Because I am an atheist: James Croft


Today’s contribution comes from James Croft, vice-chair of the Humanist Community at Harvard.

Because I am an atheist…

…I know we’re in this alone, and that any change for the better in this world will be the fruit of human endeavor. There was never a eureka moment in which I realized there is no God: I was raised in a happy atheist household, and religion – except for the music, the art, and the architecture which my parents introduced me to – played no part in our lives. I only began to fully understand that other people weren’t atheists when I hit my teens, and began to have heated discussions with religious friends.

There are many things I can understand, even appreciate, about the best expressions of the religious impulse. I value narratives which frame our lives, strong moral communities where we can develop our commitment to each other, artworks which express our highest ideals, experiences of solidarity and transcendence, and I want to find ways for Humanists to enjoy these social benefits.

But I have never understood the belief that the miserable situation of some human beings must be due to the whims of an inscrutable Authority. I have never understood the belief that that real human needs – real suffering, inequality, oppression – might be alleviated through the correct propitiations to a magical being. I have never understood the belief that there must be “more than this”, that this life is not enough, and that it will be followed by something better, something more important.

The belief in a celestial overseer and a happy hereafter too often leads us to put off to a hoped-for tomorrow those things we ought to do today. Some waste time and effort trying to please the Creator instead of working to raise humankind. Many overlook the achievements of our species – achievements for which we should be proud –crediting the harvest of their own industry to the Lord.

Because I am an atheist, I reject these beliefs. My atheism doesn’t provide me with my moral compass or my social conscience, but it does provide a spur to action. I know that this life is our only life, this world is our only world, and that our only hope is each other. I know that we must seek our own salvation. I know that if there is a hell, it is the hell we make for each other, here, on this world. And if there is to be a heaven, it will be a heaven of our creation.

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Comments

  1. says

    I hope that by this time, Mr. Croft, you realize that even as an infant religion was affecting your life. Numerous laws and social norms are religion-tainted.

    Did your Atheist parents have your genitalia mutilated, as per the ancient Jewish rites?

    I’m glad you’re an Atheist. Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. You’ve been an Atheist a long time. You should have freed several dozen other minds by now. If not, get to work, please.

  2. says

    Wow. SERIOUSLY rude. And completely unnecessarily so. This isn’t him bragging – I asked James for his account. And while I reject your insulting premise that somehow there’s a duty of atheists to “free minds” (at a rate of ‘dozens’ that you seem to have completely arbitrarily invented), I’d wager that James and his team have done a fuck-ton more than average. Certainly more than I have.

    I also have no idea where this circumcision nonsense comes from, and you should be aware that the Jews were not the only group to circumcise children, nor are they responsible for the vast majority of circumcised penises in the United States.

  3. says

    This is far and away the weirdest comment I’ve ever had on any post I’ve written – which, given some of the mail I get from fundamentalists, is a real achievement!

    I’m delighted to inform you that I am “unmutilated” which, in combination with my British accent, seems prove an irresistible package for a significant subset of US gays. I work it into conversation whenever I can =P.

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