I'm no PollyAndy. I know about suffering in life. I've seen, shared, and experienced a fair amount myself. I know that some lives are too short, that unfair things happen, and that it sometimes seems like the world is headed for doom. So why title a Forum Discussion "Joyful Atheism"?

First of all, it seems like "positive atheism" is taken. There also seems to be a disagreement as to whether positive atheism means "I'm positive there are no gods" vs. "I have a positive attitude about my atheism". "Joyful" is less ambiguous, and only has 130 google matches, as opposed to a few hundred thousand.

Since I'm making up the term here, or at least taking ownership, what would it mean to describe a worldview of joyful atheism? How does a joyful atheist view life?

First, since it we have the word "atheism", it means taking joy in the absence of deity. None of those obnoxious, amoral, evil, arbitrary, narcissistic, illogical gods. No raining down on the earth with fire. No apocalypse. No being punished with eternal torture, just for not being able to guess which deity to beleive, and which set of impossible rules to follow regarding that deity's demands. Replace that with, This is the one life. We get to decide how to live it. No more wondering, "what did I do to deserve this" when things go wrong. Instead, learning to make the best of it. Let the clouds drift away, open the curtains, let the sun shine on our lives.

No more letting politicians suck up to self-proclaimed priests and ministers. Instead, calling them on whether they are serving the people.

No more waste of money and time, going to temples and rituals. Instead, choosing to use our resources in ways that we choose.

No more accepting what "is". Instead, thinking about how to create, and change, and taking our fate into our own hands.

Joyful Atheism would not mean accepting religious bullshit. It just means not letting it take countrol of our lives, or occupy our minds to the exclusion of finding our own happiness. Joyful Atheism means choosing our battles, for ones that we can win, or at least make a meaningful difference. Joyful Atheism means finding joy in the beauty of nature, the awesome spectacle of the cosmos, the joy of language and words, the excitement of discovery. Joyful atheism means friendships and love, where we can. Joyful athesim means treating and curing illness. Religion doesn't do that. Joyful atheism means learning how to be healthy, and knowing how to play.

Joyful Atheism means seeing reality, but not letting the negative control us. Joyful Atheism means spreading the joy.

How about some comments on how, or why to be joyful? Some examples? We have no shortage of complaining, no small amount of criticizing. We also need a place for some bliss.

Then go out and watch the wind blow in the branches, listen to some birds sing, or putter around the yard! Dig in the garden, hike in the woods, read a good book, go dancing!

Tags: Joyful Atheism

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Sounds a lot like spiritual atheism or naturalistic spirituality- the nomenclature matters little. Atheism is our starting point. We could call that "Not seeing what's not there". But as you point out, a positive worldview can be helpful. We could call that "Seeing what's there". Understanding that we're intrinsically connected to the universe is both empowering and humbling. Thanks for this uplifting discussion, Daniel.



People say that what we're seeking is a meaning for life.
I don't think that's what we're really seeking.
I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive,
so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive
.- Joseph Campbell

The goal of life
is to make your heartbeat
match the beat of the universe,
to match your nature with Nature.
- Joseph Campbell
Maybe i have misunderstood what you are saying, but it sounds to me like you are describing Humanism, or something close to it. If not, maybe it's worth a look at the description of humanism to see what differences you propose

http://www.humanism.org.uk/humanism
Whatever we call ourselves, we are free from the shackles of dogma and irrational superstition. That's liberating, refreshing, and sparks a lively sense of curiosity about reality. It also underscores that we humans are all we have for each other, and that's a source for a very compassionate community.

Very beautiful sentiment, Scott.
Joyful Atheism means seeing reality, but not letting the negative control us. Joyful Atheism means spreading the joy.

I couldn't agree more, I relish living in the moment, honestly recognizing your place in the greater universe is uplifting to my mind. I know for many an atheistic point of view is a scary or even impossible notion. I feel however knowing every new day is just as important as the last, makes me feel more connected to the world around me.

I can proudly say that despite my flaws, I live in the real world, and I try to understand it to the best of my ability, based on reason and common sense.
@Nate-
"I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive,
so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."
- that expresses the idea exactly, in beautiful words. Using terms like " spiritual atheism or naturalistic spirituality" is fine, like you say. I don't know the meaning of spiritualism. I'm pretty nuts+bolts about metaphysics, and accepting that there is a spirit, is outside my radar. But it's fine with me that others feel differently. We can all find ways to be joyful, if we try.

