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The value of Atheism

22 June 2015, 13:31

 “Play hard, work hard, love hard. . . .The bottom line for me is to live life to the fullest in the here-and-now instead of a hoped-for hereafter, and make every day count in some meaningful way and do something—no matter how small it is—to make the world a better place.”  – Michael Shermer, founder and publisher, Skeptic Magazine

         “I hope to dissuade the cruel parts of the world from their self-imposed exile and persuade their audiences to understand that freedom is synonymous with life and that the world is a place of safety and of refuge.”  – Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, writer

   “I look around the world and see so many wonderful things that I love and enjoy and benefit from, whether it’s art or music or clothing or food and all the rest. And I’d like to add a little to that goodness.”  – Daniel Dennett, philosopher and cognitive scientist

“I thrive on maintaining a simple awe about the universe. No matter what struggles we are going through the miracles of existence continue on, forming and reforming patterns like an unstoppable kaleidoscope.”  – Marlene Winell, human development consultant

These are among my most favorite quotes by skeptics and bottom line is, they all unleash the curiosity and beauty of humanity in its capacity to self-reflect and ponder of the glory of life itself.

When I was a younger, I grew up in a devoted Roman Catholic household. Every Saturday was bible and faith study followed by Sunday Mass. This was our weekly routine for years until I began reading the bible completely instead of the usual pieces I liked. This began a chain of thought that eventually lead me into purchasing books like: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, God is not great by Christopher Hitchens, Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman and A history of God by Karen Armstrong. These books blasted a hole through my conception of the world yet it did not quench my search for more.

I began looking into atheist YouTube channels and watching debates on religion and God, and for months I weighed the arguments. Then on February Saturday, I woke up and thought to myself, “You know what? I am an Atheist.” The one thing I never thought I would label myself became the center of my identity and what continues to shape my world. I see things for what they are and I came to view religion as a superstition that was born from a world of ignorance. Atheism for me was not the end; to the contrary it was the very beginning.  

Yes, I do agree Religion served a purpose; it was our anchor when faced with uncertainty and grief. It created communities that banded people together. In this light I viewed religion positively. The universe was by far more beautiful without the notion of some disembodied mind that could somehow exist independently of space and time controlling it. The whole notion of God did not seem to make sense after my realization. A God that was omnipotent yet wants enemies who rebel and try to defeat him. A God that was omnibenevolent yet required an abundance of unnecessary evil and suffering to fulfill its wishes. A God that is omnipresent yet resides outside space and time in order to remain beyond human discovery but still wishes to interact with its creation. A God who constructs a perfect and ordered plan outlining exactly what it wants while allowing everyone to do exactly as they choose. This was a paradox.

The more I looked at it, the more I acknowledged that man had created God in his image, humans created the gods no vice versa. How was it that it was so hard for people to agree on just what God was, yet so easy for them to agree that there was a God? The only explanation I could conduct based on what I have gathered was that God was a feeling, and emotion that people feel, an illusion created and shaped by hopes and fears. It was not a reality that I accepted for myself. That’s why it is difficult for the deeply religious to comprehend the idea of Atheism, and will go to great lengths to deny scientific discoveries like Evolution by Natural Selection and The Big Bang Theory simply out of fear that these will shatter their illusions. There comes a time where we must put emotions aside to discoverer what is true, as Michel de Montaigne famously said “To understand via the heart is not to understand.”

The time has come to face these questions, and to start looking at the world for what it is, not what we want it to be even if that wounds our pride or humbles our point of view.

“Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable.”- Carl Sagan

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