[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.