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Old 01-25-2010, 06:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for, but thought you guys might have some suggestions. I'm an atheist, I have been my whole life. I'm not really interested in changing that, I don't think I could if I wanted to. I've been struggling with a sort of existential depression for awhile now. I cant figure out WHY people exist. What is the purpose in living? If we live, and then we die, but in the grand scheme of things, over the course of history and millenia, we are almost all forgotten, what was the point in living in the first place? I feel like an insignificant speck in the grand scheme of things, I do not understand why it matters if I cease to exist tomorrow or when I am 120. I REALLY want to understand this.

Driving this a bit more recently, I've heard of several deaths recently. I didn't know any of them well, but well enough that it has me contemplating how death works, and its relation to life. Logically I understand why all things eventually die. While I understand it logically, I still don't really get it, kwim? Like emotionally or whatever it just doesn't click. I want to be able to understand death in a manner that feels comforting I guess.

So, what I wanted to ask you all for is suggestions of reading materials, movies etc to help me figure all this out. I'm not adverse to reading religious texts if they help me understand the grand scheme of things in a way that can include an absence of a god. They do not have to be strictly academic. If you know of a fiction book, a movie etc that presents the material in a thought provoking way I would be very interested as well- perhaps more so. Even children's books and movies are ok with me, sometimes I find their simplicity and directness helps. I'm looking for a wide variety to help me find a view point that works for me. Anybody have recommendations?
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Old 01-25-2010, 06:55 AM
 
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I don't really have an answer for you but I know what you mean.

So far what helps me the most is observing nature. Nature documentaries in particular. The incredible interconnectedness of the life and death of all of the myriad organisms, microscopic to huge, in an environment, all laid out for me by the impassive narrator and photography, helps me to understand the necessity of the cycle at least. The necessity of death for maintaining life. The way life springs from decay and then dies to make more decay for more life (fungi, plants, all the animals that rely on them to live, then die in order to feed more plants and by extension more animals). I don't *understand* it, as in, I am not able to conceptualize or rationalize it, the death and pain and horror, but seeing how it fits in to the greater scheme of things makes me feel better on some level. Like I am part of the vast web of life. I too have a place and an effect, and my death has a place and an effect, however "small".

I was reading the book "Full Moon Feast" recently and the author, in her chapter on meat eating (she had been a vegetarian for years and then switched back to meat eating) talked about the difference between the words "bios" and "zoë". Bios is the physical life force within each living thing, and zoë is Life with a capital L. Bios feeds zoë. For more life, there needs to be death.

Anyway, that's about as far as I have been able to get. I do believe in God but not as a separate being (I think ). But I do believe *everything* is interconnected and works in ways that we cannot possibly ever know. It is a great and inscrutable mystery - and maybe that's how it's supposed to be?

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Old 01-25-2010, 07:01 AM
 
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I did have somewhat of a religious background in that I attended church as a young child, studied the bible on my own as well, then went to a church of christ and 'got saved' in 99. I always felt there was more to things however. The beliefs of the bhagavad gita, taoism, buddhism, the eastern traditions all spoke so loudly to me as well. I could not swallow what american churches would have you to believe, that just because someone refers to god by another name, they would go to hell. I also did not believe that we were committing sins by following our feelings. I do not believe we were born in sin. I believe the word 'sin' is completely different than what the original writers of the bible meant actually. I believe it means to not know thyself, as in not following your heart and feelings.... the bible is just very confusing first of all because it was wrotten by ancient peoples that were witnessing metaphysical phenomena with no reference or language to describe it (jesus walking through walls)... then people purposely changed meanings of certain parts on pupose in order to further their own goals. When the church of christ members told me i would have to live alone, without sex for the rest of my life since my husband had left me, well that was it for me. Since then I read a series of books by an author named Neale Donald Walsch. The first three are called, "Conversations With God" Part 1, 2 and 3.... then there are many others. He channels information for us all to hear. It resonated so strongly with me, due to my religious understandings of the past. Deepak Chopra may appeal more to you do your atheist background. They are all the same message. and it turns out, most organized religions also have these messages, but may only have bits and pieces of it, or have misconstrued the meaning altogether. For instance, religion tells us god thinks sex is bad. unless it is between a man and woman, for procreation or whatever. god does not actually care a whit about who you are having sex with or why. this is free will. there is no judgment, there is no hell. it was all made up by TPTB to dominate the world. I believe Neale should have titled his books, the answers to life and everything you have ever wanted to know about it... or something like that. you should just read them for yourself. or you can get the audio version at your library, Ed Asner and Ellen Burstyn do the voices along with Neale. It all started for him one night, when broke and pissed at the world he wrote an angry letter to 'god' and asked many questions. then he could not put the pen down, and answers came to him. and the answers make so much sense, and he couldn't have made it up all on his own... but anyway to answer your question. we choose to materialize on this physical plane in order to experience emotions. when one is a white light in a white room, all is eternally the same. you can know you are love, but you do not experience as such until taking form. everything is a cycle. you can see this from small forms to large... there is no end to the cycles the are cycles.... hope all this helps i was rather excited writing it and may have typos but i felt led to respond to you!

