THE RELIGION OF ATHEISM
Life is amusing. It really is. Not all the time, mind you, but quite a bit. I find religion amusing as well. I have always been fascinated by religion. The whole concept of a god is something that I believe is hard-wired into us all as a human being. We want to know the meaning of life. I truly believe that most people want to do the right thing, and live a good life, get along with other people and find some peace and contentment. But they do not know how to achieve this. They think it is complicated and difficult. They wish for direction from someone who already knows the answer. It is all too confusing for them. And they do not want to make a mistake. So they turn to something that we call religion. And that, unfortunately is their first mistake. Actually it is their last mistake as well. Pretty much all religions have good things about them. They give direction, and they give stability. They sometimes give a feeling of community, and belonging. The up side is that you finally have a blueprint for how to find those elusive answers. The downside is that there is as much fallacy as truth in the teachings, so you have a dilemma. You looked for religion to solve your problems, to answer your questions, and yet you find yourself pretty much where you were before religion. And you have no idea which teaching is beneficial and which is detrimental. You still cannot discern which one is truly the way to live your life. How frustrating. You are still left with the daunting task of understanding and enlightenment. No one can do that for you. No religion has an answer to a question unasked. In the end, it remains for you to ask the questions, and for you alone to find resolution.
The reason for your frustration should become evident at some point, and can be rectified. It is a sad commentary, but many people spend their entire life searching for an explanation to the confusion of life, only to go through a multitude of religions, and yet never find the purpose and the peace that they had expected. Why? It is difficult to say. For me, it was fairly simple. I do not know exactly when or why, but from an extremely early age I also had the imperative, from I know not where, to answer those questions that plague us all. Life. Death. Right. Wrong. What should I do? And particularly, why should I do it? Life is an intricate puzzle. It is captivating. It is confusion extraordinaire. It is exhilarating, and it can be devastating. It can be complete chaos, and ofttimes quite messy, but rarely is it boring. I have been bored at times, but if all the questions are not answered, there is always something to think about, and therefore something to do, so boring is a choice, and a state of mind. You should never really be bored. Life is an adventure. Never stop exploring. Never stop questioning. Never stop thinking. Never stop growing. And that brings us to my simple answer, at least for me. NEVER STOP THINKING! Ever. I found religion fairly early in life. It took quite a while for it to make any sense, but once it did, I have never looked back. Well maybe at times, hoping to see if someone was following me, or just along for the ride, but after a time that becomes unimportant. Which religion, you ask? If you are looking for a shortcut, I am sorry to say that you will not find it here. But you may find a clue, and it just may help you with your next step upon the path you have chosen, or will choose soon. Is there a bible, or some kind of blueprint to outline direction? Well, yes and no. It’s kind of like an astrology chart. It is for me alone. You cannot use my chart because it does not apply to you, and ultimately, you will need your own. But you can take a peek at mine if you wish, and we can talk about it. If that helps, it would bring me pleasure. If not, well, it may sound a bit cold, but, not my problem. You really can’t use my ‘blueprint’ because it changes, sometimes daily. It is for me alone. It is my path, and you have your own to follow. My religion is not built on a tome, or a scripture. It is not built on words, but of thoughts. My thoughts. The fundamental tenets of my religion are found in something sacred and wonderful. My religion is built on philosophy. My philosophy. It has taken a lifetime to build and develop this philosophy, and it is who and what I am. It is evolving as we speak. It will be stronger as I grow stronger. It brings clarity. It brings understanding. It gives direction. It allows me peace. It is the Religion of ME. I am its only GOD. I am its only member.
