Not being a scary atheist
by DO NOT EAT
Why write this?
There are a lot of reasons for someone like me to explain myself, but most importantly, I want the faithful to take me seriously, I want people not to be afraid of me and I want others to understand my point of view.
I am part of a tiny, little misunderstood minority.
According to a study conducted by the department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, atheists are America's most distrusted minority. Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in "sharing the vision of American society." Patty Edgell, conductor of the study, said, "It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common 'core' of values that make them trustworthy--and in America, that 'core' has historically been religious."
It frightens and upsets me that I can be a hard working, respectful individual who prizes family, community and my fellow human being and can still be pre-judged as lacking in morality or the American vision. It is, of course, completely ludicrous to discriminate against a person in such a way because of their gender, race or religion. Why is it so widely accepted to discriminate against a person because of their lack of religion?
Legal discrimination limits my right to happiness
Seven states have clauses in their respectable constitutions which say that people who don't believe in God, or a Supreme Being, cannot hold public office. These states are Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Not one of these states has a regulation (constitution or regulatory) which limits any other minority.
Atheism is not a faith
I try to tread with care when I use the term atheist. A much more exactly descriptive term would be nontheist. It is not that I believe, attest or would try to convince anyone that a god or supreme being does not exist. It is, however, that I do not see any reason to believe one might exist. This is, of course, for the same reason that I would not try to convince you that there is no flying spaghetti monster.
I have no means to disprove the existence of a god. On the other hand, I also have no means of proving the existence of god. It is for this reason that I choose to say, "I don't think there is a god," rather than, "There is no god." This leaves me with no belief system, and in effect, no faith.
As a person with a differing and rather unpopular viewpoint, I am often questioned by those around me about atheism. These questions are easy to understand due to the confusing nature of the atheist. I will address the most common of these questions in no particular order.
Why don't you believe in God since it is a safe bet?
This reasoning is most commonly referred to as "Pascal's Wager." Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher, argued that it is much better "bet" to believe in God that not to do so. This is because he reasoned that if one decides to believe in "God," and such a thing turns out to be true, one can reap such benefits upon death. If it turns out there is no "God," no harm is done. TO this arguement, I have many criticisms.
First of all, it assumes this God rewards belief. If there is such a god who would condemn someone to an eternity in unimaginable hellfire for a mere technicality as a belief, then this god is a silly bully and I would rather not join it.
Second, Pascal assumes that there is only one god/gods from which to pick. Many religions introduce supreme beings which have power over the world around us. If I were to pick the wrong god, would that not be an even more grave offense than choosing no god at all?
Finally, this assumes that one can choose what they believe. For the sake of illustration, I will use an example. If you have a dishonest, unemployed friend who asks you to lend him some money, unless you are a fool, you would not "believe" him when he promises to pay you back. You might decide to give him the money out of friendship, but only an irrational person might assume to be repaid. It requires something more than a decision to believe.
How can you stand against God?
This question is a difficult one to answer, because it is most likely drafted in ignorance. You see, if I have no reason to believe in a god, I have no reason to fear god either. This question is not without merit though. Simply rephrasing it to, "Aren't you afraid of a world without a god?" makes it easy for me to answer.
Yes. The idea of losing a loved one or experiencing my own mortality is frightening. The idea of being wrong is frightening. Standing where I do takes courage to face those fears. It is not easy to ask the question, "What if God doesn't exists?" and give it a serious thought. Try it. I'll wait.
How can an atheist be moral?
Since I was brought up as a Christian, I will explain this with a quote from the Bible. The passage that I will be referring to is Deuteronomy 22:28-29 in the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible. It reads:
If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.
Now, I am going to make a bit of an assumption about you, my reader. I am going to assume you are able to look at this and decide that forcing a rape victim to marry her attacker is generally unethical in all imaginable circumstances. Even though this command is presented as the word of God, you are able to decide it is unethical. This is because you do not need God to tell you this. You have, inherently, the ability to tell right from wrong.
The application of right and wrong has always been up to the whims of the actor regardless of religion. So, out of my love for you and everyone else, I vow to do my best to carefully evaluate the ethics of a situation and act morally.
Why is there something rather than nothing? How did the universe come about?
This is a wonderful question which I love to answer since it helps my illustrate a point. The answer is quite simple and although I find it quite a relief, you may find it infuriating.
My answer is, "I don't know." I'm still working on figuring that out.
This is one of the core ideas to how I approach things like god and the supernatural. This approach is universal so I can apply it anywhere. See, the only thing a person can ever gather from reason and know for sure is that they exist and they are perceiving something. This is the a notion which is explained by Rene Descartes as, "I think, therefor, I am."
I have some really good ideas which are backed up by overwhelming observable evidence, but it is quite possible that the entire world and everything in it is just a trick of my or your perception. All other proofs require assumptions.
One of the things I have enjoyed since I was a child was speculation about the truth of the universe and its foundations. Such lofty ideas are simply hypothesis(maybe the universe extends infinitely into time) and have no place alongside theories(such as evolution or the big bang) which are testable.
Do you look down on theists?
Not in any general sense. To me, if people act morally, they are worthy of my respect. It is, however, sad to say that many wars are fought over religious differences and for that, I have no tolerance. I also have no tolerance for bigotry, discrimination or any other immoral behavior whether it is related to religion or not.
Summing things up
My atheism is simply the proclamation and acceptance that I do not know if there is a god and that faith is not enough for me. I will not force myself to believe what does not make sense. I do not expect that the conclusions you come to must be the same as mine--just as I hope you will respect my conclusions.
I look forward to a prosperous future where we (the people) can finally be blind to sex, race, orientation, income, life choices, religion or lack thereof--a future where we can finally be without pointless war--a future that I'll be glad to work hard to make happen. I look forward to this not because I feel compelled to by any other force than my care for you as another individual.
Thank you for taking the time to read through my explaination. If you have any questions, suggestion or flame, my email address is at the bottom of this article.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -Galileo Galilei
For more information please see:
Comments, Suggestions and Flame
If you would like to contact the author of this article, you may send an email to email@example.com. By contacting me, you agree to give up all rights to the text information you have sent and are granting me the rights to publish any included information in any way I see fit.