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How Does Your Life Have Any Meaning?


darwinfish

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All things end. It's true. You will die. Your kids will die. Their kids will die. All life, eventually dies. Even our Earth will die, and our solar system, and even, one day, our universe. As they say, all good things, eventually, will come to an end. I don't know if anything exists beyond our universe, or if anything will continue to exist after our universe ends. Maybe, it doesn't. Maybe, this is the only time life will ever come into existence, and after this, there will be no more.

 

I suspect this is the thought that makes Christians cling to the idea of life after death and the need to believe in a new Heaven and a new Earth, one that will not pass away. It seems comforting to think that maybe we don't die or that the universe may have a chance of continuing on eternally. But, there's really no reason to think that any of that is true. It was something that I was told when I was small to keep me from being afraid of death.

 

It's my thought, and it's just a personal thought, so I'm open to be corrected, but I think that death scares most Christians. Maybe not the way they see death, but more accurately nonexistence. When I've brought up nonexistence to my Christian friends, it's seems as though they are unwilling to even begin to think that might be true. They see themselves as players in some giant narrative. They're soldiers in a war against evil. This, they argue, gives meaning to their lives. Their lives have a greater purpose.

 

Without this narrative, what is the purpose of life? Why are we here? I've always responded to that question by saying that I give myself purpose in life. I don't need a puppet master to give my life meaning. I choose what career path I want to pursue, the wife I want to marry, or how to raise my kids. My life wasn't written out before I was born. We sort of make it up as we go along. But, that doesn't mean it's less purposeful. It doesn't mean I love my family less than they love theirs. It just means that my life, my purpose is what I choose to make of it.

 

This is when the idea of nonexistence enters the conversation. "But if everything you've done is completely forgotten in 1,000 years and everything and everyone that you've effected no longer exists, how does your life really matter? It all fades away and is forgotten. So, it all is pointless." I don't think it's pointless. It isn't to me. It isn't to those that care about me. Life has meaning now. Not a 1,000 years from now. In fact, it's because life is short that makes it more important not to squander it. This is all there is. There's no second chances for the atheist. This is what makes our daily life more meaningful. It means that we need to stop and enjoy what we have while we have it, because once it's gone, it's gone forever.

 

It doesn't bother me to think that there's no heaven when I die. What would bother me, and what would make eternal existence horrific, is that while I was in heaven, I would know that there are others in ultimate pain and agony in Hell. I would never be able to stop thinking about that in Heaven. All I would ever want for those people is nonexistence. It would be so much better than being tortured for all eternity. When I think that that is how Christian view eternal life, it actually makes me glad that there's no good reason to think that's true.

 

As atheists, we don't have a narrative to our lives. There is no story we're living out. My life is meaningful to me and to those that I share it with. That doesn't make me think that my life is less meaningful. That motivates me to live my life to the fullest and share it with as many as I can.

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Good post-I'll take it a bit further. Nonexistence is like Heaven, but better. Why?

 

 

-no pain of any kind

-no boredom

-no singing the praises of a despot who willingly sends people to Hell for eternity

-no thinking about those people being tortured for eternity

 

Sounds fine to me!

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I have a more mechanistic view of things. All life is made up of code (DNA). The primary objective of all living things is achieve eternity. That is, to live on once they themselves are no longer part of vital existence. Believers desire a narrow narrative that ascribes this desire to supernatural forces called god to explain this primary objective. 

 

There are only two ways that one can achieve eternity:

  • through sharing and replication of one's DNA (reproduction)
  • through the sharing, replication and spread of one's ideas, thoughts and opinions (memories and knowledge)

Believers think that by shoehorning their lives and minds into a narrow fantasy with a beautiful reward at the end, they will live forever and ever with Jesus and Gawd and that is the height of their existence. They were born to accept him and die and go to Heaven, amen. How boring. Whatever happens between the beginning and end is just filler for them, like being in a waiting room or what have you. Sure, there's good stuff in-between being born or born again and death, but none of it can compare to the great thereafter, the golden fields, the sky kingdom.

 

I'd rather live on through the power of memory and possibly the written word. Our creations, our thoughts, the actions and reactions we have in this life, are the true means by which we can "live forever". Believing in delusional fairy tales and teaching one's children to cling to the dark haziness of the supernatural gives away your eternity. God takes the gift and from that moment on, only He will get the credit for what you did upon the earth.

 

That's the true meaning of "death to self", I think. You surrender your filthy, unworthy selfish self to Him and in return, you get to be an intellectually stunted Christ-praising zombie until he whisks you away to live in the clouds someday.

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I disagree, seven77. The progeny, memories and words of people are not eternal- all things will eventually be dead, forgotten, and dismantled. Most of the people who ever lived are now long forgotten, and even the famous ones will be forgotten in time, too. Once you're dead, it won't matter anyway, and pursuit of fame doesn't even matter now, but is a only a product of our evolutionary drive to survive that is inevitably destroyed by death. In another way, though, you are correct, that our biological composition will "live on" for the rest of time, merely in other forms. Our bodies don't disappear once we die, just like no matter disappears, but are transformed through decomposition or cremation. As conscious individuals, death and nonexistence is our inevitable fate. Materially, we really are immortal.

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