Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

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Nath
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Nath » Sun Oct 26, 2008 9:57 am UTC

Rilian wrote:I think intending to die is silly.

That's like falling off a cliff, and saying that intending to hit the ground is silly. Feel free to intend to grow wings and fly away. The only thing that would change would be that you'd be a little more surprised and disappointed just before you hit the ground.

Belial wrote:
The gist of it:
Wanting to live forever is understandable. Actually expecting that you'll live forever is silly.


Is it?

Yes, it is, if I understand that article right. Even assuming that the MWI holds, and that at least one possible universe is capable of supporting life indefinitely, the problem with using quantum immortality for decision-making is described in the linked page. In short, you are almost certainly in one of those world-lines which will end in your death. Sure, there may be an infinite number of parallel world-lines out there where someone very much like you is the last living thing in the universe, floating around in space with a thin bubble of breathable air spontaneously forming around him by sheer chance. However, the chance that this is one of those world-lines is not large.

So, still not entirely unridiculous.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Sun Oct 26, 2008 11:21 am UTC

blakat1313 wrote:Who says that life needs justification? A "hard" atheist doesn't have less reason to love life. You see, theists believe that something/someone created them. If this thing/person made them, it must have a reason. This means that the person must live for that thing/person. Atheists see no such forced purpose. Science tells us that life is a random happening, it could have happened here, it could have happened on the surface of Alpha Centauri. This means that life simply is. It lets atheists use their life for whatever they feel like. The only real evolutionary requirement of life is having sex. Believe it or not, most people rather like that. The rest, from a biological standpoint, is just details. You can live your life however you want because you won't have to justify your life.

I suppose I just can't see the basis for existing as I do with a hard athiest outlook... sex, then, is only useful so long as you're attempting to procreate, otherwise it's just an attempt to meet your hormonal balance; romantic relationships in of themselves aren't useful. Taking the implications of absolute disbelief in all non-spiritual things to their logical end, we are just accidents. Happiness is completely devoid of meaning, it's just a regulatory means of of keeping the biological machine pursuing what it needs for survival. I suppose the line "who says life needs a justification" comes across as rather alien to me, I think it's rather basic to assume that all actions on some level need justification, and hence fundamental that life would need one too.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby AVIATOR » Sun Oct 26, 2008 12:34 pm UTC

Nath wrote:Yes, it is, if I understand that article right. Even assuming that the MWI holds, and that at least one possible universe is capable of supporting life indefinitely, the problem with using quantum immortality for decision-making is described in the linked page. In short, you are almost certainly in one of those world-lines which will end in your death. Sure, there may be an infinite number of parallel world-lines out there where someone very much like you is the last living thing in the universe, floating around in space with a thin bubble of breathable air spontaneously forming around him by sheer chance. However, the chance that this is one of those world-lines is not large.

So, still not entirely unridiculous.


I think the idea is that timelines continuously branch out from any given point, so there is no world line that necessarily results in your death; there will always be some branch in which you will continue living. You will always experience a branch in which you continue to live, because those are the only branches which you can experience. I always find myself musing about trying to kill myself (not actually considering it, just thinking about what 'might' happen), but then not being able to succeed due to quantum immortality and hence trying progressively more effective ways to kill myself. Of course, that would in all likelyhood end up being a miserable existence, as I would be crippled from my attempts, but incapable of ending my tortured existence. Another possibility is where I would experience myself getting older and older, but never dying. Eventually I would become a celebrity, known as the man who cannot die. I'd live forever (probably not in a particularly pleasent state, again), watching generations live and die, but never being able to die myself.

Whether it's true or not is another matter entirely of course. Those examples seem far too fantastic to be reality, but if quantum immortality were true, then surely every single one of us would experience something along those lines!

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Nath » Sun Oct 26, 2008 1:06 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:Taking the implications of absolute disbelief in all non-spiritual things to their logical end, we are just accidents.

I'd rather be an accident than a puppet. But in any case, I don't base my beliefs on what I'd rather be. I'd be an (agnostic) atheist even if it filled me with nihilist angst, because that is the belief that best fits the evidence.

Bubbles McCoy wrote:Happiness is completely devoid of meaning, it's just a regulatory means of of keeping the biological machine pursuing what it needs for survival.

OK. Does that mean you can't enjoy it, or aim to maximize it?

Besides, how would believing in something else solve this problem? Happiness would just be some all-powerful being's way of getting you to do its bidding. What would happiness have to be for you to find meaning in it?

AVIATOR wrote:I think the idea is that timelines continuously branch out from any given point, so there is no world line that necessarily results in your death; there will always be some branch in which you will continue living. You will always experience a branch in which you continue to live, because those are the only branches which you can experience.

