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Atheism

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Blase, Apr 25, 2010.

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  1. Blase

    Blase Regular Poster

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    I'm not really an atheist, at least not by name, not yet, but I feel like I've become increasingly close to the border. In the past two years since I've graduated from my Catholic high school, I've had more freedom to think for myself, and have grown increasingly skeptical of the Catholic faith. For a while I tinkered with the ideas of deism, pantheism, and panentheism, but I'm starting to feel like I'm just trying to create a god where there may be none. But anytime I try on the concept of "there is no God" its like my train of thought instantly goes down this analytic funnel dissecting my identity into the electro-chemical reactions of membrane-bound, genetically constructed accumulations of organic chemicals called neurons. I start to believe that nothing has meaning, that meaning is only created by the human mind, but doesn't exist, just like god doesn't exist if the atheist paradigm is correct. If nothing has meaning, then I have no reason to make any decision, or to exist at all, and it keeps me from doing anything except trying to distract myself until I forget about atheism for a little longer.



    If you're an atheist, or even an agnostic, I'd like some help. Have you always a non-believer? If not, when did you change your mind? How do you get by while thinking that you're nothing but a soulless accumulation of matter? Doesn't it get you down? How do you justify your existence? How do you make your life meaningful if you don't believe that meaning exists? I feel like I can't turn back to religion even if I wanted to, but I'm afraid of being an atheist.
     
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  2. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    God is a bit of a necessity to human psychology. That isn't to say that the conception of the Christian God is a necessity. Rather the concept of God has a broader definition than most people realize. Humans wish to find purpose in their existence, and whatever that purpose is becomes their God. It could be pleasure, the natural forces of the universe, collective intuition, an ideal, or even a supernatural being. Whatever people decide is important to them will become the focus of their life.

    If you feel comfortable being a pantheist, then why not be? What is important is living in a way that will help you be true to yourself. We as individual human beings are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but within the window of our own existence, we possess one magnificent power. We control what is important to us, and we do so by the awareness we give it and the amount of energy we expend in our actions towards it.

    As Carl Sagan would say in Pale Blue Dot,

    [YOUTUBE]wupToqz1e2g[/YOUTUBE]

    "To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish, the pale blue dot. "

    How beautiful it is that human altruism is a natural conclusion to our insignificance. Why? Because we are all that we have. Humans are alone and stuck together on this planet. It only makes sense that we need one another and should be good to one another. It's that very clear and sacred line of reasoning that I consider God.
     
  3. Quinlan

    Quinlan Right the First Time!

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    If you're an atheist, or even an agnostic, I'd like some help. Have you always a non-believer?

    I can't remember ever believing in god.

    How do you get by while thinking that you're nothing but a soulless accumulation of matter?

    What difference would it make if I had a soul? What use is a soul?

    Doesn't it get you down?

    No, should it? God (aslong as it's not too wrathful) sounds like a pretty nice idea but it's hard to miss something you never had.

    How do you justify your existence?

    I don't feel the need to.

    How do you make your life meaningful if you don't believe that meaning exists?

    I believe meaning exists I just don't think that meaning needs to come from god.

    I feel like I can't turn back to religion even if I wanted to, but I'm afraid of being an atheist.

    I like the idea of god and even religion but I could never become religious, my belief would be disingenous basically kidding myslfl with wishful thinking.
     
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  4. acd

    acd Well-known member

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    Why should there be any meaning to life?
    Meaning is a fallacy, it gives injustice a pseudo-reason..Have a shitty life? Accept your lot. "Blessed are the poor." Etc. etc. etc.

    It can be depressing for awhile when you finally accept that there is no grand scheme--that your pain and suffering and boredom or the injustices of others are not a part of some grand scheme that you will someday understand when you're dead..
    To me, religion gives people a reason to yearn for death.. indeed, to live half-dead and spend more time hoping than doing and being..

    Just because life is meaningless doesn't mean it's worthless.

    I feel that when I accepted (and it wasn't an easy process but it was worth it to me at least) that there was no divine plan for humanity-- I was able to appreciate life here even more.

    But I'm not saying that you should view existence as I do. You have to find what works for you, and you will eventually.

