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If there's no afterlife, why shouldn't I do whatever I want?

I am a “good” person- a goody two-shoes, even. Never had a traffic ticket, never been in a fight. I’m as good as you can be in life.

My life, however, has been in essence destroyed the last 12-13 years due to other people’s actions. I had to work 8 straight years, 365/7, 10-24 hours a week, and therefore lost my entire 20’s to working. Due to anxiety disorder that I can’t get full treatment from under the current U.S. health care system, I have been unemployed since I was 30 (about to turn 38.)

Due to these circumstances, I’ve missed out on my chance to impact the world- older workers are rarely hired and not given the same opportunities as youthful workers. I don’t have the time to work my way up to the top of a field. I’ll never cure cancer, be a celebrity or otherwise impact the world through my work or actions.

Therefore, the only way my existence can have meaning- and therefore my life be a success- is to have my own children, and pass on my DNA. However, for obvious reasons, it’s kind of hard to be nearing 40 and convince a 28 year old to hook up with you to have kids (women near to 40 are too close to the age cut-off and endanger the kids with birth defects, not to mention I have more in common with someone in their 20’s than late 30’s.)

Since everything is going so poorly, and it appears I am going to have failed at life in not having children, then all I have remaining is the knowledge that upon death I can pass on my life lessons and learn from others in the afterlife prior to being reincarnated (somewhere, not necessarily here on Earth- there are countless dimensions and universes.)

If you convince me that there is NO afterlife, however, then that means when I die nothing exists. It does not matter that others are still alive from their perspective, the only perspective I have is my own. That means no afterlife = the Universe is about ME only, and only while I’m alive.

Why would it matter what one does in life? Why be good “for goodness sake”- when a serial killer and model citizen both cease to exist, and a lifetime later both are forgotten to time?

If you convince me there’s no afterlife, and I realize not only am I not going to get to have kids, I’m not going to get help with my disability and therefore not going to be able to have a career again- and I’m going to die early due to other untreated medical conditions. Surely it only makes sense that I would reach a “cut off” point- 45? 50? and decide to take what I’m being deprived of and then end my life.

I could turn 50, know nothing is going to get better for me, and find a 20-something year old co-ed from the local university, kidnap her, rape her, then kill her and myself.

Neither of us would exist at that point, and therefore neither of us would suffer anything- making the act meaningless. Those still living that were hurt by the act would die and cease to exist within a lifetime, and at that point it will be as if it never happened.

Yet, if there IS an afterlife, then there is reason to not perform such an act- I do not wish to spend it discussing why I raped and killed, or have that mark my soul in such a way.

I believe we journey through many life experiences, here and elsewhere, learning from our experiences and others in between deaths. As we can see the cyclical patterns that are everywhere around us in nature, it stands to reason that life/death is a cycle and not a linear path.

I must make note though: Most atheists immediately jump on the “you shouldn’t act just because you fear Hell or seek eternal rewards, etc.”

I am NOT Christian. I do NOT believe in Hell, and I do NOT believe in stereotypical “Heaven”.

I’m a Druid, and believe everyone goes to the same afterlife (“The Summer Fields”, by one name) where we share the wisdom we gained from our life lessons, and can choose to reincarnate to another form- possibly here on Earth, but possibly in other dimensions and universes, of which leading theoretical physics backs up the existence.

So if you tell me there’s no afterlife, and I’m not going to exist anyways, why would it matter at ALL to be “good” for “goodness sake”- if this is all there is, why would you NOT take what you want before you cease to exist, particularly if your one existence is not good and being ruined by the actions of others out of your control?

I am simply intrigued by this aspect of Atheism, as it seems to be lacking wisdom in this matter, and as a master student of wisdom I love to try to understand the thought process of others’ views.

Thanks!

Posted: December 19th 2009

Blaise www

Morality is defined by your mind, not the existence (or not) of an afterlife. If you do good in hopes of a reward, are you actually being good?

Even if you define “good” as being whatever gets you your desired reward, why would that reward have to be an afterlife, or nothing at all? Wouldn’t the adulation of your peers do? Or perhaps the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you do something good?

Conversely, couldn’t you be motivated to “good” by the desire to avoid negative consequences? For example, the fear that if you do something bad, society will reject/imprison/exterminate you?

Posted: January 23rd 2010

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Akusai www

Short answer to a long question, if I may: because it’s a dick move, that’s why.

If you really feel you need a “deeper” or “more profound” or “wiser” answer to the question “Why should I not be totally freakin’ evil if there is no afterlife?” then you’re massively overcomplicating a very simple issue.

Posted: January 11th 2010

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brian thomson www

Why should we tell you what to think? I can tell you what I think – all the following is my opinion, not representative of anyone else’s.

