Why go on?
From the IAmAnAtheist.com feedback form:
Hello, i am 27 and lifetime atheist. Well i would technically be a believer in a theory that we as a whole really dont know why we are. The riddle of life has plagued and pondered me to a nub. What i can say, and the reason i am on this site, is that i am desperatly seeking logical reasons for why and what life is. The explaination they (religious people in general) sounds as ridicoulas as it actually is. Im not stupid, far from it, but i am heartbroken because of a loss i have recently had. I have never experienced such a heartwrenching death, and 4 day prelude to death. I have been destroyed for a month now and as much i would love all the “he’s in heaven now” jargon ive recieved, sadly its not even a possibility. So, friend, I am declaring myself an athesiest, for one, and also looking for comfort by way of others views and theories (that are more logical than “god created all, you and him will go bowling after you die if you are a good boy). I have stopped caring about life and for the first time in my life have been having suicidal thoughts, even starting to plan. Maybe I can find a reason not to online. Thank you so much for your time.
First and foremost, I would like to offer my sympathy for your loss. It is an awful truth of human existence that there will at times be unbearable sorrows, and in some ways they are more difficult to deal with when you don’t have the comfort of the stories and legends that religion has crafted to help hide the wounds from view.
You asked for a logical reason for why and what life is, and I’m going to disappoint you. In my opinion, questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “Why are we here?” (as traditionally asked) only exist when one assumes that there is a deity or some other force behind existence that intended things to be the way they are. As an atheist, I’m sure you would agree that there is no such force, so I would ask you to put those questions aside as meaningless.
A more relevant question — and the one that, perhaps, you are hoping I will answer — is “If there is no overall meaning to life, then why should I bother living?” That, fortunately, is a question that atheists can answer.
Since there is no afterlife, the life you live now is the most important and meaningful thing in your existence. You are not working toward some posthumous goal, but working toward building, creating, and enjoying all you can with the time you have.
I don’t know the details of your loss, but whomever you lost must have meant a great deal to you and must be the focus of many happy memories. Now that this person is gone, those memories are a legacy — the treasure created by a wonderful, unique human existence. The best way to honor the person you lost is to treat those memories as the treasure they are. Enjoy them. Share them. Learn from them. Let others benefit from them where you can.
So long as you live, some of the joy created by the person you lost exists. The worst thing you can do is throw your life away and waste that joy. The best thing you can do is struggle forward and look to create wonderful memories in others, so that when your time comes, you will live on in the things you have created.
I hope this has been of some help. Thank you for writing.