View Full Version : Atheism and Depression. Please Help.


EllaRio
03-05-12, 02:16 AM
Hi.
I think I am depressed. Scratch that - I think I have depression. I have a bad and empty feeling that hurts my heart so badly. It doesn't seem logical and I want it to go away NOW.

I've been sad a lot in my life, but normally over things that will change eventually, things I can do something about. I had a difficult childhood, particularly my teenage years, and I used to cut myself and cry a lot and all of that business. But I never considered myself as someone that "has depression", just someone that gets depressed because of the situations I was in, and my naturally dark and self-critical personality.

Now I think I might have a new type of depression. It's an unwanted, growing feeling of hopelessness. I feel like I'm not myself. It's like I can FEEL a chemical imbalance. But I haven't had this particular kind of depression...ever? In a long time? I can't remember?

I'm an atheist, because I believe in science and things that can be tested and proven. I've been an educated atheist for a couple years now, and I really know my stuff. If you want to argue logic, I'm your girl.
But lately I've been dwelling on the idea that there really is no point in our existence. There is no point to my existence, and the moment I die, everything I am will be gone forever. I have a sense of loss at losing myself. I will lose myself and become nothing someday. And that is the truth. That is not something I can change.

My boyfriend is an atheist and none of this bothers him at all. I blame my very religious upbringing that made me believe (for 18 years) that after I die I'll get to live in paradise for all of eternity (unless I believe in the wrong god, or don't think there are any gods, and then I'd be tortured in flames for all of eternity - but god loves you. ha.)

It's making me depressed. I have a stressful but fulfilling life. I have a lot to live for. And I want to live. I just want to live forever. And I have a really hard time understanding the point of working yourself to the bone for 80 years (if you're lucky) to accumulate all of these things, and surround yourself with people you love, only to lose it all. We don't get to keep any of it.

The sun is going to explode in 5 billion years and the human race will be extinct. All traces of our existence will be completely wiped out. Completely. And in our place will be something cold and lifeless. Everything we worked for will be gone. All happiness experienced by humans will be gone. We just will not exist. I can't be the only one whose mind is COMPLETELY blown by this fact.

I hate Christianity for teaching me that I can live forever. Because of course, I can't. You can't. There is no magic fairytale land in the sky where a big man somehow has the capacity to love billions of humans in a personal and amazing way (and somehow doesn't have the capability to feed all of the starving children on this earth?) And once my brain stops working, all thoughts will cease, and I will never experience the rarity of being a sentient being in a non-sentient universe. I will never again experience.

Sorry. I know it's dark. I guess I'm hoping someone else has gone through this (kind of a long shot, considering how few atheists are out there) and has come out on the other side happy and content with the way things are. I just need to make peace with the way the universe is and the frailty and impermanence of everything.

Last thing, I'm taking Vyvanse - 60mg. I don't know if it's working the way it should. I'm not sure if I really have ADD or if I'm just *****ing lazy. I don't know, but it feels like this depression thing has gotten slightly worse on Vyvanse. I just don't know because there have been a lot of other things going on in my life as well.

Alright, I'd love replies. I'm pretty desperate here :/

EllaRio

Sandy4957
03-05-12, 02:47 AM
Why does there need to be a point to it all?

Yes, you sound depressed. You can treat it with medication, and over a few months (not instantaneously, but over time) you will have more times where you feel like yourself. Eventually the good days will outnumber the bad ones, and one day you will realize that you made it. (BTW, don't worry that that means that you have to always take medication. I have had two periods of situational depression in my life, and I took medication to help me get through them. But once I was through them, I did not need medication.)

In the meantime, you have to go through the motions. Fake it 'til you make it. Oddly enough, behaving like you are NOT depressed (as in, doing the things that you would do when you feel "normal," like going out with friends, seeing movies, walking around the lakes, etc.) will help you to feel less depressed.

Exercise helps enormously, too. There are some studies that conclude that it works as well or better than the drugs, but it can work in conjunction with them, too.

I had no religious upbringing, and I've never been able to "get" the whole higher-power concept. I don't feel like there are any forces for good or evil out there. And I believe that this is the only ride that we get on the merry go-round. But that's ok. It's a reason to make it a good ride.

I love my work, which is my main contribution to the world. I feel like sometimes I help people. So I feel connected to my clients and my community. I do volunteer work, and I take on people's cases for free, just because that makes me feel connected to others. I don't care that no one will remember me for very long when I am gone. Because there were people who helped me when I needed it. And they will likely go unremembered except by me.

But that's enough.

D3s0xyn
03-05-12, 02:50 AM
Sounds like you might be having an existential crisis; it will pass.

It may be hard to see it now, but you can make your life have meaning. Questions like whether life has meaning or not, cannot be answered, so there is no point obsessing. Go out and have fun, embrace your hobbies and see how the world has meaning.

I too am an atheist, and can relate to what you're saying. It will pass.

EllaRio
03-05-12, 03:02 AM
I like what you have to say. Thanks for responding.

Your suggestion of Fake it 'till you make it seems like a good one. I really hope that if I just try to forget about this phase and ignore it as much as possible that it will go away. I guess some people will say that I need to talk about my feelings, but the more I think about it, the worse I feel (also, here's me talking about them). It's all about those negative downward spirals.

Yes, doing "normal" things, like hanging out with people and seeing movies does make me feel better, but that is mainly because I'm completely distracted from the thoughts I have.

I think my new mantra should be "But that's enough". That has inspired me. I will tell myself that this life is enough. I want to feel better so badly, and I don't really want to take drugs for it. I'm not against it, I'm just a little afraid of it. I'm just now trying out ADD drugs and I still get a little freaked about it. Some people say that it will change your brain for the rest of your life. And I don't want that. Unless it makes me better? But yeah, I'm just now trying this out, so I'm not really willing to go for two at once.

I don't want to be someone who gets depressed every year or every couple of months or every november. I want to be stable and secure in myself and bright and positive. I want to be healthy. I want to know why I'm like this. Someday maybe.

Thanks for your thoughts.

EllaRio
03-05-12, 03:09 AM
D3s0xyn, (http://www.addforums.com/forums/member.php?u=60456)

Yes I think it is definitely an existential crisis.
I definitely subscribe to the belief that humans can give our own lives meaning, and that is the beauty of consciousness. I certainly believe that my life has meaning and that I can give it a lot of meaning.
My problem is definitely more of a feeling of loss. Death seems way too close. Or I guess a better way to put it is life seems too short. The thought "I will someday cease to exist. I will someday be nothing, and experience nothing," feels like a shocking revelation every time I think about it.

But yeah...fun. I'm going to try and just let it go.

From the two of you I have gotten:

"It will pass."

and

"But that's enough."

I'm putting it on a whiteboard. In my mind. But maybe tomorrow I will put them on my wall somewhere or on an actual whiteboard. Down to earth, real words of wisdom.

RedJosh
03-05-12, 03:39 AM
Well, you do sound desperate - I know because I've been through this. This is going to be slightly long so: A) Understand that I'm quite well-educated and I'm not just talking out of my *** here, B) A lot of things here are just personal theories that work for me, they might not have scientific evidence to back them up, but they work for me, so to me they are as good as facts - just subjective ones, C) forgive any missing words, that's just ADHD without meds working its magic.

1. Why are we here?

We are here because our parents are compelled to procreate and produce another living being with part of their genes. Our life, and the life of our descendants are all thanks to that urge, that drive to pass on their genes on the part of our ancestors. That's why life is this diverse. Coldly put, we are here for selfish reasons - the innate desire to remain around, even if it's just some parts of you, and not all of you. Even if you don't get to live forever, at least a few of your genes will.

That gives our life a meaning - at least instinctively speaking.

2. Why people believe in religions?

Because well, they give us a chance to either go to heaven and live forever, or be reborn and live again. That's the jest of Abrahamic and Brahmic religions. One provides you eternal life in heaven, the other provides you eternal life through rebirths.

This is not a new concept. In the Ancient Egyptian religion, when you died and finally made it to the last goddess of the pantheon, she would weigh your heart on a scale. If it was lighter than a feather, you would get to live in the Valley of Reeds - the Egyptian version of heaven. If it weighed more - as in you were a terrible person -, a giant chimera type animal would eat your soul and you would cease to exist!

That is the oldest recorded religion we have around - I've studied it extensively and trust me when I say this, Judaism and Christianity and Islam by proxy are all very closely related to it - some say may have even evolved from it.

Even in that religion, the greatest reward is um.. eternal life. :) We love life and want to cling onto it! Just like the biological reasons, even in the spiritual sense, we would like to live forever, somehow... even if it's our soul and not our flesh!

