Why I'm an Atheist / Bright / Humanist

The following is a note I wrote on facebook for my friends there (posted yesterday, 7/27/08), but I thought I'd cross-post it here... Maybe you all have some good feedback.

Why is Robby an Atheist / Bright / Humanist? And what does it all mean?

I know many of my friends and acquaintances may have noticed my "religious views" here on facebook and may or may not be surprised/shocked/horrified. If you haven't yet noticed, let me put it all out there: I don't believe in any sort of supernatural deity; I don't have faith that I will live on past my death; and I think that this life is all we have and we better not waste it.

But first I want to apologize. I'm apologizing for the rather impersonal way you are learning more about me through facebook. I also want to apologize to those who might think I have lied to them or lead them on or even those who might be offended. Though I'm not sorry that I offended you -- I'm sorry that you have taken offense. I am the same person that you have known and, (hopefully) like you, I am learning more about myself and the world every day. There's no reason to expect that any of us would hold on to the exact same thoughts and beliefs for our entire lives.

Please also understand that our rights (yours and mine) are very important to me. Years ago I didn't know what human rights were or even how they might effect me. Now it seems clear to me that very basic rights that every person on Earth should be afforded include freedom of thought, speech and expression (which overlap but are not mutually exclusive) to name a few. These are some the basic tenets on which the Founding Fathers built the United States of America.

The first time I felt my rights being eroded was in church. I sat through years of being told how I was feeling and thinking was "sinful" and that a god would send me to a horrible place for an inordinate amount of time after I died. This is where being gay afforded me the opportunity to see why religion, and even spirituality, may not be right for me.

I didn't have only one route to godlessness. The first steps were trying to reconcile my Southern Baptist beliefs with my being a gay man. I read the few obligatory books on how you can be gay and christian at the same time but wasn't overwhelmingly convinced by it... I was certainly questioning everything I had previously believed -- especially since I didn't understand how certain parts of the Bible were true and other weren't (this applies to many different subjects that I won't go into here).

Once I started thinking about things critically I started realizing that my religious past had been more of a cultural experience and I couldn't tell if I had just gone through the motions or if I had actually believed that stuff. I mean did I have a choice but to be brought up as a Christian? It's just what you did in rural Meade County and I can't say it was all a bad experience. But I did come to realize I was not comfortable with the culture of hate I saw occasionally (or often) bubbling up in the vein of "love the sinner, hate the sin". (In fact, just my posting this may lose me a few friends and/or family members.) And also I didn't know why we were supposed to hate some of these arbitrary "sins".

I eventually just quit caring. Call it apathy, being jaded or whatever. I was tired of caring about whether I was doing or believing the right thing when I knew I was a good person and that I had lived and would continue to live an ethical, good life and that people love me.

At this point I was agnostic. I didn't know or care if there is or was a god and that indifference didn't bother me. (Yes, I understand that some will consider this the part where the devil won over my soul, but I don't really believe my "soul" is anything that can be "won" and I don't believe in the devil or hell -- So, please don't pray for my soul.).

Another route to my being a heathen is that I love science. Even before elementary school it was obvious that I was curious about the world and liked to manipulate it and study it (those days it was Play-Doh and Lincoln Logs). I have been consistently interested in how the world, the animals (including people), the plants, the tectonic plates, the weather and all the details therein work together and within themselves to form such an interesting place to live. I understand that some think science and religion can play well together and that's fine for you (as long as it isn't Intelligent Design - which is a philosophy more than a scientific theory/school of thought). I am a naturalist. I prefer to look at the work with a naturalistic worldview. That is what it means to be a Bright (I agree the name is kinda unfortunate and perhaps a little pompous but it is something...) I think that even if there were a god, he or she could eventually be explained by science if humans lived long enough to figure it out. Meanwhile science is progressing very nicely in explaining subatomic particles, viruses, diseases, animals, the planet Earth, her solar system, the Milky Way and the various universes. Sure, there have been a number of stumbles along the way (yes, most of Darwin's work is outdated now, but evolution itself is much stronger and we have even seen it in action in laboratories) but for the most part it seems we have a better understanding of how things work now than we did in 1859, 1665, ~2500 BC or ~5000 BC.

My mind is more comfortable with looking at the world as a puzzle we can work to solve together (Humanism is coming into play now...). I actually think it's boring to imagine that a deity put us here -- at best as play things or at worst as a reality TV show to keep him/her/it occupied forever. And there are too many paradoxes and confusing conflicts that waste my time and start driving me crazy when I consider religionist points of view: God has a plan vs. We have free will, God created the heavens and the earth vs. Evolution and science and human accomplishment, God is love and religions bring peace of mind and comfort to believers vs. The bloody history of many, many, many religious wars (including some of current conflicts), The god of the Old Testament vs. The god of the New Testament... The list goes on.

I see too often where one group's religious beliefs (based on no real ethical or even "moral" basis) lead to suffering or subjugation of others (or themselves): LGBTQI people, women, racial groups, religions, atheists, children and even animals.

This brings us back to the importance of human rights. When a group's religious views are allowed to harm others I can't help but feel sad that a nearly arbitrary thought someone had long, long ago is adversely effecting people today. I know that people can work together using reason and knowledge to solve problems without letting superstitions and supernatural mythology get in the way (that's some more humanism). As a result, I think it's important to hold dear the right for all of us to hold our own opinions: I want you to believe and think whatever it is that you do just as I want the same rights -- as long as we don't express or manifest these beliefs in a way that causes a harm to others or ourselves. It is a balancing act and it's not easy. But I think it's worth trying.

So, I'm not writing this quick note to try to persuade you to give up your beliefs (and I hope you'll give me the same courtesy in the comments - though I do invite you to say anything you'd like). I know how hard it is to change people's minds about their thoughts and beliefs. It wasn't an easy road for me to get to where I am now. But I'm proud to be an Atheist/Bright/Humanist and I'm happier, more satisfied and, in some ways, a better person now. I'm just telling you more about me. I don't expect everyone or anyone to agree.


If you have questions, let me know. Or visit some of these websites:

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