Because I am an atheist: M

This post was submitted via e-mail by M.

Because I am an atheist…

…I know that justice will be done by human hands, or by none at all.

There is no celestial Eye to see a Wrong inflicted; there is no divine Judge adjudicating the balance of fortunes and cruelties; there is no deific Hand to intervene in the mechanical operation of the Universe in order to ensure just desserts for ethical or unethical behavior; there is no heavenly Realm in which there is a post-necrotic reward or punishment for what was not redeemed in life.

Justice by human hands, or none at all. [Read more…]

We’ve got a job to do

I remember my first job interview. I had applied for a position as a stock boy at a bulk food store, and the owner called me on the phone the day after I dropped off my resume. My interview was one question, three words: “are you big?” I replied that I was, indeed, big. “Come in and start tomorrow,” was the reply. I was there for nearly 3 years. Since that time I’ve taught violin, I’ve packed boxes onto trucks, I’ve managed an amusement park cleaning crew (easily the worst job I’ve ever had), I’ve been a doorman, a karaoke host (easily the best job I’ve ever had), and spent two mortifying shifts serving tables in a tapas restaurant. None of those jobs were particularly hard to get – in fact, when I was offered my current job I could scarcely believe it and spent the first year dreading the day when my boss would realized they hired the wrong guy.

At no point in my various job searches did I really actively stress over race. Like most people I’ve been rejected from more jobs than I’ve been given – even then, it never occurred to me to wonder whether or not race played a role. Why would it? After all, I live in the 21st century, and certainly nobody ever said to me “we don’t hire your kind” or anything so overt as that. I will likely never know the role, positive or negative, that race played in me getting my various jobs. However, I know too much to think that racism isn’t still very much a part of the hiring process: [Read more…]

Because I am an atheist: kagekiri

Today’s contribution was submitted by kagekiri as a comment.

Because I am an atheist…

…I can take reality as it comes and with free honesty, instead of trying to cram evidence into my pre-conceived notions of reality and running away from anything that doesn’t fit.

Because I’m an atheist, I don’t have to ignore thoughts and desires lest they cause me to fall into “sin”. I can assess them more calmly and still find reasons to not do evil besides “because if I do them, I’ll go to Hell!”

Because I’m an atheist, I no longer have to blame myself or others for our suffering or short-comings. I can love myself as and others as we are instead of tearfully thanking God for loving us despite our sinful selves.

Because I’m an atheist, I can be happy now, instead of suffering with depression and self-loathing for the sake of an afterlife.

Because I’m an atheist, I love my family even more than ever, because I realize life isn’t all about worshiping God: it’s about those we love and interact with.

Because I’m an atheist, I can take a clear look at how my life will impact the world beyond Christian evangelizing. All meaning is relative, but the world is important to our species, so I can fight for it rather than feel guilty that I should be doing things to get people to a better afterlife.

Because I’m an atheist, I care about our collective future, because God isn’t going to magically step in and fix everything/blow everything up.

Because I’m an atheist, the world has become far less black and white, and I’m far more able to understand and empathize with others and their differing outlooks and experiences in life.

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Because I am an atheist: Pharm Sci Grad

Today’s contribution comes from Pharm Sci Grad via e-mail.

Because I am an atheist…

…I am more accepting of the transient nature of my relationships with people

There’s an old religious line that goes “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime” and I always had a hard time accepting that.  This whole religious concept of eternal life meant you never really let anyone “go” forever but I still didn’t like the idea that sometimes people would be friends and then friendships would fall apart.  I struggled with that.  Strangely enough, since I let go of any belief in eternal life, I realized that I would never really have anyone with me for a lifetime – and, well, since there is no god, it’s not like I’ve got any god with me either.  So all that leaves are temporary friends, those for a reason or a season, which means that is just the nature of life, of friendship.  What a freeing notion.

How much easier it is to accept the wonderful friends I have and to accept the changes in a relationship when the time comes, without anger or blame, because of course the time would have to come eventually.  That is just how it is.  You change, you adapt, sometimes you allow friendships to fade, but you move forward forever altered by the people who’ve entered your life.  Not because a god placed them in your path, but because we’re all fortunate enough to coexist together on this pale blue dot, and you and your friend, however briefly, recognized your shared humanity.

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Less relevant by the minute

Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved stories. Even as an adult, I am drawn to the narrative arc – the pacing, the twists and turns of a good plot, the art of a well-crafted climax – these have always been like magic to me. In my younger days though, I was drawn to Greek mythology in a big way. It wasn’t just the fanciful tales, although I liked that aspect a lot – it was the fact that each story was attached to some kind of lesson. They weren’t just stories told for amusement – they were expositions of human foibles and an accounting of how ancient peoples saw the world.

While Aesop’s Fables are not, strictly speaking, Greek mythology, they are perhaps the best exemplar of that type of morality and psychology as taught through story that we have. While Jesus of Nazareth (supposedly) taught in parables, it can often be an arduous exercise to pick out the nuggets of useful knowledge from the heaps of nonsense (what kind of shepherd abandons an entire flock to search for a single lost sheep? A bad one, I’d imagine). The fables attributed to Aesop are far clearer and more real-to-life.

One of the most famous, at least among the secular community, is the Emperor’s New Clothes. The reason it’s famous in our clique is because it so perfectly mirrors the public perception of religion – everyone is told how important and meaningful and significant it is, but as soon as someone takes a critical look at it the whole edifice quickly unravels to reveal one naked fallacy after another. However, turned on its head, there’s another valuable lesson contained in that story. One about the vanity and blindness that accompanies unchecked power and how it can lead people into situations where they completely fucking embarrass themselves: [Read more…]

Songs in the key of H(umanism)

As you may know (and should certainly know if you followed my Blogathon Songathon yesterday), one of the many hats I wear is that of musician. I am no great talent, to be sure, but I’ve got some moderate game. I’ve been a musician as long as I can remember – somewhere there exists a photo of me as a 3 year-old sitting on the steps, banging out rhythms on my knees. I started guitar lessons at age 6, singing lessons a couple of years after that, picked up the guitar at age 14, started my first string quartet at 15… I’ve been in the game for a minute.

Which is why I was torn this past weekend when James Croft, a person I otherwise respect for his outspoken defense of humanism, came out in favour of using song as part of humanist gatherings. His position (and I am trying my best not to straw man) is that because narrative and song have such a persuasive power, humanists should involve it as part of our regular discourse. Humanist gatherings should involve group participation in song and storytelling (he actually used the word ‘witnessing’ at one point), because they are useful in building consensus and community, and what he calls a more ’emotive’ humanism.

I attempted to point out that, given the number of humanists who have actively fled religion, the adoption of a quasi-liturgical form to humanist gatherings was pretty likely to spook a lot of people. When I attempted to defend James’ idea of a church-like gathering for atheists who were in need of the kind of stable community and group interaction that churches provide to believers, there were a number of people who responded that, even if they thought the idea had some merit there was absolutely no way they would attend. Any attempt to ‘churchify’ humanism is going to alienate a lot of people.

James’ response was basically “Yeah? So?” [Read more…]