Atheism. Some people act like it’s a dirty word. Many people seem to think that being an atheist means you are somehow an amoral baby eater. Some people even go as far as calling atheism a type of faith. Today I am going to outline a few things about atheism, the way I see it. I’ve written about my thoughts on religion before, but this is more specifically about atheism.
I have been an atheist since long before I knew what the word meant. As I was never indoctrinated as a child, I had the opportunity to form my own opinions about life, the world and everything, without having to defer to an old book that has seen more revisions and versions than Adobe Flash. I also had the freedom to form those opinions without the ever present threat of an eternity of torment and pain. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough children are given that opportunity.
So, in an effort to maybe educate and inform, I want to lay out a few points about atheism and debunk some common misconceptions. I am not the first to do this and I certainly won’t be the last. This is atheism, the way I see it.
#1 – Atheism is a faith/religion
I wanted to start with this as it is a very common misconception and something I hear a lot. Saying that atheism is a faith and/or religion shows a misunderstanding of what those words mean. Atheism is a religion in the same way off is a TV channel and not collecting stamps is a hobby. You don’t need faith to not believe in something. People will expand this point to include science, claiming that we accept evolution and similar on faith. They will also call us narrow minded for not accepting their views and requiring evidence of all claims. This is not only quite ironic but it shows a misunderstanding of how science works. In the words of the great and mighty Tim Minchin:
Whenever I hear this, all I can think is that the person saying it has never actually read a bible for themselves. It is packed to the brim with violence, xenophobia, incest, rape, murder, you name it, it’s probably in there. When you point this out to them (with the relevant chapter numbers) you will inevitably be told that the section in question is ‘metaphorical’ or ‘to be interpreted’. It’s funny how this line is metaphorical and to be interpreted but the one next to it (that happens to be in keeping with the individuals personal world view) is literal and cannot be contravened on pain of eternal damnation.
It’s this cherry picking that totally undermines the entire concept of biblical morality. If you are able to interpret and decide which bits are good and which are bad, why do you need the book to tell you what is good or bad? You obviously already knew. Of course, there is a good chance that you never consciously chose your world view but had it inserted into your mind by the concerted efforts of your parents and their holy man of choice, but they had to interpret and decide which the good bits were, so the principal is still sound.
My point is, why do you need the book and the big fucking building to keep it in and the man to read it to you, to ensure you only hear the right bits? The answer is that you don’t. If the only thing stopping you from murdering people is the thought of going to hell then there is something wrong with you. I have no fear of hell as I do not think it exists. I would still never murder someone, in the same way I wouldn’t rob or cheat someone. In fact, as an atheist, murdering someone would be worse! In the religious world, death is not the end but only the beginning. This life here on Earth is merely a waiting room for the wonders of heaven (or horrors of hell) so murdering someone is just ushering them along their path. As an atheist, I know that to murder someone is to end everything they are. I know they won’t be coming back or going to some mystical better place. They will be going in a box and then, most likely, either into a hole or a fire.
In a lot of ways, we atheists are more moral as we don’t rely on an ancient text for the basis of our morals. Good Christians have been known to bomb family planning clinics because they don’t agree with abortion or contraception. Show me an example of an atheist starting a war or fire bombing a building for religious reasons. And no-one better try and pull out the ‘Hitler was an atheist’ chestnut because it is patently not true. Hitler was a confirmed Christian. Bill Gates, on the other hand, is a staunch atheist and has donated billions of dollars to charity for no other reason than he can and he wants to help people. He isn’t doing it for some mystical reward when he dies. Which, for me, makes it a much more powerful and meaningful gesture.
In closing I would just like to say that if you think atheists are bad people, devil worshippers (lol!), close minded or evil in some way, you have been woefully misinformed. Learn to form your own opinions and think for yourself. Learn critical thinking and teach it to your children. Question everything and never accept anything at face value with no corroborating evidence. Oh and stop telling us we’re going to hell. That’s like a hippy telling me they’re going to punch me in my aura.