Sunday, February 27, 2011

Atheism: Not easy, but worth it

As humans, we are all subject to the same human conditions: Depression, anxiety, issues with self-worth, discouragement, fear, guilt, dealing with death...the list seems as endless as the feelings that are associated with these issues. When life gets rough, religion offers crutches for the faithful to pacify themselves; as long as the faithful doesn't look too deep or start asking questions, it generally works for them. As a Christian, the plan generally is to pray, and if prayer doesn't work, accept that it's part of God's mysterious plan which nobody can understand on account of the fact that we're just not smart enough. Then there's the "God's testing your faith" crutch, so just keep singing the praises of the Lord while life falls apart around you.

It's not so easy for the atheist, who is generally a thinking person and for whom these crutches won't work. It's not even a simple matter of believing; a thinking person easily recognizes that asking for things in prayer is in conflict with the belief of a mysterious perfect plan that causes bad stuff to happen regardless. We wonder why God would test the faith of the unfaithful. Imagine if you were troubled, and someone advised you to sacrifice a goat at an altar to appease God and make things better. If you find this a ridiculous concept, then you will understand why advising a troubled atheist to just believe and pray is equally as ineffective for them.

An atheist must find belief to get through troubled times, but that belief must be in themselves. Ultimately, it's that inner strength that we all draw on, religious or not. Since God only exists in the minds of the faithful, the faithful really are tapping into their inner strength when they pray, meditate, or sing praises; it's just a round-about way of getting to that inner strength. The atheist must learn to tap into that inner strength directly. This direct link to one's inner strength that every atheist must eventually establish becomes its own reward; instead of jumping through the hoops built in their mind by their religious beliefs, the atheist can go straight to stoking the fire of their inner strength and almost immediately start on their path to recovery.

Ultimately, atheism is worth it. It's not only the direct access to inner strength, but also allows us to bypass a lot of grief and anguish associated with belief. I consider the notion that one's faith is being tested by terrible things in life to be its own form of mental torture; as well as the concept that bad things in life are part of some grand plan. An atheist doesn't stop to ask why bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. The understanding that bad things can happen to anyone accelerates the healing process considerably; it allows the atheist to bypass the fruitless questioning and praying. In addition, the lack of belief in a plan empowers the atheist to commence working on the mechanicals of a problem to make things better, rather than simply letting things happen.

Atheism really is empowering. As an atheist, I've found myself taking better care of my health and finances. Knowing that my future is shaped by the choices I make today, I've become more proactive with regards to education and training as well as savings, so that my future self will be better off. Almost paradoxically, atheism also empowers me to seize the day; to enjoy the here and now, with the recognition of how brief and fleeting life really is. If I catch myself thinking of doing something someday, I ask, why not today? I refuse to toil at a job I hate today for the sakes of a comfortable retirement in the future.

I cannot fault a person for wanting to hang on to their religious beliefs, as I'm certain that relying on the crutch of these beliefs may have caused the part of their mind that directly accesses their inner strength to atrophy; as will happen with muscles when a crutch is used for too long. However, if you're still able to, I encourage you to cast off those crutches and learn to stand on your own through the thick dark side of the human condition. There is nothing quite as liberating, and you will end up stronger for your efforts.

No comments:

Post a Comment