The Idiots Guide to the Universe It's a big weird world, best to be snarky!

14Nov/13Off

The Idiocy I Hear About My Atheism

atheist-babiesI am an atheist. I haven't always been an atheist. It's easy to say. It hasn't always been easy. I have used other terms for it like agnostic, but in reality, I am an atheist. I always find it humorous when this surprises people, as if I just walked up and wiped a booger on their shirt. Does this mean that I know for a fact that there isn't some magic invisible presence outside of my perception? No, it doesn't. It is as simple as that. I DON'T KNOW. I don't know if the Sun will rise tomorrow, I don't know if my alarm clock will go off and wake me. I think both of these things will happen, but I simply don't know that they will. But here is where things change. I am fairly certain that the Sun will come up tomorrow, or more specifically the Earth will rotate in a manner that gives the Sun the appearance of rising into the sky. Why? Because it did yesterday, and the day before that ad naseum. There is repeatable proof that suggests to me that the Sun will come up and I believe that it will, not because of faith, but because of evidence that I have observed. I don't believe in a God for the exact same reason, I have seen nothing in the Universe that I live in that suggests that there is a God. If I were presented with a burning bush, or an angel sent to task me, my belief structure would change pretty quickly. But that is what being an Atheist is. It is being intellectually honest and saying, very simply, "I don't know." I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person. I know a lot about a lot of things, and I know a little about even more things. I am constantly changing what I know based upon my understanding of things. There is also an even greater amount of things that I know nothing about. But I don't accept that any belief in a deity can come out of I don't know. I just think that the difference between myself and a believer is a matter of faith.

Now we could stretch the definition of faith to include my sitting in a chair, you could erroneously state that I have faith that the chair will, not be invisible, will have sufficient structure that is capable of holing my ample girth, and will not sink into the floor or collapse dropping me embarrassingly to the floor the moment I transfer my significant weight to it. But that is stretching the meaning of the word faith. I can see that the chair has four legs, is of suitable construction to hold me, and that it physically exists. Faith is when you believe in something that there is no tangible proof of. Just as I won't sit in those cheap stackable plastic chairs because I know that there is a reasonable chance everyone will be laughing at the fat guy that broke the chair, I won't believe in something that I can't repeatedly establish the existence of. I don't honestly believe that you know there is a God, in fact I am fairly certain that you don't know 100%. But you have faith that there is a God. In the history of time there have been thousands of Gods that people have believed in. Think about why you don't believe in those other deities, that is exactly why I don't believe in yours.

I have seen several assumptions made because I am an Atheist that crack me up. Here are a few of them.

Oh, you're an Atheist, You Must Worship the Devil

Ummm, no. I don't believe that there are Gods, devils, demons, angels, ghosts, fairies, unicorns or honest congress persons. It's really simple for me. I don't believe any of these things exist, all for the same reason.

Oh, you're an Atheist, You don't have any Morals, or You Must Not be A Good Person

Well, if that isn't a slap in the face to the mother and father that raised me. See, morality is quite simple. It is simply putting value on people. I value people, so it is important to me that I am honest to them, I don't take anything from them and that I treat them with respect. I find this to be FAR nobler than the concept of being moral because I am commanded to do so at the threat of punishment or displeasing a deity. That isn't morals; it is the compulsion of fear. I am a good person because I choose to be. In fact, many of the most mean spirited, hateful things I have seen have been based in a religious morality (anti-gay marriage, terrorism in the name of God, Crusades.) The fact is I choose to do right because I want to. I don't need right arbitrarily defined outside of me. If right is defined in religious text, rather that the value of another human being, I desperately want to be 'wrong' in valuing my fellow man.

Oh, You're and Atheist, You Hate Christians/Muslims/Jews

Nope. I don't have time to hate; it is a useless act that does me no good. I don't hate religious people, there are a lot of very religious people that I not only like, but I love them a lot. I don't like their religions; I consider religion a HUGE hindrance to the advancement of our society. But I also believe in personal freedoms. I think people have a right to believe what they want. But I do not believe that religion has any place in a decision made that affects the non-religious (i.e. politics.) That is where I draw the line. I firmly support the separation of church and state and I would eventually like to get to a place where we can intellectually come to the separation of church and planet. That is not hatred, or mean spirited, I just have this huge hope that we can all move on and be a people guided by reason and not fear.

