. We didn’t exist here as this person for billions and billions of years. I see no one mourning it, I do not. That should make the state of “death” very familiar to us.

    Don’t want to die? Well we didn’t want to be born either, yet here we are.

  34. Hi Merrick!

    “For me, it is miserable because I am consumed by terror of death and the meaninglessness is casts on my entire life and everything I love”

    “these things don’t soothe me, and I go into months of existential dread here and there.”

    wow … I had the exact same dilemma, I know exactly what you mean, these thoughts about death made me crazy and no drivel about “live for the moment” was enough to me, it took some years until I found my own way to deal with those existential fears. I still do think about it, from time to time but it’s much better now.

    I sort of dealt with this issue, by doing something exactly against it.
    I’m a young Scientist and work on the issues of longevity.
    There are so many advancements in these fields of Science, that I would be surprised if we (or just me ;D) don’t come up with a spectacular result within the next 15 – 20 years.
    I mean just look at the possibilities of the “transcriptor”, if we can manipulate DNA and with that your whole body like a computer, then there is no limit!
    So my advice… hang in there!!
    if you can help our cause in any shape or form then do it.

    Death should serve you as a reminder, of how important it is to make the best out of your time and just try to help Humanity to advance while enjoying your own life!

    Other animals are not aware, at least not to that extent, of what dying means or is.
    When I think about that fact, then I come to the conclusion that this benighted state in which most animals are, is far worse than actually knowing the truth, even if it’s not soothing.
    Because reality is not that bad, it could be far worse!
    We are able to do something against dying and ageing so let’s just do it!

    There is actually so much more to say and so many details left out but I guess I already wrote too much.
    So I hope I was able to provide you with some new thoughts and maybe a more positive way of thinking!

    cheers!

    • In reply to #43 by SupérNova:

      Hi Merrick!

      “For me, it is miserable because I am consumed by terror of death and the meaninglessness is casts on my entire life and everything I love”

      “these things don’t soothe me, and I go into months of existential dread here and there.”

      “It’s the soul, afraid of dying, that never learns to live” – Bette Midler, The Rose. Give it a listen. I find it uplifting.

    • In reply to #43 by SupérNova:

      I sort of dealt with this issue, by doing something exactly against it. I’m a young Scientist and work on the issues of longevity. There are so many advancements in these fields of Science, that I would be surprised if we (or just me ;D) don’t come up with a spectacular result within the next 15 – 20 years. I mean just look at the possibilities of the “transcriptor”, if we can manipulate DNA and with that your whole body like a computer, then there is no limit! So my advice… hang in there!! if you can help our cause in any shape or form then do it.

      Thanks for writing! You guys need to reach out more; the biggest obstacle is people’s fatalistic attitude towards this.

  35. I am not a very good person to inspire any optimistic thoughts, but why would you say that religion somehow helps deal with the fear of death. If anything, I think religion is a primary if not the main source of the fair of death. Just read some “approved” Catholic visions about hell… (like St. Faustina or Fatima children testimonies… or even the Bible). How is that any consolation? One mortal sin alone can send you to hell, like contraception or masturbation or missing Sunday mass. Of course, they say God is good, he MAY forgive you… But what if he does not? ETERNITY of torture is always a possibility. Not ten years in jail or labour camp, not even temporary torture and violent death… But eternity of cruel torture forever. I am of course speaking from my own perspective as an ex-Catholic. Liberal Christians may pretend that somehow all that is “allegorical”. Anyway, this was always my primary source of death. This keeps haunting you even after you think you have shaken the chains of religion off… This is like a computer virus you can never remove (what if its true???) So why would you think that the atheist version of REAL death, i.e. nothingness, is worse? I mean, nothingness is not a very pleasant idea, but it is not horrible either. Whatever it is you WON’t BE THERE. Possible lengthy agaony before death is another matter…

  36. Way to go Merrick, good for you for throwing your personal thoughts and fears into a public debate. It takes courage to expose personal shadows, and I avoid those of us who offer simple solutions to complex problems. Yet there is good advice here, and this compassion makes me joyfully smug about free thinkers and real discussions. I have thought about, argued and debated the ‘topic’ of death and existence ever since ever. I have lost many ‘friends’ because they won’t or can’t go there, simply can’t rip into the meaning of life. Opening hard questions is just too heavy, and aren’t you a freak or simply too selfish to not appreciate your lucky existence. I get it, I’m improbable and I’m lucky. Problem is I’m still here and full of fear about non-being. It’s just easier to talk about the weather, or for me to tell you what works…for me. No wonder religion works for so many.

