[Quick edit: my blog could make it seem I recently became an atheist.  Really it's been somewhere between 7 and 20 years.  The lower number reflects how long I've said "I'm an atheist."  The higher number reflects how long I've said, "by nearly every definition I'm an atheist, so I'm probably an atheist." 

I think the hedging language tends to be a normal part of the development of an overt atheist from a covert atheist.]

Atheism to me is more of a beginning than an end. Certainly it can mark the end of a period of struggle.   But I have experienced atheism far more positively than negatively. Pretending to believe Christian doctrine was like wearing a 200 pound backpack. Yeah, I was able to do it for a long time. But it caused more problems (bad back) than it helped (exercised legs).

 

But the doctrine itself wasn’t really the source of the 200 pounds. The act of pretending was the source of the weight. The moment I could finally say, “I really like theology, but most of it is false and counterproductive”, I was entering a whole new glorious experience.

 

Consider the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. (Not the Immaculate Conception, which is entirely different.) If we’re talking about a literal human female being inseminated by a spirit… well, in my opinion that’s dumb as hell.

 

But taken as almost anything else, it’s a fascinating mental experiment. Imagine the idea divorced from religion or dogma. Imagine it as a literary construct. It could be deconstructed in any number of ways, even the demonization of males in an otherwise phallocentric world.

 

So of course I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth. But damn, that’s some interesting shit.  (Sure, also interesting all the times it was used before the biblical writers borrowed it.)

 

When I finally admit to something, I no longer have to expend precious mental energy fabricating excuses. I don’t have to defend something. I don’t have to conceal something. I can say what I think.

Here’s an example. It’s an opinion of mine:

Religion is mostly harmful. A tiny fraction of it is helpful.

 

If you said, “Jim, quantify that”, I’d say, “eh, the helpful part is less than 2% in my opinion. The damaging part is around 98%.”

I'm not saying I'm right.  In fact, I think I'm giving religion the benefit of the doubt by granting it a number as high as 2%.  It might be more around .5%    The point is, my identity as "an atheist" enables me to just tell you how it looks to me.

Ah, the freedom I experience now that I’m an atheist. I’m not telling you what is the case. I’m not suggesting you adopt my estimates. I’m free to simply tell you what I think.   For years and years I was unable to simply tell a person what I think.

 

In recent years, several thinkers/philosophers have postulated that the entire universe might be a simulation. I could see that. I can admit that. It might be.  On some days I'd almost bet it is a simulation.  What's it simulating?  I don't know.

 

And it might not be a simulation.  Whoop-ti-do.  Recognizing the possibility doesn’t undo the fact that I’m an atheist.

But suppose it is a simulation! Suppose the programmer(s) of the simulation have so much power over us that they can be justifiably regarded as gods or a singular God! Won’t that prove monotheism was right all along?

 

No. It comes closer to proving Buddhism, and doesn’t even really do that.

 

Suppose this divine programmer says, “Jim, I created the simulation! Worship me now!” Will that scare me? Probably. Will I worship him at that point? Who the hell knows? I might, if he scares the crap out of me.   Just being honest.

 

Ah, but if the programmer allows me to engage him in conversation? If he answers all my questions, will it prove I should have been a believer in him all along?

 

Not really.  It looks like atheism was the intellectually honest response throughout all the ages. 

 

Someone might say, “who ever said honest responses were the goal?” Yes, I think that’s an excellent point. Maybe lies and mayhem are the nearest thing to virtue.

Yes, maybe.  And maybe not.

If programmers created the universe and are enjoying the suffering on earth right now, maybe they get the most thrills from observing people who victimize others.

 

If that’s the case, I’m not pleasing them that often.  Should I have believed in them all along?  Doesn't look like.  It still appears that there's zero evidence of God and overwhelmingly conclusive evidence against God.

 

And we’re back to the delightful liberty of an atheist worldview. I don’t have to have answers. I don’t have to have defenses. Moral obligation is a hypothesis. I don’t have to oppose it or agree with it. I can simply share my thoughts with others – or not.

 

“God-given rights” are hypothetical and false. Unless the word God is defined to mean human institutions, in which case such rights are thinly-veiled legal remedies (or hybrids thereof) borrowed from the English common law of contracts.

 

I don’t know. And I don’t have to know. Ha ha ha! Atheism – what a relief.

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Comment by Joan Denoo on March 25, 2019 at 5:36pm

You wrote, “God-given rights” are hypothetical and false. Unless the word God is defined to mean human institutions, in which case such rights are thinly-veiled legal remedies (or hybrids thereof) borrowed from the English common law of contracts."

A seed that sprouts thrive when it sprouts in a place that provides the basic needs of nutrition, water, and light. Seeds sprout in concrete cracks and can develop into perfectly fine specimens. 

A healthy human egg can evolve if it incorporates a sperm and grows through the stages of maturation and becomes a healthy, mature, adult human. 

Seeds and eggs grow because of the processes of nature and environment.

"God-given rights" represent a basic lie and misrepresentation of the grantee of the right. In a democracy, the people grant rights through laws written and agreed to by the majority of the voters. 

A human can demand a seed or an egg develop, to no avail, unless the person meets the individual's needs.

"People-given rights," or "Law-given rights," or "Human institution-given rights" may be more accurate. 

What say you?

Comment by Loren Miller on March 25, 2019 at 8:42am

I submit that you haven't heard enough Hitchens, Jim.  He can be soft-spoken as surely as he can be incisive, ironic (a fave of his!), and utterly devastating in his arguments.  He can also make his point while being funny as hell:

Comment by Jim the Atheist on March 25, 2019 at 8:34am
@Loren Miller: I was always a little anxious with Hitchens, probably because his delivery was not as soft spoken as Richard Dawkins, whom I adored.
Comment by Jim the Atheist on March 25, 2019 at 8:28am
@Frankie Dapper: OK based on this clarification I think I understand both of your paragraphs now. After several reads yesterday I came to the conclusion your second paragraph was conveying opposition via passive aggression. Now I see it was conveying agreement.
Comment by Loren Miller on March 25, 2019 at 5:54am

Which is the more likely: that the laws of nature were suspended in your favor, or that a Jewish minx should tell a lie?
-- Christopher Hitchens, on the "virgin birth"

As for "god-given rights," I've said it before: find me one place in the bible that genuinely talks about and/or elucidates individual rights. You won't succeed. What you WILL find are multiple instances describing Homo sapiens' obligations to the Big Cheese in the front office, said "Cheese" being unavailable and undetectable by reasonable or unreasonable means.

Hitchens said it a while back: "Religion poisons EVERYTHING," and he was utterly on point.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on March 25, 2019 at 2:11am

Jim the atheist, I thought you conveyed and communicated well.

No issues here w comprehension..the only ambiguity I discerned was as to virgin birth.

So I say...Frankie Dapper, shut your yapper. U ain't the greatest handicapper.

Comment by Jim the Atheist on March 25, 2019 at 12:35am

@Frankie Dapper: We have something in common.  Neither of us is sure what the other one's writing means.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on March 24, 2019 at 10:42pm

Not sure if u are taking a virgin birth as a metaphor but there is so much misogyny that such an interpretation is incongruous.

It is a sad commentary that one finds an identity as an atheist. It is proof positive that civilization is FUBAR.

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