How do atheists fight depression?
This is a legitimate question. I'm an atheist and I find that when I start to think about death and the sheer vastness of the universe, I get overwhelmed. The birth and death of the earth (and the human race) is so quick and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and I believe death is little more than eternal sleep (we're just gone, for lack of a better description). No heaven or hell, just nothing until another planet springs to life with different lifeforms (that aren't me). So my question is, how do you (as fellow atheists) avoid getting depressed by this?
It doesnt make me depressed to know that when I die it will be like before I was born. Why would it? I'm alive now and I can do anything I want.
In fact, thinking that a being who punishes people by burning them in hell for eternity, exists, would be something to make you depressed right?
The universe is fascinating. It doesnt however, invoke any emotions. Only other living beings can do that to me.
I mostly agree with Jesus was a hippy. If you focus on the end of everything, forgetting everything that is the present, you will be depressed. Sure, we're going to die, but I actually find a feeling of relief in that.
I always thought it was selfish when I got sad I would die someday. I would think, mostly: "Sure, I can watch things around me die. I don't expect that flower to go to any afterlife, maybe that dog. How can it be fair for me to assume I am worth so much more than all of nature."
There is something beautiful in strict mortality, and coming to terms with that is what really helps. Yes, you will die, but you have this time right now to live. Usually that thought gets me up and going pretty quickly!
Well, I'm not necessarily an atheist. I'm something like agnostic, do I count? LoL. I also don't believe in a Heaven or a Hell. Like Dimir said, I think I'll find relief in death. I kind of see it as a last breathe, before this wave of peace, and then a very welcome "nothingness." What's so scary about that?
Just enjoy the life you're living, man. That's what I'm trying to do. Imagine having been a former believer like me. Then the answer to that question gets really hard! Especially if you were as devout as I was! It's been quite a time. But I'm finding my way, as will you.
M T Dremer- First, I will assume that you are experiencing a sense of depression when you describe this feeling of being overwhelmed. So, I am also going to assume that you have attached an emotional content to the fact that you have died (or will die as it is now), and your body will disintegrate and then what? The particles will merge in with all of the other atoms in the Universe...is this your belief?
If there is no heaven and hell, which I personally do not believe in, then is it your body that merges with the universe? I believe each person has a soul and it is one's soul that merges back into the cosmic Universe, along with the decomposition of one's body.
After you are dead your mind won't be thinking/worrying/analyzing this issue. By pondering this now you are moving into a future place and allowing your mind to create an element of attachment to something: the body...which overwhelms you.
Why not, as suggested here, just 'live your life' and stay in the moment of your experience in the here and now. If this is difficult to do, which many people find this to be true, then practice a meditation exercise that will quiet your mind from these thoughts and bring you to that cosmic space/stillness in which you mention-"the sheer vastness of the universe."
If it helps you to investigate another person's experience of this 'nothingness' read my hub about the void. It's called: Silence, a meditation experience. In this hub I explain the frantic scramble of trying to attach to something, followed by the quiet, stillness of nothing.
I hope this helps.
I am not an Athiest, but I have discussed this with some. In fact, I have answered this question for them. The fact is, we cannot be certian what comes next. What our experience has taught us is, we leave behind memories of us. The way we impact humanity now is one of the few things we have some control over, and even that is limited. If Heaven is people remembering us in positive ways, and Hell is people remembering us in negative ways, then use this time to do good with others. Make sure you leave behind positive memories, (keeping in mind that will be different for each person), and push yourself towards goodness according to individual standards. With or without "god" only you can control your depression. Don't worry about what's next, just do your best with what is.
There is nothing to get depressed about to start. Just like the fictional god(s), once you realize you are battling phantoms with make-believe standards of perfection you are free to be a normal human instead of crawling on your knees bawling out, "We're not worth, we're not worthy".
Party on, Garth.
According to King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, the dead are better off than the living, for the living know that they shall die, but the dead know of nothing at all. And better than both of these, is he which has not been born yet. At least, when we are dead, we are unaware of it. And there has been an eternity before we were here in which we didn't exist, so it will be a returning to the same state. Life is like a brief period of light, between two eternal periods of darkness. Worrying about the return to the darkness is not going to prevent it happening. We should try to live in the present moment, because it is all there is. We cannot live in the past or future. Or, if atheism is too depressing, we can choose to believe in something, whether of religion or spirituality. Perhaps it doesn't matter if it is true or not. As long as it helps to overcome the fear, then it could be said to serve its purpose. And when the Earth itself no longer exists, what will it matter it the human animal decided to believe in soothing tales. The Earth cares not what we think. Perhaps the fact that we think too much is our biggest problem as well as our biggest advantage as a species.
