Being an atheist involves stripping off many of the warm layers of human construct. This can be hard when putting them on is so much easier. The objective reality of life as it is - as it really is, is harsh and unforgiving - unlike the subjective one we create to avoid facing it. However more times than not this subjective reality prepares us more for the everlasting bliss of the afterlife than the one we live in. We pay in repression and fear for a relatively short amount of time in exchange for this promise of eternal redemption and reward. In contrast, atheists who reject this idea live making the most of the now, which is in our opinions all we have. If anything, we fear not living rather than dying.
Religion gives life meaning - if it stopped there it would be enough for people to give it a break. However every religion at least borderlines on the ridiculous untruth in every sense. It gains followers on false knowledge, politics, people's vulnerability and fear. The strongest of us need a soft place to fall in times of personal distress. Religion in all its destructive self still provides something that nothing else can - delusions. Only these aren't widely discredited delusions that can be set right by a few therapy sessions. There are one billion Catholics, one billion Muslims and even more people to encounter that will tolerate and reaffirm their beliefs.
Religions single humans out to be something special in comparison to every other living thing in the Universe. It doesn't take a very big ego to share this view. In fact it takes a rather small one who could use a nice little boost in the way of self esteem. To be a human - who's existence is no more or less justified than a tortoise or a mayfly - is not enough for some. Some are not content enough to be who we are and celebrate the beauty and extreme improbability of it.
We are capable of experiencing the world around us more than a mayfly who spends its 24 hours of life reproducing. But fundamentally we are no different - we just have to go through a painful amount of dating in the meantime. Our purpose in life is already defined for us biologically: sex, sex, sex. The drive in every living thing is to survive and reproduce healthy offspring. Your body, my body is a vehicle to prolong the species.
Humans in their most primitive form satisfy these basic needs. So advanced in our evolution that we are left with excess resources and energy to devote to other things. In that sense we are different to all other living things - we are in a extraordinary position to take a break free from being natures slaves. With that and our ability to acknowledge such a thing, essentially what we choose to be, become is limitless.
Nature in its little plan to use our bodies to play out its game seems cruel. In wanting to get one up on it, it becomes tempting to rebel against everything it's throwing at us. But before we all turn gay and start shagging sheep...
The point is, we are not stuck being pawns. We can be challenged to a new game - one that entertains the inquisitive, highly evolved humans that we are rather than the one we have played for thousands of years. Yawn.
Does that mean that we no longer fall in love? Sniff out the right pheromones? I don't know that we can ever escape from our most innate instincts. There's a biological basis to everything. What our bodies and minds do is never completely in our control. But there is a part that is - and it is this part that is in control of what direction we take in life - and determines if we live this life by what we are born to be or what we can be.
Our inability to find meaning in life means seeking a purpose defined by someone else other than our own, will - with all irony intended - prove pointless. Isn't a ready-made purpose you are obliged to blindly fulfill creating meaningless in itself? Wouldn't living to its fullest, one created by our own discretion more meaningful than being handed a cheat sheet? Cheat sheets that come in the form of religious doctrine which dangerously promote automatism and hope of a future that trivializes the present. The validity of which some people don't accept but would still rather, which is just as unfortunate.
An absence of responsibility for the meaning in our life can be more than just unfortunate. Prejudice, egotism and ignorance amongst the things a thoroughly examined life cannot breed...