The Purpose of Life

This is a guest post by fellow blogger, Aayush. You can find him at his blog by following this link. Here’s a little bit about him:

I’m Aayush,  16 years old and still stuck in school. I love to write about stuff cause it’s a really cool way of expressing your opinions. It’s practically the only way you can talk about something without being interrupted or having to repeat yourself. I can never restrict myself to writing about just one thing, because there’s so much going on and so many interesting things.  And anyway,  who would like to read about only one topic all the time? That’d be so boring and monotonous. (I just used a big word to sound cool.  Don’t act like you don’t do it too.)

I generally write about juicy,  controversial topics,  from LGBT rights to drugs to taxes and so on. I also write posts about diet and gyming. Regardless of what you enjoy,  you should check out my blog,  because
A) It has interesting things you might find out you enjoy and
B) I really want more views and likes.

You can find me procrastinating on Facebook or reach out to me through emails on aayushthereader@gmail.com

Purpose of Life

As someone who does not believe in heaven or hell, or rewards on the basis of life lived, I often wonder what the purpose of life is. It does seem rather arrogant to assume that our ephemeral lives would have a sense of purpose behind them, yet nonetheless I persist in my questioning. As has often been said, the problem with finding the purpose in life presupposes that purpose has to be found. Maybe, purpose has to be created. Maybe everyone has to create his or her own purpose.

In finding a purpose, the first thought I wrestled with was that after a certain period of time, I will not exist and life is extremely temporary. However, the problem with this thought is that it claims I will not exist. I may not continue to exist, but surely, I would have existed. And this drew me towards an interesting idea.

Although our lives will end, we are immortalized. We exist in this time, in this moment, and nothing can stop that. Let me articulate it in a more concise manner.

I think that the past, present, and future occur simultaneously. After all, what is present for us now will become past a minute later. We exist, permanently, in every single second that we have occupied. Some time in the past, you were still learning how to walk. If the past and the present do occur simultaneously, a past version of you is still leaning how to walk. And so your past shall exist forever. Those times will exist forever.

In the future, you have already died. You have ceased to exist. But how is that relevant? The terrifying thought is not of us dying, but of us ceasing to exist. And if every single one of our seconds lived are untouched, unscathed from the death that will inevitably approach, what is it there to be afraid of?

The trick is to live in the minutes, because that is where life lies. You seize the moment to the best and enjoy it, because these times are your forever, and you are, in the truest sense of the word, eternal.

While these thoughts help me realize the continuity and relevance of life, they are from a purpose. I will not be so audacious as to proclaim a constant, inflexible purpose for every creature to exist. I can only narrate what my purpose is, and hope it enables you to find your own.

Most people believe in some sort of omnipotent deity who watches over everything and rewards the good guys and punishes the bad guys. I personally find the notion absurd. An omnipotent being creating a universe billions of years old for the sake of a planet in which us humans could occupy a minuscule portion of history? I find the idea of everything being created especially for us too be too far-fetched, especially when you take a look at the stars and the sky and accept you own insignificance with regards to everything outside the planet. The entire cosmos remains unaffected by our existence, yet it was designed especially for us? Kinda like using a 2 TB hard drive for storing a three page document.

When we die, our brain activity continues for about seven minutes. In those seven minutes, everything plays through our mind in a dream like sequence, as a result of the brain secreting chemicals and whatnot. In these seven minutes of our final dream, we watch our life flash before our eyes. And my purpose is to make those seven minutes worth watching, by creating as many memories as possible.

You will reside forever in the memories you create.  There are billions of you existing simultaneously in different points of time.  Keep as many versions of yourself happy as you possibly can.  Live in the moment,  because that is where you are fated to live.

Fighting Position: No Faith in Foxholes

I rarely reblog posts, but this one is simply amazing. It tackles the nonsense idea that there are no atheists in foxholes and it does so from the perspective of someone who has been shot at.

I hope you’ll visit their site and leave a like and a comment. I thought this post was extremely powerful.

The Abraham Effect:

Many American Christians seem have a vague notion of the “moment” when a believer loses faith.  Having appealed to a benevolent personal god in a moment of crisis, his faith breaks and the apostate angrily shouts to a turbulent sky, “There is no god!”  This scene is, of course, hilarious, and deserves to be the punchline we’ve made it.  As many of us have explained in our “de-conversion stories,” loss of faith is more often occurs under a gradually increasing burden of evidence against the existence of a deity.  However, formative, traumatic experiences can and do inform our worldview.  I remember the moment when, as a Christian, I felt the furthest from my God.