I join in your beliefs--or lack thereof. I don't get depressed by the thought of my mortality. I believe there is more evidence of a continuing existence, but not as a "heaven" or "hell." I don't believe in either of those concepts. But, I have had personal experience with ghosts, and I know people with past life memories. There is more solid evidence for both of those things than there is for any "god."
If I get depressed, it is because of things not within my control right here on Earth, such as the current economic mess that is threatening everyone's homes and jobs. The behavior of the corporations and politicians..now THAT'S depressing.
But, more to the point of your question--I know we all "go" at some point. There's no point getting depressed over the inevitable. I only "worry" about going if I have unfinished business right here...or going painfully. I don't deal well with pain.
In a way, I'm curious to know what REALLY happens "over there," but I'm not in that big a hurry to find out. ;-)
(Actually, the electrical activity that makes up our memories only changes form and leaves our bodies--this has been measured scientifically--that is the evidence to which I referred for a continuation--just in a different plane.)
Just because you are an Atheist does not mean that you can not be spiritual. Spirituality does not mean religion, to some it does, but definitively it does not.
To start with you need to find something that gives you comfort, a place you can go when you feel overwhelmed, sad, afraid or whatever. In essence everything has a beginning and an end, it is how you cope between it personally that will help you thrive.
I see no reason for your Atheist beliefs being a 'be all end all' to life or even a reason to give up on hope, life itself is much larger than that, you don't have to be religious to believe that.
Finally, if your thoughts are more science based then educate yourself. There are many theories out there on life and the universe that we can hardly understand or explain, it is fascinating and may help you narrow down your thoughts . . . because right now they seem scattered.
And remember, that you and your life is energy, and energy must go somewhere, not nowhere.
Live life! I think that no matter what, when a person looks too far into the future they get overwhelmed and a little bit depressed. Live in the moment. You won't be around when your dead, so what's the worry? It sounds like you're not entirely set on atheism though...maybe if you really do worry about the afterlife it's worth looking into religion... :-/ ...?
Atheist are humans like us, it is just that they doubt or they don't believe in the existence of the creator. They also feel the pain of being depressed, They suffer like us and so they fight depression the same as someone who is not an atheist. I think they are not super humans
Speaking as a former atheist, through distraction/denial. You narrow your perspective down to the present moment. This can be done by hedonism, things like drugs and sex. You can also immerse yourself in some kind of fantasy (movies, books or even just living your own life like a kind of fictional story, like a soldier trapped in the fantasy of being a mighty warrior) which suspend your conscious awareness of death, or rather detaches you from it. There is also the narrowing of consciousness through procedural focus, that is, you enter into a state of "Flow" by immersion in an activity (we call most of these activities "games"), allowing you to "lose yourself".
The problem is that once you become conscious of what you are doing it is difficult to continue. Once consciousness is broadened it perceives danger and resists being narrowed again. This process is described in the Bible in Ecclesiastes, "Futility of futilities, all is futile. What does a man profit from all his labors under the sun?". The solution is to not become conscious of what you are doing by dismissing anything that disturbs (takes you out of) the process by which you are hiding. Man's psychology is not built to accept death, it is built to deny it.
It is possible to do this and if you are convinced there is no hope, understanding the above may help you devise a means of effectively hiding from the awareness of death without guilt. One such way is through immersing yourself in a fantasy just like the common conception of religion. So the enlightened atheist becomes a religious fanatical, not because he believes in the religion by reason but because it helps him to function in the world.
I'm a proud atheist and it's true atheists have a depression problem but it has nothing to do with when they're gonna die. In my opinion, I don't really care when I'm gonna die, I'd rather die than live. I just don't get the point of life. You live to later die? It doesn't make any sense. But anyway, I think people who are religious just gives them something to believe in that they think does good for them.
It's sad that you want to die. Well, God is coming in about one year (12-13 months), so you will get your wish. Live it up until then...
Hamsa - I guess God asked for a rain check...?
What happened? Did God not come, Hamsa Rosenberg?
It's quite obvious that many atheists turn to medication, alcohol and drugs etc to unnaturally fill the existential void left by departing from the natural spiritual solutions: humble prayer, meditation, associating with spiritual people and selflessness.
How then would you explain believers who turn to medication, alcohol, and drugs, despite having spiritual solutions?
Associating with too many "spiritual" people really would be hell!
Simple enough, I don't get depressed by it.
It is inevitable, it is a fact, and it will happen one day. You will be unaware of anything, so all emotions will have evaporated. So there is no place for fear or anxiety. Stay rational, listen to what your mind and your brain tell you rather than giving into your emotions - emotions are always, always, a bad decision-making tool.
