QotD: What Has Atheism Done For You Lately?

Godless in Dixie contemplates life after leaving the godless closet. He lists ten of the benefits he sees to living life as an atheist. His answers range from the basic (“Getting Sunday mornings back”), the profound (“A greater appreciation for the preciousness of life”) to the apparently unprintable (#7, too personal for the internet.)

For me, I have to say that there is a relief to facing life head on. I know that many believers find that theology and spirituality add meaning and depth to their lives, but I found it obscured what life really is. During my time as a Christian, I spent too much time trying to figure out what God’s plan was for my life, or what meaning this or that event held for my spiritual growth, or which solution to a given problem was “the solution” that divine providence had designated as the best solution.

Once I gave up on the idea that there was a guiding hand, everything snapped back into focus. It may sound horrible, but I find it a relief to know that some problems are just messy things that don’t have good solutions. When things go wrong, it’s not because you were morally flawed or that your faith was not strong enough. I prefer reality in all its horrible glory to the layers and layers of spirituality that get heaped upon it in order to make it “meaningful.”

Anyway, what has atheism done for you? How has it changed your life for the better? the worse?

  • Mick

    I’ve always been an atheist and everything has gone pretty well so far.

  • Question Everything

    It does add a bit of stress in my community (Bible Belt, big time), and while I’m out to many of my friends and coworkers, I’m not to my very religious parents, which makes for interesting conversations at times. They know I don’t go to church, and I’ll often bring up various things about religion to them in conversation (like I said – very religious. I don’t think a week goes by that they don’t bring up some aspect of religion to me, so I’m bound to respond).

    Other than that, though, I feel like it’s enhanced my life. Knowing this is my one shot at things means I try a bit harder to do good than I might have otherwise. Also means I don’t have to fit reality into the religion anymore, so there’s no worries about new science or whatnot. It just is, and good or bad, it’s there on its merits, unrelated to how people long ago wrote things down that were later translated, retranslated, and repackaged, all with power in mind.

  • Mark

    Nothing really. I was raised basically atheist, never expected to pray, never had to attend church except for weddings, funerals and maybe a carol service at Christmas. There was never a great revelation for me, that atheism was the truth. I just learned more about science as I grew up and the explanations of science made more sense than anything offered by religion.

    I do sometime wonder if my life would have been better with religion. I was lonely and isolated as a teenagar and suffered from depression. Maybe having a ready-made community in a church would have helped me. On the other had, it might have made me worse. Impossible to say, really.

    • JohnMWhite

      I had similar issues as a teenager, and being in a religious community only made it worse. It simply meant that everything was my own fault because I had somehow displeased god. Having parents and teachers tell me I probably wouldn’t be so lonely and miserable if only I wasn’t upsetting god by playing Dungeons and Dragons or being nice to the gay and goth kids only made me more isolated and miserable because at the time I believed them.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    My teeth are whiter and my breath is fresher, plus no more annoying stains!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    As an atheist, I don’t have to ask myself stupid questions like this:

    Can a Christian watch ‘Game of Thrones’?

    • JohnMWhite

      I see this kind of thing pop up on facebook and in forums, and it depresses me. Grown adults are so afraid of upsetting daddy they wring their hands and squirm around trying to justify to themselves making decisions as basic as what to watch on TV. This is one thing atheism has done for me: I stopped putting moral values on ridiculous, innocuous things. No more worrying if I’m going to hell because I saw some boobs in a film, or played a video game where my character is part of a fictional religion.

  • Machintelligence

    As a practical matter, I get to sleep in on Sunday mornings.

  • ctcss

    A differing view for vorjack, just because it can be interesting to read a another person’s take on the paths we tread in life.

    “For me, I have to say that there is a relief to facing life head on.”

    Interesting. I have always considered the fact that I, as a Christian, was also trying to face life head on. The only difference was that I considered God to also be there, helping me to navigate the stuff that seemed daunting, difficult , or seemingly impossible. I daresay that non-believers also appreciate help from whatever quarter when they find their path daunting, difficult, or seemingly impossible. Mortal life can be tough for all of us, and it is rare that any of us can truly say we go through it without help from anyone or anything else.

    “During my time as a Christian, I spent too much time trying to figure out what God’s plan was for my life, or what meaning this or that event held for my spiritual growth, or which solution to a given problem was “the solution” that divine providence had designated as the best solution.”

