Why atheism

unicorn“You always want to argue about everything. That’s why nobody likes you.”
-Emery’s mom

I suppose I could have stopped being a Christian quietly. That  would have made my mom happier less upset. Instead I add insult to injury by being an atheist, and writing about it.

Nobody believes in unicorns

Proclaiming one’s atheism may appear as unnecessary as proclaiming that one does not believe in unicorns. Although most of us are technically “a-unicornists,” few feel the need to tell people that they are. Why must atheists wear their labels so indiscreetly?

If one day our political candidates were judged by how devoutly they believed in unicorns, or if our laws were based on unicorn-derived values, or if every neighborhood had a church where unicorn worship was exalted and its members regularly proselytized unicorns to the public, would it not then make sense to take a stand on the issue, and do so publicly? Would it be indiscreet to say you don’t believe in unicorns?

I am an atheist because the issue is raised: in America, we are constantly confronted with belief in God, and judged by our proclamations about this God. When belief in God ceases to be an issue, so will non-belief in God. Until then, the need to declare oneself an atheist will remain.

Multi-limbed deities and MD 20/20

vishnuPeople sometimes ask atheists how they know God doesn’t exist, all the while oblivious to the premises loaded into their question. If the premises were identified and altered, they would become quite obvious. For example, if asked “how do you know that God doesn’t exist” with God described as a Hindu deity with four arms and blue skin, most Christians would have little trouble distinguishing the issue: “it’s not that I don’t believe God exists, I don’t believe in that God.”

Sometimes God is presented as merely a Prime Mover that started it all. If that is all God means, then I would not be an atheist, for I cannot draw definite conclusions about something so vaguely described. Christians are correct to point out the inability to be a well-reasoned atheist toward a being such as that. This, however, is not the sort of being Christians mean when they talk about God. Instead, they describe their god as three-beings-in-one, who created the universe out of nothing, who sent his son to die for our sins, which son we can now literally eat in the form of bread or crackers, and whose blood we can drink in the form of Welch’s grape juice or Mad Dog 20/20 Mogen David Concord Grape wine. This god I do not believe exists.

In America, an atheist is necessarily an “a-Christian.” In the Middle East, an atheist would mostly be “a-Muslim.” However, being an atheist is more than just holding a position of disbelief in the local religion. It also says that you do not accept many of the premises that anchor morality for theists, namely that the teachings of a religion necessarily have anything to do with what is actually right and wrong. In a world where moral answers are often left to religious leaders, atheists confront the questions cold turkey, without relinquishing authority to someone else’s interpretation of ancient books. This reliance on the practical effects of actions in the real world, instead of the mandates of religion, fundamentally changes how a person thinks about morality, and about how he or she views other people. The answers we give to moral questions are critical to how we survive and live as humans. Atheism places the responsibility for these answers squarely on our own shoulders in the here and now, without God to bail us out in some future reckoning.

This is why I call myself an atheist.

18 thoughts on “Why atheism

  1. There are many reasons why I believe in God. But, if for no other reason, let me ask you this: if God doesn’t exist, what happens to us after we die? Is it the end of our existence? If that is the case, I’m going to commit suicide and save myself the grief and disappointment and hardship that seems to accompany each of our lives on this sphere. Many would like to believe that there is more to this life than just this earthly presence. Even if we are wrong, it gives us hope in a higher purpose for being here.

    There is a joke about Christians meeting atheists in the hereafter. Either way Christians win the “argument” because if we are both non-existent then atheists won’t be able to say “I told you so”, but if we are both still alive, the Christians will have the chance to say “I told you so”. Either way, Christians win in the end!

    I realize that just because atheists don’t believe in God doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t believe in an afterlife, but my understanding is that most atheists do not. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. I have hope in annihilation the way Christians have hope in an infinite bliss. However, is not this hope of an infinite bliss a self-fish act whereas an annihilation belief relieves one from the stress of believing beloved non-believers won’t have infinite conscious torment. Isn’t it “Jesus-like” to sacrifice a blissful infinite life for the sake of non-believers infinite torment?

    2. Hi Darin. I do not rule out an afterlife, but obviously don’t have enough data to draw any conclusions. As for what happens after we die, who knows? Those who say they know don’t really know. Yet I find it strange that you would not want to live if you thought this life was it. I think it’s quite possible this life is all there is, yet that makes me value this life more, not less. If there is no afterlife for me to spend with my loved ones, then the time I have with them now becomes supremely precious. Yet if I have forever to hang out with them, then what difference does it make if I neglect them now? Forever minus a few years still equals forever. If anything, mortality should make life more valuable, and cause us to value others even more, for there is no afterlife to fix things if we screw it up now.

      1. Just checking out the sight a little curious. I’d like to ask, your belief in this life being our only one may motivate you to cherish it, but what spurs you to do good. What pulls you towards those in need of help. The point you offered seems selfish. Purely observational, just wanting to understand.

        1. Hi Christian. Sorry for the delay: for some reason I wasn’t getting notification of new comments. You’re right that I do good for selfish reasons. However, I submit that is why we all do them, the religious person included. As a Christian, I wanted to please God because I loved him. Therefore pleasing him made me happy, which is a purely selfish motive. Therefore doing good, which stemmed from wanting to please God, was also rooted in selfishness. But that is the way sentient beings are. Is that a bad thing?