This gives our death a meaning.

3. Why is atheism problematic for new atheists?

It basically puts you on the spot. On the one hand, you are here biologically for stupid reasons - you with all your beauty, complexity yadda yadda yadda are just here to ***** and make babies and raise them so they could have more babies so when you die, a part of you lives on. I mean, how stupid is that, no?

Spiritually, you are doomed, too. There is nothing to look forward to. Yer dead. The End. Kapeesch! NADA!

---

So both ways, you're screwed. Your life means nothing! Your death means nothing! That IS a terrifying prospect. I mean, one day, everything makes sense. You are to study, make babies, raise them, see them grow up, make more babies, live a happy life; when you die, you live again, and you can have more fun. Next day, everything is meaningless.

There is a feeling of emptiness and it's justified. It's not so much as fright that you must worry about. Emotionally and psychologically, you are having a tough time reconciling both your genes and yourself with the new found reality that you can neither fulfill their needs nor your owns.

But there's a cure for that - both a non-meaningful one and a meaningful one.

Ever wondered why so many atheists are really good people? I'm not saying that religious people are a**holes. What I'm saying is that percentage-wise, you'll find far more atheists who are willing to put themselves out there and try to relieve misery than there are religious people. Just look at the Middle East and then look at the West. If you are as well-informed as you sound, I don't need to explain further.

Personally, this is how I coped with all of this:

Okay, my life means nothing to my genes anymore. I'm not here to ****, make babies in hopes that a small part of my body will keep going. That's a fact. But what else is also a fact is that I'm in a unique position to actually make my life mean something by helping other people who are in dire need of help. Why not devote my life to relieving other people's misery?

You don't want to go work in a soup kitchen? Fine. Study something that will enable you to help others. Not something that will accumulate more wealth for you. :) That'll just depress you further because you won't be able to take any of your wealth with you!

I did that. I think I'm helping people with what I do right now. I feel appreciated by people around me. I feel like my life means something not because I'm passing on my genes, but because I can see myself making the world a better place. In 200 years when my bones are dust, some of the work I'm doing today - even minimally - would matter. Maybe it won't be attributed to me - but exactly how many ancestors of yours whose genes you have in your body are remembered for having that drunken *****fest that resulted in your birth?

I KNOW I'm making a difference. I KNOW my life means something. I don't need someone reading my name in Wikipedia in 500 years to feel fulfilled now. I already know my life means something.

Next time you help a lady carry her books outta the library, or pay a buck or two to the homeless guy laying out in the street, look in their eyes - you will see meaning to your life - right there; in their eyes! What I see is a sense of connection with everyone around me. I don't feel like I'm just one guy with a set of genes, desperately trying to pass them on so a a few of them might live in another dude who might end up butchering millions of people. I feel like I'm part of a large mass, trying to make sure that no just I, but everyone gets to enjoy everything that I love and enjoy - freedom, food, water, sleep, relief from depression? :)

That's cure for meaning/selfishness as it relates to the biological issue.


As for death... well, no one's gonna live forever. I'm going to die some day anyway. Where will I go? I think I'm gonna go exactly where I came from before I was born. I don't remember any pain from before I was born. Must not be a bad place?

I'm a bit weird like that. I think if we live in a multi-verse, which I strongly suspect, the possibility that another being with the same configuration as my body - EXACT same number of atoms even - might end up living again. Maybe I'll live again - BRING IT ON! :) If not, so what?

I don't care if I live forever or not. What difference does it make? It's a biological thing. I know the reason I want to live forever is not because it means anything in terms of quality. It's just my genes, trying to compel me to try and live forever. It's all just biological, scientific.

In truth, living forever might end up being a bit boring. I mean, gee, how long before you're like, "That was the five hundred and seventy million six hundred and seventy eight thousand nine hundred and ninty third cupcake I've consumed throughout my existence! Is there anything else?!"

Your genes want you to live forever so they can keep diversifying the world with more animals. But if you and I die - after living a long, fruitful life where we've helped others as much as we could have - there'll be more room for more life to come about and enjoy the same things we enjoyed.

Which brings us to the most important part!

What atheism really gave me is an appreciation of who I am. I belong here. I came off this planet. This is home. When I die, I'll just mix back into the same soil. My existence will help spawn more life.

Actually, life on earth will cease to exist in about 1 billion years, since all sun-like stars usually expand after a certain time. It will expand enough in that amount of time to boil away all our oceans and vaporize all organic life-forms. That's 4 billion years before it enlarges to the point where its surface will be somewhere around Jupiter.

Then, it will shed most of the outer layers and become a white dwarf and exist for perhaps trillions of years. Maybe it will be engulfed by a dust cloud and the remnants of our solar system will become parts of another star? Who knows. The cycle will continue here as it continues in other universes in the multi-verse. :P

I'd like to think our descendants will leave this planet and colonize other planets. They, too, will in the end have to all die in trillions of years when our universe reaches a state of maximum entropy. Then, it might get engulfed by a larger universe and the material in it get reused? Who knows.

The point is: you're here. You have a wonderful world right here at your reach. Why not explore it? Why not enjoy its beauty while you can?

That's what being an atheist gave me: a renewed appreciation of the beauty and wonders that surround me and a drive to explore + motivation to not look at my life as selfish jerk, but as a conduit through which things could be improved for others.

I'm going to go out and smoke a cigarette right now and gaze at the stars and appreciate the beauty of the tree that is growing outside my house while feeling slightly content that I spent 20 minutes of my life trying to help another being in distress. Not only does my life have a meaning, my death has a meaning, too. :) Maybe I help you, you help someone else, that someone else helps someone else... think about it? If we all did that, wouldn't things be so much better for so many people who're otherwise living miserable lives because so many of us ONLY care about making sure a few copies of their genes survive and that they make it to some imaginary place by oppressing women, children, religious minorities - you name it?

In short, now that you've learned that making useless copies of your genes is b.s. and that there's no big joojoo in the sky to make you live forever, help others and enjoy life. It's the only one you're going to get; but you don't need to live forever to have fun and feel fulfilled. :)

Peace

RedJosh
03-05-12, 03:41 AM
And one last thing:

It takes time. Took me a bit; it happens to everyone. Just take your time with it. You'll come out of it much stronger and ready to deal with things like this. There's always support. You are not alone in this. :)

Fuzzy12
03-05-12, 06:49 AM
Ella, I can so relate. I've got exactly the same problem. I'm an atheist too but not only do I not believe in god but I don't really believe in anything at all. I'm not sure if there is any kind of meaning or purpose out there but I think, there is no way of knowing for sure. Since it's unlikely that I'll ever figure it out it's as good as there not being any meaning at all.

Which direction do you take when each direction seems equally meaningless?

Yes, I can find little goals in my life, like helping others, trying to experience and see as much as I can, trying to learn as much as I can, etc. but ultimately I believe that none of these mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

I don't like this nihilistic viewpoint but it's the only one that makes sense to me. And yes, it is depressing and it is scary. Humans have evolved I think to believe (and to want to believe) that we matter, that life, the universe, everything matters. If they didn't, there would be no progress and very little life. So it is disturbing when our ego is faced with the fact that we don't really matter, that nothing we do (or anyone else does) is of any consequence, that all of this is just really nothing.

I'm sorry, I don't have any advice. I don't know how to make it better. There is always the possibility that we are wrong and that with understanding and knowledge perhaps some day we will be able to make sense of our life, the world, the universe, everything. I'm not sure. I think, it's unlikely but it's possible.

When I was younger (before the depression hit) I used to find comfort in the thought that nothing matters. Absolute nihilism, means absolute freedom. I mean, emotional freedom. If nothing truly matters, then you can do whatever you want and live however you want (subject to physical restraints) but as I'm getting older I realise that this freedom is meaningless too.

Sandy4957
03-05-12, 01:07 PM
Ella,

I want to refine my "fake it 'til you make it" advice a little here, because I don't really mean that you should do this:

I really hope that if I just try to forget about this phase and ignore it as much as possible that it will go away.

Trying to ignore how you feel and "put on a happy face" will (well, ok, how about "can"?) isolate you and cause you feel more disconnected and ultimately, worse. It's especially important that you not try to appear ok to your closest family or friends, because you need their support and comfort. What I meant really had more to do with behavior than feelings.

So you're on the couch, let's say, and your friends want to go see a movie. You don't feel like it. You feel like being alone. You are irritable. You don't want to go, and every bone in your body says, "don't go."