    I used to rely heavily on religion. New Age then Christianity. I stopped relying because I never stopped asking questions.. And the more questions I asked the less satisfied I became with the answers I felt I already had--y'know, the basic tennets and whatnot.

    I don't need to justify my existence. I exist. I'm already here.
    I don't consciously work on making my life meaningful. I am what I am. Though I suppose I could say that I like to remain aware, and soak up everything beautiful thing I can while I'm here and make the most out of the painful.
     
    #4 acd, Apr 25, 2010
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  5. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    I can truly understand the real dilemma of interfacing with the world of religion nowadays. I have many friends who have chosen to disconnect from it and, given the input they have available on the subject, their choice certainly makes sense to me.

    Your journey is yours....you must follow the truth within you. Do beware of certain traps...it's not all about our intellect, it's not all about our egos. It, in the end, is about an integration of the many parts of us.

    I might also suggest another consideration. The faith you grew up with is making less sense now, but I can tell you that there are deeper aspects to this that will challenge all the assumptions you grew up with and these are truly transformative and immeasurably deep. I know this to be so and I have seen it over and over. BUT..........that does not mean you do not have the right (even the obligation) to follow your inner instinct and inspiration. I am only saying this because I do love to see folks follow their inner light. Just try to leave behind the baggage of any excess bitterness. Run towards something...try not to simply be running from something. If it makes sense to some people...fine. If your path lies elsewhere...fine. Look forward.

    In many regards this type of questioning and reassessment is almost imperative nowadays. The world of religion is murky business, but then so is the rest of the world. If you search honestly and openly, you will find a path. It may not fit strictly within one of the -isms of our day, but truth really is all that matters. Many religious folks (the truest ones especially) will tell you that. Many of them don't precisely fit either.
     
    #5 randomsomeone, Apr 25, 2010
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  6. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    Atheistic Satanism.
     
  7. OP
    Blase

    Blase Regular Poster

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    Identity

    Thank you all for the input, its good to hear, but everything always leads to more questions. I hope I'm not jumping topic too much, but the way I see things is a big interconnected framework, and whenever I remove the underlying fill-in-the-blank formerly known as God, everything else in my mind seems to unravel. I've been thinking about the concept of identity, so I'll mention that a bit, and also ask about a few of the things you mentioned. Sorry to just pick out the things I have questions about and not give mention to all the great things you've said that I agree with, but I'm trying to make my thought process a bit more clear.

    Just like how "God" is somewhat of a necessity to human psychology, so is the concept of identity. The way I understand it, each of us has various thoughts and impulses in our mind which can sometimes even conflict with each other. We define the big tangling of our thoughts as an identity, but I feel like identity is merely a psychological construct just like God is. People just "decide" what God is, sometimes based on whatever they're most comfortable with, and I think we "decide" our identity in a similar way. If my identity is just a psychological construct arising from matter, then why and how decide anything? Everything seems like a paradox, and it always paralyzes me. Sorry if I've totally lost you...

    But what does meaning come from? I think meaning is a construct of the human mind which can be attributed to things, just like the concept of god. With no believer, there is no god, and with no human mind, there is no meaning, only matter and no information.

    How do you define the difference between meaning and worth?
     
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  8. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    I believe is might be more historically accurate to think of God less as something people decided (although this has happened) but more as something that was observed and/or intuited but cannot be explained in linear terms solely based on those observations.

    Perhaps the same is true of identity...less a decision, more an observation. Something is happening...but more than the sum of the observable parts.
     
    #8 randomsomeone, Apr 26, 2010
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  9. acd

    acd Well-known member

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    Good question. Bad choice of words on my part. I merely meant to say that if there exists no divinity and no reason to assign meaning to human life, it doesn't make it any less desirable for me to live. And actually, perhaps there is meaning, it's just that the majority of us are not satisfied with it's simplicity. All things exist to sustain one another. Humans are not apart from nature, we are nature just as much as any tree or cow etc. etc. etc.

    Our meaning is the same as the meaning of trees and cows and forests and herds.


    I disagree with the highlighted, and am interested to know how you come to that conclusion if there is no meaning to existence because there is no god.
     
