On Faith: Why I'm atheist
On Faith: Why I'm atheist
Of all the things I say in any given day, of all the syllables, curses, and completely made up words I use on a regular basis, the combination that consistently draws the most interesting reactions is "I'm atheist." For those who know me it usually comes as no shock. For those that don't, on the odd chance that it comes up in conversation, I've gotten all sorts of responses.
A lot of people are curious because they've "never met an atheist before." If it comes up in class, there's always a few heads turning. Some people are offended for some reason, and on one occasion I had a gentleman become violently angry with me because my lack of belief in his religion amounted to "calling [his] beliefs nothing more than fairy tales." I'm willing to wager that these same people don't look at followers of Buddhism, the world's fifth largest religion, the same way. That's even though, with the exception of some sects that believe Buddha to be a deity, Buddhists don't believe in immortal gods. But hoping that these reactions are the result of confusion, and not a pure, unadulterated hatred for atheists, I'll explain what being atheist actually means.
Atheism in its simplest form is not even a belief. It's the lack of a belief. I'm atheist because I lack a belief in any gods. It's not that I disbelieve - atheism simply says, "there is no evidence for a god, so I have no belief in one." There are, of course, atheists who take a step further and say that there absolutely is no god. Some refer specifically to the Judeo-Christian or Islamic god, some say it in general. (We're all atheists in regard to some god; I'm sure none of you pray to Zeus.) It's hard to lump atheists together because, like the term theists, we really have no common characteristics other than that lack of a belief.
So we can move naturally on to the next question, why don't I believe in a god? There are many reasons not to believe - philosophical arguments, personal experience, skeptically reading various holy books - and I've examined many, but it all boils down to one single point. To me, faith is unacceptable thinking. Every single sensible theist will admit to you that part of their belief is taken on faith. Part of being a theist is believing something without logical and verifiable proof. I say, if you don't have a reason to believe something, you shouldn't believe it. To reference an example from writer Sam Harris, if I tell you I think the Holocaust is a myth, you're going to ask for my reasons. If I tell you I am bulletproof, you'll ask for a demonstration. Yet anything to do with religion is somehow exempt from the test of reason.
Saying that you have to have faith to believe something is admitting that it can't be believed based on merit. It's aknowledging that you have no reason to believe what you do. It's saying you're wrong, but simultaneously saying you're right.
There are those who would say not believing in any god takes faith as well, but atheism has nothing to do with faith. It rebukes faith. And atheism is no religion either. The complete lack of faith is no more a religion than being healthy is a disease.
Now, I should point out that none of this is to say that no one has the right to believe in whatever religion they wish. You absolutely have every right to believe what you choose. It's exactly what I'm doing, simply picking what's right for me. And I'm not so stubborn that I won't admit that I could be wrong. I was raised Southern Baptist, I dabbled in various other religions before finding myself an atheist, so it's entirely possible that tomorrow I'll come to the realization that I've been incorrect all along. It hasn't happened yet, and it doesn't seem to be on the forecast, but it's a fact I'm comfortable with.
I'll close with the most common question of all. If I don't follow a religion, from where do I get my morals? Well, ask ten atheists and you'll get ten different answers. Like I said, it's not a religion and we have no common beliefs, save that we share the lack of one. A lot of people think that religion has a monopoly on morality, but I'd argue that I get my morals from the same places everyone does: my family, my community, and my culture.
Two exceptional parents, a firefighter and a nurse no less, taught me that service to others is more rewarding than any dollar you can ever earn. Loving grandparents taught me kindness. Friends I've had since elementary school, who I consider family, taught me loyalty. And many other people too numerous to mention taught me many other things.
For a day-to-day moral guide, I've always been a fan of Kant's idea of treating people as an end instead of a means, which is basically a philosophical rewording of the Christian Golden Rule. Before you call hypocrisy, remember that I never said the Bible, or any holy book, doesn't contain beautiful passages or exceptional philosophy. I just don't buy the parts about a higher power. No doubt it has its bad parts as well, but that's another discussion altogether.
That's me. I'm Luke. I'm an atheist. I'm a writer. I'm a former Boy Scout. I'm a best friend. I sleep in on Sundays. I'm a brother and a son, a single guy and a student. I'm sure there are much more interesting things I could tell you about myself. I hope this cleared up one of them.
Apologies if this has been posted.......but I just found it and thought it was great.....