Adjusting to Atheism
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15-10-2010, 10:44 PM
 
Adjusting to Atheism
Perhaps any of you who were formerly very religious can share how you dealt with the gut-deep realization that there is no afterlife.

I feel a little silly asking, since it seems that so many of you were blessed with the clarity of thought not to really believe in the first place. I wasn't either that smart or that perceptive as a child, and I was always very comforted by the promise of meeting my dead relatives again somewhere and somehow. Now that I'm firmly in the atheist camp, I honestly feel a lot of grief as I wade through this particular aspect of giving up god.

I don't find the idea of being dead very intimidating ("I was dead for millions of years before I was born and it didn't inconvenience me," as Mark Twain wrote), but losing family members that I know I will never see again seems a little tougher to deal with now. The grandmother I lost as a young child I now realize is DEAD, not in heaven. The thought of losing a child or a parent seems almost unbearable.

As atheists, how do you deal with the knowledge that your loved ones are just gone?
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15-10-2010, 11:05 PM
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
Usually with the knowledge that, when you die, something really, really crappy happened to you just prior to it. Usually this really crappy thing is your heart stopping, and hey, who wants to stick around after that happens?

...Seriously, though, mostly humor. That's how I deal with most crappy stuff that happens. Death's gonna happen. May as well laugh about it when it does, 'cause there's no point crying.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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16-10-2010, 01:09 AM (This post was last modified: 16-10-2010 04:54 AM by ebilekittae.)
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
One of the first things to go in my religion was the idea that the afterlife was a good thing. Even while I was a fundie, thinking that there would be absolutely no end was complete and total torture. However, knowing probability I was consoled that, given a literal eternity, there was no doubt that someone would eventually screw everything up and eternity would be no more (since as time passes, the probability of anything happening nears 1). The thought of my non-Christian friends who wouldn't listen to my pleas of repentance burning in an eternity of suffering while I was supposed to live it up especially ate at me. At one point I even resolved to beg God when I was at the throne at judgment to throw me in the fire and spare my friends. I don't know if I actually would have done it if it had turned out to be true, but I had resolved to do so in my mind. Tongue

So the thought of afterlife not existing was more of a relief to me than something to mourn the loss of (no pun intended). Ever since my Granddaddy dying when I was a kid, I haven't shed a single tear at the loss of anyone else, as terrible as it is to say. I think I might be an extremely detached person. I wholly understood that everyone dies eventually, and eventually I would, and I've never really had any problem accepting that.

I dunno. I guess I'm just weird. Tongue

"It does feel like something to be wrong; it feels like being right." -Kathryn Schulz
I am 100% certain that I am wrong about something I am certain about right now. Because even if everything I stand for turns out to be completely true, I was still wrong about being wrong.
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16-10-2010, 03:10 AM
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
We all die. We all come to an end. There is no winners and losers in the after-life. Enjoy life now, while you can, if you can. I would love to have an after-life, but I want to know, not believe whether there is one or not. I am 100% convinced that there isn't. It does feel weird knowing that someday I won't exist anymore, but then we are all in the same boat.
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16-10-2010, 09:04 AM
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
I'm frankly relieved. I don't have to live my life by a Bronze Age code of morals and ensure that I sit in judgment of everyone else or risk being judged negatively myself by the all knowing all loving deity. Instead, I can focus my efforts and my life on my family and friends without worry about if I'm living up to some arcane random standard. Plus, I get to sleep in both days on the weekend if I want to.

As for the inevitably of death, the universe existed for billions of years before I got here and I was completely unaware of it because I was not here. It will be the same after I'm gone. No regrets, no remorse, just eternity. I won't say that I'm at peace with that but I am ok with it. All things being equal, I'd much prefer an afterlife but I just don't see it happening.

Oh, and I do want to once again say that while I don't believe in an afterlife, I do believe in dog heaven. My dog is going to dog heaven (a long, long time from now) because she's an awesome dog. I'm hoping I get to visit her quickly before I slip into nothingness.

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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16-10-2010, 11:52 AM
 
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
(15-10-2010 10:44 PM)athnostic Wrote:  Perhaps any of you who were formerly very religious can share how you dealt with the gut-deep realization that there is no afterlife.

I feel a little silly asking, since it seems that so many of you were blessed with the clarity of thought not to really believe in the first place. I wasn't either that smart or that perceptive as a child, and I was always very comforted by the promise of meeting my dead relatives again somewhere and somehow. Now that I'm firmly in the atheist camp, I honestly feel a lot of grief as I wade through this particular aspect of giving up god.

I don't find the idea of being dead very intimidating ("I was dead for millions of years before I was born and it didn't inconvenience me," as Mark Twain wrote), but losing family members that I know I will never see again seems a little tougher to deal with now. The grandmother I lost as a young child I now realize is DEAD, not in heaven. The thought of losing a child or a parent seems almost unbearable.

As atheists, how do you deal with the knowledge that your loved ones are just gone?