    #9 acd, Apr 26, 2010
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  10. Norton

    Norton XXXX

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    It's impossible to prove logically the existence of God, but it's also impossible to prove logically He doesn't exist. Karl Popper said that what we know best is from theories we can disprove. That is, proving the negative by identifying the exception. Agnosticism is the way for the logical skeptic.
     
  11. OP
    Blase

    Blase Regular Poster

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    Just some quick responses before I go to sleep.

    Yes I agree. Its a very natural and gradual experience, not as punctuated and defined as a decision.

    The way I see it, all existence has a lineage. Humans gradually evolved from the first cells, which emerged from inanimate matter, which is made up of elementary particles created in the big bang, and who the hell knows how the big bang happened, but if your a non-theist you likely believe that the big bang occurred by chance and for no real reason, and if you don't believe that then whatever you think did cause it could likely be called a "god" in one way shape or form like Satya said earlier. Basically, if the universe in its very origin, before atoms were even formed, had no meaning, then no meaning is contained in the smallest elementary particles that everything is made up of. Our thoughts which create meaning are likely material in nature, just like how even though we define DNA as containing information, its essentially just a chemical. So basically, the meanings we form in our head can be broken down into meaningless components, the concept of meaning arises from a complex interaction of meaningless parts, like the attribution of the sound "A" with the letter "A". Really, neither of them mean anything, they're just a vibration of a muscle and a pattern of 3 connected lines, the meaning is contained in our mind. These meanings don't really exist while we are infants, nor in certain states like anesthesia. If your brain was functioning differently than it is now, its very possible to exist without creating any meaning of anything or without even bearing a self-image/identity. Plenty of organisms exists who don't even have minds to create meaning with. We may have some way of using an organism, and thus attribute a meaning to it, and we can give it a name, but this organism has no name for itself, and truly has no meaning, it simply exists. At the base of human existence, there is no innate meaning, we create meaning ourselves, it arises from our meaningless minds. Sorry to go off on a rant, but do you see what I'm getting at? If some god created the universe as a decision and with a purpose, meaning would be innately embedded within everything.

    I agree, I guess I'm starting to believe its all just not even worth bothering with, and whatever may or may not exist beyond our universe isn't worth guessing about. I suppose I should just get on with things and admit that I'm an agnostic. I guess I just hate defining my self, but in reality I always tend to fit one definition or another.
     
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  12. Daeledin

    Daeledin <font color=#575EC1>NVs Fanboi</font>

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    I have never once attended church. Growing up my parents never took me or my brother to church or tried to instill any thoughts about religion, god, or ultimate purposes in life. So I've lived my life never worrying about whether or not there is a god, and if there is what kind of demeanor or grand plan he/she/it might have for us.

    I'd only ever consider anything about religion when other kids in elementary school would talk about church on Sunday and ask me questions like where I go to church. Of course I'd answer that I didn't. They would gawk at me and like gullible children damn me to hell. I'd be a little confused about why they'd say something like that. But I always had the best comeback by bragging that I never had to wake up and waste my Sunday mornings.

    Now that I'm more grown up the conversation dynamic changed a lot. It's always a discussion about the validity of religious beliefs and whether or not humans actually need to have a faith system to live. The debates (loosely) would always get heated. They'd get even hotter when during the entire time I'd always keep a cool head. Most of the time people were annoyed with me for not really caring one way or another.

    So what I will say is that I don't think I have to come up with a grand scheme to justify my existence in order to have one and enjoy it. In the end no matter what any of us believe we all have an expiration date. Looking at my life I see that I have many luxuries around me that all come at the expense of hardship in other peoples' lives. That is depressing from time to time. The only thing I feel obligated to do is enjoy everything I have been given and contribute back to society in some way.

    I don't fear any retribution from a god that doesn't give any indication of its interaction with our existence that we can detect either directly or indirectly. What I do pay attention to is politics and social problems. Because what has always determined everyone's past, present, and future is everyone on the planet. Foibles of politics, scientific advances with consequences (both good and bad), and the feelings of others all dictate what will happen to all of us in our time.

    Just find something to believe in, find it for yourself, and respect the findings of others around you.