I think we are using slightly different terminology. The 'world-lines' I'm referring to are the same as the 'branches' you are talking about.

Now, imagine I have a giant cloning machine. I make nine exact clones of you, memories and all. Each one thinks that it's the real one. I then shoot you, and eight of the clones. There's now one person, identical to you in every way. Did you survive, given that I killed the original? Quantum suicide is essentially the same question, except that there's no objective way to tell which ones are the clones.

Another way to think of it: there are no branches; there are ten universes, identical in every way up to some time 't'. All universes have someone identical to you in every way. At time 't', nine of the AVIATORs die, including the one in this universe. So, did you survive, or did a clone of you survive? Are the two equivalent?

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Sun Oct 26, 2008 1:50 pm UTC

How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist, and nothing that you do matters?


A. If it's going to end, all the more reason I should treasure it now rather than waste my time worrying about the end. It's like riding on a rollercoaster and not enjoying a moment of the ride because you know it will be over soon. If I were going to have that attitude, I might as well just end it now.
B. My life does matter. It matters to me, and it matters to other people. The things I do matter, because they affect my life and the lives of others. If you're looking for people who think that nothing they do matters, you should be asking the suicidal, not atheists.

Why do you keep going?


When I'm enjoying life, that is the reason to keep going.

But even when life is not so enjoyable, I stick around because it's interesting (more interesting than being dead), in anticipation of it getting better, and because I have loved ones who would not be so content with my death as I would.

Do you ever have moments were you just give up because it's all futile? How do you survive? Do you just ignore the thought of death and run from it?


A. Give up? That's hard to define, but no. If I were to really give up, I would be dead and not at all able to post on xkcd. I don't consider my life futile.

B. It's easy. I eat, sleep, and fend off disease. If you were looking for my motivation for surviving, to not be redundant-- look up secular humanism.

C. Hahaha. No. Death is inevitable. There's no reason to fear it.

This was my effort to address your questions in a civilized manner by giving you the benefit of the doubt that you are really just that ignorant of atheists, and weren't trying to start shit.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Telchar » Sun Oct 26, 2008 3:19 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:I suppose I just can't see the basis for existing as I do with a hard athiest outlook... sex, then, is only useful so long as you're attempting to procreate, otherwise it's just an attempt to meet your hormonal balance; romantic relationships in of themselves aren't useful.


I would say you are taking this one step further than "hard aethiesm." You are almost venerating evolution and saying that everything should be done to that end. Biological automaton? Is the ghost of BF Skinner on the forums?

Why is anything you mentioned bad? Have you thought about that? Why is having sex for a hormonal imbalance bad? Why are relationships not useful? Who defines useful?

I guess, in my opinion, you define useful. You define what is good for you and what isn't. You define how you want to live, by what moreal code or stricture, and it has meaning because you give it. You beleive in it, and nothing more is needed. Aethiesm, in a sense, is the exultation of the individual. You give everything you do meaning. You give morality validation. You have that power because these are personal issues, so who better to do so?

Taking the implications of absolute disbelief in all non-spiritual things to their logical end, we are just accidents. Happiness is completely devoid of meaning, it's just a regulatory means of of keeping the biological machine pursuing what it needs for survival. I suppose the line "who says life needs a justification" comes across as rather alien to me, I think it's rather basic to assume that all actions on some level need justification, and hence fundamental that life would need one too.


Again, this is only if you don't give it meaning. Happiness is an emotion. What does that emotion mean to you? Would hapiness have meaning, be any less biological, if god existed? No, and so you have to find meaning in it irregardless. The pinacle of human existence, which is where I personally think you are missing the point, is not in our eternal evolution. It is in the sum total of our personal experiences. What we do, how we do it, and why. We give those things meaning. Think about what that can mean! You have the ability to give anything you do purpose because you are no longer subject to the "Well, everyting it from God." BS. If you want to fly a kite today it's because you wanted to, and it has meaning for you.
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Sun Oct 26, 2008 3:54 pm UTC

Biological automaton or no, happiness is what gives our lives meaning. Even theists are ultimately driven by their desire for attaining perfect happiness in heaven. Industry and every commodity we pursue have happiness at their center. It's no coincidence that the people who decide to kill themselves do so because they're not happy with their life.

So I wouldn't say that life has no meaning when it clearly has a single driving force (or to be perfectly accurate, multiple driving forces that all drive in the same direction).

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Rilian » Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:58 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
Rilian wrote:I think intending to die is silly.

