Saturday, November 10, 2007

Why I'm Happy To Be An Atheist

Being an atheist isn't all gloom and doom. I'm not angry all the time. There's actually a lot to be happy about.

One of the problems I have with the theist mindset (which is especially prevalent among the creationists) is that it looks for the easy answers out. "Why bother with thousands of journal articles when can have all my answers packaged in one book?" it asks.

With atheism, you don't get any prepackaged answers. Science has become the default explanation, but unlike theists, those answers had to be worked for, instead of just having them handed down from on high. This alone doesn't mean they're any better any more than building your home yourself is any better than buying one.

But from these conclusions, we can instill messages. Fellow SOMA member Chuck Lunney put it,
Rather than being created apart and unique from the rest of the living biosphere, accepting the fact that humans are part of and intimately connected to the universe makes me care intensely about every little thing that exists.
But it's not necessarily the answers and the messages we instill from them that are what it's all about. It's also the process of getting there. The idea of not taking the easy answers and taking things for granted that comes from the atheist mindset is something that has greatly influenced me as a person.

As my mother will tell you, it's made me fiercely independent. I'm not one to ask for favors or hand me downs lightly. Struggling to overcome my own problems has made me explore the limits of who I am and what I am capable of.

This mindset has given me a consistent, logical approach to problem solving that extends just beyond examination of physical realities. The same methodology can also be used in the interpersonal relationships I share with friends. Spending the time to investigate emotions and the connections I share with others has lead to some very deep and amazing friendships that I cannot even fathom experiencing with a mindset that promotes blind acceptance and shallow thought.

Another advantage to this mindset is that it avoids hasty and irrational decisions. Every time I've heard about people being taken in by the silly Nigerian Email scam, it's always someone taking a "something for nothing" offer on blind faith. In several instances, victims have thought God was telling them to help this person (and help themselves). This is not to say that atheists are immune to such scams, but having a mindset that requires actually holding answers up to some sort of scrutiny greatly decreases the chances of getting taken in by frauds.

Another one of the things I'm quite happy about is that I have a general optimistic view of humanity. Unlike religion, which tells us that humans are all awful sinners and deserve eternal damnation unless they accept the particular deity of choice, atheism carries no such inherent emotional baggage. We're free to actually make informed decisions on one another. As I already noted, this doesn't mean we trust anyone willy nilly, but it does allow for optimistic skepticism.

Lastly, I'm glad for my time. Not just that I get to sleep in on Sunday mornings, but that I get to actually live my life without absurd notions about what I have to do or not do to to ensure eternal life. It's freeing to know that my time is my own and that, when I do give it, it's because I do so knowing I care about friends and humanity, and not because I'm trying to earn karma points for the afterlife. I have my life, and I'm not about to waste it in prayer, or kissing God's Hank's ass, or mumbling worthless incantations.

I'm going to live it fully; Without reservations, self loathing, blindness, or any of the other nonsense that comes with the theistic mindset. This is what the atheist mindset gives us: Life.

And that's precious.

9 comments:

viggen said...

It depends on the environment where you gain and hold those beliefs.

Atheistic beliefs held in a religious environment can lead to tremendous isolation and unhappiness. This--in turn--can lead to a very negative outlook both regarding yourself and the people around you.

There is nothing innately happy or unhappy about atheistic beliefs, but how the people around you treat you based upon what they believe about your beliefs can be hugely damaging.

Anonymous said...

Nothing you do can earn 'karma points' anyway! This is the flawed thinking of sinful man, albeit an easy error to make. Only Jesus, through His death on the cross, can do that. What we do should ideally flow from a love of God and our fellow man, chiefly to glorify Him, not merely for what we can get out of it.

Nor should we come for the sake of 'easy answers' (God is far beyond our understanding anyway). The Bible quite matter-of-factly descirbes the existence of God and how He brought things to be, then gets on with the more serious business of His dealings with man and, indeed, glorifying God Himself. Getting answers about life, the universe and everything is not the real point, and besides, living to the glory of God should surely be the more rewarding than the trivial pursuit of 'finding answers'?