My point is, ignore your bones there, because they're incorrect. If you go, and you are "present" with your friends (as in, not faking it, and really connecting with them, hearing their problems, as well as your own, sharing in their triumphs, having them connect with you, too, and maybe hold your hand or give you a hug), you will feel better.

So that's what I meant. A big piece of depression is feeling isolated from others, disconnected rather than connected. Some people overcome that by feeling connected to a higher power. That never works for me. So I feel connected to people, if that makes sense.

And I'm gonna nudge you just a little bit to consider medication. Because here's the thing: you're into science, so you can hear this a little. Sometimes your brain can go out of whack. Why? No one knows. But when it does, your levels of certain chemicals (I don't even know what they're called, but they're not even just neurotransmitters; they're something more basic) drop, with the result that you build fewer neural connections than when you are healthy. One result is that you are unable to establish new neural pathways, which allow you to see your way out of the hole that you are in.

One way that anti-depressants work is by increasing certain neurotransmitters, which can help you feel a little better. But you won't feel "happy happy joy joy," as Tigger would put it. You'll just feel less like you're in a black hole. Apparently another thing that anti-depressants can do is boost the levels of these chemicals, which allows new neural pathways to develop, and then you start to see a way out.

That process takes about three months, in my experience. And in the meantime, you need to have enough positive energy to be able to "fake it," and to go about your day. That's where the drugs come in.

If you are adamant that you won't try them, then I suggest MASSIVE amounts of exercise. Pick up a book called "Spark" by John Ratey, M.D., and you'll see why I say you want to exercise in large amounts. By "large amounts," I mean you want to get in somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour's worth of exercise per day. That can be mostly walking, but you want to add in a few short bursts of intense exercise, so running some sprints or what have you.

But if you were my buddy, and I saw you like this, I'd be doing all of the following: 1) making you take a shower because it always works to help me feel less lethargic; 2) dragging you off to see a therapist/psychiatrist so that you can get a little help with perspective and/or maybe medication; 3) dragging you out for long walks and a few short runs; and 4) listening to you talk about your worries and telling you that it will be ok, just hang in there for a while longer and it will improve, just not instantaneously.

It's the expectation that you can ignore it and "snap out of it," that can really set you up for failure and therefore make you feel worse instead of better. You won't snap out of it, but you will get through it.

And when you come out the end of it, here's the thing: you'll know that you're stronger than you thought you were, and you'll be more resilient for the next go around. You'll also have considerably more empathy for other people who are struggling, and that can help you "connect" with people even better than you did before.

I was more depressed during my first go around. More hopeless as you describe. My second go around, I was angry at the people who caused it, because there were people who did. In the end, I probably should have been angry the first time, too, but the people who caused it were my family, and it was harder to be angry with them then. I probably transferred that onto the second group, who I merely thought of as family.

If I ever have a third go around (and I can't imagine now what would trigger it, but probably the death of someone very close to me), I am pretty confident that I'll know how to power through it better than I did in the previous two.

Oh, and in terms of timelines. My first bout of depression probably started at 17, I was treated at 22, and it ended at 22-23. My second started at 42, I was treated right away, and it ended at 44. By "ended," I mean that there came a point where I could no longer imagine what it felt like to be as down as I had been. There was significant improvement within six months, though, in both cases.

So it can happen, but it takes time. And you'll need help to get through the recovery period, if that makes sense.

Amtram
03-05-12, 03:08 PM
I spent a good deal of my life in search of something that would be a good spiritual fit, and the more I learned about various religious philosophies, the more anxious I felt about living my life around a set of behaviors that might or might not reward me or punish me some time after there would be nothing I could do about it, and not getting any tangible verification that I was on the right track. Compared to that, thinking that this life is all there is gives me nothing but warm fuzzies!

That being said, it means that what you have right here and now is what you're going to get, so make it the best it can be. You don't need to think about what your "purpose" is in the greater scheme of things - there's no way to figure that out - so you can make your own purpose. Or several purposes. Or none at all. And you'll know if that's right by how contented and satisfied it makes you feel. (If it doesn't, time to figure out a new purpose!)

And THAT being said, you will not appreciate your here and now if you're overwhelmed with depression. Depression is highly comorbid with ADD, so it wouldn't be surprising if you needed antidepressants to go with your stimulant. If you want to try therapy first, then go for that, but don't waste any more of your precious time worrying about something you don't know and can't change when you can make changes to what you do know.

tipoo
03-05-12, 04:02 PM
Have you talked to your doctor about the medicine making your depression worse? Maybe a dose adjustment is in order, or maybe a different medicine would be better for you.

I went through that existential trap too, I still think about it sometimes and feel angst but for the most part am past it, my mind just doesn't seem compatible with religion so I didn't find refuge there but I guess you just sort of realize the rarity of life makes it more worth living, not less.

Pansie
03-05-12, 09:29 PM
Having no life after death doesn't make life meaningless, it makes it meaningful. You have to create your own destiny and life each day the way you want. However you can't do that when you're depressed, so getting treatment for your depression is at the top of your things to do to make life a great experience.

If I can die knowing that I left this world even a tiny bit better than when I arrived, I can't ask for any more.

Lillianmay
03-06-12, 06:44 PM
You do sound like you have depression and it might be chemically caused but it seems to be made worse by a crisis in what you believe in.

Sometimes people have a crisis in their life when their system of beliefs (which can be a system of non belief too) doesn’t match their experiences in life.

Because of ADHD and some other things this challenge hit me in my teens. I had to grow my faith up from my childhood faith to a more mature faith (I am a believer so I won’t go through my personal story). For an atheist, I guess the same sort of thing can happen. Something in your life experience is not syncing with your beliefs. Maybe you need a more mature form of atheism or even to take some time to study other ideas.

Some of the arguments that support atheism are not firm. There is the argument of the evils done by countries in the name of religion, and the counter to that argument is countries like Tibet. There is the Science vs. Religion argument, countered by such men as Francis Collins (Human Genome Project) and even Einstein. To be a mentally healthy believer or non-believer, a person has to have reasons for believing or not that have some firm foundation.

A wise friar once told me that every belief system should be evaluated on the basis of the best members of that system, not the worst. So, if I were to advise anyone going through a crisis of their beliefs, I would tell them to study the best examples of their belief system, but also to question it. You said your belief (in non-belief) was based on science, so read some of the great scientist, both who believe and don’t believe. Look for thoughtful reasons to follow a way of thinking, not as a reaction to your upbringing and not one that lacks tolerance.

Amtram
03-07-12, 01:34 PM
That's not really helpful, I'm afraid. I can't imagine what would comprise a "more mature" atheism. Except, perhaps, when you get to the point that you are so involved in being alive every moment that the existence of other beliefs that try to move your focus away from that become completely inconsequential. Being in the moment is one of the most fulfilling sensations I can imagine, and it doesn't happen if you're worried about the future.

TheChemicals
03-07-12, 03:08 PM
Oh the irony of atheism and its logical end in 5 billion yrs when the sun burns out versus burning in hell for eternity. Let's be logical to say that atheism and agnostics is inherently teaching some form of hopelessness or in the least.... Nothing you could cheer about....or nothing to look forward to.
I chose shamanism and what I feel in my heart and right now my heart wants to go get a sammich. Feeling better already.

Lillianmay
03-07-12, 05:41 PM
Living in the moment is a good way to say, “Don’t have regrets about a past you can’t change or be over anxious about an unknown future.” But what if the moment you are living in is pretty painful and you know the next bunch of moments you are about to be living in are going to be pretty painful too? (For example, you wake up in a hospital with half a leg blown off from a roadside bomb, the doctor just said the word “terminal”, the person who has your heart just walked out the door and is not coming back.)

When that happens, a person needs a philosophy, belief system, faith, or whatever that is going to hold together. Otherwise you end up drinking away the pain (remember Lt. Dan) or taking a header off a bridge or just becoming numb to life. So, your belief system has to be founded on something that can handle the pain.

I am not out to convert the OP because that’s not my job. My job is not to be a stumbling block to people searching. Since the OP is an atheist, her search will start there. I don’t know where it will end – again, that’s not my job. It is her search.

Amtram
03-08-12, 11:06 AM
Not necessarily. Some people might turn to a philosophy or belief system for emotional support or sustenance, and that's fine for them. However, it's simply not the case for everyone. I'm one of millions of happy atheists, and you may have met a bunch of us and just never knew. It may be difficult for people with a belief system to conceive of, but a lack of belief has its own kind of comfort and happiness as well. The OP's anxiety is not coming from a lack of belief, but a fear of the unknown factors that are part and parcel of belief. In a case like that, believing more is counterproductive.

