Sunday, May 06, 2012

What Atheism Means To Me

It means you don't believe in God.

That's it.

I see piles of stuff online talking about atheism and what it truly means to be an atheist. For instance, an atheist is a critical thinker, a lover of science, more moral than the average theist on the street, finds wonder in nature, is smarter, is right, doesn't get taken in. Whatever.

A few years back, I heard a lot about atheist groups with entire agendas. They had banded together so that their voices might be heard. I don't care if my voice is heard.

I'm an atheist and I'm not part of a group and there is no atheist agenda. There are groups of atheists with agendas, but they don't speak for all atheists. An atheist does not necessarily hold a certain worldview. Atheists do not necessarily agree with each other. Most importantly for some readers, they're not going to take over the world. They don't have the numbers and they don't have the organization.

Atheists are assholes and they're decent people. They're scientists and they're mystics. You get the same mix as you do with all other groups. They're humans and about as uninteresting as other humans.

I have friends who believe a person comes to atheism through a series of logical and scientifically inspired conclusions. I can tell you from experience that there are also other ways.

My father became an atheist while he was fighting in the war in the Pacific theater. He believed that if there was a god, he would never allow such horrors to happen. My father didn't believe in God. He did believe in an afterlife, however. He believed my mother's spirit was still with us after her death. He believed that walking through Yankee graveyards was good luck. The system was in place, there was simply no one running the show.

I worked with a lady who became an atheist when her two year old son died of cancer. Same deal. God would not have allowed this to happen.

I became an atheist through a revelation, as unsound and unstable as any religious one. I had done the church and Sunday school thing, I had fought with people who questioned the most basic tenets of Christianity. The beginning of my freshman year in high school, my world civ class was reading a passage about how Neanderthals buried objects with their dead which suggested they believed in an afterlife. In a flash I realized that God didn't create man, man created God. And that was that. No science, no logic, no soul searching.

I'm not saying that I'm right about there being no god. I was raised in a family - and, I think, a laid back culture in New England - that said, "Believe whatever you want, just don't push it on anyone else." I believe agnostics are the only folks you can trust on the whole afterlife issue. They're the only ones who are honest enough to say, "I dunno." Scientifically speaking, it can't be proven there is a god or there isn't. We could all be in the Matrix. We could all be a dream someone is having. There could be thousands of gods. We could be a sudden spasm of spontaneous intelligence in someone's lab that only exists for a second, but has the certain memory of a preceding life and civilization that never actually existed. If we're just spitballing, anything I can imagine that can't be disproven is possible. But given all things, when the question of God comes up, I'm putting my money on probably not.

I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. I don't want to outlaw religion or even argue with anyone about it. Our media-driven society's need for controversy and "balance" has pushed the idea of "Live and let live" right out of our heads and that's a real shame.

There might be people that think that if I was a real atheist, I wouldn't be capitalizing the word "God" in all the places that I have. I must assure them that my choices in capitalization do not have any bearing on my beliefs. There might be people who, for any number of reasons, believe that I'm not really an atheist. I'm going to sleep as well either way.

There might be a lot of atheists who agree with me, but you never hear about it, because they don't care enough about it to mention it. I just fell out of that category.


S.M.D. said...

We're on the same page. I'm not a militant atheist. I'm a "just leave me the hell alone" atheist. Not interested in converting people. Not interesting in pushing an agenda. I just don't want other people to push their agenda on me and others. And I find atheists who are nothing but antagonistic against anyone who has faith (regardless of who they are) are just silly. Christians are a diverse group...

Anywho! Yay!

Christie said...

I just had a conversation on Twitter about this the other day. While "agnostic" can meet "unsure," "atheist" does not mean "sure." We can be both atheist and agnostic--they're not mutually exclusive positions. Anyone who understands the impossibility of proving a negative (there are no invisible pink unicorns) is by definition an agnostic, and can certainly be an atheist as well. That's where I fit.

Personally I'm glad people did band together and made their voices heard. We remain the most mistrusted and vilified demographic in the US, and that's not going to change without people making noise. I'm not much of a noise-maker myself, but like you, I'm unapologetic about my lack of belief.