Often we are confronted by people who are aghast at the notion of no after-life. No God. “How can you have any meaning to your life?” they wail.
To be honest, I do not recall the idea of “meaning” as even crossing my mind during my deconversion. (Lo, these two years hence.) At that time I was struggling with even the notion there was no Christian God, or if there was a God what it looked like, and if I picked the wrong one what the consequences would be.
Probably the closest I ever came to being concerned about losing my “meaning” in life, is my fear of getting the wrong “meaning.” What if I picked wrong and it turned out that the “meaning” in my life was to give some God glory by eternally roasting? Yikes!
But I never remember a moment of saying, “Gee, if I head down this path I will lose some ultimate meaning.”
As humans, we are so focused on our lives. I am at that stage where I am worried about daughter’s dating, future college expenses, house repairs, retirement, children activities, and whether I will retain enough hair to give it a chance to go gray before falling out.
My friends with their theistic belief, with their “ultimate meaning” have the same concerns and focus as I do. They are just as worried about their kids. About their jobs. About their marriages.
See, even with some “ultimate meaning” we have to live in the here and now. We have to replace the old tires on our vehicle, visit the doctor when we are sick, and treat our spouse to an occasional special dinner. We live.
It has been my experience that most people are not devoting much time, if any, to the concern of some ultimate meaning, or grand purpose in their life. Only in internet debates, or perhaps the rare occasion by being confronted with an individual that is unconvinced of any after-life, does the thought even seriously cross most people’s minds. At best, it is a “someday something will happen” passing reflection.
While there have been suggestions that atheists should kill themselves, I think (I hope) most theists understand that just because we are unconvinced anything happens post-mortem, does not mean we cannot enjoy life now, and therefore we are squeezing every bit of meaning out of it as possible.
However, I have noticed a change within me. I have gained a sense of urgency that I did not have before. Unwittingly, I had “settled.” I had relaxed into a position that someday, somehow, I will have time to resolve any outstanding issues. When all of eternity stretched before me—was it really that important I attempt to heal every relationship possible? Here on earth, there were only so many hours in a day, but someday, in heaven, we could spend hours and hours sorting out our difficulties, and spend the next billion years or so, laughing away.
Further, I had someone watching out over me. If I screwed it up, God could step in and fix the problem. Without my even knowing it. If I inadvertently stepped on someone’s toes, God could come up behind and give the person a pat on the back—making it all go away.
I lost both of those concepts. I no longer have the luxury of time. No longer can “someday” be the day in which I repair a friendship, heal a wound, or hug a friend. No longer do I have the Great Unraveler to restore the harms I clumsily inflict. Nope. That all falls on me. To do now.
Too many prayers have gone unanswered. Too many times Christians believe they have received a “no” from God, and are waiting on God’s timing. Too many people are relying on too much time, and some other personage to do what they should be doing.
Look, if you believe in some Ultimate Meaning, some Grand Purpose in Life, because of a God, or an after life—great! But at the moment, you are living here. Now. And there are plenty of issues, plenty of problems, plenty of joys and plenty of moments of meanings that can be relished, experienced and reveled in.
What would the world look like, if rather than resting on some Ultimate Eventuality, we all set that aside, and considered living?