This I Believe:
I am an atheist. Often, I find that religious people assume that atheists do not really believe in anything. It’s actually just the opposite. Belief should never be confused with faith. One of Webster’s definitions of ‘faith’ is to hold something as true, for which there is little or no supporting evidence. I am totally obsessed with what to believe. I think about it constantly. What I believe is based on empirical evidence and reality, not faith. This obsession with what to believe is real is the driving force that led me to be an atheist.
I believe that an individual’s ‘belief set’ is ultimately important. It’s like a computers operating system. We can have the finest hardware, we can try to use the most advanced software, but if our operating system is faulty, it’s no use. Our religion, (or ‘belief set’ in my case), is our tool-kit for dealing with a very real world. In order for my all-important ‘belief set’ to maintain integrity, I side with reality.
I was brought up Catholic, and taught as a child that God has 3 constant and infinite attributes. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-merciful, …all the time. Yet, when I see, a real news item, that a 6 month old baby girl was held under water, by her mother, until she was dead, …I must conclude that; From that little girls prospective, God was definitely missing one or more of those vital attributes at that moment. When I detect that some reality like this, that conflicts with something I have been taught, or held as true, I cannot just shrug it off with ‘The Lord works in mysterious ways’. I am obsessed, and must work out and decide for myself what I believe.
This ‘acknowledgment of reality’ has led to a higher level of love and respect for my fellow human beings. Think about the case of the dead little girl. If she went to heaven, or some pleasant after-life, after being drowned by her mother, that’s one thing. However, if that child lost the only existence she’d ever experience, at just 6 month’s old, that seems to me to be a far greater crime.
Accepting that there’s no god who will intervene on our behalf, and that there’s no after-life, is the first step in behaving out of love and respect for our fellow human beings. We should all behave recognizing the value of being human in a real world, rather than acting out of fear of eternal damnation, or avoidance of some superficial religious guilt.
The next time your encounter an atheist, remember that, in their minds, there’s no magic confessional, there’s no day of judgment. There’s only this one moment, right now, in which we have the opportunity to make each other’s lives better.
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