What Atheism Has Meant to Me
I seem to spend a great deal of time defending atheism and/or criticizing theism. I spend a great deal of time trying to clear up common misconceptions about what atheism is. What I do not spend much time on is writing about what my atheism means to me. Why I am incredibly happy to be an atheist. I want to take a moment to do that today. Please know; the following words are what my being an atheist means to me—in no way should the reader think that any other or all other atheists share my thoughts and views.
I can honestly say that being atheist is a joy. I cannot recall the day or time when I decided that I was atheist. My road to atheism took the majority of my college years (in the mid-1990’s). I do not recall all of the experiences that led me to atheism. There was never an “a-ha!” moment. Rather, one day I short of just came to the conclusion, “hmm…I guess I’m atheist”.
Since that day I have known a freedom that is hard to explain, though I will try. I am now free to view all existence without having to conform it a religious point of view. This is a very liberating experience.
I can study nature around me and look at the wonders of biology. I can learn how evolution truly is, as Richard Dawkins puts it, “the magic of reality”. It is an amazing planet that we live on. To know that every living thing we see evolved from a “primordial soup” is truly fascinating. To study how this occurred—and is still occurring is breath-taking. The appreciation that this has given me for all life cannot be understated. Simple daily things changed for me—like seeing a bird. When I thought that some deity just made “birds” they were no big deal to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been an animal lover and supporter of animal rights. However, now I look at them in awe. What amazing creatures they are! It is amazing to think that they developed through completely natural processes. It is amazing to study exactly how that process occurred. The same goes for all other living creatures.
This naturally ties into my view of other human beings as well. It is wondrous for me to think that we all are somehow distantly related. Concepts like racism or sexism are absurd to me. I look at every other human being on this planet and see an equality of human dignity. I see people who deserve equal opportunities and rights. Again, don’t get me wrong—I was pretty big on that stuff prior to my atheism. However, since that day, my view has broadened significantly.
I can study the universe at large and be stupefied by its…well everything…its size, complexity, laws, etc. I can’t help but think how silly the notion of “well god just made it” truly is when compared to the reality of what existence really entails. It is quite humbling to realize how insignificant we are in the “grand scheme” of things, yet liberating to realize that fact. It is fascinating to read books on theoretical physics and cosmology and look at the debates regarding the origins of the universe. These hypotheses are far more breath-taking than the “god-concept”. Yet, free from dogma, I am free to appreciate and contemplate the possible realities that led us to where we are today. I need not feel guilty about “cheating on god”.
In short, my atheism didn’t really change who I am in any significant way. To stick with the three examples above: I was always appreciative of nature/animals. I always believed in equal opportunity, treatment, and dignity for all humans. I have always been fascinated with the cosmos. My atheism has only broadened the scope of those feelings. I can now believe and study all of those things without being burdened by religious dogma or doctrine. I don’t have to try to square what I learn or what is reality with dogma/doctrine. I do not have to deny something because it would take away something from god (think god of the gaps). It truly is difficult to put into words the effect that my atheism has had on my life. It is the most liberating thing that I have ever experienced.
Again, please recall these are my views only and are not meant to represent all atheists. Atheism is nothing more than a lack of beliefs in god(s). What one chooses to do with that lack of belief is their choice, this short blog post is a glimpse into what I have chosen to do with my lack of god-belief.
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