Hypoactive
03-08-12, 03:11 PM
[quote=EllaRio;1266533]lately I've been dwelling on the idea that there really is no point in our existence. There is no point to my existence, and the moment I die, everything I am will be gone forever. I have a sense of loss at losing myself. I will lose myself and become nothing someday. And that is the truth. That is not something I can change.[quote]

been there/done that --

i think most people have similar thoughts and feelings from time to time. however, if you're dwelling on the subject constantly, to the point where life is no longer enjoyable, you've got depression. stimulants are notorious for causing depression in some individuals...the higher the dose, the greater the risk. i'd talk to your doctor about it asap.

Lillianmay
03-08-12, 04:02 PM
Amtram, I never suggested you or other atheists aren’t happy. When I say “belief system”, I am including atheism. I said so in my first post. It is a system of what you believe, which in your case, you believe there is no God. This thread isn’t about you. It’s about the OP who is worried about depression and mentioning her atheism and uses the words “Please help” and “I’m pretty desperate”.

I didn’t tell her to go get religion. She likes science and logic, so I said start there and read what scientist, atheist scientist have to say. If she still feels lost, then maybe she would want to read something by scientist who believe. It’s her choice and just a suggested next step. I am sure she is a big girl and can throw out crappy advice.

She does seem to be in pain, and her atheism isn’t sustaining her right now. That is not to say it can’t. It sustains you, but maybe her pain is about something that wouldn’t bother you.

Amtram, your experience with spirituality was one that made you anxious about your behavior and if it would pass the bar. For me it is the opposite. I am an ADHDer whose days are filled with mistakes - from ADHD and from just being human. My “behavior” fortunately is not what being a believer is about – except maybe in the belief that I am loved and have value no matter how much I mess up.

Right now I am not in school and can’t manage a job. I use resources, but contribute nothing scientifically proven or measurable to society. I don’t even want to think about what that says about my value as a person from a purely logical point of view.

SB_UK
03-09-12, 10:44 AM
But lately I've been dwelling on the idea that there really is no point in our existence. There is no point to my existence, and the moment I die, everything I am will be gone forever. I have a sense of loss at losing myself. I will lose myself and become nothing someday. And that is the truth. That is not something I can change.

This very thought is the one I use to remain sane.

It's comforting.

I can describe why in more detail, if you like.

To really understand why, though - you need to have reached the stage where you're filled with moral outrage at pretty much every action you see human beings make.

Listen to people on the bus - life appears, for the many, to be an exercise in worship of anti-social goals -
an exercise in uncovering that next fix -

- to buy that red jumper in the expensive designer shop, for one's favoured football team to win their next match, for Jim to be at the pub tomorrow night ... ... ...

It really wears you out.

Perhaps we're the generation lost in the transition of the species from its current worthless aspirations to something worthwhile.

The route to something worthwhile is encoded in religion - though, with all of the various false prophets out there seeking to bask in the reflected glory, gain credibility from religion -

you'll have your job cut out - discovering exactly what that message is.

'Back to the garden'

Kurian
03-12-12, 11:56 PM
Dear,

I have spent 12 years in this hell -me depressed & fighting my devoutly religious family. Finally came to these conclusions based on years of research & toiling:

1. Existential angst(searching for a meaning) is the deadliest virus
While asking the question was your job & is the right thing, needing an answer is not.
"sea squirt that hatches with a rudimentary spinal cord and 300 brain cells. It has only hours to find a spot of coral on which to put down roots or die. When it does put down roots, it eats its brain."
Negative people put a mental block on you all the time by constricting you in the cage of no-answer questions. Even philosophers & scientists admit that the biggest questions about the universe may never be solved. Why should everything in the universe have a meaning? Does it owe a meaning to anyone? why? Thats what we scientists ask you. Philosophy's branch Existentialism- The meaning of the universe was for you to exist.

2. Thinking about the meaning of life will not solve or produce anything.
Good scientists will tell you, discoveries & inventions are never achieved by people driven by meaning of life question but rather by love for job.

3. As an extremist atheist, you don't have to discard religion altogether.
Atheism version 2.0. Religion is merely -1.Self help literature 2.Political representation. The difference between successful & unsuccessful religious person is that they know & use this secret while a religious nut is someone who thinks of it as true. Religion is successful because of these two things are actually good for you. If you treat religion as just literature & your political representation & just let others be, you will live happily. My Atheism extreme although should not be a source of anxiety. Harmonize with religion & realize the 2% goodness & use it to be happy. Be happy with religious folk, don't lose touch. You cannot convert people to atheism one on one. Atheism never happened one on one. (Its not religious business, doesnt offer & sell you anything. join & you get this...) Its a world view learning process, so be kind & dont dump your knowledge truck on people who werent able to afford this learning. This will bring happiness to you & the world.

4. Loving arguments with people is a sign of lack of control over your life which you are trying to compensate.
You suffer from low self confidence & arguing satisfies for a second. So gain more & more control in your life & get more achievements to give you confidence to do more.

5. Love what is.
Stop seeking approval & instead start judging people. Get more friends. Get involved.

6. Growth is the meaning of life.
The whole body is constantly regrowing its cells or it will die of having more of its cells dead than regrown. My parents destroyed their lives searching for it in religion & now when they are old they regret that their materialist peers have happier lives.

7. Anxiety is increased by ADHD medications.
Maybe your problem is an anxiety disorder like O.C.P.D or perfectionism where people dont perform due to need for perfection rather than laziness. read book - 'Too perfect'

8. Afraid of being happy.
Was so comfortable in that hurtful state. Get out of your comfort zone.

9. Exercise rigorously.
It magically solved all my chemical imbalances. Latest research shows brain plasticity. It changes all the time.

10. It looks you have pattern of intrusive thoughts.
Some people get a short circuit in the fear centre of the brain, so they start fearing useless things. Change mental state by watching inspiring videos on youtube or watch action movies.

11. Narcisstic Personality Disorder -at least a little!
NPD people are obsessed with self meaning. Stop being detached from the world in the name of having superior meaning than them. Nothing that you know or own has been invented by you. You are merely standing on the shoulders of others. You are worried about not doing anything because it will be erased. So lets suppose you did create the biggest thing on the planet & became the biggest in history. The sun will eventually engulf earth & no records left. Stop feeding the ego which you learnt & dont be like me & other losers who achieved nothing in life just because that's all they thought & did. The biggest movers & shakers in the world were people who did it for others.

Candlewax
03-13-12, 11:42 AM
Check out the book The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. It talks about exactly this. It's a pretty thin book too.

SB_UK
03-15-12, 05:08 AM
I'm an atheist, because I believe in science and things that can be tested and proven. I've been an educated atheist for a couple years now, and I really know my stuff.

The educated mind cannot see any evidence of God - and so atheism can beckon.

Religion though, is to be found, in the mechanism of transcending the mind.

What does that mean ?

It means arriving at a state in which the mind has no further questions which it demands that the individual answers - and grants the individual parole from its incessant chattering.

The connection to Transcendental Meditation.

The point is (in a sense) to kill off the mind, by identifying any logical inconsistencies within it and rationalising them away.

What does an individual with a mind which has been {rationalised, dissociated, killed off, dissociated from} do ?
Anything that an individual who hasn't.

It's the relationship to the mind which changes; the individual discards the label (I am an X, Y, Z) and switches to - X, Y, Z are necessary for group welfare and so should be applied.

The issue, though, is that we find that many of the labels which an individual carries - (for instance the need to be a supporter of a specific football team, to be associated with a religious group or political persuasion are lost)
- though that doesn't mean that the individual loses interest in the underlying social meaning to sport, religion and politics
- that is -
- of their need for reasons of aerobic fitness, as a collection of paths - which together define a beginning and an end to mind, and as a methodology for maximising species cohesion (Libertarian socialism), respectively.

The switch is in emphasis - on transcending the human mind - from a 'selfish' to a 'social' model of living.
The self (I support Manchester United, I am a Catholic, I am a Socialist) is discarded for a mind which takes the individual's perspective into a rational, social arena.

There is no benefit to the species in being a suporter of a particular football team, religion or political group
- especially where (as occurs) - ideology is thrown out the window for
- the simple desire for supremacy (victory in competition irregardless) over opposing ideologies.

To be on the winning side.

To be on the winning side (and not to do what's right for current and future generation's wellbeing) is the hole (original sin) which we're born into
- out of which we're required to climb, in order to make a 'go' of things down here.

