/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: The Morality of an Athiest? Yes.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Morality of an Athiest? Yes.

I remember growing up and hearing that word: atheist. It nearly chilled me to the bone. The imagery it conjured was unpleasant and uncomfortable: a group of corrupt and vile individuals assembling in unkempt and starkly furnished quarters to plot their Rein of Sin. They were selfish beings who hated God and his followers and maybe even offered sacrifices. I concluded that an atheist, for all intents and purposes, was one in the same as a devil-worshiper. I had been told that they were hollow people whose lives were insignificant unless and until they accepted Jesus into their hearts.

Christians must feel pretty special to be among the select few born into the only religion which awards mortals the golden ticket to Heaven. It is startling to think that two-thirds of God's children will perish for all eternity. It's a real shame for those poor, damned-to-hell children born into Judaism. If only their parents would read them the second half of that book! It doesn't seem fair that the helpless babies born unto Muslim, Hindu, or hippie mothers are ill-fated before they even take their first breaths. Then, of course, there are the trillions of lost souls in China. Let's bow our heads and pray for all these damned walks of life that have not been blessed with the knowledge we Christians have. May their charred souls forever serve as a reminder to us!

Now that I am grown, I don't need fables to scare me into righteousness. Without the naivety of childhood, I know that the word 'atheist' is not synonymous with evil. Atheism alone, does not reflect a person's intent or integrity. It is neither a religion against God, nor an idolatry of the devil. In fact, these concepts are paradoxical; if one does not believe in God, how can he assemble against him? Likewise, why would one deify the antagonist of a non-existing deity? Atheism is simply a word defining the lack of belief in a divine being.

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not vital to virtue. Although we are all granted the freedom of religion, society purports the notion that the only acceptable value system is one rooted in the Christian faith. It is true that we must be rooted in a moral foundation; however, that foundation can host different shapes or styles and still produce acceptable results. Instead of focusing on the fundamentals of religion, I advocate ideals that benefit humanity such as compassion, tolerance, and empathy, therefore behaving in a manner that elevates society, not oppresses it. We shouldn't need a book instructing us to do the right thing; we should do the right thing because it is right and because of our concern for fellow man. Call me an idealist. Call me an atheist. Call me ignorant. But do not say I am amoral by exploiting biblical messages to oppose my convictions.

I am utterly appalled that so many people do not seem capable of deciphering right from wrong without the parameters of religion! I use this recent encounter as an example: some other moms and I had met at McDonald's for lunch so our children could play together. We were discussing pregnancy and the sonograms that had revealed our babies' genders. One of the women lamented, “I was so upset when I found out I was having another boy, that I broke down crying.” After a pause she concluded, “How Christian is that?" I literally choked on my sesame seed bun. Did I just hear that right? She needed a religious code of conduct rather than her unconditional love to reconcile her feelings about her unborn child? Without premeditation and still gasping for air, I countered, “don't you mean, how motherly is that?” Based on her nonverbal cues, I don't think she appreciated my insight. Honestly, her disappointment at the discovery was reasonable; it is completely natural to feel let down when things don't work out the way we hope for. So what in the hell did that have to do with Christianity? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. She is one of the countless confused souls who invents and applies moral implications to situations where they do not exist. Are these people so lost in Sunday's sermon, that they don't know how to act or feel on the human level?

Christianity is but a mere middle man to morals. By cutting through the rhetoric and eliminating the middle man, we can get to the heart of what matters. There are countless charitable, noble, and caring people, many of whom have dedicated their lives to human rights, who, by definition, are atheists. Believing or disbelieving in a god does not determine our value here on earth; what is important is the way we treat each other, the impact we make on others, and the legacies we leave behind. The bottom line to morality is simple: conduct yourself in a manner you would appreciate from others, and try to leave the earth a better place than it was when you arrived. Morality isn't conforming to a religious doctrine in order to redeem the prize at the end. It is not about the path to heaven; it is about the life we lead on earth.


