As human beings, we are constantly seeking to find a meaning in virtually everything, and life as a whole is certainly no exception. With any decent luck, most of us will have somewhere around a good 70 years on this rock, 70 or so years full of countless experiences in life. But, what happens when that time is over? While the specifics may vary greatly, many religions have an answer to this question that provides comfort and meaning to those various practitioners. The atheist, however, does not appear to have such an easy answer, lacking the belief in any grand and exterior forces of good or evil. How, then, can the atheist find meaning without God?
The atheist has no eternity awaiting her, no reward in the afterlife making all of life's struggles worth it. This may sound like a terrifying realization, especially to someone on the verge of losing their faith - but it does not need to be! Without believing in any sort of eternity, the atheist must come to terms with the fact that those 70 some years are all that they will have. No expectation of any sort of eternal life means that every second of that lifetime on earth should be valued, as once that times runs out - that's it. And while the human lifetime expectancy may be the blink of an eye when compared to human history (let alone the age of the universe), there are so many ways to fill it, to define what makes us happy and gives us purpose. Perhaps that purpose is a devotion toward bettering the lives of others, or to creating a better world for our descendants? To finding someone like minded, and being happy with them? To experiencing the vastness of human creativity? The choice belongs to the atheist!
To some, however, there is something even more precious, and that is the possibility of being remembered. No, it is certainly not the same as the reward of eternity, but there is the potential for living on in the memories of those around us. While there are doubtlessly some true loners, most humans are a part of sprawling webs of relationships, be it anywhere from the closest of family to the most distant of coworkers or acquaintances. The possibility of surviving through memory is even more likely in this particular period of time, considering that the ability to cultivate such relationships is at a place that would have been unheard of approximately a generation ago. While the news may be filled with terrible stories of cyber-crime or identity theft, the internet and other related technologies allow for a simply stunning level of human communication, cooperation and collaboration.
It is absolutely up to the individual atheist to find meaning without God. However, that meaning does not have to stay the same throughout the years, as some of the beauty in having such freedom is in experimenting and finding what works best for each person. Such changes do not carry any guarantee of being free or even painless, but experiencing the hills and valleys in life is ultimately just a part of the journey. An average human life may be a tiny speck of time when stacked up against the universe's billions of years. The potential in any individual lifetime can be staggering, however - if we just move to seize it.