One of the most common questions I get asked, being an atheist, is: How do you find meaning and purpose in life?
I decided to dedicate a whole post to this question, seeing as it's a pretty big deal. The words "meaning" and "purpose" can make or break somebody. So let me lay it down in the best way I can.
I enjoy life. I love being able to wake up every day and make it whatever I want. The very fact that I am able to think and walk and talk is incredible. I think, as humans, we sometimes forget what living actually is. We are a masterpiece of evolution. We don't realize how amazing the simple little details of life are. Instead, we see it as a whole. But if you break it down into itty-bitty pieces and see exactly what it is you're doing (breathing, progressing, creating), there is so much more to be thankful for.
I do need to clarify something though. When I was transforming into my nonreligious self, I became very scared. It was like one day it all of the sudden hit me that I might not have an afterlife. It was a huge slap in the face. I went through some very dark months where I felt like everything was pointless. I was terrified. But this was a huge change for me, so of course I was going to be scared. Religion taught me to be scared. There was only one thing I could do, and that was to rebuild myself. So I did.
Meaning and purpose became a quest for me. Why do we live if we have nothing after death? This question used to haunt me. Now I find it kind of silly. We are here, living, so why should we worry about what happens next? This life should be taking all of our attention. There is so much to do, see, feel. The more I started thinking about that, the closer I got to my answer..
I believe that we create our own purpose.
That's the beauty of life. That's the beauty of the mind. We make of life whatever it is that we want.
So you want to know how I find meaning without a higher power? I simply learn from myself. I listen to myself. I find the things that just seem right. These things don't feel right to me because of a god. They feel right because I care about the future of the world. We're all gonna die, and the life here will continue without us. Those people and the people after them will go through the same things we go through and also very different things. I want the future to be a happy place. Even though I won't be there in 100 years, I want those people to be happy.
I guess the biggest change from leaving religious meaning to this new atheistic meaning, is becoming less selfish. My focus isn't to do good to be rewarded in an afterlife. It's to do good to reward the people who live on when I die.