We use the phrase “sonic boom” to describe the sonic shockwave created by an object, usually an aircraft, breaking the sound barrier.  Smaller supersonic objects such as bullets create the same effect, but the sound is better described as…

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Atheist Advice From a Christian Mother

This is a guest post by Jon Darby. In his own words: Jon Darby is an atheist author who has been comparatively studying world religions—Biblical lore in particular—since 2004. He is ordained through Universal Life Church in Modesto, California and has received a degree in Biblical Studies from Victory Bible Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He takes neither seriously.

In his spare time, Jon pursues his passion of blues guitar. He desperately hopes his eschatological beliefs are incorrect so that he may one day meet Stevie Ray Vaughan.

motherly adviceMy mom had a saying: “When the words and the actions don’t match, watch the actions.”

I remember hearing that many times while I was growing up, usually after I had done something incredibly stupid (which was not a few times). I could say I was sorry; I could say that I would never do it again. I said the words, but the actions didn’t match. Instead, my repeated antics belied the sincerity of my halfhearted apologies.

Later in life, I heard this adage as my mom consoled me through the heartaches of youth. How do you make sense of the disconnect between “She says she loves me” and “she’s nailing my friends“? When the words and the actions don’t match, watch the actions.

Moms are a wellspring of wisdom like that! 🙂

I thought of my mom’s old saying the other day as I was listening to a Christian apologist. Though I hadn’t ever thought about it this way previously, I’ve been approaching Christianity from that old standpoint of “When the words and the actions don’t match…”

“God is loving and merciful.”
…yet, I see so much senseless suffering in the world.
“God will keep believers from all harm.”
…yet, statistically believers don’t have any fewer misfortunes than unbelievers.
“Pray to God, and he will heal your infirmities.”
…yet, the statistical probability of prayer working is the exact same as chance.
“You can’t have morals without God.”
…yet, studies show that there is a lower percentage of atheists in prison compared to the rest of society.
“You can’t show love and compassion without God.”
…yet, atheists have spearheaded countless humanitarian efforts, disaster relief efforts, and charitable fundraisers.

Christians, however, seem to take the opposite approach:

There is so much senseless suffering in the world.
“…yet, we know that God is still loving and merciful.”
Statistically, believers don’t have any fewer misfortunes than unbelievers.
“…yet, God will keep believers from all harm.”
The statistical probability of prayer working is the exact same as chance.
“…yet, if you pray to God, he will heal your infirmities.”
Studies show that there is a lower percentage of atheists in prison compared to the rest of society.
“…yet, you can’t have morals without God.”
Atheists have spearheaded countless humanitarian efforts, disaster relief efforts, and charitable fundraisers.
“…yet, you can’t show love and compassion without God.”

I’m sure most Christians would probably agree with my mom’s saying in principle–just not when it comes to God. To reflect Christian thought, my mom’s adage would need to be appended with “But when we’re talking about God, we know the words are right no matter how we interpret the actions.

When the words and the actions don’t match, the Christian presumes the validity of God’s word and reconciles the actions as best as possible.

I understand where Christians are coming from on this, but I just can’t make myself think that way. Personally, I can’t get past the idea that if the words and actions don’t match, maybe the words aren’t a good reflection of what God is. Or maybe… just maybe… he’s not ever really there at all.

Ex-Muslim: Why I won’t change my name

The following is a guest blog post by Hamza. He is a 17 year old Ex-Muslim agnostic. In his own words: “I’m an anime freak. Love metal, punk, indie, and classical music. I play the guitar and I love pirates and serial killers. And I write poems and songs when I’m bored.” You can find their blog by following the link.

As an Ex-Muslim who lives in Pakistan, a Muslim theocracy state, I get asked everyday to change my name and to stop calling myself an Ex-Muslim. People come to me and say that their religion doesn’t allow apostates to bear a Muslim name and that I’m tarnishing the reputation of their religion by calling myself an Ex-Muslim. I always tell them that my name does not have anything to do with my beliefs. The reason why I won’t change my name and won’t stop calling myself an Ex-Muslim is because I want people to know that Islam is the religion my parents made me follow as a kid and that I no longer believe in this preposterous set of myths.

I grew up in a Muslim majority state and I have cultural ties to this religion. Ever since the day I was born, Islamic books have been shoved in my face and I’ve had Maulvis(Islamic scholars) tell me that I should worship God five times a day and do everything he says or He’ll send me to Hell where I will burn forever. I’ve had to listen to Adhan (Islamic call to worship) my whole life.

