What it REALLY Means to Be an Atheist:
Opening your Eyes to Skepticism and Free-Thought
By David G. McAfee
Author of “Disproving Christianity: Refuting the World’s Most Followed Religion”
I don’t claim to know an over-arching “Meaning of Life”, but I do operate under the understanding that life should not be lived under the pretense that it is simply a “test” propagated by an invisible, intangible, Creator-God. And it should not be spent identifying with religious traditions and organized groups that, historically, have been at the root of oppression and violence. Our precious time on earth should not be spent attempting to justify unbelievable acts of cruelty, death, and disease as a part of “God’s Plan” or the greater good- and clinging to ancient texts that preach ill-concealed bigotry and sexism.
Instead, we should find ways to make this life happy and satisfying, without regard to the unknowable nature of an afterlife. After all, as Marcus Aurelius once said, “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” In the Christian tradition, according to John 14:6 and other biblical passages, a requirement for passage into Heaven is that you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior. Would a truly fair, merciful, and just Creator really condemn those individuals who have never heard of Jesus in order to accept him? Or even those of us who have heard the name Jesus Christ- yet see no physical or historical evidence to warrant belief? Shouldn’t it be enough to simply be the best person you can be? According to the Christian Gospel, the answer is simply- and firmly- “No.”
What makes you think your God is the right one? There are thousands of proposed gods and goddesses with similar stories and myths that supposedly link them to reality- the Judeo-Christian God is no exception, and each canon has its fallacies and contradictions that we have outgrown scientifically. I do not believe in any gods, devils, angels, talking snakes, ghosts, vampires, or any other supernatural beings. That does make me an atheist, but it is not how I’d identify myself foremost. I simply utilize scientific evidence and common sense to form opinions based on the best information I have, without relying on traditional and familial influences to make my decisions.
Religion has been used in order to accomplish an infinite number of goals throughout history, from oppressing women and lower-class citizens to justifying the most brutal of wars; but the reason for the existence of religion is, in almost all cases, as a crutch for providing an explanation for the otherwise inexplicable. A cause which we, as modern humans, have little-to-no use for; scientific discoveries have shown us how to earth came to be, how humanity evolved from our primitive ancestors, where the sun goes at night, and how viruses spread- leaving little room for the outdated religious explanations for these so-called “phenomena” and “miracles”.
All-in-all, I’m not one to dispute the therapeutic value of spirituality; but those who claim to need religion in order to cope with the realities of day to day life- or to justify their morality- could not be further from the truth. In fact, for those people, a religion may provide a sense of well-being in an otherwise overwhelming world- but it rarely leads people to solve their problems, it often only encourages them to leave these issues to the mystical higher-power and dodge responsibility. While this tactic may give the appearance of resolution to the believer, it is hard to justify such an action in light of the loss of individual accomplishments and spirit. It is when the principles of religion begin to be taken too seriously, to the point of extremes, that it becomes no longer therapeutic but harmful to society- when man begins to act on God’s behalf and shifts priority from the important issues of the known temporal world to the faith-based belief in the next.
Join me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/davidgmcafee
 John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
very well written.
Once again you keep surprising me with your secular writings which are so necessary nowadays as a logical and objective response against religious fundamentalism. It’s incredible how people think that we atheists don’t have any moral just because we don’t believe in the christian myth, a legend people are forced to believe or else they’re regarded as “weirdos”. We don’t need to accept a dogma to be moral and behave properly. We respect human beings no matter what religion they belong to. Unfortunately religious fundamentalists don’t think the same about us…their bigotry reaches alarming levels. Their bigotry and dogmas keep ruining our world. Thanks David and well done sir!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂
Your comments insinuate that morales and values are inherent to the human condition. That a false understanding. If your assumption were correct, children of abusive parents would never grow up to be abusive themselves and we know most do unfortunatetly.
