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mazingerz88's avatar

Are there downsides to being an agnostic or atheist in terms of being able to cope with life's problems and realities like death?

Asked by mazingerz88 (19058points) May 22nd, 2014

Can a person be an agnostic or atheist yet also spiritual-? People get their inspiration from their faith in dealing with the harshness of life. Where do agnostics and atheists get theirs-?

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34 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sure. I feel sad knowing that when I die I’m just dead. I’d much rather be able to believe there is something more, and that I could see my Mom and Dad again. Mom always used to say she looked forward to the day she could see Mary again. Mary was still born. Younger than me but older than my other two sisters.

ucme's avatar

I think believers hate atheists because we give away the ending

jerv's avatar

Deistic Agnostics believe that there is a greater power, and merely lack faith in humanity’s ability to comprehend it’s nature. But that mystery leaves plenty of room for optimism, so it’s possible to be spiritual and have faith with having a religion. The big difference really is that religious people (and Atheists) know they’re right while Agnostics acknowledge that they’re just guessing too.

hominid's avatar

@jerv – Despite what has been argued here regarding the philosophical origins of agnosticism and atheism, when you meet someone who identifies as an “atheist”, this means that s/he does not believe in a god or gods. Theism/atheism is binary, and “agnostic” addresses knowledge. So, I’m an “agnostic atheist” – and so are almost every single atheist you meet (or public personality). Atheists in the strawman sense (the kind that religious people like to portray) are so rare as to not really exist. I have yet to meet someone who holds a positive believe that a god does not exist, yet most people I know do not accept the god claims that have been presented, so identify as agnostic atheists.

That said, @mazingerz88 – have you ever done a thought experiment and wondered what it would be like if you were to find out tomorrow, as many people do, that their beliefs are unjustified? Where would you find inspiration? I suspect much of the inspiration would come from the same places – beauty, curiosity, love, relationships, etc. In fact, it seems that in some cases, theists and atheists may be speaking of the same inspirations but using significantly different language (although not in all cases).

My friend’s mother found inspiration in the prick of a heroin needle, my step mother finds inspiration in a belief in a god, and I find inspiration in what is.

Paradox25's avatar

Not all atheists and agnostics are closed to the possibility of an afterlife, but simply reject what most religions teach. ‘God’ is a difficult term to define, and even as a theist myself I struggle with it.

JLeslie's avatar

I find some peace in believing when you die it is over. I don’t have to worry about an afterlife, I just cease to exist. At the same time, when my grandmother died I thought how I think it would be beautiful if she saw her father again. She lost him when she was 5, and I think she missed him her entire life. I also think it would be nice for those who suffered in life to be able to experience “life” free of pain.

I also like the idea of reincarnation and that souls stay near each other. Like my husband was my brother in a previous life, or maybe he is my great grandfather (my grandma’s father). My grandma had a very special, instant, affection for my husband. She adored him.

Mostly, I just think we don’t know. We can’t know for sure, but everyone dies, and so I believe it can’t be too bad.

I am more worried and said about leaving life then about being dead.

Unbroken's avatar

I am bothered by people’s need to foist religion on the dying. Like, hah I got you now!!! What Ever….

I believe I am more at peace then religious folk because the only rules I have to follow the only thing I have to please other then the obligatory family/friends/financial/legal system is myself.

I don’t envision it ever occurring to change my mind in the last moments. I was raised christain and I hated it as a child. It was not me. I have explored other religions noticed the similar features. I am content in being in awe of my surroundings. Amazing myself when I accomplish something I have doubts about and being humbled when people show kindness in their everyday life to really going out of their way. To wonder at the heroes. Not just the news making heroes. But the everyday heros.

When I feel life is unjust and want to be angry or feel betrayed I realize there are two sides to every coin. That nature never promised fairness. And that with great burdens comes great joy. I do I become depressed and upset but I always make it through…

I always picture the land being hollowed like the grand canyon with each bump and each sorrow, but instead of a scar I see beauty and a deep channel to let life through with its great and fierce beauty.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

As far as death, I can see there being no downside. Actually it should be quite comforting, especially because with no afterlife you will never know you died, or was dead. Even if you were afraid of the impending death because you fell, was on a sinking ship too far from shore, in a falling plane etc. once you became pizza topping on the side of a mountain you would not even know it, there would be no you to remember. If there is a downside it is going through life consumed with bitterness, or whatever that the murderer of a loved one who was never found, was just smart enough to get away with it and will never be punished for what they did to one you loved.

ibstubro's avatar

I agree with what @jerv said, and I would add that it possibly makes agnostics more spiritual, because they don’t have the whole ‘forgiveness’ crutch. When you do bad things you have to wait until the end to see how it plays out.

Christians can be forgiven anything if they ask for forgiveness. What a racket. Pass the collection plate.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@ibstubro We also don’t have you’ll burn in “hell” for__________ or that you’ll get into “heaven” for______. I would consider my self spiritual in the sense that the universe inspires a sense of awe and I don’t pretend to understand it’s meaning or what my end in it will be like. I can’t say that there is not point or possibly a creator of some kind. I don’t think we are actually supposed to know these things.

bolwerk's avatar

No. I don’t know about agnostics (they’re probably more wishwashy), but atheists probably cope with death better than almost anyone because we don’t have illusions death. This includes about the contingency that the information contained in the mind is lost forever after death.

Of course, belief in life after death isn’t necessary to be a theist. And I’ve met a handful of atheists who believe in life after death, but not God/gods

ibstubro's avatar

Agreed, @ARE_you_kidding_me. My biggest hope is that we’re all part of a larger consciousness. If the illusion isn’t lifted, then at least our mental or intellectual substance will be recycled the same as our bodies are.

