Short version: I've turned away from theism some time ago but still have issues in dealing with the whole afterlife illusion. I don't fear hell (as according to the beliefs I grew up with I iz can get hevunz). However I have had trouble dealing with what I can only describe as theistic nihilism.
What I mean by theistic nihilism is I have trouble finding meaning in this life because if heaven is then this life doesn't matter.
Anyone else dealt with this before? Thoughts?
I'm not entirely sure what you are saying. Is it that you are a theist who believes in heaven and so life does not matter? Or an atheist having trouble reconciling the finality of death? I am only confused because you say you have turned away from theism, but also mention that you don't fear hell. I find this somewhat motioning to a belief in hell that you just aren't afraid of.
If it is that you are an atheist struggling with "breaking up" with the idea of an afterlife, I would like to share my views. In my mind, our lives matter in that they end. The caliber of your character can only be demonstrated in the limited time you are here. The more you love, give, laugh, learn, and teach, the larger impact on our species you will have, and at the end of your life, the more you have bettered humankind. Each species strives to improve themselves, and mankind is no different. The meaning of life is to try your best to improve our species, however you can. Well, that is its meaning to me.
Were you to be immortal, through an infinite tenor in heaven, what value would you have? Everything you do, you could do infinitely over and over again. There would be no special moments, no once in a life time experiences. Because your lifetime would never end. You would not really even have a lifetime, you would just have time. You would have forever to accomplish everything. Furthermore, what would motivate you? What would be the point of doing anything if you can always just do it in another thousand years? Instead of living a short life to its fullest, you would live an infinite life stagnantly. There would be no meaning to your existence because there would be no end to it. Sure, one can involve the presence of God in their afterlife, but, one must wonder if his greatness fades once you are, for all intensive purposes, just as great and infinite as him (for i believe much of his greatness is derived from his infinity). You would both be everlasting, and I'm sure after a few million years his star status nulls a bit in your eyes. Were heaven to be true, you would live your entire life building up to meeting this one great power, die, reach heaven, gain the immortality you so admired about him, and then spend the rest of eternity with an old bearded man/eight armed elephant/spaghetti monster, that isn't that much better than you after all. If you spend your entire worldly life anticipating meeting god, what do you have once you meet him? A very long, very uninspired, very meaningless stay up in the clouds.
Anyways, that is how I place meaning to my life. It may not be the right explanation for you, and I wish you luck in your search.
I'm an atheist myself and I almost agree with you that life without death would have no meaning. But what if a person has been robbed of a huge part of his life for example his childhood? What if a person has been forced to live in inhuman conditions for the most part of his or her life and only got to experience the other side of life towards the end of it? In my opinion death can be a cruel fate for a human or any intelligent being if this being never got a chance to be happy. Or even crueler got a chance to be happy towards the very end in order to realize what it has been denied all its life. This is, why I think, that death is something that humanity has to overcome through science and I think that it is possible. Every person has to be able to choose for himself when he wants to expire. This way anyone, who thinks, that he has seen it all, would have the chance to commit suicide at any time (but only after extensive counseling and psychological evaluations from independent psychologists, sociologists and philosophers of course to make sure that this person is not insane and that nothing can be changed in the life of this individual to make him/her/it happy again.)
Everybody should be given a choice whether he wants to die, how he wants to die, when he wants to die and so on. (For example death through aging giving himself an additional approx. 120 years for contemplation or a quick death through injection or something else).
P.S. In order to avoid excessive overpopulation as a result of a prolonged existence the birth rate would have to be regulated.
Andrew: "What I mean by theistic nihilism is I have trouble finding meaning in this life because if heaven is then this life doesn't matter."
I'm good at coming up with concepts (even for stuff that I perfectly do not believe in), and I have one for you: What if the physical world (Universe.) is God's spirit factory? He uses his nuclear consciousness-LEGO to have new self-perceivers come into existence and to stimulate them to make the most of themselves. Then he harvests them and forever coexists in Heaven with them. In the beginning, there was just him, but he figured out a way to make beings like him (Consciousnesses.), and the universe is this way.
So, make the most out of your self while you're still here. Btw., I have found that the highest quality a being can have is to truly become the will that the world and the other consciousnesses exist and have a good ride. That is, if we'd believe in God, to try to be like him.
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The ACA Lecture Series continues Sunday, October 11th at 12:15pm in the Austin History Center, 9th and Guadalupe. The building opens at noon. Texas Freedom Network's Dan Quinn will give us an update on their activities. The lecture is free and open to the public.