I was raised in a Theist household. In fact I don't know that there were any atheists or agnostics in the immediate family. Or, if there were they were very hush hush about it, because the Fundy attitude of the majority would have made life hard on them, I'm sure.

Consequently, I attended church and as a child, Sunday school. And so I have an understanding of what you mean by the comfort it all brought, because as a child one never thinks their parents are going to lie to them. And indeed, I don't think my parents ever considered it was all just mythology, superstition, or irrational nonsense. Because it appears from what I've seen, and those I've talked with, that the Theist cult programming is a generational indoctrination.

Parents teach children, as the Bible commands (lead a child in the way they should go and when they are older they shall not depart from it), so that in itself, along with the fear of not believing and the inevitable consequences that would follow if one did not fall into line, insure generation upon generation from the youngest most mailable consciousnesses, are led into the fold.

As a little girl in Sunday school, I was particularly fond of Noah's ark for all the pictures of the animals that Noah and his daughters could play with. Yep, persuaded toward Jesus by thoughts of cuddling a Giraffe! Tongue

Notice how children's Bibles always include pictures? It's a programming feature because children are more visual before they are capable of being rational. So being read the stories, while they are enamored by the pictures, makes it all "true" to them. Just like their other bedtime story books persuade them to enjoy and relate to those characters.

Also, I think because it's all taken so very seriously what with churches, the Book, broadcasts, radio programs, and countless folks wearing that little golden Roman capital punishment device as a charm on that necklace for all to see, affording an at a distance indicator that alerts one to the message: Believer on board!, that people don't think it could be a lie.
How many people have you heard say of something someone else questions them about, with regard to it's credibility; "Well, I read it in..."

As if the printed word is proof of truth. Yet, the majority of the world population accept just that, from the Bible and those who minister from it.

Stepping away from that, as a rogue from the herd, takes guts because it takes a huge amount of sincere self appraisal, as to what one can live with. As well as critically reviewing what they've accepted on faith, before that moment of self-reflection. But if you can't live with yourself, living the truth of your convictions be they Theist or atheist or agnostic, what are you doing but living with someone you can't face with the truth?

As to the passed on relatives and friends. I've lost family members and it was devastating at the time. I think that's especially so when you're young and have to face what death means, when one enjoys spontaneity, and full on exuberance childish imagination and living in the moment affords, when suddenly all that has to be introduced to the very real truth of never seeing someone you adored again. As children we tend to think everything is forever.

However, it's one thing to rationalize there is no god. As can be said for those who believe otherwise. Either way, we're all united in one common destiny; death. And then we'll find out what's what. In the meantime, what losing my loved one's has taught me, even when I was a believer and comforted my grief with the egoistic thought that I'd see them again because the human must continue even when they're unseen, is death teaches me to fully appreciate and love loved one's while they're here.
So that when they're not I can let the grief take it's course, while knowing I made sure I didn't lose them by not paying them the loving attention they deserved, while they were alive.
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17-10-2010, 06:22 AM
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
I kind of thinking of them as having moved away and I just never talk to them again, or on permanent vacation.
Frankly I've always wondered what happens to the energy that animates a body, or living thing, whether it be human, animal, or plant. Guess I will never know.
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17-10-2010, 10:48 AM
 
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
Thanks for the replies, everyone.

I agree with a lot of you who talked about not taking people for granted while they're here. I think that's definitely true. I don't know that living on forever would be ideal, although I hadn't much pondered that angle before. Nor had I thought about living on after the event that brings death about. Living after being in major car accident (like in my Grandma's case) might not be so much fun.

I suppose part of me just has to adjust, you know?

Here's another angle: I personally always felt some comfort in the knowledge that people who got away with doing really shitty things here on earth would get what was coming to them later: Serial killers, child molesters, torturers, and the scum of the earth in general. The thought that they get to live on to a ripe old age (since some are never caught) just doesn't seem fair.

How do we as atheists avoid falling into the trap of revenge and bitterness when we or our loved ones are wronged on a deep level?
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17-10-2010, 11:53 AM
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
(17-10-2010 10:48 AM)athnostic Wrote:  Here's another angle: I personally always felt some comfort in the knowledge that people who got away with doing really shitty things here on earth would get what was coming to them later: Serial killers, child molesters, torturers, and the scum of the earth in general. The thought that they get to live on to a ripe old age (since some are never caught) just doesn't seem fair.

How do we as atheists avoid falling into the trap of revenge and bitterness when we or our loved ones are wronged on a deep level?

Be like Batman. You're better than those people. Don't let them drag you down to their level. If you want retribution, do it the right way.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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17-10-2010, 12:14 PM
RE: Adjusting to Atheism
I think about death far too much. It is impossible for me to imagine not existing. I try to think it would just be all black and silent, but with no eyes to see the all black and no ears to not hear nothing that cannot be it. It scares me to know that I will be nothing, that I won't even be able to think the thought that I am in fact "nothing." Being Atheist is a heavy load of the truth, and although it bends and breaks me, I would rather be upset about death than believe in a fairy tale false security.
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