Creating without respect to religion or to doctrine can at times be hazardous to your health, but it can also be more valuable and more mysterious. Unlike religious believers’ who strive to create, creative atheists are in a unique position to produce with every single one of their fellow human beings in mind.
Fear of other humans, fear of other groups, and fear of eternal suffering are all unfortunate realities for many people. How and what might we create in order to help reduce such fears?
Speaking primarily toward the monotheistic, the atheist can create without the carrot and stick of heaven and hell. After all, the religious are well aware of, and operate with the belief that, He knows and sees all. On the way home from church, a Christian gives a dollar to a homeless man. The Christian only gives that dollar to increase the likelihood of his going to heaven and decrease the likelihood of his ending up in hell. The monotheist is certain that celestial Big Brother is always watching and that everything counts. Acts, words, and thoughts are ultimately selfish for the believer. God’s permanent record prevents the believer from ever being selfless. You may completely impoverish yourself out of fear, but you can never actually act selflessly.
The atheist alone has the ability, and the weighty responsibility, to create selflessly for the benefit of all humankind. If the species is to advance, and if we are to minimize religious malice and atrocities, we atheists must do our part. Music, fiction, art, technology, poetry, architecture, food, science, biology, philosophy – there are so many ways to create and to advance the species without invoking the supernatural.
Ask a biologist: How is it exactly that dolphins, ants and so many other species socialize so well among themselves? The atheist relishes the mystery, the apostate no longer fears mystery, and the religious must substitute the word “God” in lieu of mystery. In the information age, atheist creators find it harder and harder to avoid offending the religious. And in fact, many create with the very idea of offending the religious.
But 21st century cartoonists had better watch themselves. Sure, the eager contrarian might also consider taking on Scientology by writing “The Thetanic Verses.” Before doing that though, consider why it’s hard to consult Salmon Rushdie on the matter, and budget at least 10 or 15 million USD for your legal defense.
Having the good fortune of living in the United States, I relish our religious separation from government as well as our freedom of speech. No one should be surprised that some of the most progressive discussions develop between these shores. I can easily imagine Christopher Hitchens deeming these operative United States laws as crucial to allow “progress of a kind” as it pertains to the vitality and progeny of this species.
It’s also worth noting that the religious regularly confiscate credit from atheists. Perfectly good astronomy lessons were turned into accounts of Jesus’ birth and resurrection. The more research one performs and the more thought one gives, the less mysterious religion becomes, which is not a problem for atheists.
Since religious people continue to re-purpose atheist creations to advance theology, I guess it’s fair game to re-re-purpose and therefore reclaim certain ill-gotten intellectual booty. In this way, atheists are anything but listless. Consider the words of Nathan Explosion, lead singer of the fictional metal band Dethklok. In season three, episode four of Metalocalypse, he opines, “Actually that’s kinda bad ass, f*ckin’ Christmas spirit, like a f*ckin’ ghost who kills children, babies.”
Invented rock star commentary aside, I do encourage the use of a nom de plume for especially charged work that my fellow atheists publish. Anonymity may be essential for certain ideas, words and images to find their way into public discourse.
Sad that in 2014, so many live fearing the non-existent. Belief in religion means fear, and unless Yoda is wrong, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” It is good to know that the popularity of certain unpleasant traditions wanes with each and every freethinking neurotransmission.
- Guest blogger Andy Hoke studied philosophy, economics and biology at Gettysburg College. Part of a religious minority his entire childhood, as an adult he felt charged to address religious alienation and suffering, and thus began a study of religions and human nature. Having created a philosophy based on the “quantity and quality of human life,” Andy is also known for having set two Guinness World Records in 2008 for continuous guitar playing.
Follow Andy on Twitter @andyhoke, and read his blog at the ThinkAtheist website.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Susan K. Perry and Andy Hoke.