Editors’ Note: This post is part of a Patheos symposium —What Good Is Religion? Read more here.
What Good is my Atheism?
Can I objectively call my Atheism “good”? Honestly, I don’t know. Not believing doesn’t make me good or bad, it just means that I don’t believe in a god. I am an atheist and for me there is no compelling reason, or evidence, to accept the theory of his (or her) existence. That doesn’t mean much of anything though… I can point to how my Atheism, my stance on things such as faith, helps lives, just as quickly as most theists can make similar claims. However, I contend that my Atheism is more freeing, because it removes stipulations that religious traditions impose. So I’ll explain why I think my Atheism is freedom. Not just from ancient law, but also imposed modern conditions.
My Atheism is freedom from ‘but’ Love
Its not as bad as it sounds. My atheism allows me to love, without conditions – without the ‘but’. I may not like my children unconditionally, (they can sometimes be butts themselves), but I love them without question. My Atheism allows me to love without limits. The thought of telling my children that I love them, but they’re dead to me because they didn’t accept my religious tradition, or because they didn’t believe in my scripture, resulting in their eternal condemnation, is abhorrent to me. I could not freely come to this conclusion without condition.
With my atheism, I don’t have to bind, restrict, or modify my love. I don’t have to introduce a descriptive clause, an “IF THEN” conditional statement, then put it through religious LOGIC GATES that regulate the words to make the term “I love you” kinda, sorta, work.
I love you, but you’re going to Hell.
I love you, but you’re sinning.
I love you, but my denomination doesn’t believe in that, so we (or they) can’t get married.
I love you, but…
No buts! My atheism allows for ‘but-less’ love or freedom from ‘but’ love.
My Atheism is freedom for Promiscuous Compassion
My Atheism allows for ubiquitous compassion, across all types of beings, regardless of their make up, like an Android OS (for my fellow technophiles).
The objects of my compassion don’t have to be “iChristian” or “iMuslim”, they don’t even have to be “iHuman”.
I don’t need special filters to apply my humanism or have a standard of adherence, to show them I care. My compassion gets to be promiscuous in ways that removes the requirement for proselytizing while feeding the hungry, removes the justification for the ritualized slaughter of animals, and removes the justification of having a blind eye to bombing a strip of land, because “they’ve asked for it” or simply because -“iGod”. My Atheism requires a level of mortal accountability that isn’t always there with religious tradition. There is no “God will judge them”, as my deeds can be evaluated without supernatural context and measured against what WE define as good.
My Atheism is free to Change
My Atheism isn’t perfect, but it can change. Its passion often gets lost in the translation from intellectual discourse or the fight for equality, which results in the painful auditory product of incivility. That’s just true.
Sure, sometimes we have more colorful terms for our theistic fellow humans and our egos sometimes appear to trump the message, but at its core, my atheism pursues the truth. This allows for an evolutionary progression of discourse, where the components to my cohered reality, can change. It can be influenced by others, like an Open Source operating system. Canonization and review by committee, not necessary.My Atheism doesn’t often see eye to eye with itself, because of its discordant nature, but my Atheism sees itself as good, though many who embrace it APPEAR to see themselves as better. Its the Mac vs PC debate with no clear winner. However, just like that debate, true open source – usually wins out… Just saying.
Rest assured, my Atheism is still up for a fight, because my atheism is…
My Atheism is free to be Loud, Unapologetic, and Human
It will not silence itself. It finds many forms of expression, whether through humanistic outreach, academic prowess, ardent scientific rigor, or in the dismantling of social mores. It sometimes gets distorted through the filters of privilege or pain, which often saddens me. Yet, I am optimistic that, when my atheism turns the lens of scrutiny upon itself, as it does with all things, it will realize just how fallible it can be.
And that’s OK.
My Atheism likes being right, but it allows for itself to be wrong and doesn’t condemn those that do not agree with it. Even though it my atheism is…
My Atheism is free to be Less Forgiving
My atheism allows me to hate for new reasons and forgive less. Hate is such a strong word —- but so is infanticide, genocide, rape, or lynching.
I don’t have to forgive the police for profiling, because “God” or a false submission to authority. I am allowed to question.
I don’t have to like, accept, or tolerate that neighbor who beats his child, because he believes that sparing the rod, “spoils the child”.
I also don’t have to forgive the killing of fellow humans that are murdered, because they are transgendered, belong to the LGBT community, or fall into the spectrum that is regarded as “other”.
It is not self-righteous when you are righteous seeking. Forgiveness can be way overrated and turning the other cheek can get you killed.
Even more so, asking for forgiveness from those that are repeatedly victimized, marginalized, preyed upon, abused, or otherwise taken advantage of, while doing nothing to stop the repetitive and sometimes religiously affirmed nature of said abuses, is in itself wrong. My Atheism presumes accountability in the now, and sometimes, no, I will not forgive you. I don’t care what your book says.
You messed up – OWN IT.
My Atheism is free to be…
Free. No ten percent of your earnings requirement, there is no cost. You could find your favorite Atheist author and enjoy the musings, the education, the rantings, etc. You could join national organizations that protect your interest or ensure Atheists are part of the national discussion. Then again, you could just do absolutely nothing. You can be hedonistic, apathetic, and empathetic to other beings. You can be racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, and be guilty of just about any other crime, (real, imaginary, or just a thought), although your excuses or motivations are diminished by one. My Atheism doesn’t demand that you do or be anything – because you are free – not to.
If you choose, my atheism allows you the freedom to paint or create a world, free of religious “should or should nots”, with the broadest or finest brush stroke that is your own action.
You get to bomb it with great ideas, build on each others most beautiful murals, remix it with a new shades, then remind each other with our critics’ most chiseled, black and red markers, that this world, that this wall, doesn’t just belong to you.