Today’s contribution was submitted via e-mail by Benjamin Stonier
It’s really hard to sum up what being an atheist means to me. I’ve never really locked into a label like this before. Even when I was nominally Christian, I wouldn’t go out of my way to call myself that. I wouldn’t pick a denomination, though I attended many. I guess being an atheist has meant to me both enlightenment and sadness, though more of the former, unlike so many who tell their tales.
I’m an atheist because I try to think critically and skeptically – but because I am an atheist, I think critically and skeptically. Discarding the notion of a deity was the change in the way I think. Everything has simple factual merits, and we should make our decisions based on this. It’s let me toss the last vestiges of cultural oppositions to things like being against trans people changing their sex on their passports, being against gay marriage, or being against equal treatment regardless of differences.
Without the ability to think this way, I think I might be more akin to the people that are often lamented on Freethought Blogs. I watch sometimes as people make decisions based on lies and wonder why they can’t search for the truth for themselves. I remember the times I saw a preacher tell me his version of the truth, and I remember thinking I didn’t agree with it, so I looked through it. With religion muddying my thought, it was always harder to look through the veil.
There is something to be said for picking the values you have, and picking those you hold dear. I’ve chosen to identify with humanist and libertarian values. That we have essential rights to equality, liberty, and happiness that should not be trifled with. No religion nor political line could make me risk my life for them, but I believe that we sometimes have to protect those values which we must hold dear, and sometimes we should act to protect others who cannot fight for themselves. Because I am atheist I can make this distinction very clearly, and I can do my very best to stand for something that I think is worth standing for.
Being an atheist has led me to some sadness. I have had to relinquish friendships I once held dear, though far fewer than many who will write in this space, because I cannot believe in a god. I let go of one of the few memberships I held in an organization, in Scouts Canada, because I no longer believe. But these are minor sacrifices compared to what being an atheist means to me: the ability to think, and see, clearly. Because I am an atheist, I am also a skeptic and a critical thinker, a liberal and a democratic socialist, and I have humanist values.
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