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Old 01-25-2010, 07:09 AM
 
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yes as the pp said, we are all interconnected. we are all, in essence, our own source. call it what you will. we are as drops of water to the ocean, each having the same properties as the whole. we are all god. another atheist good one is the celestine prophecy.... what the bleep do we know is a movie you can get at your movie store, or see online in many places for free...

To begin to save the world, we must first nurture the children. Read "The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost"    saynovax.gifgoorganic.jpgintactlact.gifMe-hippie.gifreading.gifhelp.gif10.5 yo dd1- nut.gifreading.gifblahblah.gif ; 5 yo dd2- angel.gifhearts.gifbouncy.gif
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Old 01-25-2010, 02:18 PM
 
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watch all of "six feet under" (would be cheapest by way of netflix)
listen to "this american life" every weekend (or download & listen at your convience - it's free!)
and read "extremely loud & incredibly close" by jonathan safran foer
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Old 01-25-2010, 02:47 PM
 
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I'm not really the one to ask for specific recommendations, but I'm guessing you might find some of what you're looking for in Buddhist literature.
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Old 01-25-2010, 03:08 PM
 
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You might find reading about some Near Death Experiences interesting. http://www.nderf.org/

I also had this book by a UU college chaplain that sort of helped people figure out things. I'll have to see if I can remember the title. I think he was at Yale or Princeton or some Ivy League school.

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Old 01-25-2010, 03:26 PM
 
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When I was an atheist, I asked this question too. Never got a satisfactory answer though, so I can't share one. Life doesn't make sense if all we are is randomly generated life forms that are no more once the physical body dies.
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Old 01-25-2010, 04:30 PM
 
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Old 01-28-2010, 05:09 PM
 
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i believe we are here to love one another and to serve one another. that may sound sappy, but i truly believe it is a huge challenge, and an important one to try to meet. i believe we are meant to wake up to the beauty in the world, and to wake up also to the ugliness. because, for example, if we do not look at poverty, we would not waken the willingness to work to lessen someone's suffering.

there is a great book called No Time to Lose, translation by Pema Chodron. it talks about cultivating compassion, and that while we live, it is essential to cultivate compassion for others. it is a buddhist text, but you need not be buddhist to find it inspiring.

even when there is a lot of sadness, ugliness, confusion, ache--even on those days, a small gesture of kindness toward another person can improve their day immeasurably. noticing even one tiny kernal of goodness in your life can reorient your mind.

may you find peace in your seeking.

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Old 01-29-2010, 03:14 PM
 
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Your mention of children's books was great because the first thing I thought of, when you asked for reading material recommendations, was Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time trilogy. All three books (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet) express some really powerful complex philosophical ideas, but they're written for a young audience so the ideas are subtle and simply expressed. The second book in the series has a particularly insightful picture of the concept of "evil" which I have used frequently to start discussion in a classroom context. These can be treated as just a fun read, but if you're looking for some deep questions it's all there, too. Good luck...

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Old 01-29-2010, 05:01 PM
 
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I don't know if anyone's suggested it yet, but Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" has some good, existential insight.

(I also loved reading the books Comtessa mentioned above.)

