Friday, September 11, 2009

Contrasting "Agnosticism" and "Atheism"

Within the secular community and our broader society, there is much debate over the meaning and use of the words Atheist/Atheism and Agnostic/Agnosticism.  Each of these words mean different things to different people, which obviously creates problems, because clear communication can only occur when people either agree or are aware of the definitions of words used by those they communicate with.  In this article, I'll discuss these words, common definitions of them, and offer my own ideas.  Also, for the sake of brevity, I'll use the word "god" to also include the possibility of "gods".

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why I Don't Like the Word "Atheist", But Take It On

I've never liked the word "Atheist" for many reasons. The primary reason is that it describes what I'm not, instead of what I am. This word has contributed to misconceptions about Atheists. It is a negative word and implies we are negative people or worse. It's not unusual for this word to be spoken by theists as if they are spitting something distasteful out of their mouths.

Instead of the word "Atheist", I prefer "Freethinker". The first part of the word, "Free", implies that our thoughts are not restricted by anyone or anything, which is a great thing. Freedom is the core of what our wonderful country was founded on. Censorship doesn't lead to truth. It impairs the journey to truth. I've had many experiences with theists who have told me not to think certain things I think or refuse to think such thoughts themselves, typically out of fear. This is unacceptable. I will not be bound and have my ideas caged. The journey to find truth is paramount. It is through the killing of sacred cows that knowledge is fed and grows.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Benefits of Atheism: Never Having to Ask, "Why Me?"

It was a number of years that I spent dabbling with the idea of becoming an Atheist. There were times when I spent some days as a Christian and other days as an Atheist, to notice what if any difference there was. Yet there was one day in particular, one moment to be precise, when I decided to finally abandon my religious and spiritual beliefs altogether, and I remember that instant clearly. I had just finished a conversation with a teacher who meant a great deal to me. He was very intelligent and kind and I remember him telling me that he was an Atheist. He said so much that rang true for me, gave good questions to answers I posed, and I respected him greatly. I remember leaving his office and walking outside. It was a beautiful fall day. The air was cool and as I looked up into the sky, I saw clouds and the sun in a new way. There had been countless times I had looked up into the sky before, as if I was stretching and trying to reach or get closer to God. This time I looked up and thought, "There really is no God" and the beauty and wonder of the world was still there, unchanged. At that moment, I felt a sense of happiness, excitement, and peace that I never had before and I realized it was because for the first time, my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs were congruent. This was the first benefit of Atheism I noticed and it was wonderful. What I had no idea of at that time was all the benefits of Atheism yet to come.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Aren't You Afraid of Going to Hell?"/Pascal's Wager

The primary emotion I experienced in my journey from Christianity to Atheism was fear, specifically fear of going to hell for denying the existence of God. The origins of this fear rested solely on some of the religious and spiritual instruction and teachings I experienced as I grew up. As a child, I had different adults teach me many different things regarding what was true religiously and spiritually. This mostly created in me a confusion about what was true.

When I was very young, I remember my parents held to some conservative and literal interpretations of the Bible, however over time, their beliefs became increasingly flexible, less literal, and more inclusive of other religious beliefs. They focused mainly on the good messages of morality in the Bible and didn't discuss the more rigid and violent verses of the Bible. Most people who were closest to my parents were flexible as well, more interested in the messages of love taught in the Bible.  Of course I was exposed to the beliefs of others who thought differently from my parents. I remember a Sunday school teacher telling our class that everyone is continuously sinning all the time. I remember being quite confused of this statement, but it was there, presented as truth.