I’m an atheist. I have been for a while. I grew up Episcopalian, but it stopped making sense to me. I drifted to agnosticism and then, upon thinking about it for a while, decided I am really an atheist. I really only miss religion when I’m ticked off at something that happened that is completely not fair but not something anyone has control over. At that point, I sometimes wish I had someone to yell at. Other than that, though, I don’t have any holes in my life.
I understand that a lot of people have problems with atheists. I have problems with evangelicals of any stripe, and sometimes atheists come in that mold, too. I believe very strongly that people should be allowed to choose their belief systems. I don’t force my atheism on anyone (I know at least a few people who don’t have a clue that I’m an atheist) and I really appreciate it when other people manage to avoid pushing their beliefs on me. I will respect your beliefs if you will give me room for mine, too.
I don’t mind discussions, but people getting obnoxious I can do without.
So. The next question everyone seems to ask is “How do you know what is right if you don’t have a god to guide you?” I was raised to think about everything. I understand that I don’t like it when I get hurt. I do not see any reason why I should think it’s a good thing to hurt someone else if I don’t like it. Seems pretty basic to me. I think about how my actions and words affect other people. I would hope that people in general would be capable of doing that without the threat of an angry god or hell hanging over them.
Religion to me started feeling like the carrot and the stick. If you did everything right, you got into heaven. If you didn’t, the afterlife was not a pleasant place to be. I decided that I will live knowing that this is the only chance I have to do things right. I don’t believe that I am being judged by some omnipotent being. I believe that my life, if it is going to make a difference, will make a difference now. I can make choices now about what I want to do and how much of an impact I want to make on the world.
If I do something wrong, I have to make amends. I can’t pray to some being and make it all better. If I hurt someone, I hurt a person. I didn’t hurt something I can’t see. I hurt someone standing right in front of me, and it’s my responsibility to deal with it in this lifetime. Preferably quickly, too. If I’m wrong, I’ll say so. I accept it. I make mistakes. Sometimes I stick my foot in my mouth and say things that hurt people. It happens to everyone. The difference is, I know this is the only chance I have to do this living thing right. I have to clean up my own messes, and no one is going to come along and fix things for me.
I am responsible for myself and my actions. I don’t need a god making rules for me. I know what is right and wrong. Doing things to purposely hurt someone is not good. Trying to help people is good. Thinking about the consequences of actions is very, very important. I can do that. I’m not always right, but when I did believe in a god, I didn’t get feedback on right or wrong, so I’m not sure how that helps.
Don’t even get me started on the contradictions in the Bible.
It’s a different kind of life for me. I think, I like to think, I am more aware of the results of my actions. I try to be honest with myself about what I need and what I can handle. I try to think as much about the people around me as I do of myself. I try hard to live my life fully, so when I look back there are no regrets.
I have one shot at a good life. I have one stretch of time in which I get to be a conscious being. This is mine to fill with living a good life, and I will do my best, and I will try to be happy and enjoy it and not cause unnecessary pain to anyone else.
I’m happy to talk about it. I’ll be adding links on the sidebar to atheists I read, so if you have any interest, you can follow links to their sites, too. Please come to the discussion with an open mind and we can have an interesting conversation. If you come in waving religion like a red flag, I’ll have a harder time with the discussion. Reasoned arguments are never bad, though.
I hope this might help change, even if only slightly, the perception that atheists are bad by definition. Morality is not based on a god.