Godless Pride

By Patrick Robotham

The Humanist Symposium, Inaugural Edition (29 April 2007)

I am proud to be an atheist because I am never afraid to ask why and, if put off with cop-outs, demand a meaningful answer. Religion has always dealt with ignorance not by inquiry but through appeals to god: you can see this most notably when science comes up with an answer to a previously unanswered question, whether it be the origins of matter, the origins of the current diversity of life, the movement of celestial bodies or even the shape of the Earth. The reaction would be one of joy if ignorance was not relied on to substantiate religious claims. My atheism allows me to reject this spirit of ignorance in favor of an answer that is evidenced, predictive and parsimonious. The unbridled curiosity that I feel is a constant reminder that my knowledge is small, and I am humbled, but it makes me willing to learn, and discard cherished beliefs if something comes up that contradicts them. The spirit of inquiry has led to a greater improvement in the quality of life of humanity then anything else. Today, my curiosity can almost be satiated, given the vast amounts of information that is readily available thanks to the Internet. The quelling of curiosity by taking in information is a hundred times more satisfying then accepting a nonsensical answer, or being cowed into submission by those who view some questions as improper. To me, there is no such thing as an improper question and this is in no small part thanks to my atheism and the spirit of inquiry that dwells within.

I am proud to be an atheist because my actions are guided by more than hollow authority and fine sounding words; rather, they are guided by conscience and empathy, which are far better guides then any scripture in the world. Religion equates obeying god with being moral, and one only need read a newspaper or even the Old Testament to see that this is not the case. Countless atrocities have been committed and holy wars have been fought in the name of god's will, but none in the name of conscience and empathy. Threats of hellfire and demands of obedience cannot produce moral people; at best, they can produce cowed slaves, at worst, degenerate sociopaths who only view actions that violate bizarre rules as immoral - such as Osama bin Laden, or Fred Phelps. My morality is based on conscience and empathy, as well as a love of freedom and justice. These principles have produced great charities and great nations. My morality is there because of my atheism, liberalism and humanism. All of these give me the courage to say no to demands that conflict with conscience, and refuse to take actions that undermine freedom and erode justice.

I am proud to be an atheist because my atheism leads me to realize that I am the master of my own fate, and I am responsible for my actions and the consequences that result from them. Religion teaches that our actions have a cosmic significance, and that supernatural entities constantly meddle in the world, affecting it. This superstition leads inexorably to the egocentric and fatalistic conclusion that you are not in control of your life, but rather mystical beings of unlimited power are, and they care deeply about your choices so that they can reward and punish you for them. In contrast, science tells us that we are simply a minuscule part of the cosmos which is incompatible with the idea that beings of omnipotent power created the universe solely to bring about our existence. In addition to this sobering fact, atheism means that no beings are in control of your life except you. This empowering philosophy inspires us to take action, and do such things as save the environment and fight for civil rights. Why do these things if a super being can do them in a blink of an eye, and will, someday... hmm?

I am proud to be an atheist because I am not unnecessarily restricted. Religion has had a large variety of taboos, whether it's certain types of food, alcohol, gambling, or even dressing up in a certain fashion. In addition, it encourages us to waste time praying and worshiping, as well as demanding that we give them money. My atheism leads me to disregard these unnecessary restrictions, time consuming activities and resource wasting endeavors. Instead I am free to enjoy the vast variety of things that violate taboos, such as reading The Catcher in the Rye, or enjoying a slice of pork. In addition, my time and resources are freed up so I can devote them to worthwhile endeavors.

My atheism means that my life is not overshadowed by fear and guilt and that living is a wonderful experience. So I am proud and overjoyed to be an atheist, to reject superstition, fear, fatalism, egocentricity, obsequiousness, willful ignorance and absurd and meaningless rituals. I am proud to live a life based on reason, compassion, courage, activity and inquiry. I am proud to be an atheist, but even more, I am proud to be a human.

April 28, 2007, 10:58 am • Permalink

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