T Nation

Calling All Agnostics/Atheists: How Can You Be Happy?


#1

Not all religious people are guilty of this (it is more common among the fundamentalist Christian variety), but I frequently hear something like the following:

"True happiness is only possible through god. If you don't believe as I do, it isn't possible for you to have real joy and peace in your life."

Ministers often warn their flocks that if they ever consider leaving the fold, they will be condemned to a life of darkness, with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Any happiness they think they have will be temporary at best, and in the end they will only experience bitterness and hatred.

So is it possible for the agnostics/atheists among us to have true happiness?

In my experience, the answer is yes :slight_smile: In fact, I am more at peace, more integrated, more loving, and more joyful now than I ever was as a believer. It has been seven years since I left the fold, so maybe not enough time has passed?

One thing I've discovered is that having a sense of my own mortality has motivated me to make the most of every day, and cherish the people in my life. I used to take all of that for granted, assuming that I would be with my loved ones forever anyway. Life has taken on a deeper richness, I am less judgmental of others, and the simple values of love, honesty, and courage are inherently worthwhile, without needing to believe that I will go to hell unless I practice them.

I'm curious how my fellow agnostics/atheists feel about this. Are you angry and bitter yet? Do you have any love, meaning, or fulfillment in your life without needing to believe in a god?


#2

Having been raised C of E and with a father who is still active in the church I can say that being an atheist has not in any way negatively affected my happiness.

I have a beautiful wife, a good job, a stunning little girl and live comfortably in a fantastic country.


#3

What makes you think the people you're comparing yourself to "have true happiness?"


#4

You can't group agnostics with atheists...they're two completely separate groups of people with completely separate beliefs.


#5

I'm agnostic and it hasn't interfered in my life at all.


#6

saw this in the book store, thought it was an interesting premise.

Can atheists create for themselves the same benefits supplied to believers by religion? Are spirituality and god independent?


#7

The question of whether or not there is a god and an afterlife is the biggest issue in my life. Always has been.

The fact that I'm not sure directly contributes to the amount I drink.

Is it possible to be happy? Sure, for some people. For me, no.


#8

Personally I find the question so ludicrous as to not need any sort of legitimate answer.


#9

QFT.

The only way to stay sane is to decide that you just don't care. So I'm not an agnostic or an atheist - my beliefs neither necessitate nor preclude the existence of one or more "supernatural" beings which could be called gods.


#10

Happiness is old, white and conservative....you may want to join the crowd??


#11

I think this is a complex issue, or at least it has been for me. To give a simple answer to your question, I would say "yes", you can be happy. Now for some other thoughts and qualifications.

There is certainly a strong sense of emotional security that comes from faith in some religion, especially one like Christianity. It's a very "safe" religion, your faith gives you a straightforward black and white way to look at the word, a way to interpret your place in it, and a lot of hope for the future.

I think this strong sense of emotional security is lost when you leave the fold. You are now, emotionally, left to yourself. There is no ready-made worldview to wrap yourself in, no paradigm in which to understand your place, no great promise of hope. In these respects you definitely loose something being an atheist or agnostic.

Now, must one equate this strong sense of emotional security with happiness and does losing it mean you can never regain happiness? Of course not. In one sense when someone says something like "you'll never be truly happy without God", they are correct. You probably won't have the sort of emotional security I've described. But, that doesn't mean you can't be "truly happy" or happy without that emotional security. There are of course other things in life that can make one happy--a loving family, good friends, material positions, etc. I won't get into these other things and argue how they stack up against the sort of emotional security one gets from Christianity, but overall I think the dichotomy Christians present that you can either live your life for God or spend your life is empty hedonism is a false one. However one judges happiness and the worth of certain sources of joy, I think there are many other sources of substantial joy and happiness one can have that don't involve faith in God.

To conclude, I think there's something one gains from leaving the fold as well: honestly with ones self. If you simply do not believe, or you have reasonable doubts and cannot believe, then living a life to please your family and friends or trying to force yourself to believe just to keep that emotional security can only end badly. What good is emotional security if you have to force it upon yourself or believe something you can't possibly see as true to get it?