Sandy4957
03-15-12, 06:25 AM
SB, you never disappoint. :)

SB_UK
03-15-12, 09:47 AM
SB, you never disappoint. :)

Playing currently !

Seagull, you fly across the horizon
Into the misty morning sun
Nobody asks you where you are going,
Nobody knows where you're from

Here is a man asking the question
Is this really the end of the world?
Seagull, you must have known for a long time
The shape of things to come

Now you fly, through the sky, never asking why,
And you fly all around till somebody shoots you down.The point is (in a sense) to kill off the mindNever asking why -> Transcending the mind.

to have reached the stage where you're filled with moral outrage at pretty much every action you see human beings make.Till somebody shoots you down -> Our task - to form into a properly social structure so ADDers 'in the moment' are freed from disorder (fear of 'being shot down').

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huK9c7dBi70

EllaRio
03-23-12, 02:55 PM
Hi guys. I'm really sorry that it has taken me this long to respond, but I've been reading all of your posts the whole time. Every single one has been astounding. You are all very intelligent, enlightened people. Some of the posts just took my breath away. I honestly didn't think there would be so many atheists on this site who would be interested in this topic, and it's been really helpful getting outside perspectives on a topic that most people would have no idea how to address.

Firstly, I feel better right now. It took a few weeks to try to make the intrusive thoughts go away. I mostly just tried to stop thinking about it for awhile. I wasn't trying to ignore them necessarily, but trying to admit that I didn't know what to do about them, and I needed time away from then.

I spent that time trying to get my life more organized (I'm in my last semester of college, and I work full-time, and am working on my first album) and the chaos surrounding me was making me miserable. I'm newly diagnosed with ADD so I'm figuring out how to make the medication work best for me. I found out that it doesn't do a whole lot when my life is a mess (my apartment, and my car, and my brain) so I put some serious effort into organization. Since then I've been able to make lists and get more stuff done focus on the slightly more on the down to earth stuff.

In the past few days I've returned to this topic. I think it's safe right now, my brain has returned to a more healthy default and the slightest provocation hopefully won't sent me into a downward spiral.

RedJosh said, "What atheism really gave me is an appreciation of who I am. I belong here. I came off this planet. This is home. When I die, I'll just mix back into the same soil. My existence will help spawn more life."

That helped me so much. A sense of 'home' as an atheist and a naturalist has been really good for my state of mind. I thought of Neil deGrasse Tyson (brilliant atheist, astrophysicist) saying that he wants to be buried instead of cremated, so that the flora and fauna which he has fed upon his whole life can feed on him. It's still a little bit sad to me, but as long as I remind myself with VIGOR that I will not be experiencing 'being dead' and I will not miss this life because I will be DEAD, I feel okay. It's good to give back.

RedJosh also said, "I'd like to think our descendants will leave this planet and colonize other planets. They, too, will in the end have to all die in trillions of years when our universe reaches a state of maximum entropy. Then, it might get engulfed by a larger universe and the material in it get reused? Who knows." Yeah, I hope so too! I've been believing that we don't have the capability to do so, but given the huge time frame, I guess it's possible.

Where RedJosh really got me was in this phrase, "motivation to not look at my life as selfish jerk, but as a conduit through which things could be improved for others." It is here that I see the void that is in my life. I had gone to church my whole life, where people remind you to be good and to be improving yourself (theoretically) and as an atheist, I'm missing that community reinforcement. I do hope to make the world a better place, and I want to start volunteering when I graduate this semester, but it's so easy to forget that it takes effort to be positive and kind and loving. I do believe that the best morality is a morality that makes other people happy. RedJosh said, "I'm going to go out and smoke a cigarette right now and gaze at the stars and appreciate the beauty of the tree that is growing outside my house while feeling slightly content that I spent 20 minutes of my life trying to help another being in distress." You really did help me, thank you.

Sandy 4957, you really helped with the more practical side of shaking off depression. I tried to hang out with my girl friends a little more, and it actually made me feel worlds different while I was with them. And your follow up about what you really meant by fake it 'til you make it was the motivation behind the strategy I used to get through this. Something that you said that really, really resonated with me was the description of anger as a trigger for depression. I think I've been very angry at some things in my past, and it seems to be the foundation on which every little bout of depression is built. Maybe forgiveness is important? I think forgiveness is hard for me, because it's not exactly logical. Why forgive someone who never apologized? But I need to, and I need to stop assuming the worst in others. Maybe the person I'm mad at has apologized to me a million times in their head, but never knew how to actually say it to me. Regardless, I know I can be more in control of my emotions if I let some things go.

Lillianmay, I took your advice and I've returned to some readings of my favorite scientists and atheists, particularly Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Carrier. These two guys are scientists and philosophers with worldviews that make a lot of sense to me (in terms of atheism) but also have very positive views on how to live and how to love and how to come to terms with the question of meaning.

Amtram said, "And THAT being said, you will not appreciate your here and now if you're overwhelmed with depression. Depression is highly comorbid with ADD, so it wouldn't be surprising if you needed antidepressants to go with your stimulant." You're right about appreciating here and now, and that's been another great mantra to help me. I even wrote "appreciate your here and now" on a post-it note in my bathroom. Ha I guess that's a sort of cheesy thing to do, but it's helped.

Both you and Sandy4957 have suggested anti-depressants. I don't think I want them. Firstly, because I can't afford it. Vyvanse is unbelievably expensive. I really can't add another medication. Second, I'm brand new to Vyvanse, so I want to give myself a good year or so of just this drug so I can get used to ..brain drugs. Third, I think that Vyvanse is currently acting like an anti-depressant (that somehow wasn't working for a few weeks, I guess) because when it wears off, which is normally around midnight, I get pretty out of it. I get intrusive thoughts again and I get sort of weepy and emotional. But for instance, last night I had a little nervous breakdown about really stupid stuff and stayed up until 4am obsessively googling wisdom teeth (mine are KILLING me right now) and debating this crazy pastor named Tom the Preacher on facebook, and thinking about stupid little relationship problems with my boyfriend, and then I woke up this morning, felt extremely groggy, took my Vyvanse, and within 30 minutes, I felt totally normal. My boyfriend says that since I've been taking Vyvanse he thinks I've been way more emotionally stable. Anyway, I need more time to really figure out what's going on. Since I was 13 or 14 yrs old I've gone through phases of depression. That has continued throughout college. Meaning, I get really depressed for a month or two months, and then I slowly pull out of it, and feel good for another couple months. But then...and mostly without reason, I fall back into a depressed state. This time, my depression lasted 3-4 weeks. That's really good for me.

I guess I'm wondering if you can have depression if you are only depressed half of the time? Maybe this is just regular life stuff? Or maybe it's related to ADD? Maybe when my life gets chaotic because I'm so unfocused and unorganized and forgetful and lazy and I get depressed in ways that manifest themselves through actual emotional problems, like my childhood, and my search for meaning? I'm still unsure. But I'm feeling positive that that horrible feeling only last 3-4 weeks.

So this post is impossibly long, and I totally understand if no one reads this mess. But I want to say a very sincere thank you to all of you for your input, it really helped me get through this.

K-Funk
04-15-12, 04:25 AM
oh wow, why did I only just see this thread??? I've been struggling with this for years, but only recently in the past 12 months or so has it become a pretty intensive existential crisis for me that keeps threatening to suck the joy and meaning out of my daily activities. I just keep thinking like the OP...we're all just dust anyway, this is it. What's the point? This SHOULD compel me to go out and enjoy but instead it makes me feel kinda hopeless :(

Bluerose
04-15-12, 07:00 AM
This thread looks like a really good place right now to recommend this movie.

THE SUNSET LIMITED

Written back in 2006, THE SUNSET LIMITED takes place in a single location, a rundown apartment in the slums, where Black has taken White after saving him from an attempted suicide. The title of the play/movie refers to a particular subway train in Brooklyn, a route known as The Sunset Limited, the train in front of which White intended to leap, sending him into silent, peaceful darkness.

Merely by chance, or perhaps by divine intervention, Black is there on the deck to save White from his untimely demise. This becomes the basis of this dialogue-driven film, a philosophical inquiry into the nature of faith, God and the purpose of life. Written with a fervent dialect, precise and calculated yet uncompromisingly organic, I was fully drawn into this intimate conversation.


stars Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones

http://wearemoviegeeks.com/2011/02/the-sunset-limited-the-review/


White: And brotherhood, justice, eternal life? Good God man... Show me a religion that prepares one for nothingness, for death. That's a church I might enter. Yours prepares one only for more life, for dreams and illusions and lies. Banish the fear of death from men's hearts and they wouldn't live a day. Who would want this nightmare but for fear of the next. The shadow of the axe hangs over every joy. Every road ends in death, every friendship, every love. Torment, lost, betrayal, pain, suffering, age, indignity, hideous lingering illness... and all of it with a single conclusion. For you and everyone and everything you have ever chosen to care for.

