One of the questions atheists get a lot is “But, if you don’t believe in God, what gives you any purpose in life?” — as if the only way a human being could have purpose in their life was if some deity hung around them like the Tiger Mom From Hell. The variation on that question — “But if you don’t believe in God, what’s to keep you from killing people?” — assumes that without my Godly Tiger Mom all up in my grill, I’d be a totally homicidal psychopath.
I wonder — are these Godly people projecting? Are they saying that if they didn’t believe in God that THEY would be breaking every one of the ten commandments and laughing about it?
The thing about atheism is, it’s completely DIY. Once you get past the “why you should be an atheist”, there’s not much written about “how”. That’s the pleasure of free thinking — you get to think however you like. Most atheists, in my experience, are humanists. They don’t need a Big Daddy In The Sky telling them what to think.
Atheists prefer to think bigger. Where religion wants to exclude those who don’t believe, atheists want to include everyone — since we’re all human beings. Atheists, for instance, don’t imagine a future where only those who ardently “believe” get to survive. But, a lot of theists do think that way. The very idea of someone not believing exactly what they believe threatens them down to their core.
Atheists assume the responsibility for figuring out what their purpose is in life. Something remarkable happens when you build out these ideas on your own vs having someone else do all the Big Thinking for you. While taking responsibility for your life does not guarantee you success, it does guarantee you ownership of whatever happens. If it’s bad — that sucks. But, if it’s good…
Taking responsibility for what happens in one’s life is terrifying. And liberating. For starters, I have to look around at every other human being respectfully (if I want respect in return). I have to create my own ideals — a DIY Ten Commandments (though, could we make due in a pinch with just four or five commandments? Asking for a compromised friend). Human beings are social creatures. We rely on successful social living to achieve happiness.
We have learned through trial and error — if you act like an asshole toward others, eventually they’ll catch on. Don’t act like an asshole. Be a good person as much as you can, for as long as you can. Over the long haul, you’ll be happier.
Atheists understand that you don’t have to die having lived a horrible life, to experience hell. Hell exists right here on earth. But, so does Paradise.
A person of faith apparently has to die to reach any sort of “Paradise”. An atheist just has to figure out a path — a way to get from where they are to wherever Paradise is. Or paradise. Same difference to an atheist.
Knowing that paradise is a viable destination? That’s how hope begins.