To me, letting go of the idea of a god means letting go of the idea of an afterlife. This is it. When we're done here it all ends. That's a pretty weighty issue in my mind and I would assume many others struggle with it as well. Many authors I've read suggest that the wonder and beauty of life is sufficient, that our experiences here can give us a sense of meaning.

I just finished reading the first chapter of Dawkin's "The Blind Watchmaker". Are we (individually) really only here to insure that we (collectively) continue to be here?

I guess you get the point. I just wonder what others think about this issue as I try to fill in that gap for myself. I know Brother Richard sort of raised this issue in another thread, but I wanted to get more specific about the "why are we here" question.

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There are views of a god who is not an interventionist -- thus, there need be no evidence for "his" existence. That god could be the source of afterlives, also untestable. So, my disbelief is in an interventional diety. I am an atheist there. I am an agnostic about other deities. I largely don't believe in an after life, but my atheism is not what takes me there.
Old, but one of my favorites

"Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not." Letter to Menoeceus, By Epicurus as posted on http://classics.mit.edu/Epicurus/menoec.html

Philosophy caused me to start questioning religion, and it comforted me in ways that faith could not. The relief has been to find what I was feeling said so well.

Philosophy can be a big help and Epicurus is one of my favorites. Philosophy is also personal, and adjustable. Mixing, matching and refining is not only acceptable, but encouraged, by the idea of philosophy itself, increasing its applicability to life.
Nathan,

Your struggle with existential purpose has been present throughout the ages. That doesn't make it any easier, or course, but does say that you have lots of company.

I don't think that this struggle is unique to atheism. I remember being in church. "Why do we exist?" "We exist to serve (or glorify) God" "Why does God need us, when He is all-powerful and all-knowing?" "Uh.... God's ways are mysterious". "Why does God need us to glorify Him? Isn't that narcissistic?" "You ask too many questions!"

King James Bible Ecclesiastes 2:17 "Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit." I used to find Ecclesiastes so compelling, and so depressing. It is the oldest text on existentialism in the Western world.

One thing that I took away from Unitarianism was that we are all part of a larger web of life. As individuals, we don't have immortal potential. Even genetically, by a couple of generations, our individual DNA is diluted out to the point where 'genetic immortality" is meaningless.

It may not be much in the scheme of things, but to me the way that I have purpose in life comes from connection to the people and other life around me - the "web of life". Each life that we touch, we influence in some way. And each life influences us in some way. In a sense, we are all part of each other.

It may not seem concrete, but this line of thought is sometimes helpful for me.

You, by reaching out to others with your experience in life, have given meaning to others. I have heard you on the "Chariots of iron" podcast, and you touch my life and countless others who you have never met. It's no immortality, but it is meaningful, and it is important. Thank you.
Well I'm a very blunt person when it comes to dogma, and I'm direct about it. To me the teaching of the dogma about heaven and hell are in my view between the eternal orgasm and eternal pain. Although xians would say it's not about sexual gratification, my question is why are there so many dogmas about sexuality?

I didn't realize the perverse nature of the dogma of afterlife until years after I left the cult I was in, because while I left the cult I was still in the mindset that everything they taught me was true. If I turned away from the glory of service to my god then I'd lose my rewards when I was raised from the dead by jesus. Totally neurotic and sociopathic because the preservation of self required purity and non-association with infidels and proselytizing of the lost. Wrong was determined by scripture and if it said certain people were worthy of death I was to be willing to carry that out, which limits ones socializing. It's a huge trap, glad I'm free of it.

The idea of self preservation, it's part of the thing that drives humans to be social. Now death being seen as the ultimate enemy the idea of self is in direct conflict with the idea of the end of self. The bigger problem of the end of self is the end of family, community, tribe, empire, and ultimately the world. So men developed stories about the self not ending in death, with codes of conduct to insure a good hereafter and punishment for those who don't follow the code.

I guess even trying to answer the "why" is the trouble, if we all could just be satisfied with "We are here." without the why then I think that may solve all our problems. We are here, now what are we going to do about it? Emphasis on the "We" I guess we should continue to develop our non-theist community to expel these polluting memes, after all it was whole communities that spread these dogmatic ideas in the first place, we should do the same.

Seth
I'm really at peace with the no-afterlife concept. This might be because no one I love goes to hell under this worldview.

As far as purpose - I guess my own purpose is to be the best mother I can, to teach others what I know, to learn every thing of interest in the world around me in the time I have, to be loving, and to warn people about the dangers of faith and faith-healing. I guess I believe we make our own purpose, based on the things we care passionately about.
I am at peace with the idea of not having an afterlife. I actually prefer the notion that I WON'T have to exist forever ad nauseum over the idea of a heaven. But I still struggle with the fear of Hell, even though I haven't believed in it in years. Sometimes it's almost bad enough to make me sweep intellectual honesty back under the rug where it used to stay and sheepishly proclaim, "Whatever you say, fundies!"

How do the rest of you recovered Christians keep these fears from eating at you?
Happens to me a lot. I'm glad it's not just me :). I usually just put Green Day on or get some sleep (it's usually worse when I'm tired).
For me it IS enough - what we have here. I feel amazed at being here at all to see the wonder and beauty we are surrounded with. And I am not sure I would want to exist forever now anyway - wouldn't that become extreme tedium? I have love, music, nature and the mysteries of the cosmos to give my life meaning - I find that I don't miss the idea of an eternal afterlife at all. And to capp that off - I am listening to 'Finding Higg's Boson' by Frank Zappa...my idea of heaven!
We are here only to question our existence. This is our purpose.
Well, shoot. I just asked somewhere else if you watched Richard Dawkins videos. lol... Here is my answer.

We are fortunate to have the ability recognize our own existence. It is how you deal with what you have and the choices you make that really mean something- that is what gives being alive meaning. The fact that you can think, recognize, feel emotions, make choices,learn. progress-- and all on an intellectual level that is absolutely astounding. I don't think of it in terms of "why" anymore. I think "how?". It doesn't matter what happens when I'm dead. I can only live for today.

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