Atheism and morals, oh my …

As an atheist, I don’t so much reject the ideas surrounding “God” as I reject the rigidity of the people who believe in that “God” and feel it’s their duty to force me to believe like they do.
There’s an interesting discussion going on in the posts over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish, regarding the merits of theism vs. atheism. Sullivan controls which comments from his readers we get to see, so in that regard he’s “moderating” the discussion. In the latest post, the writer, who studied philosophy, points out that really, a belief in “God” is not so much in a personified “old man in the sky” as it is a concept encompassing human morality as a force for good. As such, the writer feels, it’s ridiculous for atheists to refuse to accept God’s existence. After all, that would mean we’re refusing to believe in morality.
I’m no philosopher and it could be that I’m taking the writer’s meaning wrong, but I think this is complete horsepucky.
It may be different for other religions, but all the Christians I’ve ever known have believed with all their hearts that God is an actual living being and takes the forms of both the “old man” and the amorphous “everywhere” being who’s invisible but is involved in every single thing happening on Earth at any given moment, from the fall of the tiniest sparrow from its nest to the ingrown toenail I wish fervently would cease to exist.
Not only that, but a great many of the Christians I’ve known do their daily best to convert others to their beliefs. They have absolutely no respect for my non-belief or in the beliefs of other religions; in fact, we’re all condemned gleefully to burn in the same hellfires, while the good Christians herd cloud-sheep while strumming a harp with their god-father-brother Jesus in heaven.
Furthermore, most Christians seem to believe that since I don’t – and won’t — believe in their God, I’m an evil person who’s guided by their wicked snake/red devil/fallen angel Satan, and I’m a grave danger to them and their children and their way of life.
Heh. Ants on my kitchen counters have reason to fear me, but that’s about the extent of it.
Here’s the thing: I’ve no problem with Christians believing in their God-trio and his/their rules regarding how to live. I actually agree with most of the Ten Commandments and with most of what Jesus had to say about getting along with my fellow human beings, particularly his wise advice to reserve my judgement on the behavior of others, since I’m no saint myself.
I really wish Christians would listen to their “God” more closely, actually. Jesus offered a lot of good advice, like doing unto others as we’d like them to do unto us. (Sorry, I mangled that, but you catch my drift).
But it seems to me that a lot of Christians don’t walk the walk, except maybe on Sundays when they’re showing off their “goodness” to their fellow Christians. They frequently pass righteous judgment on people who don’t share their beliefs, and some of them do violence to disbelievers and even start wars against them and revel in their deaths. It’s OK for Christians to hate, I guess, never mind what Jesus said. They hate us “sinners” but they sin quite frequently themselves. The difference is that because they’re “saved,” their sins are already forgiven. They believe that their places in heaven are already arranged, simply by virtue of their belief.
Now, to me, that’s not being moral. That’s not being kind to our fellow human beings, or treating them like we’d like to be treated ourselves.
As an atheist, I think I have pretty high morals, but I don’t put my nose up in the air over them. I don’t hate other people, even the ones I don’t agree with. I don’t feel an urgent need to convert anyone to my non-beliefs. I like doing good deeds and helping people when I can. I probably differ with most Christians when it comes to my sexual morals, but my deepest philosophy there is to do no harm. I’ve no fight with gay men, lesbian women, the transgendered or the bisexual. I’ve no problem with out-of-wedlock sex or even teen sex (it’s natural, after all, and pretty much irresistible) just so long as it doesn’t harm either person, they practice safe sex and avoid unwanted pregnancies. Finally, as long as people are good to each other, and to me, we’ll be friends and I wish them all peace, love and happiness.
I’m just another old hippy, bucking the status quo.
I think atheism is equally as valid as Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or Wiccan, or any other belief system. Anyone can choose to be moral and good without the benefit of a belief in some “god” or other. I agree that there’s a certain comfort in believing that there’s more out there for us than just this short life on Earth, but I don’t think it’s vital to leading a good life or to happiness.
Instead, I believe that we’ve got just one life. And because of that, we might as well use the gift of breath and consciousness well by being loving, kind and generous beings who care enough about the planet to try to make sure it stays a good place for future generations to live out their lives.
I don’t need to believe in “god” to justify my existence. I just try to follow the Golden Rule. It’s enough for me.
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6 Responses to “Atheism and morals, oh my …”

  1. Bill Stankus Says:

    I have a simple belief system – there’s so much we don’t know and will never know. So I ignore all doctrines which deal in absolutes. If it isn’t known, I won’t pretend to understand it. “Believing” is subjective and to each his own, and don’t try to convince me about the truth of your spiritual myths or human made constructs.

    Do the right things, be honest and be true to one’s self. That’s all I can do.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this, wren, because it saves me from having to. I too am an atheist, free-thinking human being and am glad for how it shapes my moral life. I think I am slightly more appalled than you that this ancient idea has taken hold and lasted this long, this belief in a single god. It strikes me as rather nutty, especially the notion of a personal deity who pays attention to our little lives. When I think of all the lives that have been lost in defense of these beliefs, it’s really an outrage.

  3. Larry Jones Says:

    Well said! I just had this discussion last night with a devout Christian. She also happens to be a genuinely “good person,” but I was arguing that she didn’t need God in order to be good. She said I didn’t believe because I couldn’t see. How can you argue with that?

  4. MichaelBains Says:

    …the writer, who studied philosophy, points out that really, a belief in “God” is not so much in a personified “old man in the sky” as it is a concept encompassing human morality as a force for good.

    {sigh} That’s the easiest and bit of disingenuousness ever used, and it’s been growing in popularity amongst folks who don’t want to be associated w/ the YECs and other literalist religious peops. Folks who start down that “explanatory” path always find themselves either nonchalantly agreeing that they DO believe gawd’s a sentient being of some sort (it’s an integral part of the god concept) or saying that “you just need faith.” Just as you point out they do about being “saved”. lol! Like $hrub thought he could do no wrong because he “loves his country”! {shakin’head}

    Barring political intent, or framing, a concept encompassing human morality as a force for good is an exquisitely atheistic one.

    The rest of your post quite beautifully, though sadly, of course, describes some of the reasons why folks do such.

    Enjoy your January Spring, Wren!

  5. I very much agree with the writer. Religion, ANY religion be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc are the enemies of reason and of peace.
    Last night i opened for the first time a 9-volume copy of the “Hadaith alBukhari”, which is a collectino of the “traditions of the Prophet Mohammed” which the majority of Islamic jurists use as the basis for their decisions regarding faith, morals, government, justice, etc. and it terrified me! Lines like “The day will come when the trees and rocks will call out to the Muslims– ‘there is a Jew hiding behind me, come kill him!'”… or “If a Muslim leaves the faith, kill him.”… yikes! I’m beginning to understand the fears that exist regarding islam.
    As an atheist, I make it a point to study religions.. and my eyes are opened every day.

  6. Fred Wickham Says:

    I enjoyed your post & agree with most of it except for your acknowledgment of the ten commandments. Frankly only three have any meaning for today — at least that I can see: Don't kill, don't steal, and don't bear false witness.

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