That's like falling off a cliff, and saying that intending to hit the ground is silly.

No, it's like swimming and not intending to drown.
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby qetzal » Sun Oct 26, 2008 5:31 pm UTC

Telchar wrote:
Bubbles McCoy wrote:I suppose I just can't see the basis for existing as I do with a hard athiest outlook... sex, then, is only useful so long as you're attempting to procreate, otherwise it's just an attempt to meet your hormonal balance; romantic relationships in of themselves aren't useful.


I would say you are taking this one step further than "hard aethiesm." You are almost venerating evolution and saying that everything should be done to that end.


Even from a strictly evolutionary perspective, sex can be useful for more than direct procreation. Recreational sex between human mates very likely contributes to the strength of their pair-bond, and pair-bonding very likely contributes to reproductive success by ensuring that both parents contribute to raising offspring.

Non-procreative sex in bonobos also appears to play a significant role in social cohesion, conflict resolution, etc.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Mo0man » Sun Oct 26, 2008 6:26 pm UTC

I find it kinda cool how the first poster asked a question clearly born of ignorance, and here all you guys have started... well not a shitstorm exactly, but have just started arguing amongst yourselves. Even more interesting is the fact that it's their first and only post
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Levi » Sun Oct 26, 2008 6:31 pm UTC

I mainly just wanted to know why atheists did stuff that wasn't just fun. I apologize for how badly I worded my questions.

I'll start another topic about why I believe since several of you wanted to know.

Mo0man wrote:I find it kinda cool how the first poster asked a question clearly born of ignorance, and here all you guys have started... well not a crapstorm exactly, but have just started arguing amongst yourselves. Even more interesting is the fact that it's their first and only post


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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Sun Oct 26, 2008 6:47 pm UTC

The reason we aren't all amoral heathens differs. Some of us simply as a matter of social contract-- do unto others, the golden rule. It applies even if you aren't religious.

Others because we actually care for other people-- those we love, and for some of us even those we don't.

There are many divergent systems of morality, many of which are entirely independent from promises of hell or heaven. It seems like a somewhat asinine question given that historically many cultures and nations have thrived without the presence of Christianity or any similar prevailing religion.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Nath » Sun Oct 26, 2008 7:22 pm UTC

Rilian wrote:
Nath wrote:
Rilian wrote:I think intending to die is silly.

That's like falling off a cliff, and saying that intending to hit the ground is silly.

No, it's like swimming and not intending to drown.

Just saying 'no' isn't much of an argument. Can you explain why your analogy fits better?

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Ishindri » Sun Oct 26, 2008 7:50 pm UTC

Nath wrote:Just saying 'no' isn't much of an argument. Can you explain why your analogy fits better?

What I expect Rilian is trying to say is that one is inevitable, and one is not. Someone linked to SENS earlier in the thread; once human technology is sufficiently advanced, immortality will be feasible. I think it is reasonable to expect this level of technology will be achieved within half a century or so.
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby blakat1313 » Sun Oct 26, 2008 8:41 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:
blakat1313 wrote:Who says that life needs justification? A "hard" atheist doesn't have less reason to love life. You see, theists believe that something/someone created them. If this thing/person made them, it must have a reason. This means that the person must live for that thing/person. Atheists see no such forced purpose. Science tells us that life is a random happening, it could have happened here, it could have happened on the surface of Alpha Centauri. This means that life simply is. It lets atheists use their life for whatever they feel like. The only real evolutionary requirement of life is having sex. Believe it or not, most people rather like that. The rest, from a biological standpoint, is just details. You can live your life however you want because you won't have to justify your life.

I suppose I just can't see the basis for existing as I do with a hard athiest outlook... sex, then, is only useful so long as you're attempting to procreate, otherwise it's just an attempt to meet your hormonal balance; romantic relationships in of themselves aren't useful. Taking the implications of absolute disbelief in all non-spiritual things to their logical end, we are just accidents. Happiness is completely devoid of meaning, it's just a regulatory means of of keeping the biological machine pursuing what it needs for survival. I suppose the line "who says life needs a justification" comes across as rather alien to me, I think it's rather basic to assume that all actions on some level need justification, and hence fundamental that life would need one too.
I think the question here is "who are you justifying your actions to?" I only justify my actions to myself, and I'm pretty lenient. I accept "I want to" as a reason. Granted, these things have to be legal and not too harmful to my health. (bacon is right on the edge of that, but I'm willing to make an exception for it) Why do you feel that you need to justify your actions? I'm having trouble understanding why you only want to do things that have some purpose. Why are you on these forums? Is it to spread a message, to engage in enlightened conversation, or just because it's something to do that you enjoy doing? Is it really wrong to do something just because you want to? (sorry about all the questions, my thoughts seem to organize themselves better this way)

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Intercept » Sun Oct 26, 2008 10:41 pm UTC

tantalum wrote:Some people ask atheists: What's wrong with murder if there's no god?
The answer to this is: Wait, so the only thing that stops you from murdering people is God?