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Old 01-29-2010, 10:32 PM
 
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Oh yes! I was a teaching assistant to a professor who always uses Man's Search for Meaning as an introductory text in his Intro to Religion course. He says it's a good way to get to the heart of some religious "ideas" (meaning of life, purpose of death, importance of relationships) without actually discussing *religion* per se.

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Old 01-31-2010, 04:38 AM
 
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This is exactly what has kept me up at night. I believe their is a God. I just can't get what the point of all this is. Its depressing for me because I love being with my family and I know one day I'll be gone. What was it all for? Why?

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Old 01-31-2010, 12:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LilMamiBella View Post
This is exactly what has kept me up at night. I believe their is a God. I just can't get what the point of all this is. Its depressing for me because I love being with my family and I know one day I'll be gone. What was it all for? Why?
my view is that there is a God. and one way that impacts my life is in the awe i have for the natural world, and the importance in my life of sharing the earth with all people. no, you don't have to believe in God to have this view. but think of the difference between caring, or deciding there is no point to any of this. to me, thinking there is no point leads to literally throwing garbage out the car window; treating your body like garbage because you eat any old thing and don't exercise; and a kind of general self-centeredness.

on the other hand, if we believe the way we live makes a difference, and we smile at a stranger, that stranger can have a better day. kindness expands. i love the film Amelie, because to me it illustrates that part of the point of life is caring for others, even strangers, and finding a way to connect with love.

i hope i don't sound on a soapbox here. l

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Old 02-02-2010, 09:15 PM
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http://www.rzim.org/USA/Resources/Li...aspx?archive=1

I spent about 6 years asking the same things you are. It took forever and it was agonizing but I found peace. But in order to get there I had to ask a lot of questions that I really. did. not. want. to ask. I think that's why it took so long
When you are looking for something, and you don't know exactly what it is, you are going to have to ask some things you didn't expect to ask, if you're ever going to get there.
These teachings are from a Christian man, but I think, if you chose to listen to them, you will be glad you did.
What I found is that, while some people don't have to ask many questions to believe in God, most people do. Most people have more questions than can easily be answered when it comes to the Christian god, and so they never get to a point where they can give it a genuine mental consideration. They and their questions are too complex, and there doesn't seem to be satisfying answers.

In case there are newer broatcasts posted before you click this link, these are the ones I think are valid for where you are.

Is atheism dead, is God alive? (pts 1-4)
Man vs God (pts 1 and 2)
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Old 02-02-2010, 09:35 PM
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http://www.rzim.org/USA/Resources/Li...aspx?archive=1

I spent about 6 years asking the same things you are. It took forever and it was agonizing but I found peace. But in order to get there I had to ask a lot of questions that I really. did. not. want. to ask. I think that's why it took so long
When you are looking for something, and you don't know exactly what it is, you are going to have to ask some things you didn't expect to ask, if you're ever going to get there.
These teachings are from a Christian man, but I think, if you chose to listen to them, you will be glad you did.
What I found is that, while some people don't have to ask many questions to believe in God, most people do. Most people have more questions than can easily be answered when it comes to the Christian god, and so they never get to a point where they can give it a genuine mental consideration. They and their questions are too complex, and there doesn't seem to be satisfying answers.

In case there are newer broatcasts posted before you click this link, these are the ones I think are valid for where you are.

Is atheism dead, is God alive? (pts 1-4)
Man vs God (pts 1 and 2)
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Old 02-03-2010, 06:13 PM
 
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I've had that feeling before too, but in the last couple of years I have had more clarity and I don't know if I can even put it into words. Here's a simple version- what was the point of my past pets' lives? Will the world remember them? No. Did they experience joy and bring joy to those around them? Yes. I think it's great if you have a lasting impact on the world, but even if you don't, you experienced the joys, pains, love, hate...the whole range of feelings and experiences that there are to be had. Even if there is no great overarching purpose, your existence is it's own purpose. You can use that existence for good or bad. In general, people want to use it for good. You have brought joy to someone somewhere and even when you die, you will exist in the minds of those who loved you. Even in horrible circumstances joy and love is possible. Does a penguin that lives in antarctica really matter? Yes- it had that little sliver of time in the great scheme of things to exist and experience life. I'm grateful for that opportunity- the good and the bad- it makes me appreciate this moment that I am in all the more. I'm not religious, but I think the framework of a religion helps many to get it all to make sense.
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Old 02-05-2010, 02:10 AM
 
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http://www.takingchildrenseriously.c...ed_about_death

an article and comment thread that might offer some more thought on this matter

best wishes
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Old 02-06-2010, 04:12 AM
 
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OP, I think maybe you need to really contemplate some certain specific questions to use as a starting point. First of all when you are asking about purpose, I wondering reading your post if you really are certain there is any purpose at all? I would start with that one. Are you sure there is purpose, and if yes, then you need to go about finding it. You have to do that with intention and sincerity to find the purpose and underlying truth of things. If you have that, things start coming more easily.