    Edit: My post sounded pretty cold. I didn't stop to think about this from your angle that much. You can't erase any of your past so all the experiences of Catholic school and church attendance will stay with you. It's much easier for me to think in this manner. I don't want you to go away thinking I don't respect your struggle.

    Edit 2: I just thought of something to share that you may like (I'm not sure).

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAtheistExperience

    This is a link to the youtube channel for an Austin, Texas based public access show called 'The Atheist Experience'. The co-hosts are well read on a lot of atheist literature and a fair share of bible study material. Their show is based on a few discussion topics each week with a section for callers to come and debate with the hosts live. I find it fun to watch from time to time. Mostly because I'm sadistic enough that I enjoy the occasional roasting of people's fanatic views that aren't well defended by logic.
     
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    #12 Daeledin, Apr 26, 2010
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  13. Norton

    Norton XXXX

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    Don't worry, being agnostic is less of a definition and more of a question.
     
  14. myself

    myself Permanent Fixture

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    does a little green bug care about lifes meaning?

    i think that bug just lives and goes about his business, doing what he was built to do

    humans got all these crazy ideas that we trip out on...

    we have been asking "WHY" for thousands of years

    and today we have millions of confused people, lying to themselves

    truth is, you and i are as significant as a pile of shit

    we gonna die and become tree food

    all we have is this time here on earth, so lets make the best of it

    enjoy the ride

    i figure, if your life sucks, youre probably doing it wrong

    laughter and love, sorrow and pain

    yeah world, you hurt so good
     
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  15. Daeledin

    Daeledin <font color=#575EC1>NVs Fanboi</font>

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    Yes. Do not let labels limit what you can or cannot do.

    Also. In regards to the gigantic (and well put together) break down of life. Science only requires your mind to understand it. It never requires your faith. So don't put the two together. You'll be much happier if you only let scientific knowledge be a qualifier of what humans can/cannot manipulate in the known world.
     
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  16. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    It sounds to me like you don't have a God problem, you have an identity problem. You have a very post modernist view of the world and the flaw in that way of thinking is you can't grasp the objective; the things that don't change and our outside of your control.

    The reality is that identity is not based entirely upon perception. There are biological components, such as genetics and neurology, that are outside your control that heavily influence your identity before you are even born. There is the nuture you received from your parents as an infant and as a young child and how it has shaped your perception of the world. There are the peer groups you associated with and the values you developed through your association with them. Identity is not a psychological construct, or a biological one, or even a sociological one. It is formed from the intricate melding of all those facets.

    What I was arguing was a very simple premise. You need to find what is important to you. Does that mean understanding your identity? Yes. Identity is evolving and changing every day, but who you are remains fundamentally unchanged. Through the choices you make now, you can control how your identity will evolve in the future, but it doesn't change who you are in this present moment, because who you are now was decided through your past experiences. Who you are is as fixed as the genetics in your body, the neurological patterns that have shaped your thinking, the past experiences that you had with your parents and friends, etc.

    Let's be clear on a few things. You are human. You are going to die someday. As such, the only thing that really matters on this plane of existence is living your life the way that you feel you are meant to live it. Religion exists to tell people who can't find their own meaning in life how they should live it. In other words, it exists as a psychological crutch for those who afraid to realize a single objective truth. You are responsible for your own life and what you do with it. It has no significance to anyone but you. I'm sure that there are many people who would grieve if you were to die, but they can't live your life for you and they will go on with their own lives once you are gone. Either you are ready to accept that you are responsible for finding your meaning and purpose in life, or you still need some external belief system to make those choices for you. Either way, you are still making the choice, even when you give it up to some other imaginary force.

    That is why you are finding it hard to go back to religion but you are also afraid to move on. You are stuck between the realization that you are responsible for who you become and how you live your life and the promise that religion offers that some other being has already made those decisions for you.

    I told you how I found meaning in my life without believing in a Christian God. Good luck in finding your own path. Maybe you still need God, and that is perfectly fine. Just find yourself and live in accordance with what you feel you were meant to do and you will be fine.
     
  17. OP
    Blase

    Blase Regular Poster

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    Free Will

    My thoughts have further boiled down to a question of free will vs determinism. With a belief in God, its easy to believe in free will, that's what the story of Adam and Eve is for. But without God, it seems more logical to me to believe in determinism. I don't think either can be proved, so we are left to make an assumption. But in other cases of information processing, for example genetics and computers, as far as I know both operate deterministically. So wouldn't determinism be the most logical assumption to apply to the information processing of human cognition?