@Adam,
I would probably have to look hard to find aspects of humanism that I don't agree with. I just hope that people kind find joy, regardless of their take on the other philosophical aspects.

@Scott,
"That's liberating, refreshing, and sparks a lively sense of curiosity about reality. "Exactly. As Nate expressed too.

@Sarah,
"I then sat it the glow of my living room, sipping tea and doing a crossword puzzle with my head lamp on. " It sounds beautiful. Maybe what some would call a Zen moment.

@JayBarti,
"I can proudly say that despite my flaws, I live in the real world, and I try to understand it to the best of my ability, based on reason and common sense." Me too. It's a great way to look at it.

It's so easy to feel overwhelmed by the 'downer' aspects of freethought - fighting theists, feeling overwhelmed by the power that they have over society, worry about the political and social decisions that are made. Getting by on dogged determination. Gloomy existentialism, and raging anger, probably have a place, but when we think too much about those negative aspects, they can control our lives. As an example to ourselves and others, if we look for the joy, we'll find it. That makes live more worth living.

Thanks for the great comments. Your thoughts also inspire me! Hope to see more, recalling joy and looking for the rapture (not THAT rapture!) in their lives!
It's so easy to feel overwhelmed by the 'downer' aspects of freethought - fighting theists, feeling overwhelmed by the power that they have over society, worry about the political and social decisions that are made.

Here you've captured why atheism isn't sufficient as a sustaining worldview. In the context of a theistic society, atheism will always be reactionary. But what's beyond the struggle between theism/atheism? What's left when we envision a world evolved past theism? Though such a place may seem far off, the sooner we can start thinking of what it will look like, the sooner we can create it.

I can't resist another Joseph Campbell quote:

Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn't know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.
'Joyful Atheism' reminds me of a quote from ex-evangelist, Dan Barker's mother, after her deconversion. She said:

"I don't have to hate anymore."

Similarly, Olympian and former presenter of Britain's 'Songs of Praise' television programme, said of his loss of faith:

"I feel internally happier than at any time of my life."

Michael Darbyshire says on his blog:

"When I "became" an atheist I felt freedom for the first time. I didn't constantly fear the giant parent figure was always watching me. Watching and Judging. I didn't have to worry about burning in an eternal flame. I wasn't afraid to think for myself and I knew I wouldn't get punished by an invisible dead martyr. I could spend more time thinking about life and less time at church or praying prayers that were never fulfilled. I was able to do so many things without feeling guilty ..."

Greg Reich says:

" .. when I became an atheist, I felt free. I made my own purpose and my own goals, and I no longer felt lost, alone, and mechanical. When I was part of the faith, I felt like an actor; I felt like everything I did was a facade to make myself look like a good Catholic ... faith was empty to me. It still is. When I lived as though the Christian god existed--and oh, boy, did I--it always felt like an act, but now I feel like I know who I am, and I'm happier for it."

As a poster called 'juggle' says:

"I think atheism has to be marketed just like anything else. You have to appeal to people's self-interests. What is the main benefit of atheism? In my opinion, it's the getting rid of "fear and guilt" part.
forget about trying to convince people intellectually. Just offer them salvation from guilt and fear of god.
When I became an atheist, I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I didn't have to worry about god "judging" me for everything I did. Perhaps atheism just needs to be marketed differently."


Now, that's Joyful Atheism.
That should have read, "Former Olympian, Jonathan Edward ..."
These thoughts are why the ancient Cynics praised dogs to the point where the movement was possibly even named after them (kunikos - loosely translates from ancient Greek as "dog-like").

Dogs, at least wild and street dogs, live fully in accordance with nature. For them, neither conventions nor complicated norms nor ettiquette nor manners nor the proper way of doing things nor the distinction between what is right and what is wrong have any meaning. They belong to no country and pledge allegiance to no flag, and are not burdened by titles or possessions. Neither are they consumed in thoughts of the soul, nor do they have the ability to pass judgment on what is natural and what is not. They simply live and die precisely as nature intended them to live and die. -- Luis E. Navia, _Diogenes the Cynic_
@Kristy,
What great quotations. I need to bookmark them so that I can read them over and over. The feeling of freedom and joy of living are things that we need to remind ourselves of. Thank you.

@Felch,
Plato said "A dog has the soul of a philosopher.”
I have 2 dogs. I could swear that one is an atheist, and the other thinks I'm god. They both beg for the same cookies.
And Diogenes said: “Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.”
Life's too short to feel like shit.

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