Of course, this is not to decry science. As a former physics student I can say that I've often been made the most aware of the awesomeness (I mean that in the meaty old-fashioned sense) of God. For one, the discoveries of astronomy are often said to have increasingly proved our insignificantness, compared to the vastness of the Universe, and considering our apparently unimportant place in it (the blind asumption of the Copernican Principle when applied to an intergalactic scale notwithstanding). But can this not be said to even more glorify God above man, for a. if we live in such a vast and awesome Universe, how much more so the Creator thereof, and b. it amazes one to think that He should care less about a 'microscopic dot on a microscopic dot' (as said in Hitchhiker when Zaphod Beeblebrox is about to get fed into the Total Perspective Vortex) such as one of us? Secondly, having loked into nanotechnology, I noticed that God is a far better 'nanotechnologist' than human scientists, when one considers how biological 'molecular machines' are far superior to any alternatives cooked up by the human mind (indeed this seems to be the way forward for related areas of nanotech research) and considering the complexity of the systems they comprise already existing in nature, puts whatever steps we have taken to shame. (Yes of course one may attribute this to the supposed millions of years of natural selection, but that is beside the point I am trying to make of how science can glorify God.)

But I digress (and perhaps waffle!) The nonsensical baggage of dead religion is not necessary (prayer itself should not be a meaningless chore but a joyful and essential part of our relationship with the living God, and an expression of our need for Him, Who can perform that which we cannot); nor are "reservations, self loathing, blindness, or any of the other nonsense that comes with the theistic mindset," which, to coin a phrase, can be laid at the foot of the cross. (I shamefully admit this has mostly been only true in theory for me, not in practice.) After all, didn't Jesus say, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, KJV) and "If...the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36, WEB)? Yet: "For the wages of sin" -this includes the atheistic mindset, assuming the truth of Christianity, since ignoring God is sin- "is *death*, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23, WEB, emphasis mine). Go figure.

Blairs Boys said...

Science does not equal atheim.

At least, that is what Jack Krebs tells the public at Kansas Citizens for Science.

Jon Voisey said...

Congrats on your literacy blairs. I never claimed it does.

Patrick Craig said...

That's funny, Jon. You tell Blairs that you "never claimed it does" (that science equals atheism). But you said in your post:

"With atheism, you don't get any prepackaged answers. Science has become the default explanation, but unlike theists, those answers had to be worked for, instead of just having them handed down from on high."

Would you like to explain this? You clearly place science in opposition to theism in the second sentence, and you precede that with a statement of the fact that science does not come with prepackaged answers - only you replace the word "science" with the word "atheism." If you're not expressing support for the imaginary war between science and religion, then just what are you trying to say?

And what does "Congrats on your literacy blairs" mean? If it was an insult, I believe you owe Blairs an apology.

vjack said...

Great post. I just added it to my growing collection of resources on atheism here: http://www.squidoo.com/atheistrevolution

Anonymous said...

Great Post - dont know why the doom and gloom was ever mentioned - the fact we evolved from simple life, over bilions of years, in this incredible universe- is much more awesome and inspiring than what a few guys in a tent imagined thousands of years ago. (PS - In case any believers are reading this - the background is just fantasy- the Earth is flat, and the Sun revolves around us ;o)

Patrick Craig said...

That's funny, Jon. You tell Blairs that you "never claimed it does" (that science equals atheism). But you said in your post:

"With atheism, you don't get any prepackaged answers. Science has become the default explanation, but unlike theists, those answers had to be worked for, instead of just having them handed down from on high."

Would you like to explain this? You clearly place science in opposition to theism in the second sentence, and you precede that with a statement of the fact that science does not come with prepackaged answers - only you replace the word "science" with the word "atheism." If you're not expressing support for the imaginary war between science and religion, then just what are you trying to say?

And what does "Congrats on your literacy blairs" mean? If it was an insult, I believe you owe Blairs an apology.

Anonymous said...

Great Post - dont know why the doom and gloom was ever mentioned - the fact we evolved from simple life, over bilions of years, in this incredible universe- is much more awesome and inspiring than what a few guys in a tent imagined thousands of years ago. (PS - In case any believers are reading this - the background is just fantasy- the Earth is flat, and the Sun revolves around us ;o)