For those of us who were religious before becoming atheists, you understand how religion gave us meaning. If you follow the rules (especially in Judaism where there are many) and learn the right books, you'll get a big piece of heaven.

As an atheist, what gives you purpose and meaning in life?

As a "new" atheist (I just "came out" to some of my family and friends recently), this is something I am struggling with.

Thanks in advance.

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The precious little things, really. It's easy for me, as I identify as a pantheist as well as an atheist. Nature is more 'spiritual' to me than any manmade construct. The universe is more awe-inspiring than any godthing. Heaven, for me, is connecting with others, making life a bit better, and enjoying the little things. Being out for a nature hike or even just catching up with my mom over the Internet. You spend more time being appreciative of life and all that it holds, when you realize that it's a precious small sliver of experience in comparison to time past, time yet to come, and the vastness of the cosmos.

I think it's authenticity that gives meaning to life. What do you really enjoy? I love my grandkids and pets and books and gardening and really connecting with people. When organized religion was your base for the meaning of your existence, then it was a pretend base. Now you are basing your life on reality. Get in touch with the real you, not what your church told you to be. That doesn't mean you have to abandon your character, just define it as human not ruled by an invisible friend. I think everyone should take responsibility for their own actions instead of blaming them on god or devil.

I like your answer Linda.

Hi Mordie :) welcome to the forums.  I came out the closet in 09 and wrote a diatribe on my coming out in Spanish, which I later translated into an English-language piece in my blog titled Coming out of the other closet.

I see what you mean re: meaning and value creation as a non-religious person.  It took me some time but as I've come into some form of philosophical maturity, I had the pleasure of learning about Epicureanism from newepicurean.com and epicurus.info and other sources, and later was involved in the founding of the SocietyofEpicurus.com.  Epicureans were among the first atomists who proposed a naturalist ethics that was entirely scientific and hostile to superstition (the first two of the Four Remedies in our doctrine are "do not fear the Gods" and "do not fear death").  We see death as an entirely natural phenomenon and we create values for this world and for the living entities here and now.

Your questions are similar to the ones I had and I think you should look into Epicureanism to create value and meaning, and to establish solid morals based on biology, life and science rather than platonic / imaginary notions that have no tangible reality or essence.  I wrote some months ago a piece for thenewhumanism.org titled That Old Time Secularism that gives a pretty complete introduction to what we believe and what we do.  Feel free to text me if you have any questions ... oh, and also as part of the teaching mission of the Epicurean Gardens, Cassius (webmaster at newepicurean.com) has put together an Epicurus 101 type of webpage that provides a solid foundation in the basics of the three basic teachings:

  • Canon, which deals with the epistemology or theory of knowledge
  • Physics, which deals with atomism and the true nature of reality
  • and Ethics, which deals with how to live the good life

The gist of the introductory course is available at ElementalEpicureanism.com, and the entire course with supplemental articles is at the SocietyofEpicurus.com webpage.  An Epic 102 course is in the works that will delve into applied Epicurean therapy and how we deal with mortality, anger, desires, how to forge wholesome friendships, etc.  The teachings of Epicurus have not been available in this manner for over 1,500 years and Cassius has put a lot of work into this and has done a great job, and is very good at articulating Epicureanism so I hope more people take advantage of this!

Thank you everyone for your responses!

Mordie, your meaning can make your life happy. A religion's meaning WILL make your life unhappy.

Midlife or not, think of yourself as a career changer.

Make two lists of what you've done that you enjoyed most.

List One: the things that people will pay you to do.

List Two: the things that people won't pay you to do.

Do what's on the lists, and keep adding to them.

I once told a Catholic priest I had been a Catholic, and he told me a life without Catholicism has no meaning.

I told him that finding a meaning was my responsibility. He clammed up like I had taped his mouth closed.

What fun it was to beat a bully at his own game.

I always found meaning on things that are important in this life. I want to be a good friend, wife, daughter, niece, etc... it's different for other people. After deconversion I when I started really noticing the "stains" in the house of religion I found a purpose in trying to reveal these harmful aspects in a way that doesn't alienate the religious but make it so they can't ignore it and maybe together we can try to fix some of it because not all the religious are assholes but just focus on their faith and ignore the worst side. 
Anyways, it's different for each person, just focus on what you think is important and the rest will kind of fall into place.

Being passionate about what you do, surrounding yourself with people that you love, observe nature and always looking for answers about the unknown and trying to communicate to others what you know, I think that gives you a lot of meaning and purpose to ones life. No need to pray to an imaginary person to provide us with the things that are at our reach.

Following my interests and desires provides me purpose and meaning.

When you came out, that means you are pursuing for truth

you are more free 

 

Religion did not give any meaning to my life before I became an atheist. I had no attraction for that piece of heaven. I do not believe that religion gives any meaning to anyone's life. Claiming that it does so is merely a pretense. Faith merely gives a feeling of security for those who feel insecure due entirely to a weak mind. 

On the other atheism gives me peace because I know that I know the truth.

Madhukar, the people who tried to sell you a piece of their heaven didn't know how to sell.

The people who tried to sell me a piece of their heaven knew how to sell and succeeded.

In first grade they started telling me they had the only heaven. In higher grades they told me it was a mortal sin to look at anyone else's piece (i.e., in a non-Catholic church). In fewer words, they isolated me.

Only when I was quitting did I begin to see the box.

And here you are, telling me I had a weak mind.

Do a little more thinking. Outside your box.

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