    Even trying to to stay present, be genuine, plan for the future and keep and open mind does not mean these questions can be answered.

    But I do stay away from people who are not interested in asking. Good on you Ms. Merrick! “Courage, it couldn’t come at a worst time”.

  37. Fear of death? – were you fearful of being born? – precisely!
    Being fearful of how one dies, is however far more reasonable.
    Religions have been used by men seeking power and subjugation over others through intimidation, such as falsely creating for dissenters, the most gruesome and vile eternal punishments unless people bend to their will.
    THERE IS NO PROOF that after death, there is an experience of which we will be aware. It is a malicious BOGEYMAN STORY. Feel free to enjoy and appreciate the only life of which you are guaranteed.

  38. i no more fear death than fear sleeping. the act of dying however is less pleasant than going to sleep which is why as an atheist I campaign for the right to choose ones own passing in as much comfort as is possible.

    growing up as a catlik death was far scarier, i had the options of burning in hell for eternity or meeting my dead relatives who’d have lots to ask me about those sinful thoughts i had.

    i dont think you’re in any worse a position than any believer. death is the ultimate unknown ,it’s natural to fear but don’t for one minute think belief would change that. most xtians i know and are related to have an unhealthy obsession with death and dead people. their funerals are intensely depressing (unlike the few humanist funerals i’ve been to which were sad due to the absence of one person but otherwise lots of fun and a good time to catch up and have a few laughs)

    as for finding a way to move forward, it never occured to me. as my belief evaporated over time, my concern about my own death went with it. occasionally people would think i was depressed having said things like “i wouldn’t care if i dropped dead now” not meaning i wasn’t happy just that life’s only important as long as i think it is.

    so sorry, i don’t empatrhize enough to give a decent answer other than to suggest that enjoying life is the most important thing you should be worrying about, and that i suspect, considering you have a rational mind, your anxiety may be rooted in something other than simple fear of death so maybe a spell of counselling would help?

  39. It sounds like you’re being propelled by that desire for higher purpose that is an instinctive part of the human psyche.

    Yeah, the cold, hard, bitter truth of it all is that we’re pretty insignificant to the universe. But the need for purpose stems not from the cosmos, but from ourselves and each other. Our drive is to civilize, to make life better for ourselves and our descendents when we possibly can. Granted, making a noticeable signature is much more difficult now than it was in the days of Epicurus.

    As someone who suffers from major depression, I can despair for no good reason (i.e. nothing that I can act upon) and once I determine this, I will engage in activities to distract me from those feelings or to make me feel better (preferably ones that are legal and cheap). This won’t give one purpose or make them any less insignificant, but we’ve already resolved that the universe is very, very big, and we are so very small in it.

    • In reply to #52 by Uriel-238:

      the universe is very, very big, and we are so very small

      That diminishing of what we are is, I think, the hardest thing to accept, and a strong driver for clinging to religions of all stripes.

      On the scale of the universe, we are neither very small (atoms and the slippery little things they’re made of) nor are we very big (stars, galaxies, clusters). We’re not very fast (light) nor very long lived (planets, stars, the cosmos since the Big Bang). We can’t travel far at our sluggish pace in our short lifetimes.

      But we are very something:: we are very complex. We are the most complex arrangement of matter we know of. In fact, “knowing of” is part of our complexity. We are lucky enough to be clumps of matter that get to experience the world, the universe, around us, and marvel at its immensity, and we can look at ourselves, and marvel at our complexity.

      So, I’d say that makes us special. Special enough to not need any other prop. The universe is immense and we can see that. Collective congratulations are in order, I think. And whatever else it takes to balance out your complex brain chemistry so you can get back to enjoying it.

      • *From Uriel-238:

        the universe is very, very big, and we are so very small

        In reply to #55 by OHooligan:

        But we are very something:: we are very complex… So, I’d say that makes us special.

        Special, maybe, but in all of our sophistication not significant. Not relevant. At least not yet.

        The universe would be pretty much the same without us as with, and while it is a rare thing to be something that can marvel at the universe, can scrutinize and catalog its details, all that scholarship is for nothing if the particle on which we live makes an unfortunate encounter or falls into disrepair. Even the radio waves we cast out to alien audiences will decay into noise before the likelihood that it falls to eyes and ears that might recognize and decipher it.

        We have the potential of an infant. If we survive the fragility of childhood, if we nurture our strengths, and don’t collapse under our own hubris or our own savage predispositions, then yes, we can become relevant.

