Six years ago, I stopped believing in God, or perhaps I realized that I never really did. It happened during my second year attending a local Christian summer camp. For an hour or so every day, the camp would divide us up into groups of six or eight kids. In our groups, we would go off into the woods together, read a verse from The Bible and discuss it. Next, we would separate and sit alone for a while with the intention of pondering our relationship with god and what it meant to us. During these sessions, I would usually spend the time instead staring up at the towering pines of the Montana wilderness and listening to the sounds of the fauna. Midway during the weeklong camp, I was busy not thinking about God and watching a bird do his thing, when I stopped and actually thought about God. Almost instantly, I looked around me at the natural world with the new realization: God does not exist, but nevertheless the world around us, in all its complexity, does.
Some believers of contemporary religions like to say that, by believing in God, they are taking a leap of faith and believing in something bigger than their self. What than is Atheism if not a leap of faith? Atheism, to me, means believing in a machine far more complex and frightening than God. It means believing in an inconvenient universe that owes us no meaning, where inconvenient things do happen, and everything doesn’t always work out in the end. I believe that it is much more beautiful to know that all the natural elegance around us, including ourselves, has evolved in just a few billion years from some primordial sludge on the ocean floor, than to think we were all created on the whim of a the destructive, vehement god of the Hebrew Old Testament, and that all our actions for good or ill are judged by him.
I nevertheless believe that we are all accountable for our actions. We are accountable to humanity. Everything we do impacts those around us, and it is up to each of us to show an essential respect and humility toward the rest of our species. We shouldn’t do this out of fear of retaliation we might suffer in a mythical afterlife, but from the knowledge that one day, we will die, but while we are here, we have a responsibility to those around us.
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