Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Atheism Is Not Enough

I look forward to the day when I no longer feel as if I'm in a confederacy with people who don't believe in gods. Not believing in gods, you see is a negative trait. I feel a lessening connection to people who believe in evolution because the retreat of creationism/intelligent design is pretty much in full force now, and its destiny is clearly consigned to the realm of rejection of germ theory, belief in a flat earth, and people who think Ron Paul would make a good president. Most Christians have moved towards some synthesis of a belief in faith and religion, however problematic that may be*. It will be good when the day comes that a person's atheism is just assumed.

After I first left religion, it felt natural to look for the same kind of nourishment in the rejection of religion that I found in religion. Looking for community, spiritual sustenance, and a functioning worldview. But atheism does not provide those things in itself. Atheism is merely the absence of a belief in God, and only provides the starting point for these other nourishing things. I've seen a lot of people debating the merits and shortfalls of 'atheism plus' on the internet, but really, any worldview structure that is constructed on atheistic assumptions is 'atheism plus'. All of your politics, all of your humanism, all of your ideas about 'how it ought to be' is 'atheism plus'. Once a person becomes comfortable with their atheism, their job is to decide what their 'plus' is. I like to support atheist groups and sites, and to encourage atheists to be strong and to support each other--because we still are the most misunderstood and mistrusted minority group in the United States--but I am increasingly interested in building up my plusses.

To me, what I don't believe in is not nearly as important as what I do believe in. And what I do believe in is increasingly becoming less important to me than what I do. I am aware of areas in which I fail to behave charitably to my fellow man in my personal life. I'm aware of my tendency to hold grudges, discount the opinions of people who think differently than me (see the above statement about Ron Paul supporters) and to be selfish in the way I allocate my spare time. One of the quotations that I find myself building most of my plusses on is this quotation by Arthur Schopenhauer:
"The conviction that the world, and therefore man too, is something which really ought not exist is in fact calculated to instil in us indulgence towards one another: for what can be expected of beings placed in such a situation as we are? From this point of view one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not 'monsieur, sir' but 'fellow sufferer
, compagnon de misereres'. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes."
I want to be a good person. Accepting that there is no god was a step in the right direction for me, but atheism is not enough; I also have to believe in something.

*Why did god use a method of creation that looks exactly as it would be expected to look if there was no creator at all? And if he did use the violent, cruel, brainless method of evolution to arrive at mankind, what does it say about his character? He ends up looking more like the mad scientist than the loving god.

1 comment:

the elegant ape said...

the higher the standard of living, the lower the belief rate. Danes are among the happiest people in the world and are almost completely secular. Mississippi is the most religous state in the US.
Where would you rather live?
Copenhagen or Bilioxi?