ILoveChaos
04-15-12, 07:04 AM
1) Sorry, I can't help myself

Just look at the Middle East and then look at the West. If you are as well-informed as you sound, I don't need to explain further.

This statement is ignorant.

2) I agree with most of the things people have said on here and find that reading books about religion explained by people with a similar mindset always help. There are lots of books both for and against religion by those who are very well known in academia. A bunch of physicists have written books about the possibility of a higher power. Most recently I've read a little about physicists now thinking that nothingness may be the norm and that existence might be the abnormal thing. Try to wrap you're head around that! Watch "Religulous" by Bill Maher too.

Bluerose
04-15-12, 07:12 AM
Even atheists can experience a crisis of faith. You don’t have to be a religious person to be torn by all you read and all you hear. Listen to yourself. Trust your instincts and intuition. Do your own research, gather information, and simply pay attention to what speaks to the deepest part of you - that’s who you are.

sarahsweets
04-15-12, 09:04 AM
All religion and beliefs involve faith-whether its science, voodoo or ghosts.

TheChemicals
04-15-12, 03:20 PM
Yeh but for some reason.... every Athiest i meet is always in a dark place. The ones that seem okay say they dont feel anything inside as far as hope and faith and the presence of their own spirit.

End game here is that Athiest and Agnostics have branched out exactly like religion. You have implicit atheist and agnostic atheist,etc. etc. Its the exact same organization as religion except they are hopeless.

Amtram
04-15-12, 03:59 PM
I don't think that people who assert that every atheist they've met is unhappy has met too many atheists. Most of us kind of keep it to ourselves, so it's easy not to notice us because we're going about our lives looking just as happy and busy and hopeful as everyone else around us. Honest.

TheChemicals
04-15-12, 04:25 PM
Not every dog has 4 legs, im sure we have a % of Atheists who are happy Mr. Amtram. Most of all, almost the entire world has a belief system that is based on some kind of diety or being greater than ourselves. For an Atheist that cant be happy times. Atheism is in direct conflict with most of the people on this planet, how can they be happy? Especially if it is true that religion is an outdated system that humanity needs to evolve from. That would make it even more problematic for Atheist because they think they rest of us havent evolved into ....a more mentally evolved state. *More indepth; that Atheist believe they are intellectually evolving into a better state than the rest of us so i would guess all of that happyness is likely false sense of elitism.
So Noone is wrong anymore and criticism and opinions are bad if they assume So.

Fuzzy12
04-15-12, 04:37 PM
Not every dog has 4 legs, im sure we have a % of Atheists who are happy Mr. Amtram. Most of all, almost the entire world has a belief system that is based on some kind of diety or being greater than ourselves. For an Atheist that cant be happy times. Atheism is in direct conflict with most of the people on this planet, how can they be happy? Especially if it is true that religion is an outdated system that humanity needs to evolve from. That would make it even more problematic for Atheist because they think they rest of us havent evolved into ....a more mentally evolved state. *More indepth; that Atheist believe they are intellectually evolving into a better state than the rest of us so i would guess all of that happyness is likely false sense of elitism.
So Noone is wrong anymore and criticism and opinions are bad if they assume So.

Chemicals, I am an atheist and I guess, I'm not one of the happiest people around. However, I don't think atheism is actually a choice. I can't believe in something that doesn't make any sense to me, that to me defies all logic. Irrespective of how happy that belief might make me. I don't want a crutch, I want to know the truth (if there is anything like a truth).

I don't think people are atheists because it makes them feel that they belong to an intellectual elite. They are atheists because they believe that atheism is the most logical conclusion.

If I could tailor my beliefs to make me happy, then I'd believe in fairies and unicorns (whose possible existence I don't deny..I'm more of an agnostic really ;) ) and in immortality. I can't believe it because it just doesn't seem likely.

You know, it's like saying that people shouldn't believe in ADHD because ADHD can seriously impact and harm someone's life. The truth though is that the evidence points to the existence of ADHD, even if we might wish that it didn't exist.

TheChemicals
04-15-12, 04:49 PM
Good point. I mainly base my ramblings on the Atheists from the Venus Project and Major Atheist movements. I am a member on those forums as well, Joined because i have no qualms about changing my perspective if it makes sense to me.
Unfortunatly i dont agree with atheist because i do feel connected to the universe and i consider that my spirit. Not a christian or catholic spirit...but a spirit that is part of the universe, and it makes me feel good knowing i am a part of it. Atheists acknowledge that feeling as simple biology. I guess i could agree with them if the universe is one big bio thing.

Amtram
04-15-12, 09:49 PM
I'm sorry you've been getting the wrong ideas from the places you've found. It's a similar situation to having ADD - the vast majority of what people know about it come from people who don't have it and don't know anyone who does, either. I know lots and lots of happy atheists who don't obsess about being members of a minority group, don't think of evolution in any but a biological sense, and don't worry about the things that other people think they should be worrying about. Can't say much about the elitism, because some of that comes from having attained higher levels of education, at least where I hang out, but I don't see anything wrong with being proud of being educated.

The thing is that it can be yet another of those things that makes you unhappy because of the little nagging voice inside your head telling you that you "should" this, that, or the other thing. You're unhappy being single, because you "should" be married by now - even though you've got everything you genuinely want without a partner. You can't enjoy pizza and beer with friends because you "should" be eating healthier, or "should" be cultivating new friendships. You can't be content with a job that pays your bills and doesn't give you much grief because you "should" be working your way up the ladder. It goes on and on, and one of the problems with any belief system is that it overloads you with enough "shoulds" that even the saintliest individual could be filled with anxiety.

The OP was having that problem - she wasn't meeting her quota of "shoulds" that her prior belief system had instilled in her. No matter where they come from, when they start nagging at us, it's impossible to be happy.

ana futura
04-15-12, 09:54 PM
As an agnostic, I must protest the lumping of atheism and agnosticism together.

All agnosticism means to me is that given the amount of knowledge we humans have, it is impossible for me to know whether I'm a product of creation or evolution or an as yet unknown process. That's all it means- not knowing.

I choose not to waste my life questioning the unknowable, and spend it enjoying the known, i.e. this planet, and all of the amazing things that share it with me.

I'm very interested in all world religions, and sciences as well. I am interested in why humanity needs them, and what they gain and lose from them.

I would certainly never deny the existence of god(s) no more than I would insist god(s) existed.

Carry on!

tipoo
04-15-12, 10:13 PM
Not every dog has 4 legs, im sure we have a % of Atheists who are happy Mr. Amtram. Most of all, almost the entire world has a belief system that is based on some kind of diety or being greater than ourselves. For an Atheist that cant be happy times. Atheism is in direct conflict with most of the people on this planet, how can they be happy? Especially if it is true that religion is an outdated system that humanity needs to evolve from. That would make it even more problematic for Atheist because they think they rest of us havent evolved into ....a more mentally evolved state. *More indepth; that Atheist believe they are intellectually evolving into a better state than the rest of us so i would guess all of that happyness is likely false sense of elitism.
So Noone is wrong anymore and criticism and opinions are bad if they assume So.


I don't want to derail this thread with a debate, but this strikes me as completely off. All of us have beliefs that are in conflict with most of the world, there are too many variations of belief not to. So you're suggesting that this one lack of belief being in conflict with the rest of the world has to make you somehow less happy, or if you are happy its because of some sense of elitism? And that "rest of the world" isn't even a uniform chunk, there are hundreds of living religions out there, and each one of them is a minority belief in all humans. So is literally everyone depressed since their belief conflicts with the majority of the world?

TheChemicals
04-15-12, 10:21 PM
I don't want to derail this thread with a debate, but this strikes me as completely off. All of us have beliefs that are in conflict with most of the world, there are too many variations of belief not to. So you're suggesting that this one lack of belief being in conflict with the rest of the world has to make you somehow less happy, or if you are happy its because of some sense of elitism? And that "rest of the world" isn't even a uniform chunk, there are hundreds of living religions out there, and each one of them is a minority belief in all humans. So is literally everyone depressed since their belief conflicts with the majority of the world?

its a response from an earlier response. Doesnt stand well alone.

