Posted by evanescent on 11 August, 2007
What does it mean?
It means I don’t believe in any divine beings. Everyone is born an atheist. There are degrees to atheism, such as whether one simply disbelieves in god(s), or whether one thinks god definitely doesn’t or cannot exist.
I wouldn’t say that a god cannot exist, but I am reasonably certain that one doesn’t exist, just as I’m reasonably certain there isn’t a teapot orbiting Neptune. I see absolutely no evidence that a god(s) exist, and no part of the universe necessitates postulating one for explanatory purposes. In short, I apply Occam’s razor.
Do I like it?
As far as simply believing or disbelieving goes, I neither like being an atheist nor dislike it. Atheism is a result of my rational and critical examination of the world. So, I didn’t choose to be an atheist.
I don’t like unnecessary harm. I can appreciate that other living beings also don’t like it either. Harming others makes me feel bad, and being nice to others makes me feel good. I also appreciate that (most) other living beings feel this way too. Therefore, treating people as you’d like to be treated is not only beneficial for the individual, but also for society.
I believe that “wrong” should be determined by whether unnecessary harm is caused; where there is a victim.
Because I am not bound by someone else’s morality, I can think for myself about right and wrong. I can assess the ethics of any issue without any superstitious cloud or hindering. I think “what is best for other people?” and “what will other humans think about this?”
Because of this, I respect the differences in others. I know that judging someone on their colour and sexuality is ignorant and primitive. I know that national boundaries are arbitrary lines on a map, and that we’re all one people. I can respect others’ rights to their opinions, even if I disagree with them. I have the right to criticise and question beliefs and also have mine criticised too.
Humans are the only sapient species we know. To form close relationships with another thinking being is one of the joys of life. We are alone in our heads, with our thoughts. But relationships are a way to share our thoughts and experiences, and connect with another person. They are, in my opinion, the most important thing in life. We should treasure our friends and family because they will always be there, and they might be all we ever have. The fact that we will all lose each other one day makes relationships that much more precious.
The universe eventually gave rise to humans. It sustains us, and all other life. I have a deep respect for the environment. I believe humans should interfere with nature as much as necessary to improve technology and quality of life, but not to the irreparable detriment of the planet.
Since there is no one to solve our problems for us; no almighty sky father to run to our rescue; no deific knight in shining armour to sweep us away, the onus is on humans to take care of the planet for ourselves and our descendants.
Beauty of life and science
I don’t need to pretend that a powerful being purposefully created everything in order to appreciate the beauty in nature.
Look at a sunrise, or a sunset. Look at sky on a clear light-free night. Look at the face of someone you love.
I feel awe when I see the size of the earth in comparison to the universe. I feel humbled when I learn about the evolution of life, and how the fragmentary portion of existence I’ve sustained thus far is beyond infinitesimal in the scale of the universe.
I am nothing. And yet, I have the ability to make my life the best it can be. I can be a positive influence on the world I live in. I can make other lives better and make them happy.
I know I am not a pawn in a cosmic battle between good and evil. I know there isn’t an evil being tricking me and tempting me every step of the way, and I know that my thoughts are my own. There is just me and other people. I am not constantly second guessing myself and berating myself for supposed imperfections. There is no one to keep apologising to, and nothing to keep apologising for. I respect myself for who I am, and respect other people for who they are.
Science is the way to understand the universe. I believe that if something is knowable, science will one day discover it. Science is the rational honest exploration of the universe, free from personal bias and belief. Science has taken us from burning and butchering others at the stake to understanding our planet and improving quality of life.
Because I have no bias apart from the facts, I am free to follow wherever science leads. Sure, science can be wrong, just like anything. But science is still our best way to truth.
I’m going to die. Just like you. Just like everyone who’s ever lived, or ever will.
In the end, the only thing that matters is what we do with the life we have. You can either wallow in self-pity and mourn past mistakes, and wish for all the things that could be different in your life. You might think “well I’m going to die anyway so who cares?” Well, that’s the attitude of a loser.
On the other hand, you can get over your regrets. You can act. You can cherish other people. You can change the things you want to change. You can make yourself the best person you can be. You can enrich the lives of others and make the world a better place.
This is how I see life. It’s a gift. It shouldn’t be wasted. Becoming an atheist is the best thing that ever happened to me, because I see the world as it really is. What could be better?