Monday, 21 October 2013

Atheism and Happiness

This is a guest post by Sheldon Cooper, who can be found at his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon. I hope you'll take a few seconds to visit his blog. Thanks goes out to Sheldon for taking the time to type up this guest post.

I recently read Canadian Atheist’s post titled Is Atheism Both True and Terrible?, where he responded to a writer that felt that atheism was probably correct in it’s conclusions, but was a very depressing point of view, the writer felt that atheism strips away all human dignity, and leads to a sense of emptiness, a feeling that there is nothing left to live for.

Well, I’ve had that feeling that there’s nothing left to live for, I’ve even been suicidal at one point in my life, but it wasn’t because of atheism (in fact, during the period in my life when I was suicidal, I was actually a fundamentalist Christian). You see, I have had depression since I was about 9 years old (yes, seriously), and it’s been a constant fight against it that I am now winning, thanks to my anti-depressants.

My past unhappiness in life had nothing to do with atheism, in fact, my depression has been better since I finally admitted to myself what I am, an agnostic. When I finally found the courage to admit to myself that I could no longer hold onto my past Christian beliefs, it was a relief. I could finally be honest with myself about who I am, and let go of all the painful doubts, and struggles to make sense out of what I believed.

It freed me to look at the world around me, and its beauty, no longer believing that there’s an afterlife doesn’t take away hope and purpose for living for me (though I can understand the appeal of such a belief, and how it brings comfort to some people).

It’s freed me to try to be able to enjoy (when my depression doesn’t get in the way) the simple pleasures of life, like good food, and the joy I see in my dog, (a jolly 5 year old Black Lab/hound mix) when I come home after work. He runs in circles, and bounces around the room, wagging his tail when the door to his crate comes open. The pure joy in his expression, the eagerness to see me never ceases to give me a good laugh.

I have a sense of awe when I’m out in the woodlands of Missouri, looking at the wildlife, the dense oak forests, and the night sky that I often can’t see in the St. Louis suburbs. Just simply seeing stars clearly enough to easily identify them is a nice experience. Contrary to what Oprah seems to believe, atheists and other non-religious people can have a sense of awe and wonder about the world around them.

Atheism doesn’t cause unhappiness and an empty feeling inside, it’s what it is happening inside a person’s mind, and what is going on around them. If someone is feeling this way, they need to look at what needs to change in their life, or find out if it’s due to untreated mental illness, and not blame atheism.

11 comments:

  1. Nice post Sheldon! Yes, there is awe and wonder all around us. It isn't God, it just is and it's great.

    - Evil

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    1. There is so much to see, so much to explore in our world and outside of it, the enormity of it all is humbling. In 100 lifetimes, we couldn't fully experience it all.

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    2. Sheldon, much respect indeed as you deserve it. On the subject at hand, we are all subject to the human condition, and sadly depression is a part of that. :/ And I think you are doing all the right things to help yourself, and it's those small things in life a lot of people take for granted to which I see you holding on to.. And your puppy sounds a amazing, and I will tell you that my cat to which I have had for 17 years now has helped me greatly in my own hard times..

      Now when I left Christianity the hardest part was the blatant rejection of some family and friends. The disowning hurt a great deal even though it wasn't in my immediate family (mother, sister, father).. I was quite angry, and I definitely think there is an anger phase everyone perhaps goes through when letting go, but at the same time there is that feeling of lifting the weight of an elephant off one's back.. It's then you realize you have taken charge of your own life, and even that can be scary. This to which I find religion preys on to keep people locked in and under their control. And the worst part of my guilt is that I partook in that by advertising for them, and targeting children and vulnerable people who we thought we could better take advantage of. I think Grisham may remember my Newsvine article on this, but that to this day eats me from the inside out.. Call it self-disgusted, but I find great solace that I changed and let it go. And I haven't been happier since :) Now life is an exploration rather something to fear and hide from as before it was basically living to die in hope of some imaginary afterlife. I think life meant far less to me when I was a Christian than what it means to me as an Atheist.

      Cheers, and thanks for sharing Sheldon. :)

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    3. Do you have a link to that Newsvine article? I feel for you, your guilt about pulling people into an awful philosophy. It makes me glad that I was a bad fundie and didn't do as much of the recruiting and converting that was expected of me.

      I haven't come out yet, there's many reasons why, but part of it is financial, and involves family, it's a long story to explain, I'm still "undercover" in a Southern Baptist church, this page of my blog has links to my Undercover Agnostic series, as well as a new series of mine about my father's mental health issues when I was a teen:

      http://www.ramblingsofsheldon.blogspot.com/p/my-story.html

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    4. I went through than anger phase too, TheJackel. Man, was I mad!

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    5. Hey Sheldon, To answer your request, the Article is here:

      http://matt-mattjwest.newsvine.com/_news/2011/10/13/8294011-brainwashing-doctrines-immoralitys-movie

      I think 1 or two video links no longer work, but they were on the Jesus Camp.. I wasn't a part of the Jesus camp however.. In that article I discuss the issue of brainwashing in the context of how I was taught to target various vulnerable demographics and basically how it's done. I give near the end an example of my own.

      And regarding on the issue of coming out, you don't have to. I know it may feel like you are hiding, but what really makes the difference is that you are not hiding from yourself. Not everyone lives in a situation where coming out publicly to family, friends, and co-workers would be beneficial... However you know you have others out there such as Alice, Grisham, and myself... And from what I know of the south, I can understand how it's a huge risk financially. So just keep in mind that you don't have to make unnecessary risks.

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    6. Fake testimonials and fake pictures for the pamphlets? Wow.

      I'm not sure why people seem to think that St. Louis is in the south. I have about 200 more miles to go to be in Dixie. ;)

      Maybe you were confused by the term Southern Baptist? It's a reference to the denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

      Anyway, sometimes I do hate myself for being in the closet, I thought I would have been able to come out by now, but I can't, and it's left me frustrated. I have to prepare though, it could lead to family disowning me, or trying to bully me back into the faith, and leaving me with no choice but to disown them.

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    7. Maybe you were confused by the term Southern Baptist? It's a reference to the denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention...

      I think this had to do with the video I posted in which I tried to update due to bad link before you had a chance to read it. One of the videos dealt with southern baptists. Any information in the light grey under the videos is from the videos themselves when embedding them :)

      Don't hate yourself for not doing so.., the reasons why you are not are not real reasons to support that. It's up to you if that is the sort of pressure you want to face, but it's not something you have to do. You can be completely fine in just knowing who you are, and accepting yourself for that is far more important than whether or not others will. Especially when we understand the emotional investment they have in regards to their religion. Hence, many of them are victims of the same system. Though a nice tactic to use if you choose to come out is tell them you are agnostic.. Weening them into it because there is far less reaction to that then there would be in regards to coming out cold turkey.

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  2. I'm still trying to sort out my happiness or lack of it since moving away from Christianity. I find most days, I am the same person, just a lot less guilty feeling.

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    1. Sounds reasonable, Alice. I hope your happiness continues to grow.

      Thank you for visiting and I hope you'll do so again in the future.

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    2. Oh yes, I've been there too, you don't realize how much guilt you are carrying, in your quest to be perfect, until you leave Christianity, especially the fundamentalist strains of it, which was probably your experience.

      Best of luck, Alice!

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