Friday, February 24, 2012

Why I call myself an 'atheist'

Among some people the label/word 'atheist' encompasses a set of attributes or conclusions of which are disconcerting. I understand the frustration when you express to a believer that you're an 'atheist' and they immediately conclude you have no morals, eat babies, 'believe in nothing', are angry at 'god' and so forth. The hesitation I've seen with respect to using the word/label is real but the hesitation can be overcome. The label/word is not all encompassing of any individual. It simply describes ONE position I or they have on ONE issue. Nothing about the word 'atheist' accurately describes anything about my life experience, taste, appetites, academic achievements, culture, personality or sexuality. If you want to know more about the positions or beliefs I or any other atheist may have, if I or they have any beliefs at all, you must ask a question. Investigate. Do not assume.

Some of the conclusions are drawn out of ignorance while others are obvious attempts at being a dick. Labels can be used to draw incorrect conclusions about an individual or group. They can also be used to behave as if you 'know the person or group' or as a dismissive tactic coupled with a strawman argument. I think the label can be used for good and it's not something to be afraid of nor hidden.

It is simply not the case that I do not have any morals. I do not like suffering so I do what I can to minimize it as much as possible. I understand I live in a community with a lot of other people and my actions can impact their lives. I don't rob banks, nor eat babies out of fear of celestial punishment or the threat of prison. I don't do those things because THEY ARE WRONG. No objective morality is needed nor should it be asserted as a necessary condition in order to act morally. I recognize the type of animal that I am in conjunction with many others. I will not just do what I want because it suits me. Unlike a lot of believers, I don't have a get out of jail free card and can ask for forgiveness and receive it no matter what act is committed. I wouldn't want the card anyway because I think it's the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility and accountability. I am accountable for my actions, to myself and to other people. Every other animal like me can hold my feet to the fire for the things I do. No god is necessary. I do what's right because it's right. I do not seek accolades or rewards as a direct or necessary reaction to something I do. If they come, so be it.

I embrace the label and wear it proudly. I do not advocate for the destruction of religion but I do want it to be  kept out of public policy and science classrooms. Believers are free, as they should be, to express their beliefs as loudly as they can and I am fine with that until some try to silence opposition and criticism by attaching wrong and unnecessary bull shit to my position or to me as a person. Making that choice will result in a vociferous reply. What some believers don't understand is calling myself an 'atheist' does not exclude me from humanity. I am still a person with wants, needs and desires. I have family, friends, ex girlfriend's who can tell you how stupid I am and so on. Nothing about being an 'atheist' precludes me from laughing, drinking with friends, treating people fairly or smacking down ridiculous arguments. It simply tells you ONE THING about me. When it comes to whatever you call 'god', a semantic definition will not suffice. You need to provide evidence, which is independent of yourself, in order for ME to verify for MYSELF. Failing to meet that demand means I cannot accept your proposition with good reason.

I believed in a god for 21-22 years of my life. My identity, respect for my upbringing, and culture were all fused with believing in 'god' and Christianity. I say that because I understand just how integrally tied some believers are with their religion. Any critique of the religion is seen as an attack on them. I separate their beliefs from them as a person. Despite their feelings and the many explanations I have given to separate the ongoing fusion, some will still claim they are being attacked personally. Those claims will not stop me from hammering, in a substantive way(depending on the person) the claims of the religion.

I'm an atheist. 27 years of age, Black and proud. I love NASCAR and I hate for my food to touch on a plate.  I do not believe in a god or gods and I am not ashamed to say it.

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