Reader Request 1: Why is Atheism Better … for YOU?

Much of this post is duplicated in the adjacent one, because I wanted to separate out the responses.

Thinking about writing a book about how I’m handling the death of my Dad, I realized I was going to have to answer the question “Why is atheism better?”

After all, if the title of your (might-be) book is “Saying Goodbye to Dan: An Atheist Deals With Death,” you’re pretty much obligated to attempt to differentiate yourself, and your named-in-the-title philosophy, from the traditional method of dealing with death — the religious one.

I have a lot of my own ideas about how to answer the question, but I’d like to ask YOU about your own answers.

Because we wouldn’t BE atheists — would we? — if we didn’t have SOME idea that it was better.

Unlike most religious thinkers, who would always assume we’re atheists because we’re bad, the real reason we’re atheists is because we’re GOOD. Or at least trying to be. Trying to be better, righter, more accurate, more oriented toward real-world facts and truth.

So the two questions are:

1) Why is atheism better for you as an individual?

2) Why is atheism better for society?

This specific post asks that first question:

Why is atheism better for YOU?


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  • Lou Doench

    Why is Atheism better for me? I would echo something that I have heard from Humanist author Jennifer Hancock, as well as Christopher Hitchens. Atheism means I never have to ask the eternal Charlie Brown question “Why Me?”. Bad things happen…really bad things for no apparent reason, to good people. “Why Me?”… religions (not all but most) have an answer for that. Because I’ve sinned, because someone else sinned, because fricking EVE sinned. Because God has a plan, because of Karma, because Thor woke up on the wrong side of Valhalla, you get the picture. Works the same for good things.

    I feel much more comfortable, much more liberated by the atheist answer to the question, which like all really good answers involves a question in response. “Why not Me?”. Sometimes the answer to that question is obvious. I threw out my back due to careless lifting technique. I have a hangover because of all the whiskey. Sometimes its murkier, and sometimes its impossible to know. Sometimes the answer is “fell off that cliff? well sucks to be you”. But at no point is the answer, “The creator of the universe is out to get you, because he/she/it is personally upset with your choice in food/clothes/mates.” and I finds that incredibly reassuring.

  • Lauren Ipsum

    Why is my house built on dirt and rock instead of sand? So it doesn’t collapse.

    Religion — fantasy — is sand. Truth — reality — is rock and dirt.

    I can deal with anything if you just tell me the truth. I can find a way to cope, to adapt, to function, but don’t tell me pretty lies and fantasies, because I’m going to build my house there, and I don’t want my house to fall down so not only do I have to start over and build my house again, now I have to cope with knowing that I built my house on a lie the first time.

    That’s why atheism is better for me. It’s the truth.

  • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    Atheism is better for me because I don’t have to force myself to be someone I’m not any more. I’ve been able to grow and expand in who I truly am, gaining confidence in my sexuality and my gender identity to the point of seriously considering the highly difficult goal of gender reassignment (whether through surgery or hormones.)

    It’s also better for me since I now no longer have to remain ignorant about the truth of the world, and how I have been able to grow in knowledge of science and society. I have become even more a champion for equality than I claimed as a youth. I have also regained a level of scientific understanding that I should have, considering my lack of rational thought regarding the subjects.

    Lastly it’s better for me because I now know to address things with hard thought and research rather than accept on simple word. Analyzing my point of view and looking at the evidence where it leads is no longer subject to a worldview that if it doesn’t say what I want, I ignore it.

  • geocatherder

    Atheism is better for me because of a value my religious parents instilled in me: a love for the truth. I want to know the truth about Life, The Universe, and Everything (with apologies to Douglas Adams). It may be more comforting to believe a pack of lies about not really dying when you die, but there’s no evidence for it. It may be more comforting to believe that there’s a cosmic Fixer out there who will answer prayers and fix things in my life, but there’s no evidence for it. I’d rather have the truth, and the truth as far as I can discern it is that I’ve got one life to live, and I’d better live it as fully and as honestly as I can.

  • Bob Makin

    1) Because the unmitigated horror of eternal punishment, with all of its attendant mind-twisting effects, stands revealed as deception and is powerless in the light. The ability to be able to throw off the yoke of belief, stand straight and see clearly the world as it is is immensely liberating and empowering. My path in life is no longer fraught with second-guessing a capricious, evil and unpredictable overlord, but instead allows me the liberty of making up my own mind, answering to my own conscience and taking responsibility for my actions.

    2) The simple fact that things which are judged wrong and harmful by the majority of society are no longer subject to “interpretation” by a priest class. Hate and violence, formerly spurred into being by the simple act of reciting a piece of archaic scripture penned centuries ago is no longer a mechanism of power and influence. The benefit to the people of the earth, not the promotion of the hierarchy of the church, becomes the primary consideration in life and the preservation of that life becomes paramount.

