Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why becone an atheist?

Sorry I didn't get this up Friday, but my internet connection didn't want to allow me to upload this video to youtube until now... Youtube? Video? Yup, we're doing something a little different this time. A user on youtube posed the question 'Why should I become an atheist?' The following video is my reply. But if you find voice lulling you into a bored sleep or find my wife playing Nintendo in the background too distracting (It's okay, she did make the video for me), I will be including the text transcript below. Enjoy!

There is a user on youtube that goes by the handle of Mattew4Nineteen. He has posted a video question entitled ‘Why should I become an Atheist?’  The base of his question is why he as a Christian should become an atheist. What is in it for him if he gives up his Christian faith and becomes an atheist? He lists tings he loves about being a Christian and wants to know what is so great about being atheist, but also asks for replies to not bash religion.

First off, the question he is asking is ill formed. One simply doesn’t decide to become an atheist. Atheism is the lack of a belief in the existence of gods. If you don’t believe in gods, you are an atheist. If you do, you are a theist. So you really can’t just decide to be an atheist. To become an atheist, you would first have to stop believing in the gods that you currently do, not just a simple rejection of their authority. If you were to decide to stop worshipping the Christian god, but still believed in him, you would still not be an atheist. 

For you to make that step, you would need to not only stop worshipping, but stop believing that the Christian god (and all other gods) exists. But since you are not open to hearing arguments against your religion, that is not a step you will be able to take. Perhaps you simply have a misunderstanding of atheism, or this question was initially formed as it was to keep you from getting compelling answers. But unless you are convinced that there are no gods, there is no simple choice of becoming an atheist. And if addressing the weaknesses of religions and god claims is off the table, there really is no convincing you or anyone why they should become an atheist since it’s just not that kind of choice.

The second part makes me think that your original question was formed as it was because of a base misunderstanding of what atheism is. You mention what you love about being Christian and what you’d have to give up if you were no longer a Christian. Then you basically asked what atheism offered in replacement of these things. The problem is, atheism isn’t another religion. There is no atheist church, or membership rewards packet. This isn’t some club that offers you prizes and rewards just for being a member.  It is the holding of one position on the existence of gods. Nothing more, nothing less.

But you do mention specific things that you love about your current faith. You love your church, you love the fellowship, you love Jesus, etc. You also say that you would have to set aside everything you love and hold dear. That part is simply untrue. Unless you a pastor that lives and breathes Christianity 24/7, chances are you would have to give up very little. The only changes that would be needed are the things that are inherently Christian. You love your church? Okay, there are replacements for that. You could go to meet ups of people who have similar likes as you. Maybe that’s a bowling team, book club, or a motorcycle or classic car club. Maybe your thing is watching or playing football, or collecting vintage vinyl. Whatever your interests are, there may be local meet ups or clubs that get together every couple weeks or once a month. This could easily be a replacement for church and fellowship as well. Like-minded people that share an interest getting together and having an enjoyable time. Not religious, and sounds like it ticks the social boxes you desire.

You also mention that you love Jesus. Well, believe it or not, atheism doesn’t dictate that you discard Jesus.  Just as some Jews like Jesus, you can also be an atheist and like Jesus. How, you ask? Remember, atheism is the lack of a belief in gods. So you can still believe in a human Jesus. Not divine, not God/son of God, didn’t die and return from the dead… just human like you and I. But if it’s his teachings you like, you can still like him and his morals as a human teacher, rather than as a supernatural being... Just like Thomas Jefferson did. Personally, I feel like it’s possible that the character of Jesus was an actual person, or based on someone who existed. But as a regular person, and not as a supernatural being. And while I don’t care for Jesus’ teachings as a whole, there’s nothing stopping an atheist from being fond of a human Jesus, or Gandhi, etc.

Your misunderstanding of atheism continues when you mention the ‘sex, drugs, rock & roll lifestyle’. Atheists are often hit with the assumption that we’re wild, do anything party animals. But that isn’t actually the case. Truthfully, there is no ‘atheist lifestyle’ whatsoever. The life of one atheist may be very different than the life of the next atheist. Just as two Christians may lead very different lives. For example…  I’ve never done drugs, don’t really like to drink, don’t smoke, party’s aren’t my thing, and I live a quiet unassuming yet happy and fulfilling life. I actually can’t say that I personally know any atheists that are loud, foul party animals that are ready to drink up a storm, and have a one-night-stand. Yet, I know Christians that fit that description perfectly. Now I don’t say that to claim that this is the standard Christian lifestyle, but to point out that the lifestyles of members of any group may vary greatly.

Now that all of that is out of the way, what do I think are the positives I gain from being an atheist. For one, the truth. The world may not always be a fair place, but it is a beautifully amazing one. To me, a created Earth isn’t as special as the natural one on which we reside. Instead of a world created at the whim of a deity, we see a world that didn’t have to exist as it is, or even at all. But by the laws of nature and beating the odds, our beautiful globe was eventually born. Then life took root and evolved over great expanses of time to get to us. We didn’t have to exist, and if evolution had gone down a different path, we wouldn’t. Yet here we are! Living the gift of life! I feel that this realization makes me appreciate everything more than if it were to usual work of a creator, or if it were created expressly for us. 

The same sentiment also applies to the universe as a whole. When I was a believer, I would look at the stars and would just think they looked pretty. But now I am overwhelmed with amazement by the cosmos. Those pretty stars are other suns. Each potentially harboring planets. Some of those stars are actually not stars but another galaxy.  The greatness of the distance is so expansive that some of what we see in the night sky no longer exists. The light has taken so long to reach us that we are literally looking at a picture of the past. Distances so great that we can only dream of wrapping our heads around them. Yet somehow, here we are beginning to understand and explore the vastness of space! 

So when I look at the universe, Earth, life, and even myself, I see something amazing and gratifying. I see intriguing complexity, but I also see something that didn’t have to be. Yet here it is. Instead of a necessitated creation, I (and everything I see) could have been different or not been at all. When that thought occurs to me, I can’t help but smile and feel full of appreciation and amazement. To me, that’s a very special ‘perk’ of abandoning religious thinking.

-Brain Hulk

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