Morales and values are the product of the environment within which you are raised. Human behaviour is taught…not inherited. There are many societies where death and “take what you need to survive” cause that society to behave in ways where killing to take what you want is “morally acceptable” and “normal”.
Whether or not you want to admit it, those morales and values you claiim as your own are a result of the civilized society which was formed by our God fearing, Christian forefathers. Yes…most of those men were Christians. Our Constitution and laws are strongly based on what is deemed necessary and appropriate within scripture. You can argue against that all you want…but that doesn’t dull the potency of that simple truth.
Whether or not you want to admit it, those morales and values you claiim as your own are a result of the civilized society which was formed by our God fearing, Christian forefathers.
Who taught Catholic Priests to molest small Children Bobby?
Christian Forefathers? No mention of Christianity in your US Constitution (I’m English) only a command to keep Religion and politics separate. To protect you from opposing Christian Denominations!
Your simple truth is bronze age drivle, not enough to run a modern society.
Your 10 commandments are also not enough to form even a basis for the rules needed.
How do you choose what is appropriate within Scripture? Most and I do mean most of Scripture is evil, violent and divisive. No thank you.
What does it mean to be an atheist? Not much, really. People try to attach their personal agendas to their atheism, but atheism really just means you don’t think there’s a god. That’s pretty much it. Or, if the 2008 Pew Survey is to be believed, about 80% of atheists don’t believe in god. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life / U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, p. 8 (2008). All else is superimposed.
I’m not particularly “proud” to be a non-believer. I just don’t happen to believe. It’s not anything I did, other than perhaps read, study, and pay attention. I don’t think I got to choose the conclusion to which I came. I think I reached the conclusion to which I was forced by my reasoning and the evidence. Given my choice, I’d have chosen to believe. It would have been much more convenient. Of course, I’d have chosen to believe a fairly benign version of theism. I wouldn’t have been a fundamentalist.
And yes, there are benign forms of religion. We need to stop pretending there’s no difference between the Taliban and the Episcopal Ladies’ Altar Society. There is a difference. I reject the morality taught by Jesus of Nazareth in the Sermon on the Mount that all sin is sin so there is no question of degree. It’s astounding that so many atheists follow Christ’s teaching in that respect. There is a difference between killing your brother and calling him a fool, and there’s a difference between Al Qaeda and the Sisters of Charity.
Isn’t your argument agianst fundamentalism hypocritical? Atheism is a fundamentalist movement in and of itself. You work so diligently to “proclaim” your supposed logic and rationale. How is that any different than a religion that proclaims their faith in an all-knowing, all-doing creator?
Hiding behind “rational thought” does not make you less fundamental or extreme. Labeling yourself as “atheist” is forming a group which shares a common belief. That sounds like a religion to me.
We don’t need to hide behind rational thought Bobby. It is open for inspection. That is why science advances.
Your ‘faith’ in an all knowing , all doing creator, is not open for inspection.
However science has chiselled away at the bible teachings which were the only way of knowing in bronze age times.
Biblical World created in 7 days is laughable. Age of earth 10,000 years? Chinese civilisation goes goes to twice that. But it contradicts the bible, so you call the Chinese, Egyptians etc. all liars…
Atheism isn’t a fundamental version of something else Bobby? Atheists are just passionate about the truth.
If you could come up with verifyable evidence for your god (or any of the myriad gods of other religions) then most athiests would convert. They don’t see any convincing evidence, so remain atheist.
The common belief you talk about, does not rely on invisible friends (not a very nice friend either).
So called fundamental atheists (actually anti-theists if you want to be correct), despair at the way thick christian fundies try to insist their bronze age shade of the ‘truth’ be instilled into politics, schools and bedrooms of the majority of citizens. Keep it to yourself. I could respect that.
Gerry, you’re bashing a strawman — no one thinks or claims that there’s no such difference. But that there is such a difference, indeed a wide gap, does not make tame forms of religion benign; all religious thinking is at odds with rationality.