  • Christine

    To me, being an atheist isn’t a personal question of better or worse. Did you stop believing in Santa Claus because you thought it was better not to believe in him, or because you reached a point where you couldn’t keep denying the obvious? Many theists seem to take comfort from their beliefs. Maybe I’d be happier if I thought I had an imaginary friend watching over me. All I can say is that it’s not possible for me to contort my thinking in that way. (On the other hand, I do think atheism is better for society as a whole, but that’s for the other thread.)

  • Charles Bartley

    Atheism is better for me for a couple of reasons:
    1) truth is always better than a lie, even when the truth is that “I don’t know (and neither do you)”. I miss you Everett
    2) Suffering just is. Kinda Buddhist in my outlook here. Why was my wife suicidal and whose fault is it? Because she was sick, and it is no one’s fault.
    3) I am able to be much more compassionate and loving without dogma getting in the way. (see previous bullets). No more love the sinner hate the sin crap. This has had a huge impact on my overall health and happiness.
    4) Better sex. Without all of the dogma sin and other crap, I have been able to look at my wants and needs and to actually get them fulfilled. This had led to so much happiness that I can’t even begin to describe it… I can be me

  • Brad

    First of all, I’m still in the middle of a bit of a journey away from Christianity toward atheism, but if it ends up where it appears to be going, then here are the reasons that atheism is better for me:

    1. Because it appears to be true, and truth matters to me. I’d prefer an uncomfortable truth to a comforting lie.

    2. Because religion claims to have the answers to “life’s big questions”, but all it can offer is vague non-answers and supposed comforts. “Its all part of God’s plan.” “Its just God’s will.” “You’ll find out why when you get to heaven.”

    3. Because it offers a more accurate and more useful way to understand the world around us (If I’m being picky, this is probably materialism more than atheism, per se).

    4. I’m finding that much (all?) of religion looks a whole lot like other forms of social and psychological coercion. If that’s the case, I don’t want to be part of it.

  • nekohime

    Aside from what people above have already said, atheism is better for ME because I don’t have to waste a perfectly good Sunday morning surrounded by a bunch of hypocritical assholes and listening to a priest/pastor whose sermon I’ve heard a gajillion times before and whose sermons are filled with lessons I already know (seriously, how hard is it to learn to be good to your fellow man?).

  • Jeff Sherry

    Mr. Fox, you have asked a series of tough questions leading up to the compiling of your future book. Being past middle age I was raised in a secular/atheist household and I haven’t made the journey to atheism that others have made painfully. I’m a nonsupernaturalist that doesn’t know or understand another way of thinking of the supernatural as being relevant in my life.

  • feralboy12

    1. Because this earthly life is not a test, or a punishment, or a prelude to something else…it’s what matters.
    2. Because it gives me a way to tell good ideas from bad ones–reality is the arbiter, and consequences matter.
    3. Because I no longer waste my energy getting pissed off at God for jerking me around. I just deal with shit the best I can.
    4. Because the new things I encounter in this world are much more interesting as mysteries to be solved & understood than they are when they have to fit into some pre-conceived story I might be carrying around.
    5. Because church is ridiculously boring, and hymns suck.

  • rturpin

    Let me dissent.

    I don’t know that my atheism is better for me. For all I know, had I retained my childhood Christian beliefs, my career would be more spectacular, my health would be better, my life expectancy would be greater, and my teeth would be whiter. It’s quite hard to judge such things, because counter-factual histories are entirely speculative.

    But is that even relevant? While I realize that there are a lot of people who choose to believe everything from pyramid schemes to political ideologies because they think it will somehow make them happier or wealthier or better connected, isn’t that obviously a fallacy, given any critical look? It may sometimes work. Of course — fallacious reasoning sometimes lucks out. Which makes it quite difficult to dissuade those who are susceptible to that. They have to realize not just that their thinking is irrational, but that those pointing that out are not offering an alternate solution to whatever problems drove them to their belief. All that is offered is clear eyes. I’m not an atheist because I think it is in any sense better for me. I’m an atheist because every religion I have encountered is a grand peddling of claptrap, that I couldn’t believe if I so wanted.

  • Randomfactor

    Because I AM an atheist, and to behave otherwise would be to expend too much useless effort.

    And yeah, to be honest, because publicly proclaiming that I’m an atheist pisses off some people who, in my view, manifestly deserve being pissed off–because they use their religion to justify their bigotry. I can’t say I’m not bigoted–if I were, I probably couldn’t see it. But I have to justify it on my own, not by recourse to some imaginary buddy who happens to believe the same things I do.

  • jdea

    Quoting an article from the Daily Barometer, a local newspaper:
    “If a person’s religiosity was a matter of choice, religious beliefs would be insincere. At that point, religion would stop being a matter of belief and become a matter of opinion. True religious beliefs are not weakly held convictions subject to change on a daily basis. To an atheist, atheism is not the best choice, but the only choice.”

    As an atheist, I’ve never really felt like I get to choose what to believe; atheism to me is the best ‘religion’ because it is the only one that seems logical to me. Why are there so many imperfections in the design of the human body? Because we evolved using an imperfect process from previous imperfect beings. The Bible states that humans were created by a perfect God in that God’s image – somehow I find that hard to believe.

