Disclaimer: This is my viewpoint of my atheism only. The Atheist community agrees on one thing — and that is its basic definition of atheism is a “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” Everything else is up in the air.
So, I’m an atheist and I thought I’d ‘splain that as it pertains to myself.
First with a little personal history:
Now, I didn’t lose my faith. Rather, I gave up trying to force myself to fit a mold I was pushed into, despite never fitting it. I realized all this pretty early on after my terrorizing interment at a Catholic kindergarten, a human built kind of hell ruled by fear even for small children who ask obvious questions, and the contrast from that to public school. Tack on yearly bible studies where answers were as contrived as they were few and far between and I was snowballing into admitting to people that I saw religion as hogwash as early as sixth grade.
Still, out of a sense of self-preservation in junior high, I became fascinated with religion and tried to ‘be’ all sorts of religiousness in hopes something would stick or prove itself ‘true’. As I went down that road of experimentation, I was faced with the most bigoted series of responses and experiences in my big, white-privilege filled life by those claiming to be ‘tolerant, good christians’.
In the end, religion still never struck a grip on me. I’d finally grown weary of having to save face from people who preached their love but had little ability to endure my differences from them. As I told my family — I won’t lie because a lie makes you more comfortable with me or to save me from the wrath of human ire and prejudices. This is a principle of freedom – and I deserve to have that just as much as any religious person.
“But, Adriana, maybe you’d find god if you just kept trying!”
Yeah, they’ve been saying that for nearly two decades, often cloaking that in good intention but with very real maliciousness at its core. It’s not ‘maybe you’d find something’ but ‘if you don’t at least hold up the the pretense you’ll be a disappointment’. I tell you what, bring me some verifiable proof and we’ll restart this conversation. I’m tired of searching in anecdotes and sales pitches among captive audiences who already like being preached at regarding what they should believe. I am not one of those people.
From there I was shamed almost relentlessly. I wound up being called a ‘witch’ for three years, which was more amusing than it was an insult at that point. When that didn’t shame me enough and I was about to leave school, I was ‘slandered’ as a lesbian. Today that seems just eye-roll-worthy, standard bullshit from bigots more than anything, because there’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian. But it was an untruth that divided me, deeply, from my conservative peers and some of my own family who bought the trolling, hook-line-and-sinker. And it was brutal. Because, if they couldn’t make me Christian, to detract attention from the main topic they changed topics and attacks simultaneous. A lot of people conciously entertained a public debate regarding my sexual preference among even my own family and it was utter humiliation.
And I realized, ultimately, that the whole thing was rigged. Such a difference was ultimately going to destroy my relationship with some people otherwise this shit would continue (and it probably does — I just learned to troll back). Though for many people that loss is the lynchpin that holds them from being honest with loved ones about their atheism. For me, those same people were the ones who kept talking out both sides of their mouths, saying for me to ‘be myself’ while also saying ‘conform to these, our cultural/familial norms’. Which is it, damnit?
This was incredibly confusing for a child and a teenager. To everyone, I was ‘being an obstinate teenager’ or I was ‘doing it to make my parents mad’ or ‘just to get attention’. None of those things were true, and they still aren’t. It’s just that no one wanted to actually listen to what I had to say about myself.
I came to terms with most of all that, religion makes people do things I never thought they would and that simultaneously broke my heart and terrorized me. People I thought once rational were actually emotional bombshells in the wake of religious fervor. Even today, many people I love and know want to take me to task for what I am; some even want and wait for their ‘god’ to beat me down so I will be ‘forced to believe’. They wait for heartbreak to jump in with a god line; use me as an example against ‘ungodliness’; and any tragedy becomes about my ‘lack of faith’. I’ve even been told that I will, eventually, have a harrowing experience and all this will just be erased because I’ll have to submit to their god, inevidence, finally. There is no low too low for people trying to drag you into the light of their preferred salvation and it’s an incredibly scary fanaticism that even for the average person can breed despicable fear-mongering, guild wielding, and even outright threats. (The step above all that is outright fundamentalist nutjobs and would-be-self-made-martyrs.)
Not a single person who ever claims those things has walked a mile in my shoes. Not one of them knows where the darkest hours have been in my life and none of them are aware of my greatest personal turmoil. It was not ‘god’ that saved me from the foolishness of young adulthood, heartbreak, or even loss, but merely kind, aware people with an actual conscious to just be present. No gods involved.