#12

I'll stay in the gutter, thanks. Better people down here.


#13

Quick - Forlife needs someone to validate his worldview.


#14

Forgive him Odin, he knows not of what he speaks!


#15

Pardon me, let me redeem myself. It's not Odin, but Thor should do, right?


#16

Definition of happiness is never the same for anyone. Some may find happiness with a family, some may have the thirst to get away from everything around them so that they can be happy. Its all a matter of perspective.

As for me, I can never reach a point of fulfillment. There is always something hounding me or someone around me. You don't live life for its grueling test of character; you live it seek answers and the little things in between that bring us joy.

Therefore being a believer/non-believer doesnt necessarily have to do anything with utmost satisfaction.

X out.


#17

I think the question is not so much if you can be 'happy' as an agnostic/atheist, or whether the agnosticism/atheism has contributed to the person's happyness and general positive outlook on life.

I for myself remember the day (after years of thinking on the topic) when I came to my personal conclusion that a) life has no deeper meaning and b) there is no god. I felt a profound sense of happiness and closure on spiritual questions that day, and have - even when confronted with personal misery - never looked back (in about 15 years now). Also, it helped me to focus the need to act ethically on my personal responsibility and relationships with others, not the authority of an external 'higher' authority.

I realise that the above conclusions will not make everyone happy, but for me it worked to get a lot of questions out of the way that seem to bother many other people.

Makkun


#18

..you can't decide for someone else if they're happy. You can't say someone is more happy because of religion than someone who is a-religious based on your own preferences, and vice-versa. I realise people can, and do, experience happiness because they believe, and i also think that some, or many, of them need to think that other's who are a-religious cannot be as happy, because that would invalidate their beliefs in some way...

..whatever, happiness is a state of mind that depends on numerous variables that differ from person to person, and what counts is whether a person is happy or not, not how that happiness is achieved...


#19

Family and friends do exist so yes, I have love, meaning and fulfillment in my life. But your question is a bit special and only answerable by those who have abandoned something they once wholeheartedly believed in. I have been an ignoramus all my life.


#20

I beleive in a god, or at least I think I do, I mean I always try to imagine how and why we are here and something creating it all seems to be a logical solution. I mean I don't think it will ever be scientifically provable that a something didn't create our universe. If it just happened to always exist, well that would just blow my mind but I guess it's possible.

Regardless, I was raised Roamn Catholic, but even as a small child I never believed a word of it. I said the same things every confession, I lied, I fought with my sisters. And I would get the same "sentance" go say 3 hail mary's and 4 our fathers. I would then proceed to go kneel by the candles and daydream about what god was really like, or what I was going to do after I got out of religion class, or how much damn homework I had that day, anything but saying the stupid prayers. I mean our preist was a pretty cool guy, I almost think he didn't believe but for some reason he had gotten too far down that path earlier in his life and was good at it so he just went with the flow. But when he read stories from the bible, he would always raise an eyebrow at a rediculous part, or give you a look like, yea like that really fucking happened. He also swore on occasion in religion class, and he wouldn't apologise or say, oh dear children I just sinned, he would just chuckle and keep on going. I mean there were definately kids who never picked up on anything, they missed all his signals, they thought he must be saying his pennance after we leave for swearing.

Anyways back to the topic at hand, My cousin recently had a baby boy. He has been with his girlfriend for 4 or 5 years and they have lived together for 3 or so. My aunt, his mother is very religious. When she found out that they were pregnant, she was really really furious, she didn't talk to either of them for weeks and when she did finally talked to the she basically yelled at them for living in sin and said she would have nothing to do with them unless they married before the baby was born. Now, It may be just my point of view, but I don't think an agnostic or an athiest would react this way, to me, it was a period of joy, and i'm only his cousin, not his mother, and this is her first grandchild also. And this is what I look at over and over and over again, in this specific case, her religious beliefs, made her unhappy for a long time, made her son and mother of her grandchilds life unhappy to some degree for some time. And the ripples go out from there, hell it effected me and like I said, I am just a cousin. I have yet to have her religious beliefs make me happy yet, so I'd say agnostics or athiests will probably live happier lives than anyone with strong religious fath.

V