Part of the interview an atheist survey I recently completed asked why I think living as an atheist is better than living a life under God.
In retrospect, my response wasn’t nearly as good as it might have been. For starters, I wrote it right before bed time. And that led me to only partially answer the question – I left a lot of awesomeness out!
At any rate, the question is excellent blog fodder which I hope to fully consume in a series of posts starting with this one. Here in this post, I’ll set the stage by clarifying some things about my atheism, and how things besides my atheism factor into the awesomeness of being godless.
First, Some Basics…
- What is atheism? Atheism is disbelief in the existence of deities including the Abrahamaic gods and the thousands of other gods contemplated throughout history. Atheism is nothing more than this disbelief.
- What is not Atheism? Atheism is not a world view. It does not come all packaged up with a set of beliefs.
The bullets are a reminder that we should never assume atheism means anything more than it does. Not all atheists share similar beliefs and world views. We are not all humanists, anarchists, liberals, or materialists, and not all of us disbelieve in supernatural concepts such as souls, ghosts, karma, past lives and E.S.P. In other words, we are a diverse group of people who tend to share only one thing – our disbelief in the existence of deities.
I imagine that’s one of the reasons it’s often said that atheists are harder to herd than cats.
Can We Narrow the Field Down a Bit?
At the risk of riling up the herd, I’m going to suggest that one sub-set of atheists tend to have commonalities. The sub-set I’m speaking of (the one I am a part of) is best understood by how they arrive at atheism:
- Some atheists haven’t given belief/non-belief much thought. They haven’t really pinned down the reasons they do not believe. In this group you may find atheists believing in things that fall under the category of the supernatural – even though they do not believe in god(s). This is not the sub-set I want to talk about.
- Some atheists are not really atheists. These are the folks who call themselves atheists, but who misunderstand the meaning of the concept. These are the atheists who are rebelling against a god they still believe exists. Although I haven’t met one of these, they are the straw man atheists that apologists like James Spiegal like to mislead people into thinking are the only type of atheists. This is not the sub-set of “atheist” I want to pin my discussion on.
- Some atheists arrive at their atheism after having listened to the arguments for and against gods, having gathered and weighed evidence and having used their powers of reason. These atheists rely on the tools of skepticism (not to be confused with cynicism) and the scientific method to attain an understanding of the universe they live in.
That last group of ‘skeptical atheists’ is the one I will try to represent (I’m sure they’ll tell me if I do a poor job!). But, hold onto your horses because I’m not done defining them.
Reason, skepticism and the scientific method tend to lead my group of atheists in consistent directions. Most notably, it leads us to reject the existence of not just deities, but anything supernatural. That is to say that we tend to be naturalists. That is, we hold the view that the world can be understood in scientific terms, without relying on spiritual or supernatural explanations.
Wrapping it all up…
Context helps us understand and appreciate the things an atheist would consider to be awesome about godlessness. The context for myself (and I presume other atheists like me) is that I am not just an atheist – I am also a skeptic, a rationalist and a naturalist. And with all of that priming the pump, I can finally talk about the awesomeness of godlessness. Stay tuned for part II!
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