    Some of this sounds familiar. But one of the lessons that I believe I have learned as a Christian is simply that the plan God has for me (and for everyone) is always entirely good, and that I can traverse my path learning to trust that quality of intrinsic goodness as I go forward, looking to be lovingly and patiently instructed by God. Theoretically, any good teacher is going to be there for the student, helping them to understand the subject matter being presented, helping them to appreciate its worth and utility, and desiring that the student become successful in their efforts to master the course material. (Why would one want to take a course whose contents were not useful, or where the instructor was indifferent to the course material, or indifferent or even hostile to the students taking the course?) Mistakes (“events”, in your words) may be made (or encountered) by the student as they proceed, often imperfectly, through the coursework. But the goal of the teacher is not to tell the student to simply endure the difficulties and mistakes that are encountered, or to fault them for not understanding the material but to (1) understand that the difficulties and mistakes are not part of, nor are they the goal of the course and (2) the actual goal of the course is to help them discover how learning the grounding principles taught in the course will help them overcome the obstacles that mortal life often throws at each of us. And the “best solution” is not a one-shot if-you-miss-it-you’re-screwed kind of thing, but rather, a series of improved views of the good that actually underlies the “subject” being explored as the student continues pursuing the principles taught within the course. Thus, the further one explores and learns, the more interesting and clearer the view becomes. The teacher, after all, is not interested in failing the student, but rather, is interested in helping the student to learn and to master the subject.

    Some people who start out in a religion and who find it less than helpful may decided to dig deeper in their current religion to see if they have missed something important. Others, deciding that their current religion is lacking, may switch to another, more helpful seeming sect with a different theology, or even to another religion altogether. And some, such as yourself, leave religion entirely since you found nothing helpful to you within it. But all of us, believing, different believing, or non-believing, are simply trying to make our way forward, and to grow and learn as we do so. I’m glad you have found a method that works for you and helps you navigate your pathway in life.

    • Nox

      All of us, when faced with some problem, will attempt to find the “best solution”. In this regard there is no difference at all between atheists, christians and anyone else.

      But what is the best solution? How do we define “best”? What marks one solution as better than another? What outcome are we trying to bring about? That is the difference.

      If the best solution is the one which solves the problem, this calls for very different types of solutions (and methods for devising solutions) than if the best solution is the one which makes the teacher happy.

      • ctcss

        “If the best solution is the one which solves the problem, this calls for very different types of solutions (and methods for devising solutions) than if the best solution is the one which makes the teacher happy.”

        But what if the teacher is not interested in simply “teaching to the test” (as you seem to be implying), but is actually interested in helping the student grow in their understanding of the subject matter? In that case, the teacher will be guiding the student towards how to reason through a problem based on the principles being taught in the course.

        The reason I stayed with my religious upbringing is because I felt that it provided me with the opportunity to grow, that is, to gain an ongoing and improving sense of understanding and confidence about what constitutes God’s kingdom. This, of course, would only occur as I consistently applied myself to putting into practice what I was taught. Just slapping a label of “Christian” on myself wasn’t going to be enough to obtain a better understanding. Trying to learn how to live as Jesus taught his followers by putting what he taught into practice demands a growing sense of what it means to be a “Christian”. It’s definitely a non-trivial exercise.

        As I understand it, from the human standpoint, our grasp of what is “best” is going to be an ongoing unfoldment as we grow. The goal is to understand what God’s kingdom is all about, and that means going forward and putting off that which is unlike God until we see and understand God’s creation (God’s kingdom) as God understands it. Spiritual perfection (that is, perfection in the same way that God is perfect, as Jesus noted), is what we should be shooting for, and such perfection only comes about as one puts off all that is imperfect. Thus, there is no “best” from the human side of things. “Best” occurs (bit by bit) through putting off the human so as to allow the divine to shine forth.

        And such a goal takes just as long as it takes. It’s not limited to an arbitrary and limited interval of time such as a human lifespan. Rather, it’s framed in the context of eternity (timelessness) rather than time. God, at least as I understand the concept, exists and works in eternity, not time, and as such, is not looking at the clock like a proctor. God has no desire or delight in failure, but rather, wants all to succeed.

  • Light_Sleeper

    Christianity was always a source of trepidation for me. The rules for achieving salvation were vague and it was obvious from my assiduous readings of the Bible that just “being good” was not sufficient. The rules were arcane and contradictory and I always knew I could die unexpectedly while not in a state of grace. Even my relatively liberal (for the Midwest) church — who were not interested in condemning anyone to hell — had no clear program for salvation. Atheism freed me from all that needless worry. Even my relatively benign experience verged on psychological torture for a kid who just wanted to know how to do it right. I only realized after my deconversion that typical Christians never give their salvation a second thought.

  • Jeremy Galvagni

    For me it’s sort of a silly question. I’m not an Atheist because it does anything for me. I’m an Atheist because there are no gods.
    I don’t see myself suddenly believing in one and joining a church, and I’m not going to fake it because of any other ‘benefits.’

  • Turtle

    It’s a bit scary to know there’s no heaven. But knowing that there is no eternal torture chamber for the vast majority of humanity more than makes up for it.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X