        I would say it is, by far, too soon to celebrate our glory.

        • In reply to #56 by Uriel-238:

          I would say it is, by far, too soon to celebrate our glory.

          Agreed. Let’s celebrate our potential. And then get on with trying very carefully to ensure we don’t blow it.

  40. came across this quote today and thought of you…

    “Through heaven-and-earth is eternal, I won’t come into being a second time. Even in a life of a hundred years, the days slip by very quickly. It is my good fortune to have been born in this interval. I must not miss the chance to appreciate my life of happiness, nor allow myself to dwell upon empty existence.” Vegetable Roots Discourse, Hong Zicheng 1572-1620

  41. As an atheist who has recently lost my mom I take comfort in being prepared for the future. I know this sounds weird but both my parents died young in part because of poor diet choices, smoking, and sedentary life style. I feel a little self righteous in that they had shortened lives because they didn’t dread their own deaths as much since they were going to heaven. When I get the yearly medical exam I feel a little dread going in and so far relief coming out. I like making plans for my future as far as retirement and look forward to sitting a hot tub in some assisted living facility and making old fart soup, or taking the public transportation to see movies, plays and concerts, as I like to do now.(Only with preferred seating to accommodate my walker!) But seriously the one thing I worry about most is dementia. 80% of all people over 80 have it, and since I have worked in a rest home I have a dread of losing my mind that way.So I’m making a check list of what makes life worth living (Manageable pain, mobility, recognizing things and people I love.) so I will have a way to judge when to take final exit. (Hopefully many years away!) Taking as much control as I can over what all of us will face comforts me I hope it helps you.(If any thing the fact we are all in this together and can sympathize also helps.)

  42. Understanding brain chemistry is not a well developed area of medical science. Still, you may wish to explore the subject. Alternatively, or simultaneously, you could investigate the concept of happiness and see how you might integrate it into your life.

  43. I find religious notions odious apart from lack of evidence. Imagine a universe run by a sadistic madman, who tortured people for eternity, who made up nonsensical contradictory rules, where there is no way out.. YUCHH!

    How depressing!

    I get a huge amount of pleasure out of trying to shape my world. I have a website as my soapbox. I post on RDF and newsites. I write dozens of emails to radio shows each day. I had some spectacular success influencing my society early in life, particularly with gay lib.

    I live in Victoria, BC Canada, a garden city filled with trees, flowers and verdant grasses. I was born here. It is the homiest place on earth much as I have enjoyed many other parts of it.

    I love computers. At one point I was told I was the youngest programmer on the planet. I have participated in the evolution starting with plug-board and tube computers. I get to use a quite advanced desktop.

    I have a room mate of the “wrong” sex, but she is so intelligent with far ranging curiousity I can can hardly wait for my next briefing of what she has discovered since we last talked.

    Where I live, young people are very polite and solicitous. I know if something happened to me, lots of people would come to my aid.

    Americans phone or email death threats for various reasons, but the local people find nothing outrageous in my opinions. I feel safe here.

    In Bach’s day you would be lucky to hear a piece even once. Today I can hear any genre of music by any
    performer any time I please. There is just so much wonderful music!

    Death (in the form of HIV) has been at my shoulder since 1985. It is quite unlikely I will live past 80. I am 65 now, so feel very much feel on the home stretch. Time passes faster and faster as I get older. I have so many things I want to accomplish, yet with seriously waning energy. Just having so many projects I want to do makes life valuable and worthwhile.

    I am acutely aware that most of my effect on the world will evaporate with my death. I am “this season’s people”, to use a Stephen Gaskin term. My life is for my era. I would feel uncomfortable in the world of 2040 where everyone talks like a valley girl, and the t and g have disappeared.

    Happiness is the art of making a bouquet of those flowers within reach.

    ~ Robert Goddard 1954-11-13

  44. I had a religious experience once, or what Christians would call one. They think any voice whose source they cannot pinpoint is Jehovah.

    I asked the universe in general (or anything in it listening),”What is the meaning of the universe”.

    With suitable Spielbergian sound effects, the answer came back, “There isn’t one”.

    I felt a rush of despair.

    The voice continued, “It is not a bad thing. You get to choose your own purpose. You have to chose it though.”

    (this was circa 1975. I am just paraphrasing)

  45. Since you are fond of Epicurus, let’s start with him: “Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing” i.e. all human motivation is the pursuit of emotional goals. That’s psychology 101. Feelings are our motivation and drive, always and every time. Without feeling, humans do not move.