Atheism is related to Naturalism, and a quick way of describing my attitude is: I start by dealing with what is. The Earth is. The sky is. Nature is. Anything I might wish or feel or want has meaning to me, and to other people in my life, but it has no meaning in the universe beyond the world of people.

So, I am not going to tell you that there is no afterlife. I have no objective reasons to believe that there is an afterlife, or gods, or spirits – so I have to work on the assumption that they are not real. I do not need to be certain about this: small minds demand certainty where it is not warranted. We understand these concepts based on the stories we have been told, but that doesn’t make them real or unreal: stories are just stories.

When I read something like “the only way my existence can have meaning- and therefore my life be a success- is to have my own children, and pass on my DNA”, I almost throw up. Where did that come from? Is your DNA special, somehow, that you have to pass it on? Would you love an adopted child any less, just because he or she doesn’t have your DNA? I don’t think so: the products of sexual reproduction have lives of their own, totally separate from the process that brought them along. You can leave that “bloodline” crap to the Middle Ages.

I would argue that sex and procreation are the least humanly meaningful aspects of our lives, since we differ very little (if at all) from animals in that process. Animals do not ascribe meaning to it – but we do, because we can, at the risk of over-analysing the whole thing. (Woody Allen understands this, as evidenced by films such as Annie Hall and Manhattan.)

Life is to be lived and enjoyed. We are past the stage of evolution where we must have children, and this planet is filling up rapidly. That is not to say that children are a bad thing, but I strongly feel that, if you’re going to have them, you have to do a good job of it. Children are a rational choice, a vocation entered into out of joy and hope for the future – not an obligation to be carried out. If you don’t have hope for the future now, perhaps children might offer you some, but what about them? Brought in to this world to work on your neuroses? Gee, Thanks, Dad!

As Denis Leary put it: Life sucks. Get a f-ing helmet. Are you angry at what happened to you? If so, good! Take that anger and do something with it. Write a book about it. Study the causes, and how you can stop that happening to other people. You can still make a difference. Further education can offer you a way forward, and a real chance to make a difference. Why not talk to a local community college or university? (Not a Bible University, obviously!) The disciplines of study and research can do wonders for your state of mind. 8)

Posted: December 23rd 2009

See all questions answered by brian thomson

logicel

You are unhappy with your life. You also suffer from an anxiety disorder. Thank you for giving us that very important information. As a fellow sufferer from a long line of familial members who endure/ed panic attacks, I know having an anxiety disorder is no picnic. It is hard to think clearly and productively when you feel like you are trapped inside a burning building which is how a panic attack can feel.

Some anxiety states, including a chronic level, and not just the acute versions, can incorporate manic thinking—the thoughts just keep on racing and racing and racing, dragging you along for the ride like: time is running out, you have done nothing (despite being a goody two-shoes), you will do nothing, nothing is worse than nothing, I must do something, anything, right now.

You are doing your best to self medicate yourself. And I applaud you for that. I regard how atheists handle the concept of no afterlife as the least of your problems.

Even in America, there are ways for you to cope with your hardships. And know that there is at least one other person in the world who knows what you are up against. That’s me and I am rooting for you. You sound intelligent and tough. You got this far and nothing is written in stone, even your self-medicating scenario that by age fifty you will have little to live for.

Focus on living as well as possible with an anxiety disorder. Search the net for a support group by you. Use that intelligence and passion to help yourself become more content/accepting with who you are.

Posted: December 23rd 2009

See all questions answered by logicel

SmartLX www

You don’t have to cure cancer or be a celebrity to impact the world. Not everyone on the planet has to be aware of your legacy for you to have one.

What you leave behind is mostly held by other people; those you’ve loved, those you’ve raised and/or taught and more commonly those you’ve simply helped. There is a great deal you can do to help others despite your misfortunes, even because of them. Why wait until you die to pass on the lessons you’ve learned? Volunteer for charity or social work, and teach the living.

If you go full sociopath and do whatever you want, regardless of your reward or lack thereof after death, your life will quickly be destroyed on a level beyond what you think has already happened. You will forfeit future opportunities to do anything meaningful which might occur to you.

Even if you take the perspective that no afterlife means that only you matter, which very few people actually do, it is no reason to become completely selfish and uncaring. Why not? Because being good to others can be rewarding in its own right, and it encourages people to treat you better in return.

Altruism has a sound pragmatic basis in this vein without even considering the afterlife. That’s why altruistic instincts have been reinforced by natural selection ever since our ancestors became social animals. If these instincts weren’t materially beneficial, they would have been bred out of the gene pool.

Atheism holds that there is only one life, but that life isn’t over until it’s over. Throwing all ethics out the window in a world full of other people is essentially suicide, which is a more final matter in such a context. If you intend to live longer than a week or so, supreme selfishness will simply not help you get the most out of life.

Posted: December 22nd 2009

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