But we are here today to talk of the religion of Atheism. I mention that I am both fascinated and amused by religion. And I am entertained as well as I explore the world of the Atheist. I guess I have pretty much always been an Atheist. At least in theory. If you believe in no gods then what other label can you wear? I usually define myself not as an atheist or an agnostic, which may be more appropriate, but as an independent. But who defines their religion as independent? I guess I do. I find it difficult to subscribe to any set of beliefs, especially when it denounces religion and replaces it with something itself quasi-religious and inconsistent. Religion has never been able to grab me. Too many rules. Too much dogma. Too many questions. Not enough answers. Never made a lot of sense. But please, do not make the mistake of confusing God and religion. Both are indeed man-made constructs, but they are as different as night and day. I have looked at other religions and spiritual movements with much the same result. So, inevitably, you come to the door with the sign ‘Atheists’ stamped on it. Atheists only, actually. If you believe in a god, any god, you cannot claim atheism. Me, I believe in the CONCEPT of God. It is very real. I have been looking all my life for the truth. It has as yet not revealed itself to me. But the scientist in me refuses to have a closed mind, so the quest continues. This is one of the great mistakes of the Atheist. The certainty, and the hubris, that there is no god. Dismissing the concept, with NO evidence, one way or the other. The BELIEF that they are righteous, and all others are ignorant if they disagree, is the foundation of most religions, of which they denounce. So, always looking for answers, I took the liberty of entering the world of the Atheist. On the surface, it is a land of reason. They talk of science and proving things. I like that. Always have. Ask questions. Get answers. No faith. They ask many questions of religion, the same ones I asked myself, and my teachers and clergy, when a child. The same questions that never had an answer, or a totally unacceptable one. The questions these atheists asked were articulate and valid, but with an undercurrent that made me uncomfortable. It was not enough to ask a question. It was not enough, in most cases, to be right. It was not enough to make fun of their beliefs. They were condescending. They were defensive. They were hurtful. There was anger. There was hatred in their words. They thought they were vastly superior to their ‘religious’ counterparts. They even say that they hate religion. All religions. And the world would be a better place without them. They would remove (destroy?) them if they could. So let’s see. Feeling of superiority. Anger and hatred. Condescending. Destroy those that do not agree with them. Blanket statements about groups and individuals. Let me check that again. Yup! Sounds like a religion to me!
There is so much that is disturbing about atheism. The evolution of this narrative has become so much more than what I initially envisioned. On one hand, this has been a lifetime journey. I don’t believe that I have ever really believed in a god. I was born into what I would describe as a religious family. No fanatics. No revelation. No speaking in tongues. For those that do not know better, and yes, I am talking about atheists, very few people embrace those things in their lives. And yet, that is what many use as examples when they criticize religions. They talk of religion creating so much pain and misery throughout history, but any rational individual has to acknowledge that it is not quite that simple. And it is simply not true. For most people, both liberal and conservatives alike, they manipulate and pervert the whole idea of religion, and pick and choose what they think will validate their own twisted and malignant view of the world. But irrespective of what they think, and the number of people they may get to agree with them, it does not by any stretch of the imagination give any value or validity to their positions.
Atheists pat themselves on the back consistently, and point to the reason and science that they embrace as their god, but there are people of intelligence, and integrity and reason who disagree with those same positions. Individuals who are scientists, and philosophers. People recognized as experts in their fields. People of unquestioned integrity and character. They may at times use religion as a crutch or a rationalization for what they do, but in the end that is a specious argument against them. Ultimately, we are all imperfect, and make mistakes. If they are in fact mistaken, we need to educate them to the fact. And convince them through logic and reason, the supposed keystone of the atheist belief, instead of dismissing them out of hand. The atheists may in time win the game of numbers. They may even win the game of a special version of logic. But by no means will that insure a more beneficial outcome. I refuse to take the direction of any religion, or person, atheist or otherwise. I am completely capable of making my own decisions.
