I was talking to a person today who stated that he believes that “atheism causes depression.” And I have been wondering if this is the case or not. Does the act of not believing there is a God or a divine being cause people to feel hopeless about life? Does it create a sense of meaninglessness? I think it is important to start considering the correlation between the existence of God and our level of happiness. I started wondering also if believing in a divine being is necessary in order for humans to have hope and meaning in life.
Is the concept of God a way for us humans to desperately decrease the chaos that invade our minds if we would not have this belief? Does believing in God help us to feel safe, worthy, and meaningful? If this would be the sole reason that we choose to believe, is there a way to feel safe, worthy, and meaningful without the concept of God? Do we even need to feel happy in order to have meaning? Do we need meaning to live a worthy life? Do we need life to be worthy?
I think few people will doubt that humans are complex beings who strive for purpose and have aspirations. We develop organized systems called societies that help us to live productive lives. We are not like the other beings we call animals and plants. We can be creative, ambitious, merciful, and entertaining. We can definitely destroy and kill each other, but we can rebuild and forgive. Where did all these special attributes we don’t share with other living beings come from? Are we just a pure accidental chance that happens to evolve out of nothingness? Or could we have developed these characteristics from a higher being?
This brings me back to the basic question of “What or who is God?” I do not believe God is the humanly figure that sits on a golden celestial throne up in heaven punishing sinners and protecting the loyal believers. God is much more than what our limited human minds can even imagine.
Can we imagine forgiving those who hurt us? Can we imagine loving those who hate us? Can we think of how we can serve the hungry, the sick, and the naked when we have our own problems to solve? Can we ponder on how to give the criminal another chance to contribute to society, the addict another opportunity to be sober, and the cheater a chance to be honest? If we can, then we can imagine the characteristics of God.
The person I referred to at the beginning of this post used to be an atheist at one point in his life. So he surely has some personal experience and knowledge about the nature of atheism. I understand that the unbelief in a God implies that this universe must be an accident. It is a random set of particles that happen to interact in such a way that it triggered molecules and chemical reactions that caused the beginning of life. This life evolved somehow to ultimately create consciousness and, thus, human lives. But it was all an accident and random chance. According to atheism, we have no purpose and meaning. We just exist without a reason.
And I wonder, does having no meaning and reason lead to depression? We may think we can create our own reason and meaning. But then what? What good is it to create my own interpretation of life and then cease to exist forever? Living with atheism would be almost like a dead end. There would be no designed cause for my existence, and no ever lasting effect as a result of my existence. Sounds depressing?
The atheist may disagree with the idea of living in depression. He or she may also be in denial. All I know is that life must have a meaning and a purpose in order to be worthwhile. Otherwise, our existence would truly be meaningless, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves we are worth something.