Thursday, February 24, 2011

Musings on Being an Atheist



                                              I'm sorry, I just can't resist Jimmy Carr!

Forewarning, this is a long post so you may need to get comfortable before settling in to read it. 

Just to note, I do not speak for all atheists when I give my reasoning and beliefs on this subject; there are a lot of opinions in this area.
So far on my blog I've relatively "fluffy" articles, but now I'm going to touch on a subject that's a little more controversial. Atheism. 

So, my name is Rachel, I'm 16 years old and I love green tea, Art and English, Alfred Hitchcock films, and trolling twitter and pinterest. I have extremely questionable taste in music and I'm an atheist. 
I've been an atheist since I was about 13 years old, I believe, and for those of you who don't know an atheist is a lack of a belief in God, not a belief in an anti-God or something along those lines. Not to be confused with be Agnostic which is, very simply, an uncertainty in whether or not god exists. 

As a little background, I wasn't raised to "be an atheist". My parents are not regular church goers, and so, that lifestyle was not a part of my own life. However, I think I had vague idea of believing in God when I was younger, like 7 or 8, but as I grew older I began to question this. My father is a philosopher, and philosophy defined by the ever handy Google is "
the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language". So, conversations involving faith, literature, evolution and other such "heavy" topics were common subjects at our dinner table. 
But, there wasn't a singular incident in my life that led to a revelation in my becoming an atheist, it was something that I formulated over time after long philosophical discussions with my family, as well as my own observations and personal thinking. The reasoning that I have for not believing in God is rather vague even to myself but basically here's what I believe.
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To begin with I think there is a misconception surrounding the definition of atheists being selfish, immoral people, because they lack a religious moral code. Because, actually, there are selfish and immoral atheists just as there are selfish and immoral practicing  Jews, Muslims, and Hindus's. There are people such as this in any given group of individuals, any group of humans. For myself, I believe in what humanity is capable of in it's greatest moments. Great compassion, generosity, sacrifice, the ability to create beautiful art and music and literature and the ability those creations have to bring people together in understanding. Traits such as these, in my opinion make the world a better place; no religion can claim these goals solely as their own.

On another note, I don't think I ever really understood how or why people used praying/faith to help them get through tough spots in their lives, and how it helped them to make choices. I guess maybe it could be that through this way of self reflecting, you could find a sort of inner peace and therefore help you make the choices you need to, but when I hear or see people commenting that "it was my faith in God that ultimately got me through", well, I just could never get behind that. To some, I guess this is a comfort but I find that faith does not apply to my life. I realize that faith is not about about having a divine answer or hearing a direct answer from God, but all I know is that I take life at face value, by what I hear, see, know and feel. And God is something that I just cannot relate to my life. Like I said before, I realize that faith is not about getting "the straight answer" to life's problem's, but, what other's may get from their faith I get from the people in my life. I turn to the people I know, my family, friends, teachers when I have an issue in life. It may be as minor as not getting a method of algebra in Math 1204, or something as serious as a death in the family, but either way, I will rely on what I know. 

I've also often heard of people turning to their faith when they felt they were completely alone in the world as well, and though I do not have this comfort, I know I have myself. That may seem vague, but what I mean is that I'm more than sure I can again, rely on what I know about myself, my own personal belief in who I am to pull myself over the obstacles that are are thrown in front of me. Because that's all I can do.

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Another question that gets brought up a lot surround atheism, is "how do you know to do the right thing?". Well, I believe that being a human being should be reason enough to be kind and compassionate and empathetic.  Out of the billions of people that exist on this Earth, 100% deserve my kindness and general "rightness". Any one of those people could be me, so why I shouldn't I live by the golden rule of "treat others how you would like to be treated"? I don't need a God or the Bible to tell me that. As an individual, and what I know about my very own self, about who I am tells me that. Most everybody deserves your respect. 
To sort of go out on a tangent, there are also plenty of people who believe in God, who do so much wrong in his name. I don't think that religion should simply just be about your beliefs, I think there should be a healthy dose of human empathy mixed in there.


