Atheist Challenge Day 3 - Are you a more outspoken or more apathetic atheist? Why?
Anyone who reads this blog knows I can’t keep my mouth shut, especially in the face of injustice and religious debates. I am very outspoken against religion for three reasons: Religion, for as good as it makes some people feel, is ultimately poisonous in the grand scheme of things, it diminishes the importance of ones finite time and the extent to which they enjoy it, and there’s simply no evidence that god(s) exist.
The pervasive and ever-encroaching nature of Christianity and Islam has elevated the importance of religious debate, specifically in the realm of public policy. The reason we outspoken (read: ‘militant’) atheists push our ‘secular agenda’ is that our Christian and Muslim brothers in the world are not content to live and let live. In spite of the fact that religion played a major role in every major humanitarian crisis and war of the past 5000 years, the religious folks in this country, with their votes and lobbies, continue to push an agenda that would marry religion and law to the greatest extent our Constitution will allow, regardless of the empirical evidence of the destructive nature of theocracies. (Quick examples, Native American genocide, Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism, the Holocaust, etc.) As scary and ‘militant’ as we atheists are unfairly portrayed by Christians and Muslims, the worst we ever really do is make fun of blindly accepted religious dogma (and the people who believe it) and write books. Most of us are content to let people think what they want, as long as they aren’t trying to enshrine it in public law.
One of the common philosophies that religious folks like to use (even though it is flawed) is Pascal’s Wager. Pascal held that even though the existence of God cannot be proven, one loses nothing by living as if God does exist, and potentially has everything to gain by gambling that God does indeed exist.
With respect to Blaise Pascal, I respectfully disagree.
Having lived the life I live, I know I’d have missed out on many wonderful friends and experiences if I’d maintained my religious positions throughout my late adolescence and early adulthood. My social circle post-religion was comprised of folks that my churches would have, at best, tolerated. (Which to me implies a bad smell, as opposed to respect) Hipsters, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered folks, drag queens, atheists, socialists, peaceniks, vegans, gender queers, fairies, pagans, and others are folks that have enriched my life and taught me that judgmental mentalities are ultimately their own punishment. The greatest love of my life (thus far) was an Agnostic Muslim (Yes, they exist), and if I were the same Bible thumping asshole I was earlier in life, I’d have ditched her the moment I heard the ‘M’ word.
I’d argue as well that anyone who’s willingly passed up sex for religious reasons, then later found themselves to be less religious than they felt before, knows full well that they’ve missed out on an irreplaceable experience. Sex, in and of itself, disproves Pascal’s Wager in my book.
In summation, I offer myself up as empirical proof that atheism is ultimately a more positive belief system than any of the major religions. Atheism, to me, is about an acknowledgement that life is ultimately finite, and emphasizes the importance of living well and treating folks in a way that makes their lives better, and hopefully, teaches them to one day live their lives the same way. It is also the knowledge that you’re responsible for your own mistakes, and doing what you can to right them for yourself and the folks you’ve wronged. No one is perfect, but I know that when my dead ass is lying in a box, there will be many people there who will have learned from my example, and the good things I’ve taught will live on in perpetuity. There will also be a few estranged folks (most of whom are religious), that will regret they never called me back when I tried to offer an apology.