    I understand that I do have an objective identity, but when that identity is seen as being a set of deterministic interactions, it seems totally devoid of any value or meaning. The experiences which built my identity could have been totally different. If I were born in another country into a different family, I'd have a different identity. Why then should I base decisions on my own identity, when another person's identity is just as valid, and my own may conflict with theirs? To me it just seems like rooting for team 1 vs team 2, really its all the same and it doesn't really matter. Perhaps I sound psychotic, but when I get in these certain patterns my mind always seems to dissolve and dismiss any sense of meaning or value as being illusory.

    It seems like the only valid information comes from the objective world, so should I make my decisions 100% scientifically? I used to make decisions based on signs, symbols, synchronicity and serendipity, but that all seems pointless now. I've never known "what I want", at least never put any importance on it, my wants seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But if that's the case, what can I base my decisions on?
     
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  18. Daeledin

    Daeledin <font color=#575EC1>NVs Fanboi</font>

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    Yes.
    I'd hate to spout off Richard Dawkins too much but if you were born in some other place or time you could have grown up worshiping Osiris, Thor, Zeus, Ingra, Jujus, or spirits. It wouldn't have made your life any less significant than it's potential value regardless of which one might be true.

    Because it is the only thing that is undeniably yours. Every human has an identity, some expression that can be described as a self. Even if the self isn't very well developed and uncultured like wild-childs they can still cling to the idea that they are what they are no matter how crude and unspecific a definition it is.

    You might see theories around about the hierarchy of needs or an anthropological barrel model starting with the environment, infrastructure, structure and going to a superstructure. The superstructure is based on everything that comes below it like economics, technology, demographics, power relations, kinship, and social organizations. It is the culmination of all of those things that allows us to have individual ideas of what a self is; our ideas, concepts, and values. Religion falls into this category.

    Continuing from where I left off I'll tell you what I think. Self is a fabrication for the human mind that endows it with a sense of strength. It is designed to give justification for any 'truth' that we wish to create with it, allowing us to perceive that we exercise free will. If something comes along to challenge it we are always able to change it to whatever philosophy suits us at the time. Honestly, what I believe today is very likely not to be what I'll believe in 5 years, or potentially even in the next 24 hours based on your next response. Parts of it can be altered. This is a lot like what Satya said.

    So is it deterministic? If you want to believe that our brains can work like a computer constantly making decisions along the lines of "If this, then that" based on whatever outside stimulus we receive then do so if it makes you feel content. Lots of people live content lives. Happiness requires something more.

    I want to tell you something. That barrel model I mentioned strikes a cord in me. You can't just reap the benefits of the structure and infrastructure of a society. At least I'm not that way. I have to be an integral part of it. The only time I feel truly alive and worth while is when I have a job to do. Right now I only work one day a week, and one day a week only do I feel like I belong on this world. It's something I've hated about growing up. It was my job to learn, and only work on my self while selfishly taking everything to one day give back. I'm too anxious to give back to those around me. Unemployment kills me inside.

    You and I are both at a time in our lives where we're told we have to find ourselves. Creating yourself might be a better idea. As I said before I can't help you with what you want. So best of luck. You're articulate and think things through to an end, so I have no doubt you'll be just fine.
     
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  19. NeverAmI

    NeverAmI Satisclassifaction
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    If you're an atheist, or even an agnostic, I'd like some help. Have you always a non-believer?

    When I first joined these forums and for maybe a year before that I actually did start to 'believe' in a conscious entity that governs our life and presents judgment of our actions.

    My father is Catholic and my mother is Evangelist Lutheran. We never attended regular service. I did attend service with my grandparents. I have always felt eerily out of place in church, like there is something wrong, much like I feel when I watch TV. Like there is some repetitive enforcement of something not natural upon me.

    "Accept this, accept this, accept this, accept this, accept this, accept this, accept this, accept this."

    But why must I accept this?

    "Because you must accept this, accept this, accept this, accept this, accept this."