Many of mankind’s religions are unquestionably not a positive thing. The bible and Quran are rife with contradictions and lies. They talk of love occasionally, but hold up some of the basest attributes of mankind as a good thing as well. But these are just books, written by unknown men over untold centuries. It is certainly acceptable to call out their shortcomings and criticize inaccuracies. But they have many lessons that anyone can embrace in their lives that will actually help them to be a better person. Christianity certainly deserves criticism. The management of the Catholic Church has many deficiencies. I could supply a long list of personal observations that simply does not allow me to accept the complete belief system as something of value, for me, or even credible in the context of a viable alternative. But this is only one religion, out of hundreds or even thousands. The problem with atheists is that they condemn religion as a concept, without differentiation between them, and without any benefit of the doubt for even the possibility that there could be something of substance in the quest of people for that which they cannot understand. That does not exemplify what I would term a scientific view by any stretch of the meaning. I would never ask the atheist to prove that god does not exist. But . . . if you cannot prove the negation of god, then why is it so important to denigrate a simple belief of another? Why demean the individual? The hate does not solve the issue. It does not resolve the question. Religions are benign. Individuals are not. All religions have exemplary individuals, as well as those consumed entirely by evil. And every shade of grey in between. I see no difference within the atheist community. The first step to your own enlightenment is the recognition of that FACT.
Religion does NOT cause the ills you have attached to the ideal. Even if EVERY single religion that has ever existed is misguided and has been hijacked by imperfect human beings to self-serve their base instincts for power and greed and control over others, there is no evidence whatsoever that the concept itself of religion is intrinsically an evil construct. Islam does not represent RELIGION. Christianity does not represent RELIGION. They are simply A religion. They may represent a huge number of the religious adherents on the face of our earth, but they do not represent the fundamental ideal of RELIGION. Individual religions attract people who are weak and malleable. People without strength of character who are searching for answers to why they are here, and the best way to deal with the reality of our existence. I have been trying to pay attention as I weave my own way through life, and there are truths that have become evident over time. High on the list is that the vast majority of human beings are good people. Simple people. They don’t have answers to the questions that life presents. But they are fundamentally only looking to take care of their selves and their families. They are looking for what we all ultimately are looking for; success to some degree, the ability to have some level of independence. A roof over their heads, and food in their belly. And peace to live and think as they so choose. Is this not what you want? Why do you denigrate them? Why do you judge them so harshly? They do not deserve your treatment of them. They do not deserve your scorn. They deserve your empathy and your compassion. They deserve your support. Help them. Educate them. Do you not possess these attributes? Why all the hate? The hate does not make you superior, it actually makes you less than their equals, since you refuse to employ your ‘superior’ intellect and philosophy.
I grew up to the indoctrination of hatred for the Germans and the Japanese. Those were terrible times. A lot of good men died during those conflicts. On both sides. In time I was able to determine that they were not so different from ourselves. They wanted what we did. They were being manipulated, politically, in much the same way that religions have manipulated others, with destructive results. And it always came back to a small group of people who wanted power and control. The Japanese people have a rich and wonderful culture. They are creative and live in harmony with nature. They are philosophical and spiritual. The Germans? A culture of industrious and creative and versatile people. Both cultures intelligent and caring about self and family. And yet they both fell to manipulation and all the negatives of ego and nationalism. Religion can be just a manipulation of the soul, as politics is manipulation of the heart. They are both attempts at manipulation of the mind. They are all benign. It is the people who lead and the manipulation employed that eventually creates the evil and the hatred.
I began this journey of discovery into atheism with the expectation that I could embrace the concept easily and without much conflict. Amazing that I am still so naive after all these years. I never really considered the possibility of being an ‘atheist’. I am not a ‘joiner’. I am a follower of no leader. I am a leader of no followers. As I said, an independent. I consider myself spiritual, while acknowledging an extreme lack of belief in any god promoted by established religion. Not particularly in the theoretical concept of the existence of a god itself, just not the constructs I have seen. But this side trip on my path slowly turned disturbing. The journey over the last months from my own personal spiritual perspective to the consideration of mainstream ‘atheism’ quickly turned to one of concern and distaste as I came in contact with a large cross section of those that considered themselves to epitomize the atheistic community. Exhibiting all of the worst attributes of the religious fanatics that they spend most of their time demonizing.