Muslims find it hard to believe that there are people out there who don’t follow Islam anymore. They think it’s impossible for a Muslim to leave Islam because it is so perfect. I’ve been given death threats for leaving Islam and the country I live in has a blasphemy law. I can get killed for speaking against Islam in public. Religious people say that atheists are intolerant and like to shove their beliefs down people’s throats, they never talk about countries where most of the laws are based on the ideas of Quran. They never talk about the Muslim rule in Persia during which Persians were forced to convert to Islam. They never talk about the death threats that Ex-Muslims receive.

I won’t stop calling myself an Ex-Muslim or change my name because this is who I am. I’m an Ex-Muslim and I left Islam because I prefer free thinking over unnecessary subservience to a God that doesn’t exist. The idea of there being a divine entity living in a sky, controlling our lives and the laws of nature is absurd to me.

My Approach to Skeptical Friends: A Guest Post

This is a guest post by fellow blogger Pascal. You can find his blog by following the link. I’m deeply appreciative of the fact that he took the time to write this as a guest post. Thank you Pascal. 

Greetings Mike,

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to write here.  Your general guest-blog invitation and our specific e-mail interactions were indeed gracious.  I’m a neophyte concerning the topic I’ve chosen.  These stirrings are only about two years old and were prompted by a person – – I’ll call him Russell.

I’m a follower of Christ.  I was raised that way but came to the same points of decision that any adult must.  Do I believe this?  Why?  Will I teach it to my children?  I don’t think the same as my parents did about the age of the earth, conservative politics, homosexual people, or the nature of scripture.  Yet I do follow Christ and consider that to be my core identity.

From the perspective of a Christ-follower, what do I think about skeptical friends?

1)  Have them.  This wasn’t always so clear to Captain Obvious here.  I was raised in a rather homogenous environment.  I know that skeptical people were all around me.  I just didn’t stop to meet them.  I’m ashamed of that now.  Did I live in a Christian ghetto?  Probably so.  That is something my wife and I actively try to do differently in the life of our children.  We love the public schools and try to be “that house” where the teens feel accepted.   My oldest son and I frequently talk about his agnostic or atheistic friends and why they are welcome in our home.

I don’t take the word friend lightly.  In fact, like most men, I don’t have many friends.  Many acquaintances, many colleagues, but few friends.  I think that a man is rich to have one or two people he could call at 0200 in the morning without fear or shame.

2)  Listen.  I am not patient by nature.  I’m not a good listener.  But, oh how powerful it is when I shut up and stop trying to formulate my answer before – – listening.  So many reasons that I thought were present for atheism were only my own constructions – – straw men waiting to burn.  And honestly, so many topics where neither (a)theism are relevant to living well.  In those topics we find the common ground of respect and affection.

3)  Invest.  What is the currency of love and friendship?  Time.  Sit and talk.  Share a meal.  Write.  I would rather have a few deep friends than many shallow ones.  These types of friends require 10’s of 100’s of hours in aggregate.  It takes years to build trust, seconds to evaporate it.  Russell and I have now met with growing frequency for almost two years.  He has an amazing intellect that works very differently from mine.  I’m reading areas that I ordinarily would have skimmed or passed completely just to understand him better.  Probably one reason that I’m fascinated? – –  He really reminds me of my mechanical engineer father.  Freud would be proud.

I’ll take my final point out of the bullets.  Don’t try to evangelize.

Technically, I’m an evangelical Christian.  I’m not married to that term at all and prefer to describe myself as a simple follower of Christ.  So how do I reconcile my advice not to evangelize with the Master’s instruction to do so?  Friendship over years is so much more powerful than any clever argument.  My friendship with Russell has value for what it is.  Neither he nor I need a debating or sparring partner.  We need a faithful friend.  Do I have a hidden agenda to bring my friend back to following Christ?  Not so hidden.  But I trust God with his soul and our topics of discussion range wide.  This friendship is a two way street.  If he never turns to faith and I never turn away – – I think we’re both okay with it – – trusting either God or the universe with the outcome.

Thanks again Mike for the opportunity to share.  Believe it or not, I tried to keep it short.  You should see Russell’s posts!  I welcome your post on our blog soon.

