August 4, 2014 by Zerub Roberts
When I became an atheist, things weren’t so smooth. There was some sort of a deep existential void – a total lack of purpose, direction or meaning in my life. I remember watching a lecture titled “The Absurdity of Life Without God” – hearing about the mad man screaming on the streets, proclaiming the death of God. I remember thinking what’s the point of anything when the whole universe would eventually suffer a cold merciless death, destroying every single form of life, leaving nothing, not even traces of my existence? It was quite very depressing.
There was one thing that sort of made me feel better – Hey, there ain’t no place called Hell! Sure, men would lead mortal, imperfect lives. But that’s it! You don’t have to face any eternal consequences! Isn’t that a relief? Well, sort of.
Sure, there’s no eternal torture, no everlasting pain. None of that crap. But isn’t life a bit dull now? What do I have endure so much of meaningless suffering in the world for? What exactly am I chasing after, when I’m gonna loose everything one day? Why continue living everyday, when one day, I won’t be able to? Why care about anything, when nothing really matters? There seemed to be no answers
But eventually, here’s what truly helped me move on – my answers didn’t come from a philosopher, but oddly from a biologist. I started watching some Richard Dawkins documentaries. I don’t remember exactly what they are, but just watching his enthusiasm about biological life, the ‘real, imperfect, yet beautiful’ world – it somehow just made me happy! Things weren’t so dull anymore!
Sure, there’s a part of the brain that searches for meaning, for purpose, for value in the things we do. Sure, my questions might be left unanswered. But, why should any of that have any impact on my happiness? Why should my joy depend on abstract philosophical models of reality? Why can’t I just have fun, no matter what my destiny is?!
There were many things I had to relearn –
1) Things don’t really have to be perfect to be beautiful – In fact, maybe perfection can be quite a dull thing. Let go of your dreams of a utopia. The world we live in, is something completely beautiful in itself, in-spite of its innumerable flaws. The natural world is just as beautiful as any eternal bliss portrayed by religion
2) You don’t need to have an objective meaning and value for everything – Maybe things are worthwhile only because we humans value them. Maybe you get a little depressed knowing that the value you ascribe to people, or in fact anything isn’t intrinsic, but just human-dependent constructions of reality. Fair enough. But why should it necessarily alter your behavior towards them? Why should that make anything less worthy?
3) People can give you more joy and happiness than any religious experiences might have given you –
Just go out and meet them. Socialize. Now, you’re no more restricted with your previous narrow mindedness, or your condemnation of non-believers. You’d really appreciate the diversity in thought and culture that people hold.
4) Your morality is now a lot more genuine – You don’t have to shoulder the emotional burden of facing eternal consequences for your moral acts, anymore. You can simply love a person and act kindly just because you care about them. This time, your morality would be grounded on nothing but empathy. Even if you mess up, its alright. No big deal.
5) You don’t have to last forever to really enjoy being alive – There’s quite an intrinsic thrill and joy in being mortal. Yes, immortality could be quite a promising deal, but even if you had it, wouldn’t you still be living moment by moment? Why not enjoy this moment, for this moment’s sake? Sure, they might be ‘mere passing pleasures’, But hey, enjoy them while they last! Why should your experience of something become less worthwhile merely because it might not last forever? Just savor every single experience. I promise you’ll have no regrets.