Lillianmay
04-15-12, 11:12 PM
It seems that we all get the wrong idea about other people’s beliefs sometimes.

I did not point something out when I first posted on this thread because the OPs distress was real and I did not want to go off on a side topic. But the OP wrote this:


Hi.


I blame my very religious upbringing that made me believe (for 18 years) that after I die I'll get to live in paradise for all of eternity (unless I believe in the wrong god, or don't think there are any gods, and then I'd be tortured in flames for all of eternity - but god loves you. ha.)




Amtram later repeated a similar problem. This is a very warped idea of Christianity What I am going to say here is just to give right information.

In Christianity (or at least in my denomination) God is the source of and also is love, beauty, truth and unity. The “love” is unconditional so it is not dependent on a person’s behavior. Yes, there are a lot of “rules”, but these rules are to aid people in living together peacefully and to protecting the most vulnerable. Yes, it is believed that willful breaking of the “rules” in a consistent and I don’t care way will lead possibly to hell, but not because God stopped loving you. Such a person comes to a point where the presence of God is painful to them and it is their free choice to be separated from him. So, God allows them their choice.

We do not believe that atheist are headed for hell.

I can barely do math but my family has a history of Jesuit education, so I know all this theological stuff.

Knowledge of each other helps us all to be more understanding.

K-Funk
04-15-12, 11:31 PM
As far back as I can remember I've never really believed in god. I got into an argument with my entire 5th grade class because they thought I was crazy for not believing. It just always seemed fantastical and illogical and never made a lick of sense. I also never believed in Santa or the Easter Bunny.

That being said, I consider myself agnostic. Alot of atheists think that's a cop out but I disagree. I've always felt that it is highly unlikely that there is a god but...I'm not omniscient. I don't know everything there is to know about the universe and it would be arrogant of me to assume I have it all figured out. So...is there a god? I doubt it. Could I be wrong? I sure as hell have been before right? :D

I know that like many atheists, I should feel the whole "this is all we have enjoy it" as life affirming but it somehow leaves me feeling lost and empty. I DO see how beautiful and amazing the world is, which is amplified by the fact that it exists not as some part of a master plan but by happenstance and biological accident. However then this view keeps growing "wider" and I see everything, a cold galaxy full of stars, lacking atmosphere empty except for us. All the things we find so urgent and important really just distracting and deceiving ourselves from an undeniable certainty, that of our death and then nothingness.

GAH!! :(


I didn't used to be so fatalistic but ever since turning 34 or 35 recently I've just been hyper aware of the fragility of life and it's brevity, how insignificant we are how utterly alone in the universe and how all that we enjoy will truly vanish and fade into non existence. I know that's no way to go through life so I fight it all the time....the problem is, I'm not imagining any horrible delusional reality. That's truly the way it IS and it just depresses me and makes me uneasy :(

ILoveChaos
04-16-12, 10:30 AM
You can be an atheist and still be spiritual. Spirituality is really just seeking answers, that there might be something else that we don't completely understand yet that effects the way we act or communicate with each other. I may not believe in any of the current religions but I do think there is more to the human condition than we already know.

P.S. - I'm not a yoga instructor with dreads who lives on an organic farm.

Amtram
04-16-12, 10:52 AM
Well, I've always had a problem with "shoulds" coming at me from any and all sources, because right from day one, they all represented yet another opportunity to fail to meet expectations. With only minimal contact with anything religious or spiritual during my formative years, most of these came from my parents and teachers. The number of times that I suffered consequences of not measuring up in the way I "should" made me pretty anxious about all the other "shoulds" in my life.

I'm not a stranger to religion or spirituality. I spent a good deal of time, several decades, deeply investigating a number of different options. Each time, the "shoulds" that came as part and parcel of each belief was even more intimidating than the ones I got from other people. Worse, in fact, because I didn't get any concrete feedback on what I was doing wrong or how I could do it better, because there's no concrete, consistent cause and effect IRL, and more often than not, you don't get to find out how you did until it's too late to go back and fix things! This was even more stressful than trying to please my father!

So for me, the whole "this is all we have" thing is not necessarily "life affirming," but it takes out one of the aspects of life that sucked out most of my enjoyment of it. The whole attitude change also gave me a much stronger ability to resist the "shoulds" thrown at me by other people (that never stops!) and accept who I am. It kind of all came down to simplifying my life by removing one of my biggest stressors.

Sandy4957
04-16-12, 11:28 AM
P.S. - I'm not a yoga instructor with dreads who lives on an organic farm.

Hahahahahaha! Me neither.

I am not sure what I am. Probably agnostic. But I'm not at all unhappy. I feel connected to other people via community. I feel valuable because I contribute to my community. When I'm gone, there'll be nothing left and I'm AOK with that, too. It doesn't make me sad. I'm focused on the here and now and in the here and now, I'm AOK.

ana futura
04-16-12, 05:24 PM
I know that like many atheists, I should feel the whole "this is all we have enjoy it" as life affirming but it somehow leaves me feeling lost and empty. I DO see how beautiful and amazing the world is, which is amplified by the fact that it exists not as some part of a master plan but by happenstance and biological accident. However then this view keeps growing "wider" and I see everything, a cold galaxy full of stars, lacking atmosphere empty except for us. All the things we find so urgent and important really just distracting and deceiving ourselves from an undeniable certainty, that of our death and then nothingness.

GAH!! :(


I didn't used to be so fatalistic but ever since turning 34 or 35 recently I've just been hyper aware of the fragility of life and it's brevity, how insignificant we are how utterly alone in the universe and how all that we enjoy will truly vanish and fade into non existence. I know that's no way to go through life so I fight it all the time....the problem is, I'm not imagining any horrible delusional reality. That's truly the way it IS and it just depresses me and makes me uneasy :(

If you haven't already, you might want to read a bit about Buddhism. I really like the perspective that Buddhist thought offers on this conundrum in particular.

Many people don't realize this, but belief in a higher power is not necessary to be a practicing Buddhist.

Drewbacca
04-17-12, 02:25 AM
You might also want to consider checking out a Unitarian Universalist church, they are atheist and agnostic friendly, won't judge you and will be more than happy to answer your questions and give you a sense of community. UU congregations are generally non-believers who want to have the advantages of a church. Many of them believe in something, but you will find other atheists there as well.

My own two cents: there is a higher power and I don't care what you want to call it. The Dawkins crowd of atheists will say that I'm full of nonsense, that it is just chemicals in my head and learned traditions that lead me away from some sort of logical absolute that completely disregards the possibility of a higher power. In my opinion, believing in nothing is just as absurd as believing in something greater than ourselves.
That's not to say that science is just another form of faith, because it isn't. Science and faith aren't mutually exclusive though, they can in fact coexist.
The reason that I believe, is because of moments that I like to call "serendipitous synchronicity;" these are the little miracles in life, the "glitch" in the matrix, those moments where you just feel like an invisible man is standing over your shoulder and saying "you don't know everything and if you allow me, I'm going to blow your mind." It's a simple matter of stopping and living in the moment. Stop, pay attention and listen, and you will find that there is more to life than a single lifetime.
I don't know what will happen when I die, perhaps I'll cease to exist, I don't really care. I still believe that there is much more to life than we will ever know.

Drewbacca
04-17-12, 02:40 AM
http://www.redmeat.com/redmeat/2002-04-02/index-1.gif
http://www.redmeat.com/redmeat/2002-04-02/index.html

This is one of my all time favorites btw.

Fuzzy12
04-17-12, 05:06 PM
As far back as I can remember I've never really believed in god. I got into an argument with my entire 5th grade class because they thought I was crazy for not believing. It just always seemed fantastical and illogical and never made a lick of sense. I also never believed in Santa or the Easter Bunny.

That being said, I consider myself agnostic. Alot of atheists think that's a cop out but I disagree. I've always felt that it is highly unlikely that there is a god but...I'm not omniscient. I don't know everything there is to know about the universe and it would be arrogant of me to assume I have it all figured out. So...is there a god? I doubt it. Could I be wrong? I sure as hell have been before right? :D

I know that like many atheists, I should feel the whole "this is all we have enjoy it" as life affirming but it somehow leaves me feeling lost and empty. I DO see how beautiful and amazing the world is, which is amplified by the fact that it exists not as some part of a master plan but by happenstance and biological accident. However then this view keeps growing "wider" and I see everything, a cold galaxy full of stars, lacking atmosphere empty except for us. All the things we find so urgent and important really just distracting and deceiving ourselves from an undeniable certainty, that of our death and then nothingness.