“I desire not to keep my place in this government an hour longer than I may preserve England in its just rights, and may protect the people of God in such a just liberty of their consciences…”–Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)

This is a guest blog post written by Geoffrey and Mika. You can find their blog by following the link.
Thank you very much for allowing me to republish your blog post here.
How often have I heard it said that it is the precepts of Christianity that are the foundation of Western civilization? My typical response when confronted with this claim has been to roll my eyes and think “that old chestnut.” This has particularly been the case when the claim is framed so egregiously by the likes of Glenn Beck who stated, in referring to origins of the United States, “it is God’s finger that wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is God’s country; these are God’s rights. I have no idea what he wants us to do with them, other than protect them, and stand with Him.” (As cited in Tony’s Curricublog) While it is easy to dismiss such claims as stuff and nonsense, it is worth considering the role of religious belief in the growth and development of Western civilization, its transition from the primacy of Christian doctrine in public life to the rise of liberal democracy and the rule of law in the secular nation state, though not in the way many religious folk, such as Glenn Beck, imagine it to be.
I have an interest in the study of religion as a social phenomenon, having studied the sociology of religion an undergraduate at Queen’s University, and being an ex-Catholic, I have a good knowledge of Christianity. History remains a subject for which I maintain a great interest too. My ancestors hail from the British Isles, so it should come as no surprise that I am especially interested in English history, particularly as it pertains to the rise of Western civilization. Christianity was introduced to the British Isles by missionaries in the 2nd Century A.D. King Henry VIII established Protestantism as the state religion in 1534, in breaking from the Papacy, founding the Church of England, and making the Sovereign head of the English Church. Henry VIII assumed dictatorial powers, used the Church of England, its hierarchy of bishops and vicars, and the Reformation Parliament (Parliament existed only at the will of the Sovereign at the time) as a means of consolidating his rule. Christian doctrine was pervasive in public life in shaping the mores of English society in Tudor England. This organization of English society was accepted by the English as having been divinely ordained.
By the 17th century new thinking in Protestantism, natural rights and the role of Parliament had taken hold leading to a struggle between King and Parliament culminating in the English Civil War (1642-1651). The primary figures in this struggle were Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and King Charles I (1600-1649). Both men were Christian and deeply religious, but had opposing views in matters of doctrine. Cromwell was a Puritan, an adherent of Calvinism (decidedly anti-Catholic) who had no use for the hierarchy and sacramental liturgies of the Church of England; whereas Charles I sought to employ the sacramental liturgies and Church hierarchy to consolidate his rule. Cromwell was a Parliamentarian and sought a greater role for Parliament in advancing his dream of a godly nation. Cromwell remained true to his faith and vision for the nation. In a speech he delivered on April 3, 1657 he stated:
If anyone whatsoever think the interest of Christians and the interest of the nation inconsistent, or two different things, I wish my soul may never enter into their secrets … And upon these two interests, if God shall account me worthy, I shall live and die. And … if I were to give an account before a greater tribunal than any earthly one; and if I were asked why I have engaged all along in the late war, I could give no answer but it  would be a wicked one if it did not comprehend these two ends. (as cited in Oliver Cromwell and Parliaments)
Charles I sought to rule without Parliament and was able to do so as was the case during the reign of Henry VIII, Parliament existed only at the will of the Sovereign. In doing so, Charles I believed he ruled by divine right, that in the divine order of society his subjects were not to have a say in how they were governed. His obstinance in this belief led to the English Civil War, his defeat and ultimately his trial and execution on January 29, 1649. He offered as his defense at his trial the following:
I would know by what power I am called hither … I would know by what authority, I mean lawful; there are many unlawful authorities in the world; thieves and robbers by the high-ways … Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the judgement of God upon this land. Think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater … I have a trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it, to answer a new unlawful authority; therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.
The trial and execution of Charles I put paid to the belief that the King ruled by divine right, but Oliver Cromwell’s vision of a godly English society never came to pass either. However, what did emerge from the English Civil War was the ascendency of the idea of natural rights. A faction in the Parliamentary side in the conflict, known as the Levellers, put forth the idea of natural rights, that is “… all men were born free and equal and possessed natural rights that resided in the individual, not the government. They believed that each man should have freedom limited only by regard for the freedom of others.  They believed the law should equally protect the poor and the wealthy.” (History of the Levellers) While Cromwell suppressed the Levellers, they resorted to mutiny (BanburyMutiny) in putting forth their demands. Three of their leaders, Cornet James Thompson, Corporal Perkins and John Church, were executed by firing squad May 17, 1649, but the idea of natural rights prevailed and was taken up by the men of the Enlightenment, Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Paine, Diderot, John Locke, and Adam Smith, for example.
In the century that followed the idea of natural rights was applied in establishing England as a constitutional monarchy (the monarchy was restored following Cromwell’s death), and the founding of the republic of the United States of America, where in both societies civil law, the rights of the individual and equality before the law has replaced the old order where Christian doctrine once had primacy in public life.
by Geoffrey

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.