    So, with that in mind, what is this “meaninglessness” you are plagued with? It is a feeling of wanting something more. We first need to distinguish between sanely interpreted feelings and insanely interpreted feelings. If you are wanting more out of life, that’s perfectly sane. If you are wanting something above and beyond the pursuit of emotional satisfaction in this life, then you’re off with the fairies, because you’re trying to transcend your biological limits – which is impossible.

    So, how do we get more out of life? Here’s something I have found helpful …

    Some buzzwords of motivation science these days are: Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. From a video on the science of motivation by Dan Pink:

    “And the good news about all of this is that the scientists who’ve been studying motivation have given us this new approach. It’s an approach built much more around intrinsic motivation. Around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, because they are part of something important. And to my mind, that new operating system for our businesses revolves around three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses.”

    Usually people find their purpose in servitude to their family, community or nation i.e. if you’re not busy raising a family then you might need to find your purpose in fighting for some cause that makes life better for your community. This presumes a strong identity and belonging to a community, which takes some doing in a world which increasingly advocates that we should abandon local identities in favour of some nebulous global identity. Basically we evolved to serve our stable local tribe, but we live in a chaotic global unstable world. So you’ve got to somehow recreate your community, your tribe, amidst a chaotic borderless world. Or something like that.

    Mind you, this is a male perspective. We males love solving problems in the interest of the tribe. But alas, I’m no expert on the female mind.

    If your first thought is “but why should I care whether my community continues to exist or not?”, this is an insane question because we are not biologically geared to answer it. We are biologically geared to pursue emotional fulfillment. It is sane to question the worth of living if you are suffering from a terminal illness and in great pain. But if you’re not in any pain or depression and still asking “but why should we go on living?” this is not a question we are biologically capable of answering because our biology is only capable of affective forecasting (see Daniel Gilbert) i.e. seeing into the future and feeling what is good or bad. Since the existential question transcends our biological limits of affective forecasting, it’s not capable of being answered. Hence you should forget the question and get back to affective forecasting.

    A man’s got to know his limitations. Same for you ladies. Good luck.

  46. I understand your feelings and they can be difficult to cope with. But life exists and you are living . We may not know why or how we came to be here or what happens after death, but the fact that we are alive means that we have a duty to enjoy it. I think it was mollier who said “I have examined every avenue and come to the conclusion that life must be for having fun”. It isnt always easy and meaning and purpose are very individual. But we can all help our fellow humans, even the person who makes bread in the morning adds something to society. I try to acheive something daily write, explore, get fitter to reach the top of something, dont just see try to experience things, try to recreate the feeling of joy and you will have more of them, savour the taste of coffee and smile at people and enjoy them smiling back…blimey I sound like a new age counsellor which I am not but it works for me. Give and yoiu shall receive.

  47. Have a look at the god helmet (i am athiest it refers to the effect)it helped me realize some of the issues i had with my close friends turning to religion latter in life its to do with the pineal gland there a few on youtube and it is scientific and documented and funny. say no to fluoride in water ;)

  48. I think the fear of death is with us all Merrick even the religious ones that are certain they have a ticket to heaven. I’ve had three close calls with death, but surprisingly didn’t fear it at that moment; more disappointed about what I would miss out on or haven’t got to do yet. The only thing that concerns me in regards to my own death is will I have the right to end it, if required, in order to avoid an agonizing one.

    The last thing on my mind was death or the meaning of life in my thirties. I was too occupied with work, having a great time with friends, exuding my sexuality, travelling, and a hobby though I must confess probably was not as mature as you. However when I was approaching 40, a crisis in my life started me to think more about death and the meaning of life and I got depressed over it. I overcame this by realizing I was living the life others expected of me to some extent and probably was one of the major contributing factors leading to my depression and the past choices in life that were detrimental to my well being. Breaking away from this wasn’t easy and caused some good and bad consequences; unexpected and expected, but over ten years later as I look back, it was liberating for me and made me more able to be true to myself hence a more fulfilling life.

    I find positive feelings about life by just getting out there and trying new things even things I thought I might not like. Sharing experiences, memories, and lessons learned has been fulfilling and look forward to more memories. I’m glad I experienced a broken heart a few times, been lovesick, been loved, been hated, been inspired, been appreciated, and helped others even if it didn’t make a difference. And I’m glad I’ve experienced despair because I would not have become a poet that has inspired others and myself.

    As I get older I find the simpler things in life that I took for granted bring me joy as well such as a good meal, a day without pain, and being on this forum.

