As An Atheist Can Your Life Have Purpose and Meaning?

I was wondering what other people thought about this.

I realize we weren't born with a purpose. No creator or "higher calling".

But as a non believer can your life have meaning and purpose without god?

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Alan, here's a great one you might not have known about.  It actually happened to me back in hippie days in NYC.  I was down-and-out and out of work, meandering the streets around Times Square looking for fun and excitement.  I was around 25 at the time. 

So this not bad looking German girl accosts me and asks what I was doing for the weekend.  Would I like to go to a campground up in the mountains near Poughkeepsie.  Now Poughkeepsie is a pretty well-to-do area and I was only there once and it was beautiful, so I said, “Sure, why not.”  I’d say just about every kid I grew up with in the grimy city loved to go to the country.  I was so deprived, “let’s go to the country,” meant Belmont Racetrack. 

When we were ready to leave, we met in an old municipal building and I was introduced to the group.  This was amazing.  I was taken completely by surprise.  Here I was a scrubby-looking hippie, long hair, unshaven, not dirty but scruffy Army-Navy clothes, and a group of people came up to me like I was the long-lost dalai lama.  A couple of lovely young ladies asked all about me, with charming compliments, amorous glances,  seductive, touchy-feely body language, and a genuine interest in me as a unique person.

So to make a long story short, I hadn’t even heard of this technique in social psych class, which was my major.  It’s called “love bombing,” and boy I was taken in.  

Can you guess what the group was? 

 

 

 

 

Flirty Fishing?  

Moonies? Children of God? International Family?

Remove the question mark.  No doubt about it.  They wound up taking over the venable New Yorker Hotal on 8th Avenue and 34th Street. 

I remember once coming home from JFK at two in the morning.  In the pouring rain while waiting for a red light, a kid came up to the locked car and asked me if I wanted to buy a plastic wrapped rose.  It was in a really tough neighborhood on a gloomy night with nobody around.  If I didnt' have some pretty good education, that kid might have been me. 

 

A long time back, I saw at least part of the movie, "Ticket to Heaven," which was a close take-off on the Moonies.

Scary, positively SCARY.

Oh, yea.  Thanks, Loren, for reminding me.  I never did finish the story.  I’m going to pick up the movie to see how my experience compares. 

I’m meandering around Times Square, out of work and worrying how I’m going to stay out of Vietnam.  It was the late ‘60s.  I had just graduated NYU as a psych major, and my favorite course was social psych under the eminent Phil Zimbardo, perhaps the most famous social psychologist in the country—now that is, but not then.  Part of the course was the study of mind control and brainwashing, which was why I didn’t want to get drafted in the first place.

So right in front of the old Rivoli Theatre, this pretty nice looking German girl accosts me and asks if I’d like to go to some kind “workshop” in the mountains near Poughkeepsie.  Just beautiful country up there.  As soon as she said that I jumped on it.  I had nothing better going on, and I knew enough about cults and in-groups to stay immune.  Plus I was tired of eating hot dogs, TV dinners and Campbell’s soup; I was living by myself. 

Before I knew it we were riding up the NYS Thruway on our way to the mountains.  I have to admit the “love bombing” was something different and even pleasant.  Everybody was interested in me as a unique person, which I was, but how the heck did they know it.  Some really beautiful, touchy-feely, European ladies and a few Koreans.  I never heard of Moon at the time, so the Korean connection didn’t dawn on me. 

The campground was really impressive— big, stately oaks and maples, a glistening serene mountain lake—right out of Rip van Winkle.  When our group of around eight hopped out of the van, the caretakers ran out of an old log cabin building and continued with a gracious welcome and more love bombing.  A comely oriental gal grabbed my arm, took me aside and started showing me around the installation. 

Before I knew it, a bunch of workers started bringing the food out to the picnic tables under the trees with a splendid view of the lake.  They weren’t part of the love bomb squad, just hard working automatons like in the old sci-fi movie Invaders From Mars.  They even waggled a little bit and made barely audible grunt noises to indicate the food was ready.  It looked wonderful to a hungry hippie, like a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimming. 

Just then, the leader kid came out of the building and started to take charge.  A real yuppie-looking kid, officious as can be, but smiling all the time.  He tells us:  Before we eat, we have to gather around the bonfire and “sing for your supper.”  He pasted out a sheet with folk tunes on it, (Dylan and Joan Baez stuff, like “Lemon Tree Oh So Pretty”) but with key phrases edited to reflect the ideology of the group.  I refused to mouth these indoctrining words, fully aware of the technique.  It’s like when soldiers sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “Let us die to make men free.”  Screw you, thought I, you die to make men free.  Mine eyes haven’t seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.  I don’t want anything to do with it. 

Now to iterate Alan’s indoctrination process:  isolation, separation from family and friends, love bombing, feeding us to instill dependency.  The next step is to split up into “focus groups” of around six, each with a squad leader to answer questions and select new recruits who would fit into the group model.

