To believe or not to believe?
I am an atheist. I don’t believe in god. But don’t fret because I’m not the devil and I’m not about to pollute your mind with heresies. You don’t have to pity me as well because I am doing fine; thank you for your concern. However, if you have thoughts of impaling me, stoning me, or are imagining me burning in hell, I hope that you would find the kindness in you to erase them because that is just plain rude.
You see, I don’t believe in god because I don’t know how to.
Surely, I can’t just pick one religion and go along with its message of salvation, what about other religions? I can’t follow every religion known to man as well, for I’d be a very confused person. And I am not that arrogant to think that I am intelligent enough to tell with certainty, which religion is truer than others. While I can choose to go with the majority, but then again, despite being an atheist, I am still affiliated with a religion in official registry; so statistics do lie, don’t they?
But of course not knowing which religion is the word of god does not an atheist make. I am an atheist because I know that there is no god, just as much as you know that there is a god; and you can’t make me believe, just as I can’t make you into a non-believer. You can force me to submit, but that is not faith, now is it?
If you are worried that tolerance for people like me will result in the degradation of morality, I’m afraid that your concerns are misplaced. Atheists are not people who leave religion out of disappointment or angst; we are atheists because we know there is no god. People who are angry or disappointed with god are not atheist because you can’t be angry at something that does not exist, that’s just silly.
But in case you wonder, I do have a set of morality, but not all of which corresponds with prevailing social norms. For example, I think it is immoral to question what consenting adults do in their bedroom; On the contrary, I do think that civil disobedience is not only a right, but a moral imperative if lex is void of jus.
Most atheists that I know are people of principles; you have to be if you want to call yourself an atheist. Whilst I can’t speak for all, I can speak for myself – that I am a responsible, law abiding citizen; I care for my parents and love my country; I would not do onto others what I would not want done to myself; I have made mistakes and will continue to as long as I live, but I do try to recognize my mistakes and when I do, I have regretted and learnt from them.
But I am writing this not only as a confession, but also as a plea for empathy for believers.
You see, I’ve come to realize that it is rather odd being an atheist. Think about it, we define ourselves by what we are not, not by what we are! It is like saying I’m a non-coffee drinker, I’m a non-smoker or I’m a non-Malaysian. There’s just too much negativity built into the concept of atheism, can we really blame people when they shun us?
As such, what do we stand for? Is it truly our desire to see every individual on earth turn from their faith? I personally find it too great a responsibility to turn a person away from his/her religion, as the resulting product of faithlessness can range from great enlightenment to grave disaster. On top of that, the emotional costs in ‘preaching’ atheism are often too much to pay for our ‘perceived gain’. In ‘preaching’ atheism, you uproot a person’s believe system that has been nurtured since young, you are shattering their truth, their foundation all in the name of what? Our version of truth?
Surely you can see that a generous amount of grief, distress, animosity, even hate would result from such an endeavour. And how many of us can engage in intellectual debates without emotional attachment? And when emotions are involved, what are we, atheists reduced to even if we manage to silence our opponents with pure logic – belittling their intelligence, knowledge and exposure?
What joy has ever come from ridiculing your ‘inferior’? What dignity has ever come from insulting your ‘defeated foes’? No, only regret and remorse awaits in hindsight.
And if we pride ourselves of our rationality, then it must be evident that the human condition necessitates truth to be subjective. The human mind is so infinitely powerful that each of us creates for ourselves separate truths and realities; we create in our minds more universe than the dimensions of the multiverse could ever contain. Such is the beauty of the human condition.
However, this infinitely powerful mind is also potentially nihilistic, as it can entertain thoughts beyond the basal instincts of most of our animal brethren. As such, our mind is capable of producing great acts of altruism, but at the same time; it can be an agent of destruction, bringing pain and suffering for no apparent reason at all.
As such, emotional enlightenment and self-actualization is part and parcel of the human condition. It is a human reality to want, to need and to seek spiritual enlightenment.
To those who believe: Just because we take different paths to god does not mean your path is better than mine does it?
To atheists: A little white lie doesn’t hurt anyone does it?
It is only when we wear our truths on our sleeves like a Nazi wear his Swastika armband that we commit the greatest act of arrogance, blinding us from the myriad of truths, the beauty of diversity and individuality so fundamental to our human condition.
So what would atheists stand for if we were to redefine atheism in the positive sense? For a start, let’s look at what binds us together. For one, we pride ourselves of our rationality and we ‘preach’ rational thought because we care for the well-being of our fellow human kind. We are acutely aware of the differences between impossibility, possibility and probability and we do not waste our intellect grappling the impossible and the improbable. Instead, we promote universal humanistic values that matter to our brief grip on consciousness. We are also aware of our mortality, that there’s only non-existence before and after this consciousness.
For an atheist, there’s no salvation and no second chance, every action matters and cannot be undone. Have you contributed to promoting positive humanistic values today?
He is an Atheist, and these are his confessions.