I empathize with those that think life without a god is purposeless.
After months of study, and absorbing every item from books, or articles, or conversations that my mind could handle, it was becoming increasing clearer that my belief in God was slipping away. I could not sustain it. I tried avoiding it, praying hours on end, reading, not reading, reaching for every avenue of escape I could find. Rather than the problems resolving themselves, the problems compounded. More and More and More.
While still retaining a belief in God, (although no longer the God of my youth) I saw the inevitability of the path before me. Unless a miracle occurred, I could only land in agnosticism. (Atheism was incomprehensible.) I became despondent.
It felt like a doctor informing me the only way to live was to operate; amputating both my legs. The reality was resignation to a bitter result. Or being informed that I had lost all finances, and would never, ever own more than $100 to my name, no matter how hard I strived, or saved or no matter what I did. I figured, without God, I would no longer have purpose. No afterlife. No moral grounding. No interaction with happy believers. I truly expected, within a few months, to be an agnostic doomed to depression for the rest of my life.
Yet because it was reality, my mind could only accept the evidence. One morning (I remember it well) I looked in the mirror, and after taking a deep breath, expelled, “I don’t believe in God.” (I still half-expected a lightening bolt to come from the light socket and damn me to hell for such a blasphemous statement. This wasn’t doubt. This wasn’t question. This was my willfully ceasing forcing my brain to accept something it could no longer.)
I went to work, waiting for the depression to arrive. Nothing. In fact, I still thought about my wife, and children, and what I needed to do for them. What I needed to help out around the house. Thought about work and what needed to be done. That evening, I felt a little guilty for not being depressed by now. Maybe my faith was never that strong? Maybe I secretly never wanted to be a Christian? Shouldn’t I be depressed by now?
As the weeks went by, I kept waiting for the monster to strike. Surely at some point, the realization of what I had done would crash into my head, driving me into a deep melancholy. Actually, I was getting happier and happier! I continued to discuss theism, but no longer did I have to justify things that didn’t make sense. I could use my brain, my logic, my reason freely without limitation. I could state, “I don’t know” and it was a relief, not a feeling of failure. It was recognition of my human limitation, and that I was doing the best I can with what I have. I was not “letting down” some God because of an inadequacy.
I found myself enjoying humans MORE than I had before! Amazing! I could recognize their faults and mistakes and think, “Hey. I make mistakes, too. They are doing the best then can with what they have, just like me.” Rather than worrying about how to “love my neighbor” and balance loving my wife, my children, my family, a job and social life, I could focus on the thing before me, whatever it was, and not worry about what I should be doing. There are only so many hours in the day, and I can only do so much.
I found more purpose in life than I ever had before! Rather than live the best I could, in the hopes of eventual reward, I squeeze the most I can out of every minute I have left, whether it is one or millions. Enjoy life!
When I could no longer hold onto agnosticism, and became an atheist, I went with bounding step. I now knew that such changes in belief were not recipes for depression. Such changes are warranted by the increase in information, and modification of belief, based upon that new information.
Was it all laughs and giggles? No. There was a time, after deconverting, that I missed theism. I didn’t give up a belief I had held for 32+ years with just a snap of my finger. There were some relationships lost. Some feelings hurt. Some words shared that hurt. Plenty of occasions where doubt snuck in—was I doing the right thing? But unlike the doubt of Christianity, where it took effort and time and prayer to quash it; this doubt seemed to vanish as quickly as it came. All it took was a second’s review of the study I had done, and “Ah. That’s right. 1000’s of questions with no answers.”
To any theist that feels life without a god is purposeless, I know exactly how you feel. I wish there was some window, some test that you could review my brain and see that I felt the exact same way. It is a valid perspective that cannot be debated away with mere words. I wish, equally, there was a way in which you could walk in my shoes, just for a day, with the knowledge there is no god and see how purposeful life is. How releasing it is to recognize humanity and its potential.
But I can’t. So most times I don’t bother sharing this. Theists can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it when I went through it, how could others? No sense saying it—wasted words. It is a path that one must take, and learn, on their own.