Finally, I have a couple things to mention on religious debate. One, I have absolutely NO problem with any other religions. In fact, I have great respect for them. Any personal choice, especially one such as faith or lack thereof, is something that deserves respect. I have absolutely no problem with having a well-rounded, open discussion on faith. But, just as I do not have the right to shove my believes down anyone else's throats nor do they have the right to do so to me.  If you can give me the respect I deserve as a person, you will receive it back. You will not if your aim is simply to tear someone down to the dirt because the first thought that pops into you head is that my opinion is "wrong". And believe me, I've had that happen.
Obviously, the above principal doesn't just apply to discussions about faith; treat all discussions that way. Keep em' two sided people, listen and keep stuff clean. Many an discussion or argument if you will, end with personal jabs and nobody walks away feeling good after that.

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Also, if you find yourself questioning your own faith, the only advice I can give you is: think. Think about your believes in life and what faith or again, lack thereof will bring you. Talk to other's who are not biased, and whom you trust. And, try to observe your thinkings, and the thinkings of others from both sides. You need to find what works for you. And remember, religion is just facet of a person's whole. Being an atheist doesn't define me, just as if you decide that your questioning your faith it's not going to change your entire life in one single moment. Or maybe it might, I have no idea! Because, again (yes, again), you need to find what you believe.

ALSO, a post I believe you should read is: True Story: I'm an Atheist over on .Yes and Yes The person Sarah Von interviews, Millie, touches on a lot of the points I do, and also a few others.

So, opinions on this post; questions or queries on atheism?  

8 comments:

  1. I am a Christian. I take no offense to what you have written, rather, I am quite intrigued to your beliefs. Many of us (Christians, that is) were taught to agressively convert atheists into Chrisitans, although my belief on that has changed over the years. Much like atheists, not every Christian is alike.
    I am glad to read you are an *informed* atheist and not somebody who blindly walked into it.
    -Autumn

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  2. "Because, actually, there are selfish and immoral atheists just as there are selfish and immoral practicing Jews, Muslims, and Hindus's." PREACH. Being a selfish and immoral person crosses all lines of religion.

    This is an absolutely wonderful post on Atheism- it's so respectful and articulate, and as an Atheist, I'm glad to have you speak for me.

    I also really agree with what you say about doing the "right thing." I do the right thing because I am a human, I believe in humanity, and I believe that I should uphold the standards of humanity. Other people deserve my civility and politeness. In fact, I think this is almost better. It's better to do the right things because you believe it's right then to do it because you're afraid of a deity.

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  3. @Autumn - I'm glad you found it to be a good read! Like I said, I have deep respect for all religions, but, I take that with a grain of salt because I'm not going to be meek if someone starts shoving their beliefs down my throat, like wise, I don't get to do the same. Both sides have to be respectful. It's nice to get a Christian opinion on this as well, and, like yourself, one who is respectful! :)

    @Luinae - Thank you for saying that, respect: represent! Being selfish and immoral is more of an aspect of human nature, I think, and to say your religion is above that is kinda' ridiculous. Also, good point on do the right thing because it's the right thing, rather than out of fear, I never really thought of it like that! :D

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  4. I feel like I have to correct a misconception here:

    Many religious people would disagree with you as you state that they do the right thing out of "fear" of a deity. Many (probably the majority) of us do it because we see all beings as created with a purpose and deeply loved by said creator, and hence in themselves worthy of our utmost respect.

    Clearly, that has nothing to do with being afraid - instead, it's simply about acknowledging that we are all wonderful human beings, and about feeling a sense of responsibility towards each other and the world. (Something we can probably agree on!)

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  5. @J - thanks for commenting, and yes I agree with you on your point concerning responsibility, but you should notice, I didn't mention fear in my original article. That thought came afterwards, as you can see above. You have a point though, and I can understand how respect for a creator could come into it, but not all individuals share the same creator, which is why I prefer to think of it as my duty as a human to be kind, respectful, etc. But that's just my opinion, and maybe I'm just speaking for myself when I say it, but I must agree with you on the respect bit. We all deserve that.