Paradox25's avatar

@ibstubro @jerv Those are actually examples of monism. Many (not all) Spiritualists, Buddhists, Hindus, Theosophists and others have a monist view of the universe too.

kritiper's avatar

Agnostics might have some trouble since they don’t exactly disbelieve in “God.” True Atheists shouldn’t have any trouble at all. Both probably get their inspiration from reality.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@ucme How can atheists give away the ending when they don’t even know what it is?
@JLeslie Yes, we can know for sure.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Downside for atheists is that they are superior to theists, having enlightened themselves to the truth of evidence based realities, they are feared and scorned by those who succumb to more primitive teachings. Atheists have evolved beyond the taunts of mystical charlatans. They will soon evolve further beyond what mere humans comprehend, destined in irony to become the very gods they would otherwise deny.

Downside for agnostics is that they are a bunch of pussies who can’t take a stand.

jlk2525's avatar

I’m an atheist and I would say yes I am spiritual. I feel it when I’m amongst nature. At the beach for example. I’m inspired by ‘The meaning of life is to give it meaning’.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Funny you should say that @jlk2525, about giving meaning. We do that with words.

1st John 1:1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

And the word became flesh.

Paradox25's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Agnosticism claims we can never know. Some agnostics justify this on the grounds being how can one support the existence of something that can’t be defined. Sometimes this is called ignosticism. Would you consider monism to be theism? What’s a deity? In a way maybe I can justify the agnostic viewpoint, but I don’t like the dogmatism of proclaiming that we can never know of or learn about any concept, entity or phenomenon.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Downside for atheists is that they are superior to theists, having enlightened themselves to the truth of evidence based realities, they are feared and scorned by those who succumb to more primitive teachings.


jlk2525's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I’d rather do it with actions in my life. Words mean nothing without action. Action=experience

jerv's avatar

@Paradox25 I got as far as, ”...can be explained…”, before determining that Monism isn’t an accurate description of my own personal belief system.

@Dan_Lyons To my mind, without evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of peer review, it’s not fact; it’s faith, and faith isn’t really knowledge. But my not knowing the true nature of the divine (or whether it even exists) is fact; I know that there are things that I don’t know.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Just kidding @Paradox25. I share much of your views.

@jlk2525 “I’d rather do it with actions in my life. Words mean nothing without action. Action=experience”

No action may be taken without first a word to describe the action which is. Anything less is a reaction. Not genuine action.

No experience may be comprehended without words to comprehend the experience upon. Anything less is a feeling. Not genuine experience.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

No thought may be thunk without a language to think the thought upon. Anything less is a hallucination.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@jerv Isn’t science based on observations, making theories and testing them and coming to conclusions based on the tests and observations thereof?

So if I observe little things happening in my favor when I am chatting up the big guy (God), and test my theory that he exists by asking for more and more good things to happen to me. And more and more good things keep happening including miracle cures for ailments which the AMA medical community has told me is impossible, then I believe I am correct in hypothesizing the existence of the Big guy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to convince anyone else of his obvious existence, nor do I even care that people aren’t clever enough to perform their own scientific test(s) in this regard.

This is no longer faith, this is the certain knowledge that he exists, and takes a personal interest in us.

jerv's avatar

@Dan_Lyons It’s things like that that make me believe that there are things about the universe that we don’t (and can’t) understand. Going from that to attributing it to [deity of choice] though, that requires more faith than I have. Then again, I’ve seen no evidence that there are no higher powers either so I can’t say you’re wrong, only that we have different views on the matter.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@jerv It’s okay. You can say I’m right. You can say I’m wrong. It doesn’t matter. I am laughing all the way to the bank, living a life like there’s a red carpet rolled out in front of me because of my good buddy who created the whole shebang.

And like I said, it’s not faith, it’s utter certainty.

I wish you good fortune in all you do with or without an assist from the Big guy.

Seek's avatar

Death is easy. It was a lot scarier believing there was a chance I’d burn in hellfire and damnation for eternity than it is to believe one day the lights are going to go out.

It’s life that’s harder. But only slightly. The main difference being when shit goes down, instead of praying that it will get better, I’m motivated to do something about it myself. And doing stuff is a whole lot harder than not doing stuff.

jerv's avatar

“It brings me comfort knowing life is more than just a test.”- House

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@bolwerk And I’ve met a handful of atheists who believe in life after death, but not God/gods.
Does that mean they believe in life before birth, and if so, where do they believe a person was an in what state, seeing they do not believe in the spirit? If they have no spirit, what part of them are living after death and where?

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Downside for atheists is that they are superior to theists, having enlightened themselves to the truth of evidence based realities, they are feared and scorned by those who succumb to more primitive teachings.
Thank heaven that is only opinion……..

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@kritiper I thinks it is more of a self-fulfilled declaration without any proof to stand on….but we all can have our imaginations.

kritiper's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central True enough. But it takes more imagination to believe than to not believe.

bolwerk's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central: usually the arguments have to do with the idea that the mind could somehow continue as a wave-form after the projection of the physical body ends. Call it a “spirit” if you want, but I’m not sure it has the same implications (e.g., whatever information survives may or may not be conscious postmortem). As it’s not assumed that minds are placed into bodies before birth by a supernatural force, I presume no, they do not exist before developing biologically. But the information the mind/brain creates does not necessarily need to cease to exist after bodily death either.

Well, it’s a combination of far-fetched and over my head, but it seems less silly than the God thing. In any case, there is nothing “un-atheistic” about the above.

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