You ask atheists: What's good about life if there's no god?
The answer to this is: Wait, so the only thing that stops you from being a miserable pile of suicidal thoughts is God?


Unfortunately, for both, sometimes the answer is yes. The law and personal morality aren't always enough for the first group. For the second group, they need a reason for the suffering of themselves and others. Being able to believe God has a reason for it makes things all better apparently :(
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Andrew » Sun Oct 26, 2008 11:18 pm UTC

Intercept wrote:Unfortunately, for both, sometimes the answer is yes. The law and personal morality aren't always enough for the first group. For the second group, they need a reason for the suffering of themselves and others. Being able to believe God has a reason for it makes things all better apparently :(

Isn't it telling, though, that this only works one way? You see a lot of religious people cite God as a reason for living well and a reason why life is worthwhile, but you never, ever see even one atheist at all say something like 'well, there's no god, so the hell with it I'm going to start the killing'. It just doesn't happen.

Some religious people see God as such a massively important thing that they build their identities and lives around it, and that makes it pretty much impossible to excise it or to see how other people can survive without God in the middle, holding it together, but if you've built those things in a more secular way, God will just get His coat and let Himself out of your world-view quietly in His own time.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 26, 2008 11:46 pm UTC

Levi wrote:How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist, and nothing that you do matters?


Nothing matters? To me, in Christianity nothing matters. I can murder and steal and whatever, and I''ll still go to heaven. In Christianity, your life goes on forever, so relative to your eternal life, everything you do here is meaningless. But for an atheist, I have finite time. So I'd better use every second efficiently. My life matters a lot more than you think.

Why do you keep going?


Is there a good reason not to? Tell me and I'll stop. Until then, I'd prefer to keep going, because it'd be a lot more work to stop.

Do you ever have moments were you just give up because it's all futile?


What do you mean, it's all futile? Let's say I'm a mathematician. If I prove a new theorem, then that is beneficial to mathematics. But not if there's some god who's already ruined the fun by knowing everything. As an atheist, I contend that my life has a lot more meaning than anyone who is religious ever could.

How do you survive?


What do you mean? I eat, drink, sleep (sometimes), etc just like you do. That's how I survive. It's simple biology.

Do you just ignore the thought of death and run from it?


Run from death? No, rather I embrace the thought that my life is finite as the only reason I have to do anything. In the end, I'll be happy knowing that I didn't waste any of my time believing in some fake god. And life is rather tiring, so oblivion sounds good after 70 or 80 years. Maybe earlier, maybe later. It doesn't matter so much when I die, but living too long would be a terrible curse. If you force me to believe some god is going to make me live forever, then I'd be quite angry at him for punishing me like that.

None of your questions really get to the heart of why I'm an atheist, though. It's because I want to be right. That's what's most important to me. I will be right if I am an atheist, but not if I am not. Also, I never really saw any reason to believe I'm any more than a collection of atoms put together in a way that is more stable given the laws of physics than other configurations. Why believe in some god, and hence my own existence, when I can just reject both easily?
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby ++$_ » Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:23 am UTC

I guess I'm going to start by saying: I'm not an atheist. BUT:
Levi wrote:How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist,

"How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist...": Probably because I've "experienced" non-existence already, before I was born. It wasn't so bad. Also, because I think a statement like "you will cease to exist" is somewhat similar to the statement "the interval (0,1) has finite measure." So does my life. But the open interval (0,1) is there forever.

What I'm getting at is that sure, when I die my life will be "over", in that I will not accrue any more experiences. But it's still there, just like the past is "still there."
and nothing that you do matters?
That doesn't follow. I could cease to exist completely and things that I do could still matter.
Why do you keep going?
Because if I stop now, I certainly don't do any better than if I keep going.
Do you ever have moments were you just give up because it's all futile?
Not yet, anyway.
How do you survive?
Well, if I were an atheist I would be tempted to answer "By bread alone." But I'm not, so I'll just say: One can survive in a spiritually fulfilled way without thinking at all about what happens after death. Because, if death is just oblivion, you'll never know. If it turns out to be something better, yay. If it turns out to be worse, well, shit. You can't control that, so you shouldn't worry about it any more than you worry about a quantum fluke causing you to suddenly be displaced into the center of the sun.

