Atheism for Beginners
No, you don’t have to become an atheist. This is just to try to explain to you what an atheist is. The religious right is so horrified by the words “atheist” and “socialist” without knowing the definition of either that I thought I would try to explain the true meaning of both to a person who describes herself (courtesy of LittleBill) by both.
This blog deals only with MY atheism. The religious right is wrong, and the words as epithets are way off center and unfair.
To the average church-going person, an atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in God, and more importantly, has no value system. To the contrary, this couldn’t be more misinformed. There probably are people who call themselves atheists because they don’t believe in anything and they think that is what describes atheism. Wrong!
A real atheist is someone who has chosen to call him-herself by that title as a result of considerable soul-searching and self-education despite also facing opprobrium by the general public. In addition, each atheist finds that what he believes is very probably singular to him. What atheists do share with each other—and probably many church-goers as well—is a strong set of values. The very strength of our values lies in the fact that we gather them to ourselves on our own.
It is generally accepted by most people that you will belong to and attend some sort of religious institution. As a teen-ager, I was sent to an Episcopalian boarding school. We attended some sort of religious service every day and took a required course on the Bible. And I find church liturgy, especially High Church liturgy, absolutely beautiful as an art form.
At the end of my senior year, the one question on the final exam was “Give three reasons for believing in God.” And that did it for me! Unfortunately, I can’t remember what I wrote, but I do remember that I did not answer the question as they expected. I wasn’t rude. I simply did not accept that belief was indisputable. And I remember going from the teacher’s office to the rector of the school. They couldn’t decide what to do with me, but they finally let me graduate with the rest of my class.
As I recall from boarding school—and I think this is common—people pray for other people, and for themselves as well. I do not wish to cast aspersions on those people who genuinely believe as they do and lead exemplary lives. Many pray, however, in the hope of getting themselves into Heaven. And the news is rife with stories of priest crimes against children, with very little, if any, mention of punishment other than being sent to another parish None of us is without sin.
My “god,” is my god only. It resides in my brain, governing my thinking and my actions. I am responsible to that god alone. If I have done well, it will let me know, and if I have made a mistake or done ill to someone or something else, my god will definitely let me know and punish me accordingly. I have written before that as a small child I stole a candlestick from a friend because I thought (incorrectly) that she stole my doll carriage. That was over 80 years ago, and the thought that she may not have taken it, and even worse, that I may not have returned the candlestick after all, still haunts me. (And no one else ever knew about it.)
What bothers me extremely for the sake of people who believe as I do is that our views on matters such as abortion, birth control, and death could be subjected to the demands of those who believe otherwise. I, for one, do not seek to control their beliefs on those subjects so long as they do not control mine. There are numerous valid reasons why non-believers, as well as many Christian believers, are very much against religion becoming a major tenet of the leading documents of this Democracy. Atheists would not seek to control your rights with regard to abortion, birth control, and death, although your views on those subjects are already leading to major, major problems on this earth.
The Socialist Atheist
Atheism for Beginners