I am an atheist. I do not believe in a higher being or power. I believe in evolution, I believe in the natural sciences, and I believe that things we cannot explain are awaiting advancements in science to be explained. Or, maybe we will never be advanced enough because the human mind cannot compensate for the complexities of the universe.
This is a topic I never thought I would write about. I am never one to hold back on a discussion when talking amongst a group of rational minded and progressive individuals, those I would consider friends. Posting anything to the internet is most certainly not that. I have never written about or discussed this topic outside my small circle, and as of recent I’ve found myself wondering why that is.
After hashing this out in a recent discussion I came to the realization to why I’ve held back, it wasn’t because I was afraid; that is, afraid of losing friends or dealing with backlash. I have held back out of habit. I was raised to be tolerant and respectful, and to never make someone uncomfortable with my words, my ideas, and my opinions. Politeness and tolerance was of utmost importance. I was told time and time again, politics and religion do not make for good discussion at the dinner table, i.e. not for discussion with anyone outside of the circle. As I’ve grown I have found it of utmost importance, a bit of a hobby really, to discuss ideas and opinions. And a lot of the time those ideas and opinions revolve around the delicate topics of politics and religion. I didn’t realize I was struggling to mesh the former and the new, but I see it now. Being tolerant, respectful and polite to those around me is still just as important, but I can do both. I can voice and I can listen. Today, violently clashing ideas are only further heightened and manipulated by biased journalism and media, and leaves me confused on what I should and should not speak of. In my efforts for political correctness I found it easier to remain silent then having anything to say at all. In the current world of outrage at the drop of a pin, I didn’t want to risk offending someone, anyone. I see now this was my mistake. This generation of crybabies, the generation of the easily offended, the generation of outrage and ignorance can only be broken by those who voice good ideas, controversial ideas, and do so in the invitation for discussion. Demonstration that people can, and do, and always will have differing beliefs and that is just fine. Furthermore, hearing thoughts and ideas that are in direct opposition, can only further enforce it, shape it, or sometimes even break it.
So yes, back to the point, I am an atheist. If you are someone who knows me personally, not a single thing has changed. Only now, you are privy to this information. Why does being atheist have so many negative connotations to believers? Because to be an atheist must mean I am a terrible person, right? How can I know right from wrong without god’s rule to guide me? I have a moral compass. I believe murder is wrong, not because I would go to hell for it, but because it is just wrong. I believe in helping those around me that are less fortunate than myself, not because I will be rewarded with an eternity in heaven, but because I have empathetic principles.
I was not always an atheist. I come from a catholic background, I was baptized as an infant, went to a catholic primary school, went to church every Sunday, went to catechism every Wednesday after classes, and gave my first holy communion. Taking communion was always my favorite part, well honestly, the only part of church I enjoyed, because it involved eating. Those little crackers were bomb and I’ve always wondered why they don’t sell them at the grocery, they would make a killing! Body of Christ pairs quite nicely with a soft brie and fig jam. I’d use my brother’s Costco card, buy it up in bulk. I digress. I know I believed in god as a young child because I was deathly afraid of going to hell anytime I used “potty language”; apparently, the 11th commandment in my household. Don’t worry, I’ve made up for this deprivation of self expression ten fold. But as a young adult I stopped believing. It was not some big event, not an epiphany. It just happened. It was just realization, that I did not have to believe these things just because somebody said so, without any reason. Simple as that. I did not believe there was a figure above deciding the fates of those on earth. I did not believe in creationism. I did not believe in any of the biblical stories. I stopped going to church as soon as my father stopped demanding it (I do miss those crackers…). My mother is a theist, but not catholic, or in her words, she is not “religious”. She believes there is a god, but she doesn’t believe in religion; that is, she doesn’t believe there are established rules in how to believe, or what to believe. She fears for me, and says she prays that I will find god someday. This I understand, she is my mother, and she believes that harm will come to me for my disbelief. Her concern comes from her love. What I don’t understand is a stranger having anything to say about it; how does my choice to not believe in a god, in your god, affect you? Will you go to hell or face retribution for the lack of my belief? Unless you’re a militant Islamist on the Jihad wagon, no, so why confront me for it, why have any thought about it at all? Because I give very little to no thought for your beliefs. If your religious doctrine is correct then I suppose I will end up in “hell”. Again, no impact of my personal choice upon yours, and I made one hell of a gamble (pun intended).
As I stated before, tolerance is something of importance to me. I do not disrespect theists just because I am an atheist. I am tolerant in every sense of the word and I would hope to expect the same. When I eat meals with those that like to say grace, I will hold their hand and partake, out of respect. It does not offend me to do so. When someone says, “have a blessed day” or “god bless you” I smile and say thank you, because that person is showing me a kindness and I appreciate it. Yet, this is what has held me back in announcing this. Because I know that I will not be met with tolerance. I most likely will feel some heat for it, from family, friends, and in the workplace. But supposedly there is the possibility that those around me can remain rational and understand this is just a part of who I am. That my personal choices do not affect anyone around me. I make a lot of personal choices that should not impact those around me. I eat carbs and gluten, so if I’m going to hell for anything it will be that.
I do not go door to door and try to get believers to “convert” to non-belief. I don’t personally know any atheists that find themselves on “the mission” to get people to stop believing, and if I did meet one, I would think the same of them as I do of the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witnesses at my doorstop, an annoyance. Where I think people confuse atheist’s “spread of the non-word” is entwined in politics. This needs to be clarified, for I do not believe that most atheist’s wish to conquer the nation and take god away from the people. I’m entirely unsure of how this ridiculous thought came into material thought. I would equate it to the metaphorical analysis that allowing gay marriage will no doubt lead to sex with livestock. Americans and their ever-growing capability to construct such eloquent and manically misleading metaphors and analogies is amusing to say the least. Naturally that is the most logical next step! Same-sex marriage and livestock, atheists and world domination, but I digress. I think most atheists and many theists simply wish for a secular nation as our forefathers created. Somehow the separation of religion and politics –why people fled religious persecution and founded this nation, has become quite the opposite. There is not a single U.S. elected politician that is an acclaimed atheist. For a candidate to identify as an atheist would be political suicide. Please view this article from HuffPost on their hilarious meme interpretation (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/atheists-in-congress_n_3944108.html).
In a nation of “religious freedom” apparently not believing is just not an option. Our nation’s founding fathers constructed a secular constitution yet politics today are riddled with religious fanaticism, and the origin of our nation has seemed to be all but forgotten. Anyone is this country has the right to their beliefs whether theistically, atheistically or agnostically inclined. For this type of democratic society to function at its highest capacity, secularism should be of utmost importance. Using religion to guide political stances and legislation is just not supportive. It is using the trump card of phrases when asked why, “Why?… Well just because”. That is religion. Just because. Because he or she said so, and because of that, “I” do so. If this is how one chooses to lead their personal life, and guidance for their personal decisions, then that is just fine by me. But do not dictate my life with that type of reasoning. Therefore, secular politics should be priority numero uno, so that I, as an atheist, you as a Christian, and he as a Spaghetti Monster believer can coexist in one nation and believe in what that nation stands for. It should be the underlying moralities of humankind that drive political discourse.
The day I run for presidency I am sure this will come back to haunt me. And… maybe that time I got caught for shoplifting a bra. Otherwise, life shall continue. Until the abyss of nothingness swallows me whole and I become decomposed organic material that will float on in the universe.