As I grew into my adulthood, I learned from these experiences that you can’t be intent on pleasing all people, not even all the people that you love. Your basic objective in life is to live well and true to yourself, to respect other people’s right to live well and true to themselves, and be responsible for yourself as best you can. People will judge you, they will talk shit, and there is zero control over those things — and not just on a religious basis. What you do have are the same rights to be who you want to be and the opportunity to be honest with yourself as to what you are. The ideological differences we have are not our divide points, but how we fail to respect other people is.
I became okay with the knowledge my atheism would seperate me from people I loved. Those that still cared enough would understand I think differently and that’s just that.
But what exactly do I believe?
First, I do not believe there is a god.
Second, I know religion is doused in agendas and geared by the reins of erring men and women. It is both corrupt and silly, in my opinion, to assume virtue from stories concocted hundreds to thousands of years ago and ranging from psychotically out-of-context implementation in today’s world to lackadaisical association equally contradictory to the horrible storyline inside the ‘good book(s)’.
Third, I believe we all are alive today, by chance, and then we fall into oblivion in death (no afterlife). The orchestration of billions of years of chance and chaos resulting in the evolution of life into thinking, breathing, reasoning creatures such as ourselves. We were created long before humanity forged the gods people believe in today – as tools to find primitive logic in cause and effect, and then as a form to control other humans. And, yes, we are alone, except for one another, until we cease to exist.
This all makes death that much more painful of a loss, and life that much more awesome to have lived. This is where we love, fight, fail, and succeed – where our finite stories are shaped. Our fates and fortunes are chalked up to a lot of shit we can’t control. At our best we must endure, enjoy, and embrace what this all is with a perspective on the horizon for those that come after us, our children and their children, and the children after that, and so on.
And I believe it’s paramount to really be honest with ourselves. There is no happily ever after outside of here. We, who are fortunate, have the chance to make it and live it.
I get asked, after all that, to kind of assess how depressing and terrifying all that is… And you know what? I don’t find it depressing at all, but I get why people who aren’t atheists can’t cope with that, especially after years of indoctrination that we’re being babysat by a kind, loving, benevolent and terrifying god-force. Having to rely on fellow humans who they have been taught are corrupt, sinful, and wrong by mortal curse is strange to them. Equally, the sense they feel when they’re told we are, actually, alone makes a lot of people viscerally upset. We have to look at ourselves, stripped of all the glory we thought we were imbued with by god-kin-likeness. Losing the rose colored glasses and having to face the here and now vs. the sentimentality bore of fantasy and mythology is really fucking hard for a lot of people.
But nobody’s asking anybody to become credulous fools when dealing with people on a day to day basis. And the idea is that we can indeed trust each other in this long, lonely journey. We are, after all, social creatures and we aspire not only to individual greatness but with that to exalt our fellows by making life better, easier, happier, or just more real. That’s really what has gotten us to ‘now’ – a time and place with great power in technology, luxury, information, relative peace and prosperity.
Sure, it’s not as nice as a great, loving, orchestrating or even demanding, puppeteer in the sky (in theory, if you like that kind of thing) and it’s a hell of a lot more complicated if that storyline is the emotional lynchpin you need to get through just your day-to-day worries. The reality you have no shield when you walk out your front door, or of the fact you might have to carry your own, is the same fear our primitive ancestors faced trying to find food, shelter, watching their young die, and just trying to survive every single fucking day. But freedom is not having babysitters. It’s not being told what is moral or ethical but innately knowing what that is and acting upon it without outside forces making that call.
In the end, I suffer no need for gods at my small table because I have only room for the great people I know, religious and atheists of all colors. I will one day lose those beautiful people and one day they will lose me. But this isn’t all for nothing — it’s for each other.
As I get older and affirm my stance with atheism, I realize this mindset, at least to me, is about all of us and my deep love for humanity across the world. It’s about our right to be free and find answers, comfort, and real world solutions in logic, reason, and vetted science. The rest is left to the great unknowns still out there, until we can answer those, too.
As a person, I also, without question, believe in the following things that make this world actually great. And it’s safe to say I know these things exist:
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