Explaining to a die-hard Christian that you are a “friendly atheist” is sometimes equivalent to explaining you are a friendly murderer. To them, atheists are evil soulless creatures condemned to hell.
God made atheists, atheists. Who are they to question his creations? Who are they to question anything? Questioning means you don’t have true faith.
The word “atheist” seems to leave a sting when spoken. Maybe that’s just me. It has a subliminal negative meaning after being raised Catholic. I remember it being explained to me that atheists didn’t believe in heaven. As a kid, this was pretty terrifying because you would hang on to all the possibilities; you dreamt big and the idea of going to a place where there were no boundaries sounded wonderful. (Endless supply of candy? I can fly? Wow! I feel bad for people who don’t believe!)
It’s a bummer the word atheist has such a negative connotation when the only reason the word exists is because of religion. Atheism isn’t a religion. It’s a way to categorize a minority of people who want to take responsibility for themselves rather than credit or blame a supernatural designer. We do believe in something. Ourselves.
And it is not just other atheists we believe in. We believe every individual has the power to mold their own reality and that there are simply things out there that we do not quite understand yet. Uncertainty is what makes life interesting. It’s a reason to learn, grow, and challenge ourselves to be better and a chance to discover new things about the universe through science and exploration. There are certain things we may never know or understand in our lifetimes, but this doesn’t make them less beautiful or intriguing.
“I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.” — Katharine Hepburn
If anything, atheists have good reason to be friendlier than most groups of people — since there is no evidence for an afterlife, it is important to turn to each other for support and improve our world as we know it. Pave your own way. Do what makes you happy. Don’t hurt others in the process. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves –- or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.” — Ayn Rand
There is an intrinsic allure to the world around us when we come to terms with the fact that we will die one day. Flowers smell sweeter, little moments become more joyous, and sunsets and sunrises look more vibrant in our eyes. These little beauties are limited so enjoying them to the fullest is crucial. One day, the lovely light of life as we individually know it will go out and only the memories, tangible possessions, and works we created will remain. That’s why writing can be an amazing art. I won’t be around forever, but my words will still cling to the paper they were written on.
Letting go of the idea of an afterlife doesn’t have to be sad, because you can’t necessarily feel loss for something you’ve never had. Soaking in the reality of our here and now is something we can control, and there are means to make the world we live in better for ourselves and the people around us. Viewing the Earth as its exquisite self and delving into new paths as a walking, breathing human can be far more meaningful than an illusion of a God we can only prove in death.