Just out of my own personal curiosity, you say you are an atheist, so do you believe in things like other dimensions, unseen beings/places/forces that could also be interconnected with our earth home? I hope you get my meaning. Like we see the cycles going on in our earth, do you think it could be possible that they are also interacting with many other fources outside of what we can currently see and detect?
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Old 02-06-2010, 06:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I wanted to thank everyone who's replied so far, keep them coming! I have a feeling this isn't one I'm going to be solving any time soon, so the more ideas, the merrier. I'm starting a list of reccomended reading to work through. I think I'm going to start with children's books and work my way up, as they seem to offer a simple yet beautiful introduction into the topic of death, and thus life. I've seen a few childrens books listed, anybody have anymore? Even picture books are ok with me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chimomma View Post
I wondering reading your post if you really are certain there is any purpose at all? I would start with that one. Are you sure there is purpose, and if yes, then you need to go about finding it. You have to do that with intention and sincerity to find the purpose and underlying truth of things. If you have that, things start coming more easily.

Just out of my own personal curiosity, you say you are an atheist, so do you believe in things like other dimensions, unseen beings/places/forces that could also be interconnected with our earth home? I hope you get my meaning. Like we see the cycles going on in our earth, do you think it could be possible that they are also interacting with many other fources outside of what we can currently see and detect?
I am not certain that there is a purpose, actually, I'm fairly certain that there is no one big definitive purpose. I think perhaps the purpose is going to be something deeply personal for every individual person? I think perhaps I have to find my own purpose. Which is why I was hoping to get a bunch of different resources, so I can look at all the ways different people define life's purpose and either find one that speaks to me, or use it to come to an understanding of my own.

Your second question is interesting. I suppose, just as there is much we do know, there is also much that is yet to be known. So I cannot rule out the possibility of other, unseen forces. I am, however, skeptical of such things. I mean, on one hand, about a hundred years ago, people did not know about the harmful effects of radiation. That is an unseen force that interacts with life and definitely effects them. On the other hand, I'm rather skeptical of, say, ghosts. Of course, sometimes I wonder if we are all just the dreams of giants, and one day, those giants are going to wake up, so I suppose part of me will believe anything (I dont really believe we are giant dreams, but it is a very interesting thing to ponder- and I cant prove it true or untrue)
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Old 02-12-2010, 12:00 AM
 
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I am a near death experience unofficial researcher and have both heard cases of near death experiences as well as read many experiences. In a near death experience a person almost dies whether as a result of surgical complication,accident or whatever else and during time they become more alive than they ever were once they have the out of body experience but it is when they go into the light(God?)that all the secrets of life and death are revealed but most of it is forgotten when they come back to life because the type of knowledge received there goes beyond what the human mind could handle. From everything I heard and read in these cases is that the purpose of our life here is to have human experiences and while we are here we forget our true divinity but this is necessary to accomplish what we come here for. Death is a release from the physical and once the soul returns to the light in becomes its true self and and experiences pure joy that can never be experienced as while physically alive. A person's religion or lack of is not a factor over there. Only LOVE matters and is all that exists there. Here is a link that tells probably the best thorough detail of who we are and why we are here. It is mindblowing and inspiring at the same time. Mellon Thomas died of terminal cancer but returned to life. Here is his story www.mellen-thomas.com/stories.htm . His experience not only changed his life but also helped him get rid of his negative view of the world in which he felt that humans were cancer which he realized would cause him to have cancer himself. Basically how we feel about ourselves,our world,and other people has a significant effect on what we bring into our lives good or bad. I end this post by saying there is no such thing as death.
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