    Call me crazy, but that is how it feels to me.

    I was more spiritual than religious. I always felt observed, but I believe in my own case it was my perception of right/wrong in societal terms of my consciousness.

    Thinking hard about cause and effect, right and wrong, and scientific explanations really caused me to question an external entity. I believe in energy, I believe time is a construct of our existence. Do I believe something transcends our existence as we understand it? Yes. Do I believe that whatever transcends existence is conscious and has any emotional/intellectual investment in my existence? Not really, I don't have any reason to believe that.


    I haven't witnessed any supernatural events that couldn't be explained through theoretical science and so I haven't had to conclude that there is something observing me outside of our current existence.


    How do you get by while thinking that you're nothing but a soulless accumulation of matter?

    I tend to avoid monist frame of thought because I have concluded that something transcends our physical existence, what that is and what the implications are is unknown to me.

    I do have a bias to avoid this though, I reach a high state of despair in thinking that existence ends, I have never really feared death, although I do fear discontinuation of all observance.


    Doesn't it get you down?

    I have faced heavy despair. I was very philosophical in my teenage years and I nearly committed suicide due to depression/despair. I had to put aside those thoughts for a long time and I still feel too weak to continually dig at times.

    How do you justify your existence?

    I only know these things, I observe, I have an ability to interact, other entities also have an ability to interact. As far as I can tell physical reality is persistent outside of my own state. My current ability to interact and observe seem to be linked to basic needs in a physical state and so I fulfill those needs in order to continue interacting and observing.

    How do you make your life meaningful if you don't believe that meaning exists?

    The existentialist mindset has focused on this for a long time. I believe aesthetics developed to help with a lack of meaning, to give us passion outside of a lack of any fundamental plan. Art, music, etc transitioned from a celebration of worship or tribute to meaning itself. Ernest Becker, Erich Fromm, Albert Camus, and Viktor Frankl all might be authors that provide insight for you.

    This merger at my job kind of gave a similar, but much smaller scenario. Everything everyone was working so hard on suddenly didn't matter anymore, the overall objective plan died and so what do you do? Suddenly what you have been working so long for no longer matters. You keep going because you have no choice other than to quit your job. You can also quit life, but what is the point?


    I feel like I can't turn back to religion even if I wanted to, but I'm afraid of being an atheist.

    Concluding that God does not exist as defined by one religion, or by any religion, doesn't mean that you can't alter the definition or to create your own meaning. Finding peace and balance outside of religion, losing an entire society/community of support is very tough. The adversity of opposing/differing views can be difficult to endure as well, especially when you don't have others egging you on.


     
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  20. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    You just hit the nail on the head. Value and meaning are human concepts. They only have significance to humans. There is nothing in the objective world that ascribes value to something. It is only humans who give value and meaning to things. A bag full of gold is only valuable because humans perceive it as so. A kiss or a hug is only meaningful because humans perceive it as so. That is ultimately what life is about. It's finding the things that are significant to you and ascribing value and meaning to those things.

    Your identity is what it is. Who you are in the past is determined, and who you will be in the future is uncertain. The choice exists in the here and now. You get to choose how to make the most of this present moment. That is the extent to which humans have free will. They don't get to decide who they have become, and they can't for certain decide who they will become, but they get to decide how to live in accordance with who they are now.

    But it seems you have gotten stuck in some sort of false dichotomy where you think it has to be either free will or deterministic. In other words, you seem to believe it has to be one or the other. Just like most things in life, it doesn't work that way. It is not black and white. It is a mixture of the two. It is gray. You are limited in how much free will you have by a deterministic past and a future that will be determined by unforeseen circumstances. Your free will exists only in the present moment.

    You need to find a different kind of sacred. One that doesn't emanate from the supernatural, but one that comes from the mystery of the natural world. You are a part of something intricate and amazing. You can choose to ignore that and drift into nihilism, but it won't change how miraculous it is to be alive and aware. How we got here is nowhere near as important as the fact that we are here now and we can make the most of it. Your decisions only need to come from one place. Getting the most out of your life in this present moment.





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    I've tried it. It doesn't work. You can't change your values. That is why it is best to live in accordance with who you are by trying to make the most of what you have.
     
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