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Immortality And The Meaning of Life

I have been asked a number of times, by Christians usually, but not exclusively,
"Why live?"
that is to say,
"What possible reason could an atheist have for living one's life?"
I've tried to tweet or comment responses but, as you can see from the length of this post that would never have been possible.
I know it's long but give me a break, this is meaning of life stuff!

After an initial answer of, "Duh, it's the only life I have, why would I waste it?" I came to realize that the reasons to live, atheist or not, are too abundant to list! Having been dead, which, honestly, is rubbish, just being alive (Thanks Shaz.) is a cracker of a reason for continuing life! However, I suspect that their question carries the subtext of...
"Why continue to live considering you have no hope of afterlife?"
or more precisely, I fear, given how immature it sounds...
"If you don't have a big floating granddad keeping score of all of your 'gold stars' and 'brownie points', what's the point of doing anything?" It's kind of an arse about tit way of looking at "What’s the meaning of life!" (Christians! Sheesh!)

So, as most people's 'afterlife' fantasy seems to include some sort of magical immortality, here's my view on human immortality, which for me, is also a triple layered meaning of life.

The first layer
This is biological, simply passing the DNA to the next generation. Each father does his bit, enjoys the deed, passes his seed and raises the babe, body and mind, as well as he is able to quality human adult.
(No offence to any ladies reading, I realize you have a major role, but from a male point of view, that's pretty much the gig.)
So, genetically speaking, the more offspring you have, the more you have achieved for your genetic heritage and the 'better' your DNA is doing? Going by that measure, who's the most successful human so far?
Patently it’s the human whose genes are expressed most frequently in any population. Genghis Khan? Charlemagne? Confucius? Nefertiti?

Interesting article on this in The Atlantic - http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2002/05/olson.htm

The second layer
Any individual's physical exploits can have a social influence on humanity's development.
We are a physical being; we admire great examples of our own physical beauty or achievements. In any century there are hundreds of sporting greats, warriors, heroines, adventurers, musicians, artistes and artists etc. who have fashioned society by their examples, of great beauty or remarkable feat. How many society-shaping examples are displayed by the deeds of the characters of any historical account? Helen of Troy? Beauty, honour, deceit, love, valour etc. etc. Physical humans, living the everyday turmoil of just being human and making human choices, have influence by example, on future society.

The third layer
Any individual's mental characteristics can have huge influence on the societal path of humanity.
We are a thinking being, we form societies based on that thinking.
In ancient times that would have been the tribal council, the wise woman, witch-doctor, Druid, advisor to the chief etc. In more recent global history, the overarching shape of civilization in which our societies flourish has been shaped by the greatest thinkers; often distributed in print, from Ivory tower.
I don't think there is a 'most successful' originator of a concept, you could argue the wheel or zero but we all stand on the shoulders of giants, however, any one of us can name hundreds of thinkers who have directly or, mostly, indirectly shaped the social landscape in which we now thrive.
Aristotle, Nietzsche, Einstein, Buddha, Darwin, Freud, Muhammad, Leonardo da Vinci, Feynman, Jesus, Hawkins, Dawkins, Sagan, Twain, Brunel, Orwell etc. etc.

The Mortal's Immortality.
We are each a four dimensional being, a three dimensional animal moving through the time of our life but we have a longevity that is extended beyond our lamentably short spans. We are not merely our single individual selves, but much, much more.
We are each a proud caretaker of the current evolution of our family's genetic record. We are each, the temporary custodians of an unbroken chain of life stretching back millions of years.
It is an honour to be the ONE, naturally selected above all other eggs of my mother and all the sperm of my father to carry my version of our genetic record into the next generation. Indeed, I feel some measure of pride for being the sperm that got to the egg first and simultaneously, somewhat head-bendingly, thrilled to be that egg!

The single responsibility of life?
My weighty and great honour is to choose the best mate for the next generation in the spectacular record of survival of our honourable line of lives.
I choose wrong and 100,000 generations of my family tree, who fought for the chance I now hold, will have wasted their efforts. I choose well and my genetic heritage finds itself in a body that is better suited to its environs. My children thrive and reproduce and then their children reproduce and, currently, the very luckiest of us may see our great-great grand children. And, we do well my friends!

The life we live, our chosen social structure, in the free democracies at least, supports the natural human desire for a long healthy life, rather than a short life and pack your paradise bags. You've only to consider how hard we cling to life for it to be obvious that we do not really believe there's an after-death happy house and we really don't want the oblivion of death.
Death is, as I see it, merely an unfortunate necessity of evolution. For a species to survive, it needs an ability to adapt to any change in environs, a relatively short reproduction cycle and lifespan seems, to me, to be imperative to that biological priority.

So, my genetic immortality is embedded in my children and, one day, in theirs but what of a 'reward', as the spirituals expect, for my part in the continuation of our genetic heritage?
A full life in which I can laugh and love, strive to better myself and, hopefully, leave something behind which may benefit humanity's future.

And my life long quest and personal raison d’ĂȘtre?
To try and help those who are still being taught to think in the old ways to see, firstly, that they are thinking in the old ways and, secondly, that there are new better, more real, ways.
To play any small part I can offer in dragging humanity into the 'light ages', in the hope that our more evolved descendants will inhabit a world free of the religious fascism we have today.
To raise the mythological veil and release even one person from archaic spiritual bondage would be grand reward indeed.
The meme that I leave behind, any and all reference to the entity known as Crispy Sea, whatever that may be, is my immortality.

The deeds of our lives mark our place on humanity's evolutionary timeline.
While free speech endures, Darwin is as immortal as Jesus and, maybe, in a few centuries will have become more so!

So, as an atheist, what's my reason to live, to not 'end it all'?
Life is my DNA-given opportunity to enter the annals of Human Immortality.

Every man earns his own epitaph.
What do you suppose yours will say about you?

This is one of the Too Many Questions

Please leave a comment - Anything will do
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