    Though I no longer exude my sexuality, I still frolic nude on the beaches of the Mediterranean with my wife. I no longer write poetry, but love to read it. I no longer have my youth, but live vicariously through the younger generations. I no longer can afford to eat out as much as I used to, but I make some kick ass dishes no restaurant could ever make.

    Cheers.

  49. Hello Merrick,

    I really don’t think your feelings have to do much with atheism. Religious people worry about death too, despite their beliefs of an afterlife.

    Theists have often taken pleasure in telling me, among other things, that I will burn in hell or that my maker will find me guilty of blasphemy. I’ve been told they hope I die a slow and painful death. I reply that, assuming a christian heaven exists, their chances of entering it are 1 out of 44,000, given the number of different christian denominations claiming to be the true church. And their chances of dying a slow and painful death are as good as mine.

    In short, perhaps you would like to think about short and long-term goals that you would like to achieve. That’s it. Thanks.

  50. This article describes my exact feelings in precisely the way I would say them. Despite my awareness of the intellectual wonders of the world (I’m into astronomy for example) I find no consolation in sentiments like – ‘I was dead for billions of years before I was born and it did me no harm.’
    It seems so tragically wasteful that we spend our lives filling our minds with knowledge and experience (Well some of us) only for it to be wiped out in an instant at the moment of death.

    It is hard to be grateful for existing at all despite the tiny chance of our being here at all because it seems like some cruel joke that it will be denied us some day and that indeed there will be no ‘us’ one day.

    The attempt to avoid nihilistic thoughts like these is a strain only assuaged perhaps by the presence of family and having children or escaping into fantasy such as in film or a book. Yet here we have it, and with no evidence of a sky-parent to pat our backs…

  51. This life is something rare, something special – in the grand scheme of things. What were the options? Non-existence, or this. I have this, but it won’t last. Understand this and you understand how to live. Live with patience, and gratitude and love – for it won’t last. Compassion is important too. I like to think of it as a slot machine, this life is. A slot machine. The coin is in. But it’s only 10 pence! But wow! what we get for that 10 pence!!!

    • In reply to #74 by Zarniwoop:

      This life is something rare, something special – in the grand scheme of things. What were the options? Non-existence, or this. I have this, but it won’t last. Understand this and you understand how to live. Live with patience, and gratitude and love – for it won’t last. Compassion is important too….

      I never had this problem, extistential dread. I don’t fear death, but I am wary of screwing up and causing death. This I have in common with Dick Scoby, who was mission commander for the last flight of ‘Challenger’

      Perhaps I’m missing out, or perhaps Merrik has, unfortunatly, some little bit of exposure to the fear of death in her subconcious. I used to have a very strong fear of water (swimming pools, the sea etc) which arose from being knocked down by a wave at the beach aged 2. It only takes a few seconds for such lessons to be learned…

  52. Merrick – Like you, like many, I have such thoughts. It seems that, even though (unlike me) you have not had a religious phase in your life, we have both bought into the quasi-deist/supernatural idea that we need ‘meaning’ and that such ‘meaning’ can only come from something ‘beyond’ the every day.

    I’m only just embarking upon some kind of buddhism, admittedly of an atheist or humanist kind (I think there is such a thing!!). Buddhism, so far as I can gather, acknowledges the lack of a ‘greater’ meaning, the painfulness of life – but suggests the idea of needing a ‘meaning’ is a kind of unhelpful, ‘unskillful’ craving. It is thus both false to think there is ‘something beyond’ us and this, being a myth and therefore impossible to find, in the end makes us unhappier still.

    I find it extremely hard to live in and appreciate the present moment – so do many. Nostalgia or guilt about the past, plans, fantasies or fears about the future fill our thoughts much of each day. It’s hard to live with ourselves as we are, focussing on where we are, on this moment, with as an honest view. But, when can we live except now? Do we want to live as if we and the world are not as they are? Do we really want to abandon science as we ‘feel’ reality is not as we’d like it to be? Certainly, I’ve felt like that. This sounds like I’m a mess but, it is suggested in Buddhism, this is the common human situation. We are ‘conditioned’, by TV, adverts, preachers etc that we must be successful, prosperous, happy, etc etc. We crave pleasure, good feelings. Which only serves to add a sense of failure to our existing unhappiness.

    It has been said, ‘The miracle is to walk on earth’. We don’t have to feel jealousy or grief that we can’t walk on water, have no need of miracles in the dramatic or supernatural sense at all. We do not have to feel ‘there should be more than this’. We do not have to have a mythic God or a Perfect Life, neither intellectually nor, crucially perhaps, emotionally. The wonders of the world and the ‘miracle’ of existence are enough. If we want more than what is real, we are wanting an illusion.

