An Unapologetic Atheist Manifesto
I may have stopped believing in god about 5 years ago, and first labeled myself an atheist 2 years ago, but I’ve been very quiet about it until a few months ago. Even now, though, I pretty much shut up when I’m around the religious people I care about. If I do speak up, I say my beliefs in an apologetic way. In short, I submit socially to maintain the relationship. It wasn’t this way before I labeled myself an atheist. I miss the intellectual discussions my best friend and I used to have, where no one was attacked for their viewpoint, and calm rational debate was prized. But following my deconversion, I no longer feel I have the right to speak my mind.
But I do. So I’m reclaiming that right today.
I believe there is no god because I think the hypothesis of god is untenable. I think the belief in god is preposterous. I can give intellectual reasons why people would believe in god, but I cannot quite understand how they would. I also don’t understand why they would want to. Having studied the bible every school day of my life for 13 years, I have concluded that the god of the bible – particularly the Old Testament – is not a being I would want to worship, should he exist. I see no reason to worship a being as genocidal, racist, misogynist, and sadistic as the Abrahamic god. If god did exist, I believe it would be morally wrong to worship him.
I do not hate religious people. I may laugh at them, yes, but that is because I believe that religion should not be shielded from criticism in the marketplace of ideas. If religion is tenable, if it is true, then it should be able to survive criticism. It should relish the opportunity to prove itself. It should not feel threatened by atheism. I certainly don’t find the idea of religion to be threatening to my beliefs.
I do not believe that religion is the root of all evil. I think many conflicts are exacerbated by religion, but if we didn’t have religion, humans would still find other reasons to seek to destroy each other. Humans are prejudicial by nature, and the solidarity of the in-group and the hatred of the out-group will exist, regardless of the label given to the strife.
I am a negative explicit atheist: I do not believe that god exists, but will not go so far to say that the statement is true. I accept that while the god hypothesis is wildly improbable, the minute potential for god to exist in some way, shape, or form rules out the absolute statement that god doesn’t exist. I cannot in good scientific faith say that god does not exist. I do say, however, that the existence of god is so improbable that it is irrational to accept it over the null hypothesis that he does not. I believe the well-substantiated theory of evolution offers sufficient explanation of our origins and is the backbone of good science.
I am not sad that there is most likely no god. I am not bitter; I do not despair. I am joyful. The absence of god is a supreme comfort to me. The realization that god does not exist, and that I could and should, in Dawkins’ words, stop worrying and get on with my life, lifted a huge burden of guilt off of my shoulders. The moment of my deconversion was my moment of salvation. I experienced the kind of bliss that believers attach to their moments of conversion.
I do not believe that humans are born flawed, broken, ruined by sin. I believe that view is harmful and psychologically damaging. It creates a society that is so busy trying to fix the individual that it never has time to fix the multitude. It teaches people that they are bad, and that they will never be good enough. It teaches people that the only reason they aren’t worthless is because a supreme being did something they did not deserve when he fixed them.
I believe we whole, capable of both immense good and immense evil. I think we will be judged not by god, but by history and our peers.
I believe everyone has a right to believe whatever they would like, provided they do not use that belief to harm others. I have found very few religious beliefs that fit this condition, but if they exist, I see no threat from them. I will not, however, treat religion with the reverence it does not deserve. I will not openly mock the religious people I care about for precisely that reason: I care about them. But I believe I do them a disservice if I refuse to discuss our mutually incompatible beliefs. Out of respect for them, I believe in a dialogue.
I do not believe in proselytization. I find it intellectually offensive. I welcome discussion and debate of ideas. I believe in the marketplace of ideas, in the natural selection of memes, that leads to greater understanding and a more ethical life.
And I believe I have the right to say all this.