Atheism.19 Nov 2008
Inspired by this article: http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/11/atheism-a-posit.html
(A refreshingly positive treatment of atheism by an apparently religious author (Krattenmaker writes prolifically on religion in public life) - though I can’t find any place where he overtly declares his own religious stance.)
Reading the comments on the article (always a mistake) is a scary experience. The utter nonsense some people believe entirely whole-heartedly and _with the very best of intentions _is enough to make my eyes water.
It’s interesting to see the prevailing understanding of Atheism in action, too. Most believers seem to think of atheism as “completely denying the existence of a supreme being”. My own understanding of our (atheists’) usual stance is that we accept the possibility, however remote, of an omniscient, omnipresent creator of some description - but we find the probability so very unlikely, and the required proof so very extraordinary, and so far have seen nothing that would convince us of the existence of such a being.
Atheism (for me) isn’t a belief, it’s just a stance that says “insufficient evidence, I choose not to alter the way I live my life on that basis”. I don’t believe blindly in anything; and you’ve yet to show me convincing evidence that your brand of religion is correct.
It’s not about destroying or tearing things down. I say you’re free to have your own (non-harmful-to-others) beliefs, however unreasoned I might consider them to be, save on two scores:
The separation of Church and State - no piece of legislation should ever be purely religiously or purely ideologically motivated. ‘Tradition’ is never an excuse. Legislation and government decisions should be reasoned, considered and take into account the deeper ramifications of their passing. California’s Proposition 8 (the ban on gay marriage), I’m looking at you.
Brainwashing of Children - most religions teach that it is essential to indoctrinate children in those teachings. While some parents are good educators, and open their childrens’ eyes to other possibilities and allow them to make up their own minds (which is totally awesome), more often than not the child is taught that “this is the truth, the whole of the truth, and anyone who challenges you to think otherwise is a hateful person” - young minds, blinkered to the possibilities. In my book, it’s completely unacceptable to stunt a developing mind thus.
(Edit: Obviously, if your religious beliefs motivate you to kill, hurt or in any way inconvenience or detain others, we’re going to have issues.)
I was lucky on the last point to have parents who allowed me to be well-read and challenge those assumptions, who weren’t afraid to say “I don’t know how to answer that” when they honestly couldn’t answer - and a grandfather who, despite being heavily religious himself, encouraged me to study the facts and belief systems before me and make my own mind up.
So there we are. I’m publically “out”, on the intertubes. I’m an atheist, and proud of it. :)