On the other hand, if you do have an answer for that question, that's okay too. But it's not required.
Do you just ignore the thought of death and run from it?
That's actually a pretty good plan, but it didn't work out for my life, unfortunately. I ended up thinking about it and finding an answer that I believe in, just as most people end up doing.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Aikanaro » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:04 am UTC

Okay, I'm a Christian, but that said, I have a SORT OF answer to this...

let's say that hypothetically, SOMEHOW, I were completely and utterly convinced there was no God, no afterlife, souls don't exist, etc., etc.. Now, first off, I would be horribly depressed. In fact, it's quite possible that I, myself, would probably give up on ever being happy, at least for a while. But, sidetracking a little into the nature of good vs. evil, there's basically two ways an intelligence can react to pain. EVIL: "Hmm, that sucks, and it's not fair that only I should have to suffer this way. Let's make everyone else suffer too, to be 'fair.'" GOOD: "Hmm, this sucks, but maybe I can at least make it so others avoid this."

In other words, even if my non-soul were crushed by becoming a hard atheist, that doesn't mean that others are still going to be crushed by it, so I may as well spend my time helping others achieve happiness instead. That's how I'd get through the day: by making the day worth it for others.

This also ties in slightly to what MJ had said in the thread about religion vs. atheism inspiring good works.
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby yy2bggggs » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:37 am UTC

Levi wrote:2. I have logical reasons for my belief. (e.g., NOT: I think there is a god because I want to go to heaven)
For the record, I'm not obliged to agree or to disagree with this statement.
My question is posed to atheists:
I'm one.
How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist, and nothing that you do matters?

First, to correct the question--this is a leading question, and technically isn't related to atheism. Atheism isn't even a "type of thing" so much as it's a lack of a type of thing. Rare as they may be, atheists who believe they will live forever exist, and aren't as rare as you think. Your question seems more posed to something that can be classed as skeptical atheism for lack of better terms--people who are specifically not religious, rational-minded, scientifically oriented folk that in addition do not believe there is a god. "Atheism" proper only includes the "does not believe there is a god" part.

That having been said, in all of the combinations of possible things that could happen, and possible times now could be, it just so happens that the thing that actually did happen, and possible time that it is now, is such that I am here to even ponder the question in the first place. I happen to think this is quite awesome, and out of the combinatorial infinitudes of actual possibilities, I'm quite elated that I'm existing now pondering questions like this. So, in response to why I'm not spending my one and only existence moping about in pain and agony, feeling sorry that its not eternal... perhaps it's because I'm a bit too busy appreciating that it's here.
Do you ever have moments were you just give up because it's all futile?
I expect few positive answers. Such people surely would be dead.
How do you survive? Do you just ignore the thought of death and run from it?
Killing yourself is work in itself--it requires mental effort, planning, and a decisive, voluntary action. Furthermore, said action only trims away your temporary existence making it even shorter. Even the type of people who would mope wouldn't necessarily kill themselves off--they may go the other way. I've seen other Christians ask similar things, but frankly I'm not quite sure how you imagine this would actually work in practice.

But as for me personally? No, I don't ignore death. I just view it as a termination of life. And that life is precious. You could say I'm more focused on the life itself, realizing at the same time that it's temporary.

Also, this guy might be a bit enlightening:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MmpUWEW6Is
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:22 am UTC

Nath wrote:I'd rather be an accident than a puppet. But in any case, I don't base my beliefs on what I'd rather be. I'd be an (agnostic) atheist even if it filled me with nihilist angst, because that is the belief that best fits the evidence.


What's the purpose of believing in something that specifically denies that anything has purpose? It's logically contradictory.

Telchar wrote:Again, this is only if you don't give it meaning. Happiness is an emotion. What does that emotion mean to you? Would hapiness have meaning, be any less biological, if god existed? No, and so you have to find meaning in it irregardless. The pinacle of human existence, which is where I personally think you are missing the point, is not in our eternal evolution. It is in the sum total of our personal experiences. What we do, how we do it, and why. We give those things meaning. Think about what that can mean! You have the ability to give anything you do purpose because you are no longer subject to the "Well, everyting it from God." BS. If you want to fly a kite today it's because you wanted to, and it has meaning for you.