Oh, You're an Atheist, You Must Not Be a Good Parent

This one is downright insulting. I am a great father to my three awesome kids, because I love them and put their well being before my own. I will admit it requires more creativity to raise a child without the use of religion as a basis of fear. It is easy to say "God loves you, but he doesn't like it when you lie. You don't want to displease God do you? It's a sin." That is using fear to get a result out of a child. Instead I have to teach my kids that it is wrong to lie because it shows a lack of respect for the person you are talking to. It always speaks ill of your character and makes it so that other people won't trust you. Sure it is a heavy concept for a child, but they got it, and I consider my kids to be excellent, if not exemplary, members of society. They have empathy, compassion, honesty and treat their fellow humans with decency because they value them as people, and they value their own character. There is no fear of displeasing a God or going to a magical place of fire and burning for eternity. There may be some fear of displeasing Mom or Dad and losing the iPhone, or the computer. But that is based on reality, if they mess up they will learn a lesson, but it is a tangible lesson which is based on the real world they can perceive. We are all born atheists, theists are taught.

Oh, You're an Atheist, You Must Be a Communist, or Anti-American

Nope. I love the country I live in. I love the fact that I am free to believe what I want, even if there are some people that try to legislate their beliefs. But I fear for the country I love. I fear that there are two dividing sides that both think they know better than I do how my life should be lived, both sides are wrong. But I do firmly believe that any government that has its basis in religion without the separation of church and state is destined to fail. There has never, in the history of the world, been a government based in religion that hasn't either murdered others for their beliefs or removed freedoms from their own people in order to uphold a religious doctrine. Even in the US, religious doctrine has been used to remove, or attempt to remove, individual rights numerous times.

Oh You're an Atheist, You Must Have Never Read the Bible.

I have, cover to cover. Twice. It is one of the biggest reasons I became an Atheist. I strongly suggest that you do the same, read the Bible cover to cover. Yes it is horrifically bad story telling and it is painful to get through, but it is the basis of YOUR belief. Shouldn't you be the one that has read ALL of it and not just a passage here or there.

Oh You're an Atheist, You Must Think Religious People are Stupid or Ignorant

No. I know some very intelligent people that are theists. It baffles me, but they have their own reason. I do however believe that it is not a coincidence that VAST majorities of people practice the same religion they were raised with. In other words, it is pretty rare that someone is born into a Muslim family and they become a Christian, or vice versa. I do however believe that most theists have more doubts than they ever let on. I think that very few of them can say that they know for a fact that there is a God without at least a hint of doubt in their mind, but it is a lot easier to go with the flow than it is to stand apart on the footing of your own reason.

Oh, You're an Atheist, You Must Think You Have All the Answers

I don't have all of the answers. I sincerely doubt I ever will. Our understanding of the Universe around us is constantly changing. New evidence brings about new scientific theories. There are things that we are constantly learning. It is an exciting time to be alive. But do I have an answer for everything, hell no. My daughter is at the age where she has started dating, this scares the shit out of me. If you knew me when I was young you will understand why. But I trust her intellect and her own self-efficacy will drive her towards making good decisions. But I don’t know the exact way I am supposed to handle this.

I accept the fact that I may be wrong; a burning bush may speak to me on my next hike and change my whole perspective. But really, that isn't going to happen. I don't believe there were or have ever been miracles and that they just stopped happening when the camera was invented (and then started again when Photoshop was released.) I don't think there is a God that loves me so much that he made a special place of torture that I can go to when I die just in case I don't love him back. It's not logical to me, if it is to you that's fine. But I do have something that makes a lot more sense to me; it is a quote that is incorrectly attributed to Marcus Aurelius. I don't know the source of it, so I am claiming it has my own until the source is discovered:

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. -Mark Parker

If this has offended you in any way, then you have completely missed the meaning of what I was trying to accomplish. This blog is read, for the most part, by my friends and family and I love all of you and wouldn't want to offend you. I was merely pointing out some of the idiocies I encounter in my day-to-day life as a vocal atheist and trying to point them out in a light hearted and thoughtful manner.