I'm an atheist. Have been since I stopped being agnostic when i was a teen. I went through a 2 week existential depression and realized, nope, don't believe and that was that. I literally cannot imagine what it is like to believe in supernaturalism never having experienced that with the exception of some dabbling with a ouiga board while a tween.
I'm not shy about my atheism. It's part of who I am and part of my philosophical development. And that's key = it's part of my philosophic development.
We all have philosophy
In order to navigate through life, we need to have some concept of what life is, how things are. We have generalizations that act as mental short cuts to help us avoid danger and respond to danger when we are confronted. For instance, I'm pretty sure palm trees aren't predators. Sure, they occasionally fly down a street during a hurricane (I live in Florida), but in general, they aren't going to try and attack me. Unlike the coyotes in my neighborhood, which very well might.
In order to make decisions, we have to have some sense of what to expect, and what we deem to be good or bad. Those ideas and thoughts about the universe outside of myself and how I relate to it - or rather - how best I might relate to is, is the realm of philosophy.
Is my philosophy grounded in Atheism or Existentialism?
The answer to this question is yes. Obviously, as an atheist, my atheism grounds my philosophy. But actually, it was existentialism that led me to atheism and it is existentialism that grounds my Humanism.
As an atheist, I don't believe we have a transcendent soul. It was actually my realization that I could not conceive of a biological benefit to having a transcendent soul that made me realize, there is no point to religion or religious belief and when it comes down to it - I am a realist, not a supernaturalist when it comes to religion. It's more accurate to say, I'm an atheist because I'm an apathetic agnostic who doesn't believe in transcendent souls. The entire concept of theism is a pointless & irrelevant to me. I really don't care if a god exists or not because it's clear to me that it wouldn't change anything for me. In this way - for me - my atheism is a conclusion of existentialism.
But my existentialism had another conclusion. And that conclusion is Humanism. If this is the only life I have, then what am I going to do with it? To me that the question of theism is completely irrelevant to the question of how best to live my life because even if there is a god, I still only have this one life to live.
I could chose to live life nihilistically - and it wouldn't matter to anyone but me and the people who are affected by my nihilism. Or, I could go on, making random decisions and hope for the best. Or, I could chose to actively embrace this one life and try to do the best I can with it. And it's this last choice, that to me, is Humanism.
It's a choice that is grounded in my existentialism, not my atheism. And this matters. Because at some point we all have to grapple with the big questions of life. Why are we alive, what is the point, do we ever truly die?
Atheism & Existential Are Front and Center
Whether you come to existentialism through atheism or whether your existentialism brings you to atheism doesn't really matter. What matters is once you are here, what are you going to do about it?
In order to continue living positively in the face of death, we have to accept our worst fears about the big questions about life. I'm here because of random accident. There is no point to my life and I will die. And that will be final. Atheism and Existentialism don't allow us to hide from these questions. And that's a good thing. We have to answer them. And that's why Humanism is so important and so fulfilling.
Humanism Provides Satisfying Answers to the Big Existential Questions of Life
All becoming an atheist and/or an existentialist does is it forces you to confront these questions. It doesn't provide you with answers. It only gives you the opportunity to ask them.
How many of you, in your deconversion journeys hesitated because you were afraid of what the answers to these questions were? How many of you clung to your old beliefs out of fear? What if you were made to feel comfortable about these questions? Would that have helped you make progress sooner? Probably.
When it comes to weaning people off supernaturalism, the promotion of atheism isn't enough precisely because it isn't satisfying. All if does is bring up people's fears and doubts about whether or not this is the only life we have. There is a reason why it's called an existential depression. It's depressing. Not just depressing but oppressively so.
Teaching people about Humanism is important. It acts as a sturdy bridge to disbelief by providing a solid foundation on what appears to be quicksand. The more we can help people become comfortable with the idea of life being ok without theism and ideas of the afterlife, the easier we make the journey for them. Knowing there is a solid place to land, makes taking the leap easier.
If we want to create more atheists, we need to promote Humanism.
Get a free ebook about Humanism at:http://www.jen-hancock.com/handyhumanism/offer.html
And if you have friends who are struggling with these issues - encourage them to get the book as well.