Sreeni: When someone declares “There are no gods”, others regard this as an expletive of a highly depressed person. When people hear or say this, it is often associated with nothing going right in the life of the person proclaiming it, or it is heard being said after a tragedy occurs.
Me: Yes that happens but these four words do not need to be linked to a fatalistic or bleak outlook but instead can be reassuring, refreshing & empowering.
Me: Yes indeed so. The process of becoming an atheist is like when your dad is teaching you to ride a bike without training wheels when you were just a kid. He begins by holding fast to the back of your bike and before you start to pedal you tell him, beg & plead with him not to let go.
He says Ok. Thus reassured, you start and you go a fair distance and before you know it, your dad is far behind you and he is telling you proudly, “I let go a long time ago. You are doing it yourself. Keep it up. I bet you will compete & win in a cycle race pretty soon”.
Sreeni: I know the feeling. In my own case, at first I got scared for a second, then I realized that I need not be and the next second I was exhilarated and felt on top of the world, as it were!
Me: Exactly. The process of becoming an atheist is like that. You discover that you are capable & you can do it yourself. There is no need for a paternal father-figure holding onto you, protecting you with his outstretched hand. You realize that you are fully capable of succeeding on your own. You realize that you rise & fall based on your own merit and you need not give someone else the credit for your accomplishments. They are a direct result of your own thoughts, ability & actions. It’s one of the most freeing & beautiful feelings you can experience!
Sreeni: Now I get it. Becoming an atheist is like riding a bike by yourself.
Me: Exactly. While starting to ride a bike you need empathy & compassion for the pedestrians and courage to take a few falls. Similarly for becoming an atheist, you need 2 things: empathy & compassion for people who are religious because they are not able to outgrow their childhood indoctrination, and two types of courage. Courage to face possible ostracism from family & friends & courage to transform oneself into an autonomous, self-reliant & self-respecting but none-the-less compassionate human being by forfeiting the illusion of a sky dad/mom & the safety net of comfort & solace when facing the inevitable frustrations in life.
Just like in biking you started off from a position of dependence but ultimately ended up in independence, in respect of your deconversion, you started off with an attitude of dependence on gods for protection, for an eternal life & for ultimate justice, then you became science-savvy, lost your faith & discovered the dignity & fascination of autonomy.
But if you do become an atheist & a Secular humanist, consider it a privilege & a responsibility. It is not a matter of gaining freedom to do whatever you want with impunity. You need to be a far better human being than the average religious person. A religious person does good because of the Carrot-and-Stick, wanting to have the carrot of heaven & wanting to avoid the stick of divine fury but a Secular humanist does good for mere goodness sake, just because it is the proper thing to do for a bipedal & trousered ape with a brain exceeding one litre capacity.