Just because I can do anything I want doesn't mean I somehow should... arbitrarily applying meaning to actions that logically should have none is undeniably worthless. Emotions only exist to manipulate you, at least if some sort of supernatural force exists emotions and actions can have an instrinsic value to them.

blakat1313 wrote:I think the question here is "who are you justifying your actions to?" I only justify my actions to myself, and I'm pretty lenient. I accept "I want to" as a reason. Granted, these things have to be legal and not too harmful to my health. (bacon is right on the edge of that, but I'm willing to make an exception for it) Why do you feel that you need to justify your actions? I'm having trouble understanding why you only want to do things that have some purpose. Why are you on these forums? Is it to spread a message, to engage in enlightened conversation, or just because it's something to do that you enjoy doing? Is it really wrong to do something just because you want to? (sorry about all the questions, my thoughts seem to organize themselves better this way)

I'm not sure if we can really debate this... everything needs some form of justification in my mind, even if it's compartively trite compared to other actions we might take. I don't see how it's possible to justify that nothing needs justification.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Nath » Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:38 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:
Nath wrote:I'd rather be an accident than a puppet. But in any case, I don't base my beliefs on what I'd rather be. I'd be an (agnostic) atheist even if it filled me with nihilist angst, because that is the belief that best fits the evidence.


What's the purpose of believing in something that specifically denies that anything has purpose? It's logically contradictory.

First: atheism is not an assertion that nothing has purpose.

Second: like I said, I believe whatever best fits the evidence. I have no choice in the matter. I don't do a cost-benefit analysis and choose the belief that seems most profitable.

There was a long, inconclusive discussion about this in the religion thread. Basically, I don't see how people can just choose to believe whatever makes them happy. Even if I could do so, I wouldn't be happy lying to myself. (Though I suppose I'd just choose to believe that I wasn't lying to myself. And that I was rich, and could shoot lightning out of my ears.)

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby EmptySet » Mon Oct 27, 2008 2:24 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:Taking the implications of absolute disbelief in all non-spiritual things to their logical end, we are just accidents.


And by many religions, we're nothing but cogs in the celestial machine, just another part of the Ineffable Divine Plan.

Happiness is completely devoid of meaning, it's just a regulatory means of of keeping the biological machine pursuing what it needs for survival.


Compare: spirituality is completely devoid of meaning. It's just a regulatory means of keeping the creation pursuing what it needs to fulfill the divine plan.

Plus, as other people have pointed out, being a regulatory means of biological whatever doesn't make something devoid of meaning. I'm reasonably sure that paintings are just a bunch of molecules held together by physical forces, and that music is just some air molecules wobbling. What I'm trying to get across is that there is not some particle which has "meaning" in the same way that molecules have mass, or charge, or momentum. Meaning is in the relationship between things, rather than the things themselves... For example, that ring your dying parents gave you might mean a lot to you, even though it's just a rather unremarkable ring to most of humanity (and just an atypically-shaped lump of metal to the rest of the universe). Meaning can only be defined with reference to people, and their connection to the world and each other.

I think it's rather basic to assume that all actions on some level need justification, and hence fundamental that life would need one too.


I suggest you justify that assumption. And then I suggest you justify your justification of that assumption. And then justify the justification of the justification. Ad infinitum. What I'm saying here is that it's simply not possible to justify everything. At some point, you're going to have to assert something without justification. Your choice for this assertion appears to be "God gives things meaning". Many atheists choose "People give things meaning" or "meaning is not required" instead.

Also, consider animals. I'm pretty sure most of them don't have religion, and according to many Christians they don't have souls, either. And yet... they seem get along perfectly fine. If you're willing to accept that chimpanzees can live without religion, I don't think it's a huge leap to imagine humans doing the same.

Just because I can do anything I want doesn't mean I somehow should... arbitrarily applying meaning to actions that logically should have none is undeniably worthless. Emotions only exist to manipulate you, at least if some sort of supernatural force exists emotions and actions can have an instrinsic value to them.


I don't see how it's any less arbitrary to say that things are meaningful simply because some supernatural thing exists. Also, see earlier argument about meaning being defined by people.

everything needs some form of justification in my mind, even if it's compartively trite compared to other actions we might take. I don't see how it's possible to justify that nothing needs justification.


Really? Every time you take a breath, you think "I'm taking this breath to keep my oxygen levels up"? You never tap your fingers without thinking about your ultimate goal in doing so?

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby segmentation fault » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:10 pm UTC

Levi wrote:How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist, and nothing that you do matters?


nothing i do matters?

i know that, when i do something i enjoy, i feel good...so maybe it does matter.
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Gunfingers » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:30 pm UTC

I've mentioned this elsewhere on these fora, but it bears restating:

"If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. "
--Joss Whedon

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:33 pm UTC

arbitrarily applying meaning to actions that logically should have none is undeniably worthless. Emotions only exist to manipulate you, at least if some sort of supernatural force exists emotions and actions can have an instrinsic value to them.


