Atheism: Good Without God

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Marianna Román, Editor-In-Chief

My religious father has always told me that I could be whoever I want to be, but I could never quit believing in God. But since I stopped having faith in Christianity when I was 14, I have wondered why this part of my identity matters so much. Is my relationship with God more important than how I treat others or who I grow up to be? Or are these traits defined by my relationship with God? It is necessary to clarify that I have no problem with others having faith in God, and I appreciate the good that faith and religion have brought for many, like for my father. I learned that my disbelief in a higher power does not define who I am, and it is universally shared by the common name of Atheism. What is also shared across the globe is the shame and discrimination towards nonbelievers or those skeptical of religion. In some countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, Atheists can be executed merely for their disbelief. Some laws withhold atheists from public education and a position in office in the US and are referenced as ‘lesser Americans.’ For the judgment to come to an end, dialogue and education surrounding Atheism must increase so that there is empathy towards others who don’t necessarily have our same beliefs. 

Atheism is a relatively modern concept, and there tends to be confusion when defining it and comprehending it as there are a lot of competing definitions for Atheism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that “the ‘a-’ in atheism must be understood as negation instead of absence. Therefore, in philosophy at least, atheism should be construed as the proposition that God does not exist, and there are no gods.” Other dictionaries and encyclopedias tend to define it as disbelief or lack of belief in a deity’s existence. However, this definition of atheism encompasses the word as an umbrella term. Although the description is correct, there is a wide range of beliefs between non-believers, as much as there is within believers. A term interchanged with Atheism is agnosticism. Agnosticism at its root also encompasses Atheism from a disbelief in a higher power but states that humans can’t possibly reach an answer. They don’t accept it, nor they reject its possibility. You’ll also find antitheists who oppose religion and strive for a world without it, which I believe is hypocritical because neither belief nor disbelief should be forced upon others. Humanists, who focus on how human beings may live their best possible life in our reality, and practical atheists who believe that life should be lived with disregard towards a higher power. To understand that Atheism is not harmful, believers need to know that most Atheists are trying to find their own beliefs. The reality is that Atheists have based their non-belief on science, as God’s existence has not been proved. Therefore, they do have an openness towards a deity’s existence but won’t believe it until science confirms it. A religious person might say that it is complicated to base your faith on science because science always changes. That, precisely, is the openness most Atheists believe in. It is the closest thing to logic and rationality that we can hold onto, even when more information is presented. That is also the beauty of Atheism; when nothing is revealed, everything can be denied.  You may call me an agnostic, an atheist, a humanist, whatever you’d like. I’ll most likely agree with most of these small labels. I’ll just reject the existence of God until proven otherwise- and that is okay. 

There are too many questionable characteristics of religions that have stopped many from believing in a higher power.  More than 30% of millennials consider themselves non-believers. The popularity comes from the rejection of many ideas that religion encourages, like the discrimination of the LGBT+ community, abortion, and the unity of church and state. The idea of politics being so heavily influenced by Catholicism and Christianity baffles me. It only discourages the notion of all being treated equally and fairly regardless of who you are. What about other religions? Why do these notions and regulations have to be forced onto them? Philosopher Baron d’Holbach wrote, “all children are born Atheists as they have no idea of God,” which correlates with the idea that religion is geographically influenced. It affects our beliefs and how they are practiced, explaining how Buddhism and Islam predominate in Asia, but America’s most popular religion is Christianity. Each religion determines what everyone should believe in,  but if you’re born into it, how do you know if it is genuinely your own relationship with God? How is this a qualification process for the validity of scripture? TCS alumni Eliana Lopez believes “in a God that is one and the same for everybody, but that people see differently and that people live their life with God differently.” Although perspectives vary from person to person, and I, like many other Atheists, could believe in God or any god without actually following a religion, the way these beliefs came to be, from a logical point of view, does not make sense to me. But it does not mean it has to make sense to you or anyone else, as long as your ethics and values are not harmed. 

Religion is a source of hope. But hope and morals can be found without it. In the book, Everything is F**ked by Mark Manson, he explains how everything in the world is constructed for the narrative of retaining hope. If there is no belief that the future will be better than the present, then how much do we have to live for? This is why so many people seek religion because it acknowledges the permanent state of unknowing and demands faith in the face of it. But your hope narratives and faith don’t need to be based on religion. The way I see it, you can gain hope from anything that gives you purpose. Do I know that for sure? No. But it is what works for me and many others, focusing on creating the best out of your reality to have faith. If your way of having hope is through God, I am up for it. Everyone must do what brings them a sense of belonging. A big question theists have is where Atheists base their morals off. Lopez claims not to know if Atheists view ethics from the law, their families, or a combination of such, and this is an entirely valid question. Atheists are subject to the same rules of sociology and psychology as any other member of society. Although many ideas presented by religions represent a common good, defining what good means just because a God commanded it can make anything right. We must seek positive principles in the world we live in. I find freedom from doctrine in Atheism. Of course, I follow the moral compulsion of treating others how I’d like to be treated, without owing my morality to religion or acting out of fear of retribution. Contrary to a famous monologue from theists, Atheists do understand that committing crimes is not okay. A person’s morals can vary within Christians, Jews, or Atheists because ethics are not and should not be defined by religious faith, but rather by our sense of humanity.

We all must remain open to the level of discomfort of being different from others and comprehend that with tolerance and humility, we are accomplices and partners in an enduring conversation to one of life’s biggest questions.