Logismous Kathairountes, in commenting on my atheistic ethic series said
"You've read the book of Ecclesiastes, right? That book is a negative apologetic against the very thing you've just put forward. The author didn't accept your axiom that worldly goods (money, sex, good looks, power, etc.) lead to happiness, and so he set out to test them to see if they really did lead to happiness. In essense, he had the things that you say bring happiness, as much as anybody in the world at that time had them. He discovered that worldly goods don't lead to happiness.That book is the record of an experiment undertaken with the goal of testing the exact assumptions that you make here. I'll add that my own experience matches up with that of the author of Ecclesiastes."Let me briefly comment:
In the first place, I noticed you didn't say Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, even though it's obvious that if we believe what this book says about the author it must be Solomon. Yet most all scholars claim Solomon did not write it--many conservative scholars do not think so either. I find this odd, since the whole argument is about the personal experiences of Solomon. If these were not his experiences, and if this book is what we'd call today a "sock-puppet" for Solomon, then by who's authority should I believe what the author writes?
In the second place, the phrase "under the sun" is used repeatedly in this book to refer to life without God. Life "under the sun" is "vanity," says the author. Notice here the superstitious and pre-scientific cosmology of the world according to this author. According to him, as well as with all of the Biblical writers, God resided above the firmament which was held in place by the mountains along the edges of the earth, in which were hung the sun, moon, and stars and from which water was released to send floods and to water the crops. No wonder they felt closer to God when praying, worshipping or seeking God's guidance on a mountaintop (cf., Baalam, Moses, Jesus, and so forth); that's where God lived. So why should I care what the author says when he is wrong about cosmology? Maybe he's just a superstitious person? Maybe I should take what he says with a grain of salt (or a whole saltshaker full of it)?
Lastly, the message itself is only partly true; only part of the story--a half truth. Yes, it is true that we will die and so there is no ultimate meaning to anything we do in this life. Our life is ultimately in vain. Nothing we do in this life will ultimately satisfy the longing for eternal significance, and in that sense we cannot find complete happiness without such an assurance. "All is vanity" in that respect. This I admit. That's the truth--the half truth.
But this fact has little to do with how I should live my life on earth. I should still seek to be happy, even if what I do in this life will not be remembered when human life and this whole universe dies a future heat death.
Christians talk as if they would commit murder, theft, rape and suicide if there wasn't a God. However, they should consider the evidence of the many former Christians who continue to lead happy productive lives even after rejecting the existence of God. Why do you suppose this is true? Think about it. We don't do these things because they're not rational and they don't bring us happiness. (As I am explaining).
My argument is that people who live as if there is an afterlife, along with a judgment before God who will send us to heaven or to hell, are living a delusionary life. I'd much rather live with my feet planted firmly on the ground, than live a delusion.