Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why I'm an Atheist

Why am I an atheist? I always regarded this as sort of a whimsical inquiry. Before responding, I usually prompt the questioner to answer why he or she is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc. Why I am an atheist isn’t all that exciting, it’s not due to some atrocity after which I abandoned god. It’s not because I grew up in Finland, Sweden, or Japan – all highly industrialized countries with much less inequality than the U.S., better healthcare than the U.S., higher quality of life than the U.S.,  less crime than the U.S., and consequently less religion than the U.S.  People are often interrogated as to how they could possibly deny the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient deity.  If I had been asked, “Why are you a Christian?” 5 years ago, I’d probably feed you a line about how I’ve read the Bible and believe it to be true as it has had real impact in my life and I have a personal relationship with Jesus. However, is that really true, or some regurgitated drivel I listened to every Sunday? I don’t remember ever having a conversation with god in which he answered me. However, shouldn’t I have come to expect that? If everything is predestined, if god knows what I’ll do before it happens and his Will is going to be done no matter what, why would I expect my prayers to have an effect?

 So why are you religious? Could it be because your parents were? Could it because you were indoctrinated by culture? If you had grown up in Iran would you still be a Christian? If you were raised in the Bible Belt would you still believe Allah was true god? How audacious of you to believe out of all of the thousands of religions ever developed that only yours was correct! Do you ever wonder if god is timeless why your religion wasn’t the first to come into being? Does that mean all religions are indeed true, but just with different names and stories? I’m sure you probably don’t believe that, so are you ready to accept that if only one is true, you should expect damnation because of the vast numbers? If you objectively take a quest into the origins or your religious belief and affiliation, it’s likely to generate some stimulating self-monologue.

 Although in the current state of faith in the world and this country atheism is the idiosyncratic, aberrant position, it should be very clear why someone is an atheist. Deviance does not always presuppose radicalism. When the heliocentric universe was proposed by Copernicus, he was undoubtedly deviant, but the beginning of the death of our egocentrism was by no means radical, it was rational. Believing someone who loves you will damn you to hell for not worshipping them, being so arrogant as to believe your life is so important that it survives death or as Einstein put it, "feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.", restricting the rights of women, homosexuals, and sexual liberality because of an interpretation of a book that is thousands of years old before we had any real knowledge about biology, chemistry, and physics—and if you’ve actually read it we had no sense of morality either—are all the drastic positions.

 Unwavering faith is not something that should be valued, but discouraged. As Nietszche put it, “One walk through a mental institution proves that faith means nothing.” There are two types of belief: faith and hope. Religion is based on blind faith – disregarding scientific advancement, logic, and fact for the sake of the perpetuation of the belief system. Science is built on hope in theory. These theories often leave the “believer” humble as they are in a constant state of revision and scrutiny. Religion thrives in the gaps of science. The problem with religion is those gaps are rapidly disappearing with our innovation. I simply believe that enough gaps have already been filled to disregard the concept of messiahs, creators, parthenogenesis and life after death. One of the things that irritates me most is the notion that science somehow has the task of and consciously tries to disprove religion. Science does what every rational being should do. It disregards religion. Science is unbiased; it has no dogma to appease to, only to ascertain truth. If your belief system is not in consonance with scientific findings, the burden lies with your religion, not with science. Do you ever wonder why in nearly every religion nothing is more insidious than the human acquisition of knowledge? Why were Adam and Eve condemned for trying to learn? Why are women kept from books in many Islamic areas? If we were created with this perennial drive to understand, why is it condemned by our creator? Is it frightening that this same glorified ignorance was what allowed imperialism and abuse to flourish?  Education has been the Achilles heel of every exploitative regime in history.  So in a sentence, I am an atheist because I yearn for truth.  Okay, one more. I am an atheist because not only is religion improbable, but also rather than easing suffering it has caused more than any other ideology in the world’s history, which is not hard to believe considering it flourishes in regions where suffering is highest. How could you possibly pledge allegiance to a belief system whose perpetuation relies on the concept of evil and the world’s ultimate destruction at our hands? Is there hope in that? The more you know, the more you come to know: The world is unquestionably becoming a better place to live in as time progresses. This completely undermines scripture. So why does religion flourish in areas where agony and discontent are ubiquitous?

 “God is the concept by which we measure our pain.” – John Lennon

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