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A Meaningful, Happy Life w/o Religion -Quotes

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10/15/2012 2:25:23 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
This question was raised on another thread in this forum. I took it upon myself to find some quotes which I feel illustrate how I, as a secular atheist, manage to live parts of each day with a profound sense of meaning, awe, and often happiness, despite not believing in the claims of any religion and believing that the consciousness of myself and all my loved ones will eventually cease forever. These are the quotes that most inspire me. Some are poems and are typed poetically. All are quite thought provoking.

Feel free to respond with any quotes you feel illustrate how one can find meaning, wonder, amazement, happiness, and the like, while, or because of, living a totally secular life. Or if not a quote, your own explanation. Particularly how leading a secular life gives you meaning, though not all of my quotes deal overtly with religion and secularism. This post is continued by a second one with some more amazing quotes, right below it.


There are the rushing waves...
mountains of molecules,
each stupidly minding its own business...
trillions apart
...yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages...
before any eyes could see...
year after year...
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
...on a dead planet
with no life to entertain.

Never at rest...
tortured by energy...
wasted prodigiously by the sun...
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea,
all molecules repeat
the patterns of another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves...
and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity...
living things,
masses of atoms,
DNA, protein...
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land...
here it is standing...
atoms with consciousness
...matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea...
wonders at wondering... I...
a universe of atoms...
an atom in the universe.

- Richard Feynman

"...He learns about the size of the universe. The size of the universe is very impressive, with us on a tiny particle that whirls around the sun. That's one sun among a hundred thousand million suns in this galaxy, itself among a billion galaxies. And again, he learns about the close biological relationship of man to the animals and of one form of life to another and that man is a latecomer in a long and vast, evolving drama. And yet again there are the atoms, of which all appears to be constructed following immutable laws. Nothing can escape it. The stars are made of the same stuff but in some such complexity as to mysteriously appear alive.

It is such a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing -atoms with curiosity - that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well, these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty.

- Richard Feynman

The following two from another physicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson:

- The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.

- The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them went unstable, in their later years they collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of a gas cloud that condensed, collapsed, formed the next generation of solar systems stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.

So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up. Many people feel small because they're small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There's a level of connectivity. That's really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That's precisely what we are, just by being alive.

Now for some more poetry...

I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for their religion -
I have shudder'd at it.
I shudder no more.
I could be martyr'd for my religion
Love is my religion
And I could die for that.
I could die for you.

- John Keats

Other men said they have seen angels,
But I have seen thee
And thou art enough.

- G. Moore

When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing -- then we truly live life. - Greg Anderson

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. - Cherokee Expression

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person. - Anais Nin

Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.
- Joseph Campbell

Because children grow up, we think a child's purpose is to grow up. But a child's purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn't disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into the each moment. We don't value the lily less for not being made of flint and built to last. Life's bounty is in its flow, later is too late. Where is the song when it's been sung? The dance when it's been danced? It's only we humans who want to own the future, too. We persuade ourselves that the universe is modestly employed in unfolding our destination. We note the haphazard chaos of history by the day, by the hour, but there is something wrong with the picture. Where is the unity, the meaning, of nature's highest creation? Surely those millions of little streams of accident and wilfulness have their correction in the vast underground river which, without a doubt, is carrying us to the place where we're expected! But there is no such place, that's why it's called utopia. The death of a child has no more meaning than the death of armies, of nations. Was the child happy while he lived? That is a proper question, the only question. If we can't arrange our own happiness, it's a conceit beyond vulgarity to arrange the happiness of those who come after us. - Tom Stoppard

Continued below...
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10/15/2012 2:26:20 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Continued from above...

Here is my favorite quote of all the ones I'm posting here:

About once or twice every month I engage in public debates with those whose pressing need it is to woo and to win the approval of supernatural beings. Very often, when I give my view that there is no supernatural dimension, and certainly not one that is only or especially available to the faithful, and that the natural world is wonderful enough"and even miraculous enough if you insist"I attract pitying looks and anxious questions. How, in that case, I am asked, do I find meaning and purpose in life? How does a mere and gross materialist, with no expectation of a life to come, decide what, if anything, is worth caring about?

Depending on my mood, I sometimes but not always refrain from pointing out what a breathtakingly insulting and patronizing question this is. (It is on a par with the equally subtle inquiry: Since you don't believe in our god, what stops you from stealing and lying and raping and killing to your heart's content?) Just as the answer to the latter question is: self-respect and the desire for the respect of others"while in the meantime it is precisely those who think they have divine permission who are truly capable of any atrocity"so the answer to the first question falls into two parts. A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humor, parenthood, literature, and music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called 'meaningless' except if the person living it is also an existentialist and elects to call it so. It could be that all existence is a pointless joke, but it is not in fact possible to live one's everyday life as if this were so. Whereas if one sought to define meaninglessness and futility, the idea that a human life should be expended in the guilty, fearful, self-obsessed propitiation of supernatural nonentities" but there, there. Enough.

- Christopher Hitchens

The clear awareness of having been born into a losing struggle need not lead one into despair. I do not especially like the idea that one day I shall be tapped on the shoulder and informed, not that the party is over but that it is most assuredly going on"only henceforth in my absence. (It's the second of those thoughts: the edition of the newspaper that will come out on the day after I have gone, that is the more distressing.) Much more horrible, though, would be the announcement that the party was continuing forever, and that I was forbidden to leave. Whether it was a hellishly bad party or a party that was perfectly heavenly in every respect, the moment that it became eternal and compulsory would be the precise moment that it began to pall.

- Christopher Hitchens

Everything ends, and Everything matters.

Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it. Everything is all you"ve got"and after Everything is nothing. So you were wise to welcome Everything, the good and the bad alike, and cling to it all. Gather it in. Seek the meaning in sorrow and don"t ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.

- Ron Currie Jr

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life. - Robert Louis Stevenson

The purpose of life is to stay alive. Watch any animal in nature--all it tries to do is stay alive. It doesn't care about beliefs or philosophy. Whenever any animal's behavior puts it out of touch with the realities of its existence, it becomes extinct. - Michael Crichton

Another great one that really stands out by yet another scientist:

"Beyond work and love, I would add two other ingredients that give meaning to life. First, to fulfill whatever talents we are born with. However blessed we are by fate with different abilities and strengths, we should try to develop them to the fullest, rather than allow them to atrophy and decay. We all know individuals who did not fulfill the promise they showed in childhood. Many of them became haunted by the image of what they might have become. Instead of blaming fate, I think we should accept ourselves as we are and try to fulfill whatever dreams are within our capability.

Second, we should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it. As individuals, we can make a difference, whether it is to probe the secrets of Nature, to clean up the environment and work for peace and social justice, or to nurture the inquisitive, vibrant spirit of the young by being a mentor and a guide."

- Michio Kaku

The end is not the reward; the path you take, the emotions that course through you as you grasp life - that is the reward.
― Jamie Magee

Only when you accept that one day you'll die can you let go, and make the best out of life. And that's the big secret. That's the miracle.
― Gabriel B"