    Here’s the link to the rest of the article:

  • anthonyallen

    I don’t know any other way to be. My mother and grandparents tried to teach me to be religious, but the lesson never found a place in me.

    So I can’t really answer the question, as I have nothing to compare it to. Atheism works for me, because I don’t have to take anything on faith. Plus, if I have any doubts or confusions, there is always someone around that will set me straight, or point me in the right direction.

  • Hope

    When my FIL passed it was slow, painful and agonizing to the very end. When he drew is last, painful breath I breathed a sigh of relief for him. My religious in-laws however spun out of control. They spent the next several hours and days alternating between being angry that their god had let such a righteous man suffer so much and praising that same god for ending that same suffering. It was an emotional roller coaster I was glad I didn’t have to ride. I was able to sit and reflect with the family members who were also atheists about the life of the man we’d lost. I was able to grieve without lying to myself about being reunited or him being in a better place. And while these lies are comforting for some I have always found them troubling, creating more questions than they answer.

    So, I suppose for me it’s better because I could focus on the reality of the situation without trying to reconcile myths with that reality.

  • Giliell, the woman who said Good-bye to Kitty

    Dealing with bad stuff in my life is hard enough.
    Being an atheist is better for me because it spares me the additional pain of wondering about how somebody with power and a plan could let this happen.
    Losing a child in pregnancy was hard, but I came to term with biology. Nothing to blame, nothing to be angry at.
    I could understand that there was a reason, and that this reason had nothing to do with justice, fairness, reward or punishment.

    Also, the idea of an afterlife scares me: eternity without change or growth. That would be truely an existence without purpose.

  • Greg

    To me its not question of “what is better for me”, its what explanation of “what is” has more utility and is better supported by observable fact.

    I like my world views to be grounded in fact – not wishful thinking.

  • Lori

    I want to answer this because I think it’s an intriguing question but I don’t think I was ever a believer so it doesn’t necessarily apply.

    The only time I was active in a church was from the ages of 8 to 13 — the only time we stayed in one place long enough to become part of a community. (Thank you U.S. Army — perpetrator of severe damage to children of members everywhere.) I loved the fellowship and the ritual but I can’t say I ever seriously believed in a god. Going to church, praying and all that just made no appreciable difference in my life. In fact, I think our pastor cemented my atheism. (His name was Himmelman, how’s that for a perfect name for a pastor.) He taught the 9th grade confirmation classes and started the first class by pointing out the numerous contradictions in the bible. I don’t remember where he went from there, I was completely distracted by the BS of the central text. And that’s all I really needed to know, poof, no more even hoping to believe.

    So the tl:dr is, atheism is better for me because it’s honest.

  • Grimalkin

    I kind of think that Atheism makes the world and the universe more beautiful and spectacular.

    The way I see it, the idea of the universe being planned out and created is kind of like a guy planning out and then painting a picture. It’s a beautiful picture, but it isn’t what I would call amazing.

    The idea of the universe having no creator, and being created by chance and cause and effect upon cause and effect over billions of years… that’s damned amazing. That’s like having a massive random image generator, that can generate any collection of any colored pixels possible, and you generate an image and it’s the same beautiful picture. Only this time, it wasn’t orchestrated. It all happened by mostly random chance, and maybe it took a few attempts and there are a few failed universes out there, but every amazing aspect of the universe still happened, with a few simple laws (Which, hell, are also random) instead of a big powerful person just designing everything easily.

    It’s just considerably more awe-inspiring to think about for me.

    On top of that, there’s not as much wonder about what happens when you die. You don’t sit around and think “But what if I’m wrong and my god doesn’t exist and nothing happens?” You’re already comfortable with the idea that there’s no greater purpose or meaning to life, and you’ve learned to accept reality as opposed to delude yourself.

  • hauntfox

    Because it *feels* right. Try as I may have for the Catholic guy I dated in college (and for my family for years before), I just can’t believe in a supernatural entity able to listen to everyone in the world’s worries, answer some and ignore others, smite the ones whom he chooses, etc. I used to try to pray, but all I felt was that I must look like a lunatic talking to no one and not expecting an answer back.
    It just doesn’t make sense, and I thrive on hard facts. It’s not like trying to learn advanced physics concepts when I don’t understand the math that’s the basis of everything and have to hit the “I believe” button until I can get a better grasp of how things work. When I’m ready (if…) I can go back and learn the math and the pieces will slide into place even more neatly than before. With religion, there’s no way to prove a thing. It’s blind faith, which I can’t accept.
    I’ve often joked that mathematics is the ultimate, provable truth – exactly what a “god” should be! – but how crazy would you have to be to worship numbers?
    Religion is a tool and a comfort. On occasion, I used to wish I had it in me to just believe. Perhaps life would have been easier when I was younger if I could, but I’m glad I’ve reached the point that I have.
    No more pretending for the benefit of my family. I’m an atheist because it makes sense.

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