How is it any more arbitrary if I decide that something has meaning than if a god decides? Nevermind that it's in my biology to want to be happy. Whether or not I may want to (and I don't, because I can't want to) I can't change that. I can't genuinely want to be sad, or afraid.

It doesn't matter if god, or biology, or my own superpowerful conscious decided my meaning. It's the same for all humans. No one has ever changed it. We want what we want. We seek fulfillment, however brief.

Perhaps the fallacy here is thinking that something that's temporary can't have any meaning.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:46 pm UTC

Levi wrote:How do you get through life thinking/knowing that eventually it will end, you will cease to exist, and nothing that you do matters?
It's a great comfort that no matter what I do, how bad I fuck up, how large of a fool I make of myself today, in a hundred years no one will know. In a thousand, no one will even know I existed. That's fucking awesome.

Why do you keep going? Do you ever have moments were you just give up because it's all futile? How do you survive?
Beats the alternative. In a microscale, I keep going because I've got bills to pay. In a macroscale (at least, of my life) because there's so much more crap I haven't done that I'd like to do someday. And hell, I keep learning all the time anyway, so there's almost always something new going on.. maybe not exciting, but new all the same. I mean, when I was ten (1990) the idea of anyone.. anyone at all, regardless of wealth.. being able to get on a computer and connect to a globe-spanning network was not really thought about in the general public, much less assumed to be true. The few people who did think something like that would come about pretty much assumed it was going to stay in the wealthy/upper class. Hell, cell phones were a sign of wealth. So seeing what changes is fun. Comparing how I think about the world today to how I thought about it ten years ago to how I thought about it twenty years ago is interesting. So, basically, I'm a selfish bastard and enjoy things that amuse me.

Do you just ignore the thought of death and run from it?
From what, the eventual oblivion? Keep in mind that as I say this, I'm not wanting to shove a shotgun in my mouth and pull the trigger, but I'm glad that it'll all stop one day and I won't be here anymore. As amusing as existence is, I'll get tired of it eventually. Worst thing that could happen to be would be some form of immortal existence.

Levi wrote:I mainly just wanted to know why atheists did stuff that wasn't just fun. I apologize for how badly I worded my questions.

Why do you do things that just aren't fun, like.. I dunno, taking out the garbage, or cleaning a room? Odin's opinion on the subject or not, the living room won't clean itself. And Set's useless when it comes to washing dishes.

Bubbles McCoy wrote:What's the purpose of believing in something that specifically denies that anything has purpose? It's logically contradictory.
Show me what the purpose is. While you can argue that the absence of visible obvious purpose does not necessarily mean that there is no purpose, it's not the job of those who believe there is no purpose to prove that one does not exist. If someone's asserting that life has a purpose, they're the ones that have to make with the proof.
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:04 pm UTC

Show me what the purpose is. While you can argue that the absence of visible obvious purpose does not necessarily mean that there is no purpose, it's not the job of those who believe there is no purpose to prove that one does not exist. If someone's asserting that life has a purpose, they're the ones that have to make with the proof.


If someone asserts that life has a purpose, I believe that's proof positive that their life has a purpose, and so life has a purpose.

I believe in this case it's on the person who claims the opposite to demonstrate conclusively that this purpose is not an actual purpose.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:17 pm UTC

Not having a purpose to work with, I'll make one up - a dude decides his life's purpose is to cure diseases. Okay, fine. You're stating that because of that guy, all of life has a purpose. So the people who get sick and die's only purpose was to get sick and die to inspire the dude and be his examination subjects until the lucky day that one of them had something the dude could cure.

Extend that out, the dude and his students have cured more and more disease. Diseases are appearing that didn't used to appear simply because people didn't live long enough to get them. Dude and his students continue to work on and come up with cures.

Eventually, there comes a magic day when the disciples of the dude have cured all disease. No more are any living creatures anywhere stricken with ailments and so forth....

The purpose now is.. what?



Even if you approach it on a individual scale, saying that the purpose of life cannot be defined by an overarching purpose, but by each individual person's "You are here for X reason" purpose, there's still going to be an overall design plan even if we are unable to perceive it, what with every individual being a cog in a much larger machine. So now we're right back to the "What is the purpose of life?" question.

So now we have a designer somewhere who's crafting reasons and purposes for people to live - many of which are "Be born, grow to age 5, die, get rich people a half-world away sad enough to send your homeland a couple of bucks a month" for a future goal of ??? that will come to pass after thousands of generations, if not millions... since, you know, we're not allowed to be told what the purpose is.... (unless you're wanting to approach this from a particular religion, but I don't feel like insulting anyone's beliefs today, so I won't.).... so, again, we're back to those saying that there is a purpose needing to come up with the proof.