I actually nearly died once already in 2008. I was on the operating table for the second time following a heart attack, things did not quite go according to plan, and I was comatose for two days. Peaceful, dreamless sleep, total calm. I hadn't enjoyed sleep like that for years - prone as I have always been to be mentally hyperactive.
Waking up was another matter - pain like I had never felt before. And that pain stayed with me for some seven to eight weeks. I am only thankful that it was not longer.
The one thing that worries about death isn't the end. It is the weeks going into the end - the period where pain and suffering are a constant feature, and resistance is no longer readily available to you in any meaningful form. A slow, lingering death I definitely do not need.
My mother was fortunate in that respect in that she died of a sudden heart attack. Either that, or simply falling asleep and never waking up - that is the way to go. Into the void? Well it is where we all end up, no matter what the believers in all the various mythologies want us to accept.
Take it as a fact, accept it as inevitable, and live the best life you can without letting your emotions taking over. That is the way to face it. It's going to happen one day - so stop worrying!
I know this is an older question but no one has addressed the point I'd like to make.
Have you considered that the depression has to do with your general emotional state or a biological problem rather than your atheism?
Some years back, I experienced something similar, a depressing near-constant set of thoughts about everyone I ever loved ceasing to exist. I drove myself batty wondering who I'd lose next. Then I was diagnosed with hypothyroid disease, got on thyroid replacement therapy, and the depression vanished within a month.
I can purposely run my thoughts over the same things I was bothered by and not even feel a flicker of upset. I still know everyone I've ever loved is either gone forever or will be, but it just doesn't make me feel like it did back then.
You're a piece of the universe that has woken to consciousness; revel in it while it lasts. Be who you love while you can. Embrace what you have rather than worrying about losing it.
My mindset is considerably different than when I first posted this question, but thanks for the thoughtful answer (similar to yours now).
Spot on, Kylyssa. Our minds are subject to all the chemical balances/imbalances brought on by sickness, tidal forces, weather, etc. Things we have no control over. No need to feel guilty about being depressed. IMHO
Unlike most of the other commenters, but not all, I'd have to say that being an atheist can easily lead to depression and there is no easy way out. The reason people believe in religion is to offset the meaningless of life. This is not to say that by being born into a meaningless existence we should conduct ourselves in some kind of immoral fashion. If everyone on the planet felt as I do, it wouldn't provoke me into becoming a bizzarker. Why would it? Why kill, rape, plunder when none of it has absolutely no meaning?
I think we can be sympathetic with one another. We were born into this world without our consent. We landed here and although philosophically we might agree that there is no meaning, but that wouldn't prevent me from sharing a piece of bread with another person who was starving. No, for some time period we're stuck on planet Earth -- so we have to create a kind of code of ethics -- even though in the long run in means nothing.
The Buddhists seem to have a pretty firm grasp of this whole concept. While there may be no overriding meaning, we're stuck here for a while and should at least be charitable. We can reduce suffering. Why do so? Because if you've ever suffered yourself, you'll recognize it's intolerable/inexcusable and painful. Even being consigned to a meaningless existence doesn't mean that we are zombies. We aren't zombies. We feel. We hurt. When we see others hurting, it's just charitable to give what we can. Religious people would like to ascribe this tendency to the holy spirit working through us. This is a tag on.
I think the answer toward any altruism we offer is just based on the fact that we self-identify with others. If we see someone else starving and we can spare a bit of food (or whatever), we might help do so because they seem no better than us.
You cannot have a functioning life system based entirely upon the concept of meaninglessness. If this were the case, we'd just sit in our piddles and die -- freezing to death, starving to death, sizzling to death. But for whatever reason life (the very essence of life) is to survive. So, we do what we can to eek out a living and sometimes help our fellows.
Some (many) do not find life meaningless and have created entire civilizations (for better or worse).
But, in today's world, if an atheist finds no meaning to existence, it's quite understandable and natural.
I have been asked something similar many times. "If there is no afterlife, doesn't that upset you? What are you living for?" To paraphrase Richard Dawkins (Pretty sure it's him... could be Hitchins), The fact that I only have one life to live motivates me to live it to the fullest.
I don't focus on death much. Am I going to die someday? That's up for debate (long story). I won't know until it happens, but there is nothing I can do about it. Do I WANT to die? Of course, I don't! How boring would non-existence be? LOL. So what's left is for me to use the time I DO have and make my mark in the world. My immortality extends only so far as the people who remember me. I refuse to have kids, so I have to work extra hard to be memorable. It's quite a liberating feeling to not have to worry about what's coming next. I get one shot on this merry-go-round. I have to make it count!
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