AntiBarbie said...

I was just having this discussion with my mother tonight (who is a religious fundie). If humankind requires a severe reward/demerit system in order to be decent, kind, loving people then we are in really horrible shape as a whole. I like to think humanity is more evolved and less inherently malicious than that...

Anok said...

By the way, awesome post. I have said it time and time again, if a person behaves well only for fear of punishment than in their heart they are not virtuous. If the only way to know the difference between right and wrong, or the proper way to act is through strict doctrine and threats of punishment, or eternal rewards....this is how children are treated.

I am not a child ;)

This type of master/slave relationship is what enables people to be irresponsible, and avoid personal responsibility for the entirety of their lives.

It is also, by the way, the reason I believe we are in the mess we are in right now, and the reason that so many people have died in wars fought for religion or simply immorality or greed....

Blind obedience will get you no where. (And I am speaking of people who believe and obey blindly)

Descartes said...

Isn't it more a matter of what is easiest? Just believe what Mom believed and don't bother thinking about it.
What is right and wrong? The Bible has always been more than a bit baffling.
Good post.

Travis Morgan said...

Excellent! You nailed it down quite accurately. I am impressed and pleased with your understanding of morality and how it relates to believers and non-believers alike.

Morality is independant of religion, meaning that one doesn't have to be religious to be moral.

Anok said...

I wonder how many people from the other discussion actually came over here to see what you wrote though....It would explain the sensitivity more if they didn't bother reading what was written, you know?

Steve said...

Good post. I am an Atheist myself. I won't tag the rest of my beliefs, cause that always leads to a long discussion, but in short, no. There is no inherent virtue in christianity, nor is atheism inherently evil.

I am bound to myself, much like a christian feels bound to god. Self destructive behavior is a sin to me. To lie is to damage my integrity, hence I avoid lies not because a preacher told me to, but because it is self destructive. The list goes on.

Ultimately, I feel that an athiest typically is more inclined to virtue, as he sees his failure to do so an immediate harm to himself rather than an eventual flaw on his "judgment day record".

Anonymous said...

YEEEEESS!! this is quite possibly the greatest post in the history of mankind. I'm always telling my wife and friends this exact same stuff.

my personal morals/code of ethics or what have you rivals or bests that of any so-called christian and that's not me being all high and mighty either. that's just saying i don't need a damn book to tell me what's right and wrong.

Frank said...

What? Religion? No thanks for me.

Garg the Unzola said...

You infidel! Cthulhu shall swallow your soul!

But seriously, when my uncle was still alive, we were driving somewhere and I made a backward comment about Jewish religion. I must've been about 8, but I was raised Christian. My uncle said just because a person is a Jew doesn't mean he has no morality, and just because a person is a Christian doesn't mean he is good.

That set the ball rolling. Now I have a snowball's worth of agnosticism and I have him to thank for it. No wonder he had all those Ayn Rand books on his shelf.

The Necro Files

Manchild said...

Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. I applaud you. "Religions divide what Relationships unite" is a quote that I share frequently with people who believe they're better because of a label with no heart-strings attached to God's love.

It's sad but true. There are a lot of pretentious "religious" people who hide behind something that gives them a false sense of security. The Bible does indeed call them out and exposes them as "make-believe" Christians.

If we, as human beings, spent less time "judging" and more quality time "loving one another" as Jesus commanded us to do, our personal"relationships" would become healthy. Maybe then, we could "heal the broken hearted."


Lori said...

LOVE your post! I am somewhere between atheist and agnostic... heavy on the Paganism. I guess I believe in "something," but it's more of a benign natural presence that exists in all things. I'm sick of the "Christians" telling me I'm doomed because I don't believe as they do. Is "Theocentric" a word? There can't be any one "right" religion. I also hate the need for some religious framework to define moral beliefs. If I hear one more politician push for one law or another because it is Christian (essentially, pass this law because God wants you to) I will scream!