Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Atheists have nothing to live for.

There seems to be a theme among some theists that atheists have nothing to live for, that we have no purpose in life, they question why we even bother to live. 

What though are we meant to be living for? Do some theists see this life as nothing more than a qualifying period for the 'next' one? Are they simply biding their time until they make it through to the 'afterlife'? I would see that kind of existence as such a waste. It's almost like this life doesn't truly matter to them, that it's simply to fill in time until they can move to this heaven place. It's as though they're treating this life as nothing more than a waiting room. Who enjoys spending time in a waiting room? 

There are others that seem to think they are here to fulfil their god's purpose. I have had one person tell me they are proud to be a slave for their god. I couldn't believe it. How is that 'something to live for'. Where is the individual? Where is the human being? What is going on, what has happened to a person that they would actually desire this kind of existence? It amazes me that a person can think so little of themselves that they are proud to live as their master's slave.

I'm not going to just criticise what some theists think they're living for though. I want to talk about what I, as an atheist, do have to live for. This won't be the case for all atheists of course. We all have different loves, different ideals, and different desires. But what it will show is that despite being an atheist, I do in fact have something to live for. 

First, and I would guess for most people quite obviously, is family. I have two children and a partner that bring me happiness in ways that I lack the words to describe it. I have loved watching my children develop into kind, friendly, thoughtful, and funny people. I share with them both their highs and lows. Yes they make me angry sometimes and yes dealing with their less appealing attributes can be frustrating but they are a positive part of my life. My partner is a wonderful and caring person that makes me incredibly happy. She understands me so well (or at least can deal with me well when she doesn't understand me) and I cherish the time I get to spend with her. My life is a better thing with them in it. 

I don't think I really need to add more to the above to justify having something to live for. The reasons I've just given are surely enough on their own. But that's not it. There's so much more. 

I've sat next to my best friend when our team, Collingwood, won the AFL Grand Final. The 30 seconds before and the 30 seconds after the end of the match add up to the best minute I've ever lived.  We suffer through loses and ride the highs of victories. My partner, my daughters and I look forward to it each week in winter and enjoy getting ready and travelling to the match together. It's a club that we are all part of, that we share with tens of thousands of others. Some don't understand the passion others have for a sporting team, and I understand that. But that diminish what it means for us? No, it doesn't. 

My life is full of music. I've been a huge Metallica fan since the mid 80s and was lucky enough to meet them in 2010. I'm going to see Radiohead later this year. Last time they came here they had to leave early as singer Thom Yorke got a throat infection and I didn't get to see them. The upcoming concerts have been a long time in the making and have had me excited for months. I love discovering new music. Whether it's artists that are new to the industry or discovering someone that has been around for years, finding something 'new' is terrific. I also love going to concerts. I've had many great times at them and then spend time remembering them days, weeks, and even years later. 

I have a huge collection of books including dozens of Stephen King 1st editions which I like to collect, the 4 million+ words of The Wheel of Time, and all things Nick Earls and Matthew Reilly. Too many to list here. I love reading them, and I love just looking at them too. I've spent hours in the worlds of Roland Deschain, and Rand al'Thor, to name just two. There's also the non-fiction books that help me learn and grow as a person and give me knowledge that I can then share with others.

There's movies. I try to watch at least one a week. Whether it's something new or revisiting a classic. I get enjoyment from showing my partner something I've seen many times but she's watching for the first time, and I enjoy having her show me something that is one of her favourites. I get enjoyment from taking turns with my children selecting a movie for 'movie night'. We laugh together and cry together. We congratulate each other on good choices and have fun ragging on each other for bad choices (Cars 2, you suck!). I enjoy television too. It's not all great, of course, but I'm happy to have enjoyed The West Wing's dialogue, the daydreaming of JD in Scurbs, and the latest sting from Nate and the team in Leverage. 

And of course there's friends. Friends are such a wonderful part of life. Sharing time with them, knowing they can make you laugh, and knowing you can make them laugh. Whether it's dinner at a nice restaurant, a few drinks after work, or meeting up for a BBQ in summer, spending time with friends is important. I love it. 

You should know that the above is just a snapshot and I could go on, but even so the above is enough. Even if you don't think these things are good enough to live for, it doesn't matter. I do - that's what matters. Because that's what I'm talking about here - what I've got to live for. That even though I'm an atheist, I do have things to live for.

Put together, what all these things add up to, for me, is life itself.

That's what I live for - life. There's learning about yourself, about others, and about the universe in which we live. There's those experiences that you can't plan. The times that you're not expecting but they happen anyway. The spontaneous laughs with mates, the movie that you keep replaying in your head, the song you sing loud to yourself, over and over, the book that makes you cry, the TV show that makes you want to hug someone you love because Dawn and Tim end up getting together. There's a late night with a good friend, talking about anything and everything and you simply enjoy being in their company and suddenly the sun's coming up. There's simple pleasures like sharing a funny photo with a work colleague, reading a tweet that makes you laugh out loud, and bigger things like showing up to see your daughter receive an award at school, sing in the school choir, or receiving an phone call form your partner telling you she's been promoted. I could go on and on but by now it should be obvious - there's SO many things to live for and not one of them requires belief in a god. 

So the next time some theist tells me that because I'm an atheist I have nothing to live for, I'll point them to this blog entry. They may not like the things I live for, they may not agree that they're worth living for but that doesn't matter because clearly it's not nothing. Clearly I do have something to live for and that's what they need to understand. 


  1. Just a quick note on the "living to be a slave to god". My husband says that it is pretty obvious that most theist have Stockholm syndrome. I think he's right.

    Love your blogs.

  2. That's not a bad analogy. Thanks for the kind comment :)

  3. Nice post.

    There can also be the satisfaction of making a positive impact on the world, an impact that you know can continue to influence others lives after you are gone. This could be through your work, art, children,...

    I think a lot of the reason people think atheists lives can't have meaning or purpose comes from how think of the concept of 'purpose'. That they see purpose as doing a bunch of things in order to bring about some consequence at the end. If you view it this way, at the purpose in life is what comes at the end ... at the end of a religious life you can get into heaven, whereas at the end of a non-religious life there's just death.

    I think that's a simplistic notion of 'purpose'. Life is not a single thing, and therefore there is not a single thing to have a single purpose. Life is multi-faceted and it's actions and activities that can have purpose. Purpose can be fulfilled on a day-to-day basis.

  4. Thanks for the great blog. I am new to this and am grateful for the help it gives in articulating my views.
    I was also considering, that because I believe there to be no afterlife, I possibly have more to live for than the poor old waiting room folk.
    I know that this is my one shot at it so I want to make it count.
    That's what I was thinking while reading.
    Looking forward to the next post.

  5. I also like the (rather more trite) response:
    An atheist has nothing to die for.