GAH!! :(


I didn't used to be so fatalistic but ever since turning 34 or 35 recently I've just been hyper aware of the fragility of life and it's brevity, how insignificant we are how utterly alone in the universe and how all that we enjoy will truly vanish and fade into non existence. I know that's no way to go through life so I fight it all the time....the problem is, I'm not imagining any horrible delusional reality. That's truly the way it IS and it just depresses me and makes me uneasy :(

K-Funk, I can relate. I feel very similar. The meaninglessness and insignificance of it all gets me hugely down as well.

I don't think being agnostic is a cop out. I just don't understand how anyone can be convinced by anything. I'm agnostic but I believe in atheism. I mean, I think, anything is possible and there's probably no way of ever finding out the truth but I don't believe it's likely that there is a god or any kind of higher, meaningful power.

Amtram
04-17-12, 07:44 PM
Agnostic means not knowing. Atheist means not believing in the existence of deities. There's a lot of room for crossover, there, and even the most antitheistic atheist would be willing to reconsider if presented with irrefutable evidence. I don't call myself agnostic mostly because I don't really care all that much whether I know for certain or not. I care about my experience as a living being, at the moment I'm living it, and how to make the most of it. Thinking about what I don't know is an interesting exercise if there's a possibility of it being real or important or just cool to know, but thinking about something I can't possibly know while I'm alive seems like a waste of time that could be used for those other things. That's why I'm always shaking my head at people who put labels on atheists based on whatever philosophy or philosopher they get into their heads - I know nothing about nihilism (haha - get it?) and I wouldn't know Nietzsche if I knocked him over with my bicycle.

ana futura
04-17-12, 10:05 PM
Agnostic means not knowing. Atheist means not believing in the existence of deities. There's a lot of room for crossover, there, and even the most antitheistic atheist would be willing to reconsider if presented with irrefutable evidence. I don't call myself agnostic mostly because I don't really care all that much whether I know for certain or not. I care about my experience as a living being, at the moment I'm living it, and how to make the most of it. Thinking about what I don't know is an interesting exercise if there's a possibility of it being real or important or just cool to know, but thinking about something I can't possibly know while I'm alive seems like a waste of time that could be used for those other things. That's why I'm always shaking my head at people who put labels on atheists based on whatever philosophy or philosopher they get into their heads - I know nothing about nihilism (haha - get it?) and I wouldn't know Nietzsche if I knocked him over with my bicycle.

Interesting way of looking at it. For me, I can't past the gnostic part to the theist part. As long as knowledge is impossible, why bother with the rest of it? Or any of it? I choose the agnostic label (when needed) because I feel that anything else is absurd.
I suppose I would prefer to avoid a label entirely, but sometimes a label is comforting, and it suits me at this moment.

I guess technically everyone is agnostic, they just don't acknowledge it. No one could really consider themselves gnostic, maybe unless they were Rasputin :rolleyes:

Part of the reason I consider myself an agnostic is BECAUSE I don't like to waste time thinking about the unknown. I try to avoid pontificating the origins of/ meaning of life entirely. This sort of thought is too likely to lead one down a bad road, going all the way back to Descartes.

Mind you I want nothing to do with the agnostic (or any) philosophers, they are all a bit silly as well. Western philosophy leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

Amtram
04-18-12, 12:02 PM
Well, if you look at it from a theistic perspective, everyone who is theistic about one religion is agnostic about all the others - they've already shown that they're open to the idea of the existence of a deity or deities!

pechemignonne
04-18-12, 01:15 PM
I'm a spiritual atheist.

I'm not into the idea of a single deity, but that doesn't stop me from having a spiritual perspective.

Since the dominant Western religions are theist, this can confuse people.

But being atheist doesn't mean that you aren't spiritual or that you don't find any meaning to life.

I think that when you are depressed, whatever the things are that would normally be something to ponder and perhaps even be sad about can turn into the things that depress you and that you ruminate about.

So, say the idea of being single makes you a little sad, but you have hope that you might find the right person or you are generally happy with your life. If you become depressed, suddenly the fact of being single becomes a horrible thing that makes you feel despair and emptiness, etc.

In my understanding, depression is a dysfunction of the emotional system (a mood disorder, as it is known) that can have many causes, but once it gets to a certain point it becomes a brain chemistry issue.

So no matter what is happening in your brain, all kinds of despair/sadness and/or apathy/hopelessness chemicals are getting constantly released into your system, coloring all of your thoughts.

You could be thinking about anything, really, and because of the influence of the particular brain chemicals, it will seem really, really depressing. And because the chemicals are hard to perceive, those thoughts themselves then become associated with that chemically-induced feeling, and then you just cycle like that on a "the downward spiral of despair".

You get used to a set of thoughts that then plays like a tape (um, or mp3 I guess?) in your head repeating over and over and compounding your negative feelings. This releases more unhappy chemicals and the cycle repeats itself.

However, whether you are thinking about religion, or your body issues, or your financial situation, or that embarrassing moment in grade school, or whatever else under the sun makes you unhappy, I don't think it really matters, because I don't think it's the thought itself making you depressed.

I think that depression is a thing in and of itself. It can arise out of a specific issue, such as trauma or grief. But once it gets rolling, it isn't about what color it wears, so to speak.

Amtram
04-18-12, 04:13 PM
Well, when you're talking major depressive disorder, there's really no way to talk yourself out of it no matter what. When I finally got hit badly enough to need medications, I was an active church member, had lots of friends there and everywhere else, two young children, great husband, laundry list of things for which I should be thankful. Other people reminding me of this or me reminding myself of this only made it worse - not only was I depressed, but I was UNGRATEFUL!!!!!

So yeah, sometimes the value of philosophy is seriously overshadowed by the value of proper medication.

pechemignonne
04-18-12, 04:28 PM
Well, when you're talking major depressive disorder, there's really no way to talk yourself out of it no matter what. When I finally got hit badly enough to need medications, I was an active church member, had lots of friends there and everywhere else, two young children, great husband, laundry list of things for which I should be thankful. Other people reminding me of this or me reminding myself of this only made it worse - not only was I depressed, but I was UNGRATEFUL!!!!!

So yeah, sometimes the value of philosophy is seriously overshadowed by the value of proper medication.
I just don't think that any particular philosophy leads to depression.

I think that people who are depressed already may be drawn towards depressing philosophies (eg nihilism), the same way that being psychotic can encourage someone to develop an intricate philosophical system to cling to.

But I don't think that any philosophy or religion can cause mental illness by itself.

ana futura
04-18-12, 10:15 PM
I just don't think that any particular philosophy leads to depression.

I think that people who are depressed already may be drawn towards depressing philosophies (eg nihilism), the same way that being psychotic can encourage someone to develop an intricate philosophical system to cling to.

But I don't think that any philosophy or religion can cause mental illness by itself.

Is it possible though that certain philosophies actively encourage rumination?

Contemporary atheist thought owes much to western philosophers like Descartes. In my opinion, "Cogito Ergo Sum" and "If a tree falls in a forest..." seem almost designed to encourage rumination in the reader. Concepts like these, that allude to divorcing the mind/ soul from the physical realm, can become destructive if they aren't evaluated within their historical context.

While depressed people are more likely to ruminate, there also appears to be a causal relationship going the other way- that rumination in and of itself can trigger depression in depression prone individuals.

Interesting links here-
http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/cycle.aspx

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/choke/201012/rumination-and-the-brain

The bottom line is that if you are prone to depression, you need to avoid rumination. It is not just a place that you go to when you are depressed, it can also be a trigger.

Drewbacca
04-19-12, 11:46 PM
While depressed people are more likely to ruminate, there also appears to be a causal relationship going the other way- that rumination in and of itself can trigger depression in depression prone individuals.


That explains a lot about my moods. I think it also explains why ADHD sufferers are prone to depression. I'm going to better guard myself from asking "what if" and "where would I be if it wasn't for..." questions to myself for now on. Thanks for the links.

Bluerose
04-20-12, 09:15 AM
No matter what you believe, it all comes from inside you. There is something in the brain the size of a peanut and it’s job is to keep you alive and it will create and throw at you all kinds of ideas and beliefs in order to keep you alive and sane. Near death experiences for example is the peanuts way of stopping you from freaking out about death. When it comes right down to it, it is about soul survival. And that is enough to make me want to believe that there is a lot more going on than we can ever know. Whether you worship God or a giant potato head, it’s the same thing, it’s all coming from the same place. And that place is inside your head. The question we should be asking is why is it there and who or what put it there. And why are some of us (more religious types) more susceptible to it than others (leas religious types).