Please do not misinterpret my observations. I still believe in much of what is portrayed as the atheist ‘way’. My problem, as with religion in general, as well as racism and feminism and all the other ‘isms’, you need to police your own or your message is diluted with the same cancer that exists within all the other ‘movements’. It always seems to devolve to the point that your biggest ‘raconteurs’ are the most ignorant and least devout or informed of your ‘community’ and they end up representing the essence of your cause. And that is NOT a good thing. Atheism has no real leaders, no scriptures. You easily can point to the bible and criticize, but no one can do that with Atheism because there is no written instructions. There are no requirements. Anyone who so wishes can simply say ‘I AM AN ATHEIST’. And then they are. And from my perspective, thousands are doing so, and ultimately hijacking the cause, for their own agendas and ideologies. And that is why you decry religions. Do you see my dilemma? With each passing day you lose credibility and validity. If and when you do become the majority, you will not be led by the best within your ideology, but the least capable individuals, much like all these other ‘isms’ I speak of, not to mention our political representation, across the board. You will not even recognize the concept at some point. Do you not realize? That is EXACTLY what has happened to religion. It was meant to bring out the best mankind holds somewhere deep inside. Instead, it is perverted by individuals to bring out, not the best, but the worst possible qualities, which in turn creates chaos and conflict, which is the opportunity evil uses to control and manipulate.
I acknowledge that they are probably not the best representation of the atheist culture, but then again, I also know that most religious are not fanatics either, and are reasonable good people, no matter how misguided and ignorant they may be. But in many ways these pseudo-atheists are worse, since they do so from a false sense of superiority. Both groups feel themselves superior, but those of supposed intellect reject all of the attributes that they have professed themselves to possess. I am not sure the religious fanatics make the same claim. Tolerance. Compassion. Righteousness. Knowledge. Fact. Charity. Which group claims these things? Why, they both do. We can say the fanatics can’t help themselves, but again, which are the fanatics? It is difficult to decide. In any case, they are both horribly wrong, and completely obsessed with themselves to the exclusion of anyone that does not agree with them.
So I am back on my path once again. Back from the diversion of a side trip through the religion of atheism. Not a dead end, but not exactly what I had hoped for or expected either. I guess not particularly surprised by the proverbial ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ but certainly disappointed. Always trying to be optimistic at finding the answers to all the big questions around each corner. And unfortunately usually finding little but more questions. But there was much to learn, and much to contemplate as I move forward, and the experience percolates through my philosophy. I will continue to question and analyze atheism. It is both fascinating and intriguing. I will continue to search for god in every nook and cranny I can think of, without much expectation of actually being able to talk with him. But hey! You never know.
I guess I will return to being an independent. It is so much easier than being an acolyte of pretty much anything. No particular rules. No one to answer to. Except me. I give myself a tough time occasionally, but at least I usually know where I am coming from. Keep asking questions. Keep trying to understand what I can. Develop self as my philosophy evolves. Especially work on that empathy. There has to be some way to gain insight into why people do the things that they do. It is a difficult and frustrating quest. Empathy has been the best tool I have found so far. Everything else derives from it. Try it. It can’t hurt. And as for religion, I will continue to worship the power of reason and thought. So in actuality, you might think that I remain an atheist, and to some degree that may be true. And that would be an atheist, but with a twist. Atheism, but without all that psychological baggage they seem to carry around as they search for their own answers. I find their ‘congregation’ no better or worse than all of the other religions. Maybe I will call myself the Independent Atheist, and start a movement. Maybe not. My religion is philosophy, and has been for quite some time. If religion truly gives you answers, then I am more than halfway there, but that’s only an estimate. Philosophy is my one true friend, my rock. That’s my religion. Anyone can join whenever they have a mind, and are willing to think. But it will have to be the religion of YOU, because mine is the religion of ME.