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  6. Hi, I was reading your post on atheism and I wanted to point some things out that maybe you didn’t know before about what I, as an aspiring Christian, believe. I want to apologize before hand if I may seem a bit pushy or argumentative in places. Trust me, I really am not in any way trying to discredit your beliefs or values. I really respect that you have sorted things out for yourself. It takes a lot of self-reflection to do that, and you’ve kind of inspired me.
    To begin with, I do not, in any way, like the idea of religion in its modern connotation. I believe in God, and in Jesus, but I think that religion is an idea for people to hide behind and use as a security blanket. I think that a lot of modern “Christians” use the fact that they go to church every Sunday as a way to cover all the un-Christ-like things they do the rest of the week. This observation on my part has made my walk with God more of an I-happen-to-pass-God-on-the-street-every-now-and-then.
    Very recently I have begun to question my faith in God as well.
    I think this might seem very abstract to you, but the faith I have in God/Jesus is exactly like the faith you have in other people and yourself. You say that praying may be a form of self-reflection, and it is sometimes, but it’s never been only that for me. This is difficult to explain… I have gotten answers that are completely outside myself that I know are from God, or my approximation of God.
    You also say you rely on what you know. People can know God. I’m not quite there yet, since my life is very mundane at the moment, and as I am a disobedient little bugger, I haven’t exactly been following orders recently.
    If I did what I know God wants me to do, then I would be a lot more tired, but bunches happier. I also know that the happiness I feel when I’ve done something that I know God wants from me or have spent time with Him. This joy is much more intense than something materialistic or ‘earthly.’
    I think that yes, you can depend on your humanity to do good. But from experience I know that people are so easily swayed. You could share your umbrella with a stranger one minute, and then steal someone’s dropped twenty the next, however the fancy takes you. I’m not in any way saying that everyone would do this, because a lot of people have a very string moral compass.
    But if you rely on Jesus, not your faith, but Jesus and God, then you will never be able to do that without consciously disobeying. Maybe this only applies to me, because I’ve experienced it, but I think everyone can benefit from a healthy dose of some God-lovin’.
    I am an extremely spiritual person. I don’t know why, and I’m not asking you to put all your faith in the fact that I am. I know I need Jesus, and I know that he suffered the pain of bleeding out on a cross so that I could share my views on faith with you. I, personally, know it like I know when I hold my breath under water that I need to breathe.
    I believe that everyone needs God, because I believe God created humans, and that God created humans to love each other and to love Him. My heart tells me that I want God because God is love. And I don’t mean that my god is love, I mean that everything God made was made from Him with love. It’s kind of an abstract idea. But it feels right, more right than anything else in the world.

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  7. I truly hope you read this and thought about it, and that maybe you’ll try what I tried. I tried believing in God, and Jesus, (which might not seem that important, but is. If you sacrificed yourself like that, for the trillions of insignificant lives out their that would otherwise be completely damned, wouldn’t you want your sacrifice to at least be acknowledged?) and I thought about it, and I tried to get to know them. I’m still working on that last bit, but this novel really helped me.
    Don’t just brush this idea off- I don’t think you will.
    I don’t want to shove my faith/beliefs down your throat. I really just want you to be happy. I don’t know if this will make you happy, but I can sure as hell tell you about it, just in case.
    I hope you the best.
    P.S. if you are trying to figure out what you believe, I find it best to confer with the most biased people, but people who have a variety of beliefs. That way you get the far out ideas, the conservative ideas, all of it, and you can make your decisions not based on what other people say, but what rings true with you. If you want to talk out your own faith, it’s best to talk with the unbiased. That way they can’t try to talk you out of believing one thing so that you will believe like they do. I also always enjoy a good debate about controversial subjects or things I am not quite sure about, so that I can solidify my ideas.

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  8. Sorry, that was a lot longer than I thought it would be...

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