November 8, 2010

The Contented Atheist: On the Value of Life

As some of you may or may not know over the last few years I've taken the leap from agnostic to atheist. My wife wasn't hit by a drunk driver so I don't have any vendetta against God. I hate math so it's not because I'm all sciencey. I've always been fascinated by religion and went to Sunday School every week as a kid so it wasn't that I was never exposed to the Good Book. In all my life I've just never felt it. There are a lot of misconceptions about atheists that I've run into over the years and since not all of us are arrogant jerks who look down on people of faith *cough Bill Maher cough* I figured I'd start this blog series to open up a dialogue about religion, faith and atheism. Plus, I just really like talking and thinking about religion, I have weird hobbies. I encourage all to debate and participate, just play nice.

On the Value of Life

One misconception that I've run into a number of times is that atheists don't value life. The thinking goes that because I'm not going to heaven or hell that everything is just sort of pointless. I would argue to the contrary. I only have this life I'm living right now. I have to try and make the most of it or my life really is a waste. I don't have the luxury of an afterlife that lasts an eternity. Once I die, that's it.

It's scary to think that, it's awful to think that. In fact, the reason it took so long for me to acknowledge that yes, I am an atheist, is that fact. I only have, at the absolute most, 70 years before my consciousness is gone. I think that scary thought has a lot to do with the creation of religion, as long as we can remember we can think. Descartes was really onto something with that cogito ergo sum stuff. To suddenly stop thinking is almost unimaginable, but someday, I know it'll happen. Coming to grips with that has been one of the hardest things I've done in my life, and also one of the most rewarding.

I want to do great things. I want to leave a legacy so I do live on in someway. I try to cherish the little moments in life that give me joy and inspire me. Not because God wants me to feel them, but because I know I'll only have so many moments like that and I need to make the most of them.

Any thoughts on the value of life from anyone out there religious or otherwise?

Also, feel free to ask any questions about my thoughts and struggles with atheism I'd be happy to answer.


  1. I think this is your best piece so far .... so well written and I love the point you made about people maybe being scared there is nothing "else".... "this" life is "it" it's as simple as that !!!

  2. I'm not an atheist, I'm agnostic, because I don't think anyone can say that they know all the answers, or any answers for that matter.

    You ever watch House? He said something about the afterlife that I really liked: "It comforts me to believe that this isn't all some big test." It comforts me to think that, too.

  3. I agree with all that you've written, Chris. My views are much the same but I do have my moments when my Catholic upbringing pulls at me and tells me to behave and believe.
    I believe that religion was created by people who needed answers and reassurance. I also believe that there are people today who need it in their lives to offer balance and safety and that's quite ok. Whatever works for them and allows them to cope with life is good with me.
    I have had experiences in life though, that have caused me to pause and wonder if there is a higher power and I am sure that I'll continue to have those.
    I think what's most important is an open mind and open heart. I so wish that we could all treat one another better.

  4. Mandy: I'm glad you liked it I hope to do these every once in a while.

    Tsarista: I don't claim to have all the answers. But anything I've ever read about any deity just doesn't add up. So I feel I'm pretty safe with saying there isn't any deity. And even if there is a deity obviously no one on earth knows anything about him/her/it so I don't have to worry about breaking any of his rules because he doesn't have any. And what deity doesn't have any rules?

    Robyn: Yes, although I'm Lutheran I still find myself praying when I need something, weird how you get drawn back to that. I also agree with everything else you said, you're awesome.

  5. I am an athiest. I'm not closed, I'm not looking for answers, I'm not concerned either way. I believe in the world around me. You know, I don't believe in Beatles, I only believe in Me. :)

    “Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
    Priest: "No, not if you did not know."
    Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?"

  6. Eco: Well said, cute joke by the way.

    (Because I'm not able to brain today, Gomen!)

    I'll try to get a lot of sunny photos at Circulation to put some summer into the lives of you Northern Hemisphere types :p Now that I've said that, it'll probably piss down with rain >.<

    I'm interested in seeing how this debate unfolds :)

  8. Great and profound post, Christopher.

    I think that as time passes by the meaning and values of religions are diminishing.
    I do believe in moral and ethical things, I'm not sure in which category I'd fit.

    As a scientist I think scientists need to do a better job of communicating the importance of science to religious people.
    Have a wonderful Tuesday!

  9. Peridot: I'm not sure that would help. I'd probably just resent you for enjoying summer.

    Betty: I think ethics will probably the subject of my next little atheist thing. On your last point, I completely agree with that. I think there needs to be a real dialogue opened again with science and the average joe. There's a disconnect, maybe because things have gotten more complicated but it makes us all stupider if we don't try to keep up.

  10. You feel how you feel. It's one of the great things about living in the country we live in.. We get to believe what we want to believe and not be killed, generally, for it.

  11. Sarah: yea, gets me into plenty of arguments though!

  12. Good post and I have done the same thing...scary stuff...I almost wanted to become a religion because I was scared.

  13. I grew up in the Jewish religion and not that my parents were so strict with it, but it was what it was, it was always there.
    And now I battle with it everyday.

    I feel some deep connection to God, but it might be only because I was bread to look to him for help, and I am influenced by that, and I am willing to admit it. But it is something I feel.

    The problem is I am not sure if religion and God have to go hand in hand. I have my issues with religion and with God. And everyday my thoughts change. Some would say that I am just being ignorant or stupid, but it is part of me, who I am and who I am going to be.

    recently, I have started on a memoir type thing about my journey through religion and battles with faith and God. I think it is more for me than anyone else, but it came ot me so I am going to go with it.

    Peace and Love

  14. You make some really good points. I believe in science, logic and reality. If I ever follow any religion it will probably be Wiccan.


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