Tuesday, June 08, 2010

This Is Why I Am an Atheist

Not very long ago, I wrote about how I became an Atheist. In that piece, I concluded by describing my transformation from theist-leaning agnostic to self-identifying Atheist:
I kept reading the science and religion blogs that were part of the project. I continued studying the claims, reasoning, and evidence that people brought out. I began posting on some of these blogs as a commenter and debater. I kept learning, and I kept developing my positions. By summer of 2009, I realized that it was no longer rational for me to accept
  • The claim of existence for God or for any divinity.
  • The claim of existence for anything like the supernatural.
  • The claim of divine inspiration for the scriptures of any religion.
  • The claim of any sort of moral or social authority for any religious group.
I determined that none of the religious faiths or their spokespeople were putting out anything other than fantasy. I decided that it was no longer responsible or honest for me to call myself anything other than an Atheist.

And so I say I am an Atheist.
Now, I want to explain why I felt it was necessary to self-identify as an Atheist. After all, I could have simply realized that I was more an Atheist than an agnostic, kept this realization to myself, and moved on.

My thinking on the four bullet points quoted above hardly changed. For example, I always had questions about God's being. Same thing regarding the supernatural and divine inspiration. So there really was not much of a transformation in my thinking, just a bit more conviction fueled by greater understanding of both the atheist and the theist arguments. But that last bullet--on claims of moral and social authority for religion--that one deserves attention because it's the beginning of why I felt a responsibility to stand up and be counted among the Atheists.

I want the world--the whole world--to be a better, safer, saner place. Atheism contributes to this goal in a way that religion cannot. A mindset unencumbered by imaginary agents, repressive dogma, and restrictive doctrines is more available to reflect on observational and experimental data, on reasoning, and on the influences of bias.

When I look at the world, I see serious issues:
  • Education: cost, access, quality, curriculum.
  • Health care: cost, access, quality.
  • Economy: jobs, wages, long-term growth, poverty, debt.
  • Environment: environmental care and responsibility, post-BP.
  • Government: Size, power, reform.
  • International relations: diplomacy, sensible arms and military policies.
  • Science and technology: exploration, leadership, promotion.
Can anyone look at these topics and explain to me what God, the Bible, Mohamed, or Jesus have to do with any of it? Is there any reason to invoke God in a discussion of public school costs and quality programs, for example. Do we need to consult the Bible to understand the prospects for jobs and unemployment in the U.S.?

In all of the issues and topics--hardly an exhaustive list--our conversations as an electorate and a society will be helped by common access to pertinent facts, by shared understanding of the relevant issues, and by willingness to accommodate both short and long-term views. But our conversations will be made all the more difficult if we mingle facts with holy writ, current issues with ancient platitudes, and informed opinions with self-righteous pronouncements.

And take a good look in the newspaper:  It's religious belief driving controversy in the classroom. It's religious belief poisoning the health care debate with fear-mongering. It's religious belief that champions a have and have-not society. It's religious belief that sanctions domination of the environment. It's religious belief that takes shelter beneath the ever-fattening wing of government. It's religious belief that catalyzes ancient conflicts and ideological challenges. It's religious belief that thwarts scientific potential.

I know, people have strong personal and family/cultural ties to their religions and to their religious beliefs. But I think people need to learn to accept that it's unhealthy to hold onto wishes that life is other than it is. When a loved one or a friend dies, that person is gone permanently. When a loved one or a friend goes out into the world, there's no guardian protector looking down to keep bad things away.

It's up to us, each of us, to remember love and to work to make good things a reality in the world.

This is why am I an Atheist. Because the world needs voices to speak for reason and for reasoning. Because the world needs people to show that they are opposed to social governance by doctrine and dogma. Because the world needs people who want to learn, to think, and to teach about the issues developing before us. Because the world needs leaders who consider opinions rather than dictating them.

This is why am I an Atheist. Because the world needs people like me to do something.

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking that this would make a great Forward to the introduction of my book. lol.

    It hits the tone and style of what I'm attempting to do head on.

    Although I might change the last sentiment you write in your final sentence to "Why am I an atheist, because I think the world needs *us.

    Anyway, just thinking out loud.

    Peace out!


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