    • In reply to #76 by steve_hopker:

      Merrick – Like you, like many, I have such thoughts. It seems that, even though (unlike me) you have not had a religious phase in your life, we have both bought into the quasi-deist/supernatural idea that we need ‘meaning’ and that such ‘meaning’ can only come from something ‘beyond’ the every day….

      I don’t think the OP was talking about lack of meaning in life at all, but just like me cannot find peace of mind about our ultimate fate through any known philosophy. It comes from being unable to reconcile the cosmic joke being played upon us. The only recourse I can muster seems unobtainable. If I had remained a more ignorant person then perhaps that would have solved the issue. I can only rely on the possibility that old age will grant some peace of mind in terms of providing a different perspective on the whole thing we call life.

      I’ll give an example of what I mean while I’m here. Astronomers such of Neil deGrasse Tyson expound the feelings of wonder when staring out into the universe, these feelings making him feel big. Well I don’t experience that. I intellectually remain fascinated by the goings on of the cosmos and I love astronomy, but emotionally it doesn’t give me any comfort. When I’m observing our moon just for one example, I am acutely aware of the fact that there is a huge 3000km ball of rock flying above our heads and that if I was standing on it I would be frozen, asphyxiated and desiccated. Knowledge doesn’t just breed wonder it makes one acutely aware of our delicate existence. I have to admit struggling with this.

  53. It’s an issue for us all, I approach the issue from a somewhat spiritual angle, that is, I get an amazing feeling of belonging from being part of nature, when I make the effort to immerse myself in it and experience growing anxiety if I do not, so, wilderness trips, snorkeling, camping, surfing, even gazing into a fire and marvelling at the feelings it evokes in me. It makes me feel that I am part of something bigger, and I am, we are nature…. Unfortunately modern society disconnects us from nature, so most see it as “something apart” from us, we spend time in nature, we watch it on tv. If it rains ….we run for cover rather than enjoy the experience, we won’t go swimming unless the water is tepid and miss the exhilaration of the cold . For what it is worth, I recommend throwing away the trappings of modernity occasionally, find someone you like and go camping in the wilderness (in a cabin if you must) and get in touch with your own nature….. then you may see death as a beautifully elegant cycle of which you are a part…. I took it further and signed up as an organ donor, and I’d love to be buried at sea and feed the fish as they have fed me. I don’t fear death at all, only how I will die concerns me and whether christians will meddle in it, but thats another story. I hope you find a way to resolve and allay your fears and be at peace with nature.

  54. …. sorry to say it’s all part of being an Atheist… but if it makes you feel better, you can always decide not to die???

    As ridiculous as it sounds just plan to live for ever. When the inevitable happens you won’t know about it…

    As far as life being meaningless…. how is your life any different being an Atheist than it would be if you were a Christian?? Purpose in life is the use that you put it too… and this may seem insignificant on a universal scale, narrow your sights live your life to the full, effect the people around you…. appreciate the time you have rather than worrying about the time you won’t

    I’m 100% sure none of the above will help…. The certainty of my own death bugs me too … from time to time :o)

  55. Its a mistake to look for steady happiness if we are rational beings in a real world…We exsist in waves…Ups and downs and have to adapt to the flow of our emotions, If you don’t expect to always be happy you will not be discontent with periods of unhappiness, those low times could be used to your advantage as reflective periods which are trully useful if you ponder the positive wonders of the universe. We are at the mercy of the universe and if we surrender to our own powerlessness we can live each day with gratitude at just being alive for our finite time and passing the lifeforce to the next generations. Religious people have surrendered their personal reasoning to their leaders and avoid real issues – I’d rather be clued up on tha harsh realities in the Universe than ignorant of reality and content with religious ideals, that really would be a waste of a finite lifespan

  56. Religion seem to give some confort to the dispair that you are experiencing, but since like me you are not a religious person, I suggest that you find or construct a persoal philosophy to which you can turn in times of dispair. I am of the view that being unreligeous does not neccessarily mean one cannot have a belief, in the sence of having some source to which one can turn at times of dispair. I think as with religion, one can have some constructive philosophy of life. For instance, I have created for myself an attitude that makes death to be very motivating. I am one of those people who believe that life is miserable and wish I was not born. I therefore look forward to my death, although I do fear it to some extent. Also, if death is so inevitable, what else is there to fear. Death to me is a very good antidote to fear, which I fear more than death.

