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« How Perfect Is the Universe, Anyway? | Main | On Having Fantasies About Acting Out Fantasies »


the chaplain

Very nice post. One of the toughest things in the initial phase of rejecting theism and embracing atheism is letting go of that sense - delusion, really - of Grand Purpose. Once one lets go of that, though, the knowledge that one gets to create one's own purpose is exciting. The scale is smaller, but it's a more realistic and fulfilling one to work in.

G Felis

I'm reminded of a wonderful Animaniacs song, the punchline/chorus of which was something like, "It's a big universe, and we're not!"

*Metaphorically trots off to youtube, finds it*

In a slightly different way, it wasn't so long ago that I went on a little rant that explored this idea of making meaning for ourselves in a big universe - although mine was altogether snarkier than what you had to say here. If anyone's curious, click my name below to find out why the universe is out to get me, and why I'm okay with that...

G Felis

Oops! I just discovered a case of radical blog-incest: I pointed to a post I made which, when I took a closer look, was inspired by (and linked to) a post you made. Then when I re-read your old post, I discovered that my post in response to it evolved out of a comment I left on your post. (And then I linked to it here and I wrote about doing so in a subsequent comment, which might finally achieve the level of recursive ridiculousness that consumes the internet, or possibly the universe. Let's click "Post" and see!)


After struggling with the existential meaninglessness of life, I finally came up with a personal philosophy that works for me.

"In a million years, no one will remember how badly I just fucked that up."

It really takes the pressure off.


Wonderful, as always, Greta. :)

It always strikes me, the arrogance of these people who believe their names and their deeds need to be eternally memorialized if they're to count at all. Do you need to be exalted higher than the galaxies? Is it that important to you that your name be set down in a roll call that will survive long after the last sun has burned out? This is the belief system that shows greater humility, really?

I'm not that ambitious. I'm a mortal creature, and my life, like all life, is fleeting. We have a brief time in the sun, and I'm going to make the most of it: make some friends, listen to music, write down some thoughts, bake brownies, love and be loved, sleep in on sunny Saturdays, and hopefully leave the world just a bit improved, overall, over how it was when I came into it. My aspirations are modest, perhaps, but I like to think they're achievable. To my mind, if you have your priorities straight, this life is more than long enough and large enough to do all the things you really need to do. Even if the stars don't burn with envy for me, I think it's well worth living on its own terms.


Very nicely put. I guess I'm one of the fortunate ones in that I never had a struggle giving up theism. It had never been the central focus of my life, just something tacked on by my upbringing that I was forced to endure. I also never had a big enough ego to cause me to think that I'd live forever. I have no clue what happens to our consciousness after we die, but it never really mattered to me. Now, I'm still scared to death of dying (pun intended) ;-) But I'm too busy living to worry about dying.

karin cobabe

LOL, I am LOVING the "Personverse"! Your posts always make so much sense to me that I want to share them with everyone that I know and then I realize that most of the people I know are Mormon. Yikes. Just a little Atheist in a sea of Mo's...


Yes! Great post. Just because you have to find your own meaning to life, it doesn't make that meaning any less valuable. It makes us free.


Just a few days ago I was sitting with my kids at the dinner table explaining the idea that we are able to make our own meaning in life because we are conscious beings, and that what matters in life is the impact we have on other people.

Great post Greta :)

King Aardvark

Lovely writing:
"In an atheist world view, the only thing that cares about us is other people. Other flawed, crazy, messy people, living on the same human scale that we are. (Well, plus some cats and dogs and stuff... but you know what I mean.)"

But other than that, I feel I must disagree: I think "Suck it up" IS the best advice you can give to anybody about almost anything ;-)

Jim Robinson

And, of course, the theist view is just another way for humans to tell each other how important we are or are not. I don't think we get to dodge our responsibility to look after each other by sticking our hand in the god-sock and pretending that the sock is doing all the talking.


Would there be anything to behold the Universe had we humans not evolved consciousness?


Would there be anything to behold the Universe had we humans not evolved consciousness?

Seth Strogn

We don't know that other creatures do not have a consciousness, STiBeast. So we can't answer that question. But put a different way, it is nice to be able to look at the universe as a creature that can.


It seems to me that it's as crazy to imagine the universe creating itself out of nothing as it is to think of a God creating it. As readers might guess I'm agnostic!


I think my biggest problem is just the fact that I'm so pessimistic. Instead of thinking "Wow, life is so amazing... I love being alive and I'll cherish the time I have," I think "Wow... I'll never get to see my great-great-great granchildren. I'll probably never find out if there is other intelligent life out in the universe. I'll never get to set foot on another world. I'm just stuck with regular boring ol' now, with all this other stuff that I can only look at and think about but can't touch."

Yeah, I'm a pessimist. I try my best to look at the positives, and that helps (hence my not being depressed usually; I've taught myself to ignore the depressing stuff), but I'm a pessimist by nature, and that's what makes the world sting.


I would say it's a whole order of magnitude crazier to imagine a god creating a universe than one coming into being by itself.

John McCausland

It’s a personal theory of mine that one of the reasons people cling so fervently to gods, religion, spirits, occultism, and the belief in alien life* is the uncomfortable feeling that if we’re alone in this epically vast, unimaginable wonderful universe, then we’re not, as a species, doing an awful lot that can justify it’s existence.

*not the acceptance of the statistical or scientific possibility (or likelihood, depending on how you do so sums) of extra terrestrial life, but the absolute unquestioning faith that alien life ‘has to’ exist.

Melanie Heisey

It's funny... As a little girl I had a severe problem with my size. I saw patterns everywhere, and made up all sorts of weird conspiracy theories that set me and my sisters apart from the rest of the world. Losing that... admitting to myself it wasn't real... that was hard. Really hard. Those beliefs made me feel special, and confronting the fact that all it was all made up (and not that originally.. I mostly just copied movies I'd seen) made me feel small and unimportant.

It's taken a lot of work to get where I am now. I understand as well as anyone how hard it can be to give up that artificial high of self-importance. But looking back, I'm glad to be wrong. I'm only just beginning to understand what a blessing it is to be a part of this amazing world, and that standing with my fellow human beings is far more empowering than standing above them. I am unique for the choices I make and the things I do, and there is no predestined path I walk. I am happy for it.


Greta, I'm new to this blog (I only read two posts), but I'd already like to thank you for your work here. Your articles are wonderful. A lot of the things you write happen to resonate with my personal experience. I'm an ex-Methodist and a closet transgender (mtf), and this article really mirrored a lot of my own feelings when I was searching for meaning in life after letting go of my religion.

I won't say I'm living in the most conservative part of the world, but sometimes I do feel surrounded by negativity towards certain things I am or approve of. It's refreshing to hear someone talk about issues like atheism and sexuality in a way that isn't disparaging.

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