An Atheist’s Feeling of Wonder

Cailin beautifully explains an atheist’s sense of awe in the world:

For me, the incredible existence of this amazing galaxy and everything within it becomes dulled and somewhat less incredible when someone claims it to have all been created by the will of some macro-being. What could be more wondrous and remarkable than existence without initial intervention by an outside source? A universe which may have always existed in an eternal cycle of birth and destruction without end. One might scoff at the idea of an eternal universe, but really how is it any different than an eternal god who creates the universe and always existed. Why not cut out the middle-man all together and give the universe the appreciation it deserves? The universe commands no worship, hands down no dogma, no edicts of morality or righteousness, damns no man to Hell and has no special “plan” for you or anyone else. Yes, it requires a great humbling of the human ego.

I cannot claim to know the One and Only Truth of existence, but I feel the path I’m on leads me to a much richer and more fulfilling life experience than those who are tied to the doctrine of ancient peoples with ancient beliefs for purposes of human domination, control, and power.

Atheists don’t get off scot-free in her opinion. There’s one thing we don’t have — that religious groups provide very well — that we need to improve upon:

I do acknowledge one major point which secular-thinking fails to fill human need, and that is Community. This is by far one of the most important systems in our human life and the non-religious have difficulty creating the feeling of oneness and support which is a trademark of religious belief. It is not an impossibility, I believe, but rather a matter of realizing this need exists and finding a way to bring people together through the desire to help humanity and our common love for the human-spirit and all that we can accomplish.

I absolutely agree with Cailin. There are national, local, and online groups everywhere that try to provide this community. But when individual atheists are unwilling to join, it’s hard to get anything going. Some say it’s just the atheists’ nature not to join anything “organized.” But it’s our downfall, too.

I constantly hear from secular college students who are thrilled to meet other atheists on campus. They didn’t know there were others like them. Being able to have social gatherings and discussions with other like-minded people provide some of the most memorable college experiences for these students.

Why that doesn’t continue after college, and what we can do to change that, I don’t know.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Agreed (especially in regards to the lack of community). I’m a hardcore atheist and I don’t personally know even one other nonbeliever. (And surprisingly, I’m a college student in the mid-Atlantic region.) Being an atheist sometimes puts me in an isolated position (in addition to my skepticism) and it would be comforting to share my beliefs with others.

  • Skeptibanker

    I totally agree with the need for community. After experiencing your visit to Willow Creek Hemant, maybe what we need is a band and large video screens to get everyone to sign up. : )

  • Mriana

    I finally found out that there are seven other Humanists, besides myself and that prof on campus, in this town. They are on meet-up and MySpace, but we still haven’t met. It would be nice to hang out with like minded people. So, yes, I do agree, community is lacking.

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  • http://atheisthomeschool.blogspot.com/ Ute

    Cailin, your thoughts are beautifully written.

  • Tammy

    Wow, another homeschooling atheist! Thank goodness for the internet- I will have to check out your website when I get the chance.

  • miller

    I’m one of those individual atheists who refuses to join. I’d rather look for community among people I know, not people who simply share a single identity label. Rather than trying to reach for some sort of atheist utopia, perhaps people should learn to make great communities with diverse viewpoints. After all, you will have to learn to do this anyway if you want an all-inclusive atheist community.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    miller,
    I completely disagree with you. I don’t encourage atheists to seclude themselves from other viewpoints, but being an atheist usually does not constitute one simple belief. It is indicative of more than just an entire worldview that can come up repeatedly in daily life. It also encompasses a number of interests, such as philosophical discussion, rational thought, science, etc. Being amongst other atheists is comforting because other atheists share these interests. It’s just like going to a sports game with your friends who happen to root for the same team. I have befriended plenty of people who root for other teams, but I’d rather watch the game with those who’s favorite team matches my own.

  • http://yalb.wordpress.com/ Joe

    The problem is when a bunch of atheists get together what do they do? If there isn’t some other interests that they have in common simple atheism itself does not suggest an activity or venue that will support the community.

  • Miko

    Community is good, but I don’t see the point of atheist community in general. No one goes to “I don’t play chess” clubs, so why should they go to “I don’t believe in god” clubs?

  • miller

    Unbrainwashed,
    First of all, I think the shared interests and views among atheists are exaggerated by selection biases on the internet. Of the several atheists I know, none of them are in organizations, and none of them share most of the interests you have outlined (except for me). I don’t argue that atheists are as disparate a group as, say, non-chess-players, but I don’t think you can get the whole picture just by looking on the internet or in organizations, which are disproportionately full of activists.

    Second of all, I do not mean to say there is necessarily anything wrong with a group that shares common interests like you describe. It’s just that when Hemant complains about certain individuals who won’t join organizations, I feel compelled to give my personal excuses.

    Frankly, I lack the courage, commitment, and motivation to join. I have enough trouble joining normal groups. I’m not an activist, I just like to argue on the internet. I don’t need the community, and I never got one from my church either. And the in-awe-of-the-universe spirituality is a little off-putting to me; I have to keep on reminding myself that there’s nothing wrong with it, since it’s for other people.

  • Brendon

    For me, the incredible existence of this amazing galaxy and everything within it becomes dulled and somewhat less incredible when someone claims it to have all been created by the will of some macro-being. What could be more wondrous and remarkable than existence without initial intervention by an outside source?

    I’ve been thinking of a tonne of criticisms to chuck at this article, but I thought none of them were very nice, or helpful, so I’ll just say that “macro-being” whom I worship has put all that is “wondrous and remarkable” in our universe and that does not make it any less so.

    You might as well say that a song is “dulled” by the fact that someone needs to sing it, or a novel better if it had written itself…

  • Name?

    Community? I get plenty of community experience, even though I’m an atheist. I live in the world and attend public high school and try to get along with people.
    See? Community!
    What am I supposed to do? Join a club for atheists? No thanks. It’s just not for me.


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