How do other atheists get out of bed?

I’m 32, I realised when I was 10 or 11 that there was no god and thus no afterlife. Every day since then I have contemplated my mortality and the inevitable end of my consciousness and any action or plan I make seems pointless.

Posted: June 9th 2011

Blaise www

Just because something eventually ends, doesn’t make it pointless!

Your life has been shaped by your experiences, all of which are now in the past, only memories. However, those memories shape you, and anyone else who shared them. Your world was changed by them, and their effects will go on forever. Likewise, you are constantly changing the world (for good or bad, your choice), and those effects will live on forever.

Your life is a limited opportunity to do great things, not a curse! You die whether you enjoy it or not. You die if you do great things, or not. You die whether you believe in the supernatural, or not. However, the effects you have on those you come in contact with, the impact you have on the universe, will live on long beyond your limited span.

Why not choose to meet the challenge, rather than worrying about the one thing you can have no control over?

Posted: June 26th 2011

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Paula Kirby www

I don’t understand your question.

If you can’t find enough to motivate you for a mere, say, 80 years, what makes you think you’d ever find enough for eternity?

Why does any good you can do during your 80 years only count if you’re going to live for ever? Why isn’t doing things to improve life for yourself and others enough in its own right? Why, in fact, doesn’t it become more important to do those things, since we are not going to have an eternal bliss to compensate for any suffering we undergo now?

Every time someone asks us a question of this kind, I am blown away by the sheer egocentrism of it: 'life is pointless if I’m not going to live for ever’! Seriously – it’s hard to think of a more egocentric, overblown, ridiculous idea!

Have you ever stopped to consider how utterly, totally pointless an eternity in heaven would be? Heaven is, by definition, a state of permanent, total bliss. That means that there would be absolutely nothing you could ever do that could ever make life either better or worse, for yourself or anyone else. Just stop for a moment to consider the utter, complete, mindnumbing, ridiculous, depressing pointlessness of that. Frankly, I am actively glad that such an appalling burden does not await me: at least in my real existence I can actually make a difference, for myself and others.

As for how I get out of bed in the mornings, it’s simple: I throw back the duvet, put my feet on the floor and stand up. I’m here, I’m alive. I can live that life to the full, or I can waste it with laments about something I can’t change anyway. So can you.

Seriously: are you really going to waste this one short precious life with such pointless fretting? Whether you live it to the full or just waste it doing nothing, one day you’re going to die. That’s unavoidable. So what have you got to lose by throwing yourself into it and living it to the full? If you’re not going to bother doing anything with it, then sure, it is pointless and meaningless. But you’ll have made it that way. It doesn’t have to be like that.

At least, it doesn’t unless the sense of pointlessness you describe doesn’t really come from the realisation that there’s no afterlife, but rather from clinical depression. And it may well do: clinical depression is an extremely common – and very debilitating – condition, and if you’ve honestly brooded about death every day for the last 20+ years, that would seem to be an indicator. It might be an idea to chat to your doctor about it. If s/he diagnoses clinical depression, there are good treatments available these days and every reason to think things can improve for you.

Posted: June 25th 2011

See all questions answered by Paula Kirby

Dave Hitt www

You should rejoice every time you open your eyes. You’ve got another whole day to live and love and learn and maybe even make some small positive difference in the world.

Out of trillions of tons of mud in the world, you are one of the rarest kinds – a piece of mud that got to get up and look around! You don’t get to look around forever, and that’s too bad, but still, the simple fact is you got to do it, and hundreds of trillions of other pieces of mud never will. What could be more incredible than that? And since you don’t get all that long to look around before you go back to being ordinary dirt, does it make sense to obsess on how limited your looking-around time is?

(For those who don’t recognize this – it’s blatantly ripped off from Kurt Vonnegut – one of the cleverest pieces of mud to ever get up and look around.)

Posted: June 16th 2011

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donsevers www

Every day since then I have contemplated my mortality and the inevitable end of my consciousness and any action or plan I make seems pointless.

Happy to meet you. It takes courage to face the situation humans are in: we can contemplate our own death.

One approach is to ask if your line of thinking makes sense. Does it follow that our plans are pointless just because we don’t live forever? If our actions are pointless now, how would living forever in the future make them meaningful now?

In “The Absurd”, the philosopher Thomas Nagel puts it this way:

It is often remarked that nothing we do now will matter in a million years… then by the same token, nothing that will be the case in a million years matters now. In particular, it does not matter now that in a million years nothing we do now will matter. Moreover, even if what we did now were going to matter in a million years, how could that keep our present concerns from being absurd? If their mattering now is not enough to accomplish that, how would it help if they mattered a million years from now?

In other words, if nothing matters, why should it matter THAT nothing matters? People who bemoan meaningless aren’t consistent. If life is meaningless, then THAT doesn’t matter, either. Nagel:

[I]t need not be a source of agony unless we make it so. Such dramatics, even if carried on in private, betray a failure to appreciate the cosmic unimportance of the situation. If… there is no reason to believe that anything matters, then that does not matter either, and we can approach our absurd lives with irony instead of heroism or despair.

Even if your present actions are meaningless, an eternal life wouldn’t necessarily remedy that. So, this isn’t an argument for theism, even from utility. Atheists don’t lose anything by giving up the afterlife. Seeking meaning is a great topic, but it is a non sequitur to say that religious beliefs can provide it better than other methods.

The rest of Nagel’s piece is an excellent place to start looking for meaning:

Religion lies to sell its product. It creates a bogus need (avoidance of death, objective meaning), offers a bogus solution (salvation), sets a price (your mind) and ignores the costs (your mind).

Posted: June 15th 2011

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SmartLX www

Your actions are only pointless in the sense that you will still eventually die, but has living forever actually been the point of your actions? I doubt it.

Your achievements will outlive you, as will the world. Think of what you can do, and leave, for others.

Posted: June 15th 2011

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brian thomson www

Oh, grow up! 8) There’s so much that needs to be done, here and now, that thoughts of our mortality – and lack of immortality – are way down on the list of priorities, in my opinion. At only 32 you have time on your side. Do something with the time you have.

I’m older than you, but I’ve been at university studying Structural Engineering for the last four years, with one year to go for a Master’s qualification. I might not actually get to work in that field, due to the economy and the construction industry, but either way I am going to use the knowledge I have gained to make things.

The dream of immortality was always an illusion: I’ve filed it away along with the other “childish things”: Jesus, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the idea of universal justice and “world peace”. If I ever achieve immortality, it will be through my work; as the immortal Denis Leary once said: “Life sucks. Get a f—-ing helmet.”

Posted: June 15th 2011

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I accepted my mortality when I was seven. When I am mindful, I act well and live in the moment. In such a state, I get out of bed easily every day, and I am getting on in years. It is that simple.

There is quite a lot of good literature on mindfulness and its scientific basis. I encourage you to develop that skill. Zest is a very important aspect of mindfulness, allowing you to enjoy life to the fullest without focusing on the endpoint. I have gotten so much out of life at this point, I sometimes feel guilty! But zest is not a zero sum game, so the guilt does not last longer than a second.

Posted: June 15th 2011

See all questions answered by logicel


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