  57. Hypothesizing the “one life” – I don’t think anyone truly believes it or could find satisfaction in considering the proposition even and the only (not so satisfying) explanation is that your eternity will be the same as to prior your birth.

    • In reply to #89 by blue_book:

      Hypothesizing the “one life” – I don’t think anyone truly believes it

      I certainly believe we have only one life, as had all the life forms on this planet which have existed before us.

      or could find satisfaction in considering the proposition even and the only (not so satisfying) explanation is that your eternity will be the same as to prior your birth.

      Whether some people find the idea satisfying or not, has no relevance to the scientific evidence of death, or the absence of any credible evidence of any creature having an “after-life”!
      Your atoms and molecules were assembled in the bodies of your parents, and then by the life processes of your own cells. When we die, and as we live, they are recycled into the environment, just like all the atoms and molecules of earlier organic matter.

  58. I know exactly how you feel. I wish I could give you a hug. This may not work for you, but it helps me to achieve a catharsis. Music music music. That’s what gives my life meaning in a meaningless world. Playing (I am a pianist and composer.) or writing music helps take my mind off of existential anxieties. I don’t know what kind of music you like, but sitting back and reflecting on life to this helps me. To me, the creation of something such as art is a powerful symbolic tool, as creation is the antithesis of death. Write a story or play. Write a song. Paint something. Try it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6MSEpKszus

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlMHjo7Jwhk

  59. I have/had sort of half of the problem. The dread of thinking about end of life.
    Somehow this only happened during evening/late at night, in morning all is fine. Still unpleasant thing.

    Tried being busy with things in life, seems to make you not think about that at all. But that didn’t seem to be perfect solution.

    Think loneliness could be root of the problem.
    Hopefully you fall in love with someone, that could probably be solution to your problems, especially if person loves you back.
    Spending time caring for someone, loving someone =) , being ready to do anything for that someone. Seems to get the job done.
    Also could give you meaning in life =)

  60. Rather than thinking about how unfortunate we are to have to die, think about how lucky we are to be alive. We are all literally the product of trillions of scientific accidents which occurred over billions of years. The fact that any of us are here is just one gigantic scientific accident. When I think about how lucky I am to have come into existence in the first place I feel better about the fact that I, like everything else, will not last forever.

  61. I must say I have been having the same problem for years now, especially recently. I met and fell in love with a wonderful person last year, and she shares much of the same concerns I do; in fact, her concerns are identical to my own. This is one of the ways we identify so strongly with one another. Neither of us can take the concept of a loving, perfectly benevolent god seriously, and there is no guaranteeing that even if one existed and eternal bliss awaited that that would satisfy us (seriously, eternity??). I fear death very much because I think I know what it means: that I will never be able to see this person again, and vice versa. One morning when she was upset about just this issue, I spontaneously developed a little thought experiment to attempt to address our fears: if you could be given the choice to opt out of life before you were ever born, would you choose it? You know that you are going to suffer, and that you and all whom you love are born with expiration dates, but would you choose to remain asleep forever if given the choice? I do not think I would, nor would my life partner, because suffering is not the whole story. If I could choose life over death, even if the time spent in one is clearly overshadowed by the other, I would choose life because I know that I could meet someone like her one day and give her a happy life. That to me is meaningful. Notice that when we ask whether life or anything is meaningful, we are always asking whether it is meaningful TO someone. Whether life is meaningful TO ME is sufficient to answer the question; it requires no further justification. I do sincerely want to help, so I hope this little thought experiment will be a way to at least begin to answer some of your/our concerns.

  62. I have had a good life, full of things I’d like to experience again (and some things I’d rather not have experienced once). Those who are important to me are (surprisingly) important to me and have helped me to shape this life. It won’t go on forever, and I know that at the end I shall feel regret at leaving the ones I love, and they will miss me too. But that is the price we pay for enjoying life and for loving one another. Anyone who knows de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, will know the chapter about the fox whom the prince tames, and the price we pay for ‘taming’ things. But that is something to be celebrated, not regretted – and it is most certainly not something to be afraid of.

  63. Death is a necessary part of life. The way this world works, you could never have lived unless you were also, eventually, going to die. That your existence will cease should be a motivation to live life well, and to savor each day all the more. I submit that the origins of your despair lie not in that you will die, but in some sort of dissatisfaction with your life. It would be well to address that, perhaps with a friend or a professional counselor.

    In any case, embracing the belief that you will somehow continue after your death will not change the fact that you will not.

  64. I would like to return to this because I see that my post just below doesn’t properly respond to the OP. I respond as an atheist.