I’ll continue this true story when I think of some more of the details.  Funny thing, in my retirement my memory seems to improve such that I feel it’s eidetic.  It’s like a photographic memory but for past events rather than the written word.  I even remember the group lecturer’s name:  Mr. Pell, and I only met him once, 47 years ago.  After the lectures, comes the humiliation stage for the hard corps. 

Are there any scientologists on this thread to help us with this one?  Just joking. 

Richard I am interested in your story. So what was love bombing again? Yeah I know about mind control techniques. Manipulators are very subtle in their techniques. Sometimes they make up stories to appear to be like you when they aren't. They do this to gain your trust.

To catch the manipulators there are techniques you can try. I just caught one myself. He would keep telling me all these cousins of his were just like me or something like that. So just make up some wild story - and guess what - his cousin was just like that too! Amazing!

I found the meaning of Love Bombing in the Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_bombing

Love bombing is the deliberate show of affection or friendship by an individual or a group of people toward another individual. Critics have asserted that this action may be motivated in part by the desire to recruit, convert or otherwise influence.

As of 2005, the phrase can be used in two slightly different ways.

  • Members of the Unification Church, and perhaps members of other groups, use or have used the phrase themselves to mean a genuine expression of friendship, fellowship, interest, or concern.
  • Critics of cults use the phrase with the implication that the "love" is feigned and the practice is manipulative. "Love bombing" is often cited by critics as one of the methods used by some cults and religions to recruit and retain members. Abusers in romantic relationships also do this to victims in the early stages of a relationship, showering their partners with praise, gifts, and affection.

Notice what it says about abusers in romantic relationships. In the early stages they are super sweet but wait for the change!! If they don't get their way they become verbally abusive and start calling you names.

Steph, I can see you’re intrigued by the “love bombing” technique.  At least you know I didn’t make it up.  I actually experienced it that weekend.  Maybe you should try it with your boyfriend.  See what happens.  lol

I’ll continue my story with the “focus groups” which is also part of the process.  Pol Pot and Mao were into it big time as part of the re-indoctrination process.  Also humiliation is the next stage and I invite readers to offer comments and reactions to humiliation so close to home.  It’s a scene from a 1980s war movie called, Full Metal Jacket.  It’s not for the faint hearted and it’s even funny in a weird kind of way.  I offer it because it shows a very powerful technique—disintegration or breakdown of the ego, leading to what’s known in psychiatry as psychasthenia, neurosis caused by fear and anxiety.     

The video also demonstrates a key ingredient of Professor Zimbardo’s “Lucifer Effect” as to why humans do evil.  In the last scene the company teams up to castigate brutally the unfortunate recruit.  They were doing it for a greater good.    

 

So Richard in the next step after love bombing they humiliate you? How do they go about humiliating someone? Is this done by name calling or what exactly?

Steph, You're on the right track.  The video shows clearly how it's done.  In Scientology, they actually sit the inductee at a table surrounded by friends and fellow recruits and hurl nasty, ego-effacing insults at the unfortunate believer. 

It takes many forms, even in monasteries and convents.  The idea is to wipe out past memories and attitudes, then rebuild personality favorable to the belief system.  In the video, most of the recruits had a Christian view of “Thou shalt not kill.”  By the time they graduate boot camp, they feel entirely different about it.

 

 

 

To finish the story of the moonie weekend.  The grunting automata spread six blankets around the bonfire area (there were about thirty potential inductees) so each blanket sat four recruits and a “squad leader.”  First thing I noticed was they were all oriental, I didn’t even know about the Korean connection at the time.  They continued the love bombing with gracious welcomes and how happy they were to see us and tell us about Reverend Moon. 

Now I must admit that I can’t remember the details of the discussion.  Don’t forget I was 24, so my mind was set on figuring out how the get the cute fräulein to go for a moonlight skinny dip in the idyllic mountain lake after everybody had gone to bed.  So while the leader was rapping away about how Moon would help us unite our minds and hearts together in perfect harmony centering on God's love, my mind was elsewhere. 

After the blanket session, we were herded over the basketball court where folding chairs were assembled with a big blackboard erected with chalk and eraser like in grammar school.  Mr. Pell walked in and I have to admit the man was charming.  He could have been a college professor, real yuppie (corporate looking), affable and well spoken.  He proceeded to explain the basics of the Divine Principle how God made man in his image, lives beyond space and time and was deeply offended by the ingratitude of the original sin. 

Now here’s the kicker.  God is upset with how his church screwed up and sent an angel to talk to Moon when he was 15, telling him he was chosen to unify all the Christian sects.    In other words, Moon is the second coming of Christ, and if you live by his teachings everything will be hunky-dory. 

To make a long story short, I might as well have tried to make an octogenarian nun.  Members of the church are as puritanical as they come.  Love bombing isn’t what it seems. 

To top it off, Mr. Pell ended the sermon with the esoteric fact that the ancient name for Korea was Josesan, pronounced “Chosen”, the clinching proof that Moon was the second Christ come to unify mankind and rid the world of sin by living as one, happy, unified family. 

 

 

 

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