Monday, January 14, 2008

Atheist Pride?

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquote
Monday, November 20, 2006

The simplest definition of Atheism is simply the lack of a god belief or the rejection of the assertions of Theism. One will occasionally hear, from Atheists and Theists alike, that a simple lack of belief isn't something to take pride in, that there is no reason to take pride in a lack of belief. I agree with that statement completely, there is no reason to take pride in any lack of belief. All of us lack belief in many things and nobody I have met runs around making lists of and loudly declaring what they don't believe in. So really, is one justified in taking pride in calling themselves an Atheist? I am going to argue YES.

We've heard the religious debater ask, "What's the big deal? Why discuss what you don't believe in?."

The answer is that Atheism is a big deal because religion and faith is a big deal.
If it was held by a sizable number of people that the belief in Unicorns was essential for one to be a decent person, and if the belief in Unicorns were a major cause of widespread prejudice, misery, and death, than the Aunicornists would be a more vocal group. As it happens the Unicorn belief is not being spread throughout the world causing people to do violence to themselves and to their neighbors. Unicornists are not working to silence research which disputes the assertions of the Unicorn Cult. The belief in omnipotent creator deities and eternal worlds is.

Sectarian (religious) violence covers the globe.
In India and Pakistan, in Africa, in Southeast Asia, in the Middle East, and in smaller conflicts and isolated incidents all over the world, people are dying and killing due to beliefs they have been led to hold and defend against perceived threats, or their faiths are being used by cynical agitators to prod them to kill.
All over the world, including the United States and increasingly in Europe, we see religious groups battling scientific research, trying to stop the teaching of even basic scientific theory, and stifling medical advances.
Across the world we see women being forced into subservient roles and minority ethnic groups and homosexuals openly attacked as a direct result of the faith beliefs of misled and deluded people. I will stop here,
whole books have been written about the anti human effects of unjustified beliefs.

The freethinker, the nonbeliever, the atheist, rejects not only a set of irrational beliefs but also any actions that arise from these beliefs.
For example,
without the irrational ancient belief that the female is not an equal of her male counterpart the whole enterprise of chauvinism is seen as baseless and for the Atheist falls away.
The same can be said of any number of societal maladjustments rooted in faith.
The Atheist can certainly be proud of her rejection of the marginalization of herself or others because of religion. For many then, an opposition to all forms of tradition based cruelty are a direct result of their Atheism (conversely for some their Atheism is an end result of their opposition to tradition based cruelty!). In either case this individual deserves a sense of pride.

Also, in our religion saturated society, where the assumptions of many is that everyone holds views about matters of ultimate concern identical or very similar to their own, it is often a long and lonely road to the rejection of once cherished myths. For many of us, the road to rejection of faith starts with questioning assertions we were told to "just believe", and ends, sometimes decades later, in the rejection of those assertions.
The continuous study to verify our suspicions and rule out wrong thinking or to make sure there is nothing missed all take huge amounts of time and effort. The road is usually not only intellectual but emotional. The fear of rejection by those we are close to means that some of us find the answers to our questions surreptitiously in a library or are lucky enough to be encouraged in our searching at school. Thanks to the world wide web loads of information that just a few years ago would've taken countless hours to access are now at our fingertips. However we find answers it is usually more than simple fact finding.

Some people are raised in secular households and grow up as Atheists and maybe some day this will be the norm. To these people nonbelief is simply natural and they sometimes may chuckle to themselves watching others working so hard to get to where they already are. These people are indeed lucky and if I personally were one of their group I would probably wonder sometimes what all the fuss is. But for the ones who had to struggle and finally make freedom of thought their own, they have something to be proud of.
To a marathon runner, walking down to the corner store is not a big deal, to the person who uses crutches it is and that person will rightly claim the journey to the corner store as an accomplishment and something they can genuinely take pride in. For the ones who's thought was hobbled by the justification of irrationality and fear of retribution, the tossing off of these afflictions is cause for joy and pride.

Atheism is something to take pride in because of it's implications for humanity and because it is so often an accomplishment of soul searching and growth by an individual against near insurmountable and unfair odds. Atheism is so often the triumph of the human spirit.

To face the world head on, with a working knowledge and appreciation of reason and a lack of fear of the threats and bribes made by baseless authority, to know that you have looked into matters yourself and have inquired as far as you could into matters which concern us all, knowing that the questioning will and must continue, is a good feeling. An Atheist can be proud.

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