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Aug 23 2012

Because I am an atheist: Miriam

Today’s contribution comes from Miriam, who blogs at Brute Reason, where this post originally appears.

Because I am an atheist…

…I get to develop my own moral code. Many people get their sense of morality from religion. That’s totally okay. But I relish the opportunity to create my own.

My morality is a sort of combination of utilitarianism and the Golden Rule. When I decide how to act, I weigh the pros and cons. Will this help someone else at very little cost to myself? If so, then I’ll do it. Will it help someone else at a great cost to myself? If so, I might do it if the cause is important enough to me. Is this act self-serving, with a potential for hurting the other person? If so, I probably won’t do it, unless I really, really need to.

That’s not to say that I always act ethically or that I never hurt anyone. At least, though, I get to own my actions whether they’re positive or negative. Regardless of the outcome, nobody made me do it. My holy book didn’t tell me to do it. My pastor/rabbi/what-have-you didn’t tell me to do it. I told myself to do it, and if it turned out badly, I can do better next time.

Because I am an atheist, my major life decisions are my own to make. I don’t have to get married. I don’t have to have children. I don’t have to give a percentage of my money to any particular cause or charity unless I choose to. I don’t have to belong to any particular organization.

Now, I do want to get married and have children, and I do want to donate money to certain causes and belong to certain organizations. But I’m allowed to change my mind. It’s not my “duty” to do any of these things, unless I’ve chosen that duty for myself.

Because I am an atheist, I am only accountable to the people I choose to be accountable to. If I screw up, the only people I need to apologize to are the people I’ve affected. The only people whose forgiveness I need is theirs, and my own. I don’t need to confess to a religious authority figure. I don’t need to pray for forgiveness.

Go read the rest – it’s beautifully written.

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3 comments

  1. 1
    Tâlib Alttaawiil (طالب التاويل)

    “Many people get their sense of morality from religion. That’s totally okay.”

    it’s nice that you’re reaching out to religious people here, but on the planet i’m from, people getting their sense of morality from religion has been a complete catastrophe.

  2. 2
    Miriam

    For some reason my previous attempt to thank you for this post did not show up (maybe it’s in moderation?) but in any case, once again, thank you for reposting this! :D

  3. 3
    Miriam

    I’m not so much “reaching out to religious people” as acknowledging that there are many religious people who share my values of tolerance and open-mindedness despite the fact that they’re religious. If you’re really saying that religious people can’t be good people, I’m afraid we’re talking past each other.

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