Saturday, March 12, 2011

Atheism and the Void

I can almost feel comfortable with saying it now: I am an atheist. I described my belief (or lack thereof) to someone a few months ago and the response was, "Oh, so you're an atheist?"

At first, I resisted. "No," I said, "Not an atheist. An agnostic."

But the truth is, the part of my brain which was sometimes flirted with the idea of theism, of the existence of a god, has become gradually less and less powerful, until I am where I am today: as close to pure atheism as I've ever been.

And alongside the growing atheism has emerged this increasingly powerful sense of a void, of a meaninglessness in the world and in my life. Perhaps as some have told me before, I think too deeply into things, but lately I just look at my life and all my efforts to make something of myself, to enjoy life, to form strong bonds with people, and I think so what?

Perhaps it's the fact that I grew up religious that I have these expectations -- that life should mean something, that there should be a purpose that is more than a daily purpose. Or perhaps I'm just not thinking of it right: maybe there is a way to get real, meaningful purpose out of life as an atheist that I just can't see right now. (Hey long-time atheists, any advice?)

As it stands, I feel suddenly bombarded by this feeling that I'm putting in all this effort for naught. If my life ends at death, if there's no larger picture, if it's all just a giant chaotic universe, then what is the meaning of this one tiny life within it all?


ksil said...

Its too bad us humans have this need-desire-want for meaning....I wish we didn't, all would be easier.

kisarita said...

no our lives our not of much cosmic significance. but if you have a loved one, don't let your focus on the cosmic take you away from being truly significant to eachother.

(in other words, look towards a lot smaller playing field)

Brent Rasmussen said...

...maybe there is a way to get real, meaningful purpose out of life as an atheist that I just can't see right now.

There's your problem right there. You should not be looking at atheism itself to give your life meaning and purpose. That's what friends, family, interests, hobbies, etc. are for. You know, things that have nothing at all to do with atheism - or theism, for that matter.

Atheism just means "god belief is absent in this human being". That's all. Nothing else.

Looking to it to give your life meaning as you would look to a religion is completely futile.

You give your own life meaning. You. No one else. Just you. It was *always* just you, because there is no god. All you have to do is grab that meaning you had before and OWN it. It's yours for the taking!

The very best of luck to you on your new godless journey! :)

Brent Rasmussen said...
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Baal Habos said...

Ditto what ksil says. Just be aware that you're not alone in this search for meaning. Unfortunately, it seems that distraction is the way to a good life. Enjoy the best that's around you, set realistic expectations and expect the blues every now and then.

On Her Own said...

ksil - No joke

kisarita - I try this but somehow it's not enough for me. Maybe it'll just take some adjustment time; when you're trained to think on a cosmic scale, it's hard to scale back.

Brent - I think maybe I wasn't clear. I'm not looking TO atheism for meaning; I'm looking for a way to find meaning in my life now that I've become an atheist and the meaning I once derived from believing in God (i.e., a universal purpose) is gone.

BH - Thanks.

Brent Rasmussen said...

@On Her Own - Ah. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Your question and search for meaning is shared by all human beings - regardless if they are theist or atheist.

I am of the opinion that atheists have a better chance of finding meaning in reality and rational thinking, rather than in fantasy and wishful, magical thinking -- but then, I am biased. I am a happy, fulfilled atheist. :)

Again, my very best to you as you begin your search!

Marie said...

Here are a couple of reading suggestions: "the Portable Atheist - Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever", edited by Christopher Hitchens; and "Nothing to Be Frightened of" by Julian Barnes

On Her Own said...

Thanks, Marie. I really appreciate the reading list!

Rabba bar bar Chana said...
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Philo said...


My experience has been that atheism or theism have little to do with finding meaning in one's life. Among the people I know, it's more about the way they face life and whether they have a sense of optimism or not. Feeling lost without God may be a symptom of other things missing or wrong in your life. About a month ago, you posted that "Things in my life have recently taken a turn for the worse... I have been pretty emotionally drained"

That probably has more to do with your feeling a lack of meaning than your loss of belief in God. Once things in your life hopefully get better, you'll probably find meaning again, with or without God.

SpiritualSkeptic said...

You should watch this video :)