Thursday, August 21, 2008

Atheism defined

I’m an atheist. Normally I don’t go out of my way to espouse my beliefs because that’s one of the reasons I hate religion. If somebody asks, I tell them…but unlike most Christians I know I don’t get satisfaction from regaling people with what I’ve chosen to accept, which is reality. At least in my mind.

I could write a book about why I’m an atheist and I probably should. I really need to parlay my ability to write into a means of earning money but I tend to flit around on my blogs and various message boards when I have a few minutes to spare. Such is life.

The reason I’m bringing atheism up is that I was recently made aware of an event that took place in Columbus. It was a coming out party for atheists. At first blush, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Religion gets bludgeoned into us at an early age and even though Christians often lament the secularization of society, they still have more influence than they should. Religion, particularly when it is imposed upon people, is a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with individual spirituality but most religions, particularly Christianity feel a need to recruit members and vilify those who reject their dogma.

Again, I don’t want to get into these gory details. George Carlin said it best: he worshipped the sun because it’s there, but he prayed to Joe Pesci because Joe’s a good actor and seems like a guy who can get things done. Honestly it makes a hell of a lot more sense than basing a religion around a guy who may or may not have walked on water 2000 years ago. The water into wine thing would have been pretty cool but until Jesus pops into my office and converts the five gallon jug in the break room into a nice shiraz, I’m going to have to question the validity of that story.

No, my beef today is with the atheists who attended this party. I take issue with the concept because one of the reasons I’m an atheist is that I don’t like conforming to somebody else’s beliefs. One thing I’ve learned in speaking to other atheists is that we all have different opinions about what we believe and reasons for believing it and that’s OK. There are atheists who feel the need to organize around a common theme. I don’t know if they realize that they’re trying to build a religion.

During this coming out party the atheists made a mockery of baptisms by conducting a de-baptism service with the so-called blow dryer of reason. That sounds funny and from a purely satirical perspective it is but the joke is on you when you go so far as to conduct de-baptisms to symbolize breaking the bond with religion. I wonder if they discussed setting up a vomitorium of ex-communion. How else can former Catholics purge themselves of the body and blood of Christ they’ve been noshing on all these years?

I might be biased but it takes courage to put yourself out there as an atheist. It makes people nervous because most religious people harbor a lot of doubt that they simply don’t like to talk about. That’s why they need to form denominations of similar theological thought. That and money, but let’s stay on point. Atheism is supposed to be the absence of theology.

It would be unfair for me to speak on behalf of all atheists but those I know seem to share a common trait. We’ve taken a long hard look at what religion has to offer and passed. Personally I’ve studied a number of different spiritual concepts and when I was engaged in that study I considered myself an agnostic. When I felt pretty comfortable that all religion was a little hokey I decided I was an atheist. There was no need for any ceremonies. I didn’t need to have my lack of faith affirmed by other atheists. The only thing I had to accept was the fact that being willing to declare myself an atheist came with certain social consequences.

People are comfortable with agnostics because agnostics tend to believe, or at least want to believe, in something. Atheists simply choose not to believe. Atheists can be spiritual in a very broad sense but they would never claim to have faith. Faith, you see, is the inherent flaw in religion. Faith can cloud reason and impair judgment. Faith has led people to join cults and take their own lives as well as the lives of others. Faith can be very dangerous.

So I have to take issue with people who call themselves atheists but seek some form of validation for their beliefs. They want their faith affirmed and that’s not what it’s all about.

The so-called atheists who attended the coming out party bandied about topics such as conversion and they whined over the fact that so many atheists seem to turn back to religion once they start families.

I’ve talked to religious people who take issue with the manner in which most churches convert people. Shameless pandering, childhood brainwashing, scare tactics, predatory psychology, name the method and somebody has put it to good use. The reason most religions recruit followers is because they want to consolidate the two things that make the world go ‘round: money and power. Ironically that’s why Jesus raised a little hell within the Jewish religion a couple thousand years ago. It’s ironic because it took people like Paul all of a few years to turn Jesus’ legacy into the very thing he railed against.

In this country people reject Christianity. It’s the most pervasive religion and while it’s not nearly as oppressive as fundamentalist Islam, Christians do a mighty fine job of forcing their beliefs on others. They also do a pretty good job of making themselves out to be the victims. Most atheists want to distance themselves from this. So why stoop the religion’s level and convert the masses?

The answer to that question also answers why so many of these atheists go back to religion. They have faith. All they’re doing is changing the object of that faith. That’s not atheism, it’s juvenile rebellion. The self-described atheists who attended the coming out party in Columbus had a lot more in common with melancholy teen-aged girls who pretend to dabble in witchcraft. There’s not really anything wrong with that but it’s a real shame when the actions of a few confused malcontents cast a shadow on everybody else.

Being an atheist doesn’t make you special. You’re not necessarily better than those who have faith in something. Atheism is just one way of looking at things. It’s just a word that describes a very broad line of thought. There’s nothing to practice, no dogma to follow, no power or presence to have faith in. Atheism is nothing more than being at peace with the fact that you have absolutely no idea what’s beyond our mortal existence. I think all atheist hope that there’s something wonderful waiting for us after we die but we just don’t see any reason to convince ourselves to have faith in what we can’t prove.

We don’t need no stinking parties.


DavidCyrus said...

Your last paragraph seems to confuse "atheism" with "agnosticism"

If you aren't sure what's in store for us, and hope that something wonderful is, I'd say you're an Agnostic. If you feel sure that there is no God, then you’d be an Atheist.

claw71 said...

No, David, there is no confusion. Just because I'm open to a possibility doesn't mean I think it's probable. Based on what I've seen, I believe there is nothing. I'm quite certain of that. I could be wrong. Being oopen to that possibility makes me intelligent, not agnostic.

I'm quite certain I'll never walk on Mars, have sex with Eva Mendez, or develop super powers but I hope those things happen. Hoping doesn't make them true.