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What I’ve learned as an atheist
Being an atheist in Australia seems to be a lot easier than being an atheist in America or any other country heavily indoctrinated with the belief that it was founded on religious morals and therefore is a religious country.
However my expereinces of being an atheist in Australia and talking to American atheists and theists on Twitter bring me to the same conclusion: Some people (especailly those who are theists) take atheism as a personal offense. I can understand why, theists who have heavy beliefs and especially those who are heavily indoctrinated into believing their beliefs are the only way to live, are going to take offense to someone who can function without the beliefs that those heavily indoctrinated theists hold dear. When your entire life and way of functioning revolves around certain doctrine and someone comes along who can function in the world without that doctrine – it’s a punch to face. The end result is a person who will lash out at everyone who doesn’t hold the same beliefs as them.
And boy do they lash out.
The human brain has a mechanism for recognising patterns that aren’t there and filling the gaps for questions that have no answers. Or if the answer to those questions are too complex, people create their own answers. Our brains fill in the gaps of our knowledge regardless of whether it is factually accurate or not and theists do this a lot with atheists.
People do it a lot in general. They do it with childfree people, with the GLBTI community, with people who have disabilities. “I can’t understand how you function when you aren’t like me so I’ll make up my own answers“.
I’ve learned over the years of being an out of the closet atheist is that the wider world has this perception that having a beliefs based on no evidence – apart from a book that has been translated a myriad of times and the verbal reassurance of a figure head in their community that it is accurate and true – is something to be proud of. This seems quite illogical to me. If the only reason I had to believe that invisible unicorns masturbated around me in my sleep was the word of another person (“Just trust me“) and a book that was thousands of years old that had been translated into multiple languages and had multiple versions of English – that isn’t strong evidence at all. Blind faith isn’t something to be proud of, all it says about a person is that they lack critical thinking skills and are too trustworthy to function.
I’ve learned that wider society has a perception that everyone must believe in something. More specifically everyone must believe in something higher than themselves. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “There is no such thing as an atheist, everyone must believe in something“, I would be rolling in cash. I believe in plenty of things but I lack a belief in a god, gods or supernatural forces and that scares some people. It’s the arguement called the appeal from popularity “A large majority of the planet believes therefore everyone must have a belief“, it’s similar to “Most people have sexual urges therefore everyone must“. It’s a logical fallacy that has been proven wrong by the existence of atheists. A lack of belief makes you an outsider, it tells people that it’s okay to not have a belief in a higher power and that people can function without one. This leaves theists confused and scared because if people can function without believing a higher power – what does that say about their ability to function? or the usefulness of religion?
This is where the “filling in the gaps” phenomenon comes into play. People who are confused about the functionality level of those different to them fill the blanks in their knowledge with viewpoints that may not be accurate or based in fact. The end result is stupid assumptions such as “Atheists must all be miserable (because I’d be miserable without god)” or “Why do you hate god? (You must have an issue with him because everyone must believe)” or “Where do you get your morals from? (because I don’t know where I would get mine if I didn’t have my bible)”. Stupid questions from confused people, questions that I get quite regularly. Enough times for me to get annoyed with having to repeat myself so I made a list for people to refer to.
I’ve learned that some people use religion as a convenient tool to validate their bigotry and that bigotry can be taught to youth using religion as a scapegoat. The bible in particular has some great verses that bigots like to use as a weapon against the GLBTI community. Those verses have been designed as a weapon and are used as a weapon. People either latch onto those weapons to back up their bigotry or they ignore them because their internal moral compass tells them differently. However religion and the bible don’t get a free pass just because they’ve been used by people to do inappropriate things. Before the religious apologists start trying to rain on my parade – religion was designed as tool of control, to control the society of the time that it was written. It’s a rule book. Its rules are as detrimental to society as those who use them as a bases for hate.
I’ve learned as an atheist that people doing good things in the name of religion believe that is a valid reason to keep it hanging around. There are good and bad times in abusive relationships as well – doesn’t mean you should hang around in it. The very fact that people do good things because of religion rather than because it is the right thing to do baffles me. If you do a good thing because your bible tells you to or because you religion says you have to than you aren’t doing a good thing because you want to out of the goodness of your heart, you’re just following an instruction.
I”ve learned about the misconceptions people have about atheism and atheists in general. For me atheism is about not having a belief in god, gods or supernatural forces due to lack of credible evidence. If the Christian god were to stand in front of me and show me it existed I would concede and say that the Christian god does exist. This does not mean that I will worship the predatory sociopathic arsehole. I can concede and say that the Christian god exists while rejecting it as my saviour or supreme being. I will not answer to any god. Atheism for me is not about having a closed mind because I don’t believe in god, it’s about questioning everything. It’s about opening my mind to the possibility that things maybe incorrect and using my critical thinking skills to evaluate the validity and accuracy of the answers I get.
I’ve learned as an atheist that the only person who is responsible for me is me. I don’t believe in god or prayer. I have no prayer to fall back on to wish for change. I don’t have prayer that makes me lazy in certain situations. Not having a god or prayer to fall back on to take responsibility for change in my life means that I have to go out and seek change. I don’t have the ability to say “God will make everything right” because I don’t believe in god. I have to go and take responsibility and make things right for myself. I don’t have prayer as a way to get out of situations “Oh you hurt your back? I’ll pray for you”, no I go out and help the person. I don’t have god to give credit to , I give credit to those who deserve it. God didn’t give me great marks on my university assignments – my markers did that. As Holly Warland discovered at 12 years old:
I discovered that turning to a God doesn’t solve any of your problems; it just projects them onto an invisible being. You don’t take responsibility for your life. God doesn’t make me get out of bed in the morning. He didn’t put me through university. He doesn’t set goals for me. I have to do it. I have to grit my teeth and ask for real help from real people who love me.
My experiences in general have taught me that people don’t like taking responsibility, which is why religion is so appealing to many. It takes the responsibility off the person and projects it onto something that society has constructed to be blameless and perfect. The perfect tool for control. My atheism has taught me that your brain is the ultimate weapon and that knowledge makes it stronger.
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