OR

The fact that we exist at all is nothing more than a bunch of cosmic chances lining up, not in a gabillion-to-one shot of it happening, just a gabillion-to-one shot of it happening here. Instead of somewhere else. Which isn't something that would leave evidence in the form of a sticky-note on Io saying "By the way, everything that exists, including this note, is because of coincidence. Don't you feel special?"
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Jimmigee » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:23 pm UTC

I think the question of meaning often boils down to a matter of perspective, or scale. If I try to equate meaning to my atheist life at the same level that I would with religion then indeed it has none. Meaning requires a plan, or at least some form of judge, and viewing humanity from outside there is no plan or judge (in my view). As everyone else has said though, indviduals and cultures can create meaning.

Looking at it the other way then- what is the meaning of God's existance? You've basically displaced the lack of meaning up a level, if you see what I mean. While writing that it has just occured to me that you could argue that the meaning of God's existance is tied up in creation (us included). More of a cycle of meaning perhaps :D Given that argument though, we've just opened the door for my lifes meaning to be defined through everyone around me.

I think my point is just that while meaning very much requires an observer, it doesn't have to be an observer outside of the system.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:39 pm UTC

@Second Talon

Your response really didn't satisfy me at all.

If people can decide their own purpose, then you still have not shown that they have no real purpose.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Azrael » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:43 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:If someone asserts that life has a purpose, I believe that's proof positive that their life has a purpose, and so life has a purpose.

Again with 'believe'. Believing isn't the same as something being true. If I assert that life has a purpose the only thing that's been proven is that I believe life has a purpose. I certainly haven't demonstrated that my life does, in fact, have purpose or that it is a logical extension that the lives of others have purpose if mine does.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:04 pm UTC

I don't know if you were referring to the context of what I said, or my word choice. When I said "believe" I was using it loosely. More technically what I was saying was akin to saying that purpose is subjective, and if someone claims to have one, you pretty well have to take their word at it unless you can demonstrate otherwise. If I say that I'm feeling happy, you can't say "prove it." If you disagree, it's up to you to prove that I can't feel or am not feeling happy.

And if one asserts that their life has a purpose, they have proven that their life has a purpose in much the same way. I believe (see, watch my loose usage of the word there), that purpose is an abstract that can be created and attributed by an individual, by definition.

I may not be able to prove it to you on the basis that you can never really know what I'm thinking, but I have proof that I have a purpose. The proof is internal to me. It's all very existential.

I mean, what you're suggesting is akin to saying that all abstract concepts, like love and hope, don't exist. And you could certainly make that case, but then you're just being ridiculous, and I'll have a hard time taking you seriously.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Azrael » Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:09 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:I mean, what you're suggesting is akin to saying that all abstract concepts, like love and hope, don't exist.
Interestingly enough, no. What I'm suggesting is nowhere near that. What I'm suggesting is that I can say I'm happy, or claim to be in love ... but that doesn't mean I am. And if I fail to *act* like I [am/feel/think] any of those, it is not unreasonable for an observer to doubt my veracity.

I can say that my life has purpose. That doesn't mean my life *does* have that purpose. It certainly doesn't mean that *your* life must also have some separate purpose.

If you believe your life has purpose and act upon those beliefs, then you have added a purpose to your life. It doesn't mean it was there inherently. And it still doesn't mean that Uncle Bob's life is equally as task-oriented.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:16 pm UTC

I believe all you've managed to do just there is to point out that people are capable of lying, which I already addressed.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Azrael » Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:20 pm UTC

No, I've addressed verification by external observation and the difference between inherent and manufactured traits.

EDIT: And I suppose I touched on 'purpose' not being a transitive relation.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:48 pm UTC

It still seems to me that you did nothing to counter my contention that a person can have a purpose, and that the burden of proof negative is on the unconvinced party.

Fancy it up with whatever terms you like. You have not shown my statement to be fallacious.

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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:54 pm UTC

My life, devoid of religiosity, is at least 50% more chock full of merriment, and more then 80% less full of guilt. Oh yeah, the sex is better too.
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Re: Atheism and Its Effect on One's Life

Postby Jebobek » Mon Oct 27, 2008 6:03 pm UTC

My somewhat more theologous-thinking life, has, in a small estimate, has about %31.53 more merriment and about 10.45% more guilt than yours, Izawwlgood. I've weighed out these numbers carefully and deemed it acceptable.
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