    I do not much concern myself with death itself, which I regard as the complete cessation of the stream of my experience. I am not happy that all this will come to an end, but I understand that it will, and it is a waste of time to fret about it.

    There is nothing written in the stars to tell us what, if anything, is the purpose of the Cosmos. But the insignificance of humanity, and of this whole planet, and of our sun, within a galaxy of 100 million stars that is but one of 100 million galaxies, would suggest that our lives are not important tin the Grand Scheme of Things, if indeed there is such a scheme. Another indication of that is that nature appears to be quite neutral toward humanity and its concerns. Therefore it is up to us to find importance in ourselves.

    Equally, it is part of the scheme of things that, just as at one time we did not exist, so at some time we will not exist. There is no escaping that. So it is up to us as individuals to find as much possible purpose and enjoyment in each precious momemt of this limited existence that we have. This includes not only direct experience but also memory and the stories that we make up. Specifically what I try to do is to “sieze the day,” to rejoice in the vastly improbable circumstance of my own existence, and all the varied and splendid experience that it entails.

    I have a loving wife, children, a grandson, and friends, and much of my enjoyment comes from good times with them. Some of it comes from good wine and good food. I love to learn about history and I read much about it. I enjoy reading novels. I am deeply impressed by Moby Dick, and from time to time I re-read it and marvel at its depth and complexity. Recently my wife and I drove up to Stratford, Ontario and saw some very good plays. Stratford was beautiful in the sunny autumn, with its peaceful lake and its swans. On the way up Stratford, we stayed in Detroit and took the time to visit the Detroit Institute of Art, with its many beautiful works and especially its spectacular murals by Rivera.

    I am fortunate to live in a spledid setting on the edge of wooded ravine, and my house has large windows. So I rejoice in the chaotic arrangement of colors and shapes in the autumn-colored trees outside my windows. I love the pale greens and soft pinks and purples of spring. Outside my house is a deck, where I can look down 50 feet or so and see a stream running, and hear it burbling as it runs over a little falls there. In the morning, I behold the sun gilinting off the water. In the winter, I see the stream flowing through strange and beautiful formations of ice. Sometimes there is the wind, in which I rejoice, and the rain. I particularly enjoy the sound of the wind in the white pines that stand on one side of my house. When the snow falls, I rejoice its mystery and beauty as it covers the dead branches. Songbirds, owls, hawks, herons, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, rabbit, and foxes visit my property, and it is quite wonderful to watch them in their lives. Even if I did not live where I do, I could, with minor inconvenience, seek out these joys of nature.

    I hope you can see that I am telling you the truth. I am not saying that I don’t sometimes argue with my wife, have other bad experiences, step in dogshit, or whatever. But life for me, in its essential character, is unbelievably miraculous and good. I understand that I am very fortunate to live in a rich and peaceful country, and to be fairly well-to-do even compared to my countrymen. But I can’t help that. I believe that I could find joy in life even in worse circumstances, but I understand that some people live in circumstances so terrible that enjoying life must not be easy.

    In light of all of this, I think that to be unhappy merely because one day we will not exist is a terrible waste of the opportunity to enjoy what we do have.

    • In reply to #98 by Markovich:

      I would like to return to this because I see that my post just below doesn’t properly respond to the OP. I respond as an atheist.

      I do not much concern myself with death itself, which I regard as the complete cessation of the stream of my experience. I am not happy that all this will come to an e…

      I agree with your post absolutely. I think it’s one of the ways that atheists sometimes concede too much to theists in these kinds of arguments that people sometimes just dismiss questions like “what is the meaning of life” as pointless. The question is pointless if you think that there had to be some master plan by some creator in order to give your life meaning but the only reason people think that is because we have been conditioned to by religions in the first place. If anything I think you can say it’s the atheists, or at least some of us, who really lead the interesting and meaningful lives because we deal with life as it really is, we don’t delude ourselves with comforting lies which when you get beyond the rhetoric of people like William James or other intellectual apologists for religion is really what they are advocating.

      • In reply to #99 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #98 by Markovich:

        I would like to return to this because I see that my post just below doesn’t properly respond to the OP. I respond as an atheist.

        I do not much concern myself with death itself, which I regard as the complete cessation of the stream of my experience. I am not happy…

        I absolutely agree with your pont that precisely because we understand that life does not continue after death, and that there is no objective significance to life, we best understand the importance our finding our own purposes in life, and the importance of living as well as possible in the limited time that we do have. I think it has some political implications as well, because we cannot say that the poor will enjoy anything after death.

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