    3. Darin, we believe in almost the same number of Gods – I just believe in one less God than you do. There are many different Gods/religions to choose from, and from within each, there are thousands of denominations. Assuming there is a God, and your place in the afterlife rests in choosing the right God and the right denomination, it’s literally a needle in a haystack chance you’ve got the right one – and if you’ve picked wrong – your worm food anyway.

      Tell me, why would a God who wants us to follow him, yet demands specific adherence to his rules allow so much misinformation and potential for us to choose wrongly?

    4. What kind of nutball logic is that? You don’t “win” anything if you cease to exist. In fact you will have lost because you devoted much of your life to something that is nothing but a hoax. You don’t believe that Scientologists will “win” if the afterlife doesn’t exist do you? No, because you don’t respect what they believe in. You also don’t respect a person’s thoughts on not believing. That’s the center of the matter. You cannot ask someone to believe something they simply don’t believe. It is not possible. You can only understand this if you try to believe in Scientology and fail to do so. Why did you fail? Because the concept does not seem believable to you. So is Christianity to many of us; it’s as unbelievable as unicorns.

      If you believe in god even slightly just because of the promise of a wonderful afterlife then you are a hypocrite. You are doing so for selfish reasons. You should only believe if the arguments and information available convinces you that X god is the real deal. Anything else is nothing but foolishness. When I see something convincing, I will believe myself. I don’t trust what you or any other human says because you don’t know anything more than I know. You are simply willing to give in to societal pressure and knuckle under while I continue to evaluate existence without prejudice. Bottom line is that to me the Christian god is no more convincing than the Hindu gods or the Muslim god or the hundreds of other gods that came before.

  2. hey man! I would absolutely love to talk to you! You seem like a very
    level – headed, intelligent individual. You should definitely shoot me an email when you get a chance

  3. High five! Did some Googling and found an atheist page show up instead of a biased, apologetic, shame and blaming Christian one. Google is finally starting to figure out my preferences.

  4. Emery you act more like a Christian than most Christians. You seem to model almost all of the Fruits of the spirit. You seem to love and care for others. You are kind, patient, self controlled etc. You have opinions but are open to changing them if good evidence is presented. You can totally disagree with someone without calling them names or raising your voice. In fact I think you genuinely value others opinions that are different than yours. Thank you so much for your honesty, thoughtfulness and total professionalism.

  5. Hello, Strikes me that if there is no God, then there is no morality. The concept of morality without God is actually quite ridiculous. We can’t “do good” for selfish reasons……there isn’t any “good”. There is only what I want, what I am strong enough to take….maybe from you…. Men like Adolph Hitler, Alexander the Great, the Roman emperors, etc. could correctly be called the only sensible, logical men under an atheistic mindset. Under atheism, evolution MUST reign supreme; any “good” deeds (helping the weak, the poor, etc.) will quickly be stamped out, and rightly so.

    Yet, ALL people have some sense of morality. All atheists have a sense of what is “right” and “wrong”, just like everyone else. If I go the the home of an atheist and break in to kill and steal, he will not simply defend his life and property; he will be offended and say that I have done wrong.

    Why? It is entirely illogical…..

    1. But we have evolved as social creatures. We needed empathy and cooperation to survive as a species. That, I think, is the basis of human morality.

    2. Atheism doesn’t promote evolution. That makes zero sense whatsoever.

      As for Adolf Hitler and such men, many people DO believe that they were in the right rather than the wrong. Just because you’re an atheist doesn’t mean that all good immediately turns to evil. And it doesn’t mean that all evil is immediately promoted. You’ve got to think these things through, man.

      If when morality becomes meaningless it is because there is no God, one could easily argue that there is no God. Based on what we see today, it’s completely plausible. ‘What do you mean, random internet guy?’ you might ask. I’m going to assume that because you speak English as well as you do that you’re either American or of the UK. My apologies if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t affect the situation TOO much. You’re clearly Christian, and that’s what matters for now. You’ve seen things like 9/11. You know what happened in Paris. (If you don’t, here’s a summary: PEOPLE DIED.) And do you know why those people died? Because of someone’s religion. They were so devout to their religion that they were willing to kill hundreds, thousands, millions, even to prove that THEIR God was the real one.

      Their morality is based off of God. In that case, your ‘atheist morality’ seems completely preferable, since they do have a sense of right and wrong that appears to suit you just fine.

    3. Interesting concept except that you Christians find it so difficult to follow your own moral rules. If god is the source of all morality, then he/she/it is doing a lousy job of getting it done.

    4. We can’t do good for selfish reasons? How selfish is believing in God to get to heaven? How selfish is doing “good” to get a God’s “well done” and a heap of rewards? How selfish is it to think you will be eternally ok while loved ones are eternally tortured, and to not stumble under the weight of such horror? (Or to be ok with this simply because you preached to them and too bad for them for not getting it.) Some people have a version of Christianity where they are happy to think some are chosen (including themselves of course) while the rest burn.

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