Atheists have a reputation for being snarky, condescending heathens. If you have ever seen the Dane Cook routine about atheists, you probably have the same idea as Dane: that atheists look down upon people who are religious. Atheists are either considered moralless, godless deviants or high and mighty, condescending killjoys.
So when I'm walking to class and missionaries are trying to throw pocket bibles my way, I find myself declining. I say, "Sorry, I'm an atheist." But that answer only invites more questions...
“Why do you hate God so much?”
“What did God do to you to make you hate him?”
“Why do you hate Jesus? He died for your sins.”
But I do not hate god. And I do not hate Jesus. I do not hate Allah or Buddha or Krishna or any icon. Because I do not believe in them. I can’t hate that which I do not believe in.
Sure, I believe that Buddha, Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad were real people who existed but I don’t believe in the magical powers and myths that surround them. And that is my choice to make. I chose not to believe in them. But please explain to me, how can I hate something that I don’t think exists?
I don’t live fearing punishment or seeking reward in the next life, I seize the precious amount of time I’ve been given on this planet. I cherish my life more because I know that there is nothing after it. I only have one shot to make an impact on the world.
I help the people who need it now because sending prayers to starving children does not help them. Sending food does. I am about taking action now. Because this one life is all we have. I don’t need external motivation to want to do good and be a good person. But, if some people do and they find that in religion, that’s okay too. While there are many things I dislike about religion, at its core, it’s meant to be a tool to teach people to love, to be kind, and to have empathy for their fellow man.
One of the greatest satire shows on television, the long-running and hilarious South Park, eloquently explained my views on religion. In the episode “All About Mormons”, one of the main characters, Stan, befriends a new Mormon kid. After he learns about the Mormon beliefs and the stories of Joseph Smith, Stan thinks that believing in it is stupid.
The Mormon kid tells Stan “Maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life, and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don't care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that's stupid, I still choose to believe in it.”
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The creators of the show understand why people are religious, even if they aren't. The quote sums it up perfectly. If you're a good person, don’t have hate in your heart, and find love, happiness, and community in your religion, by all means, be religious. I might think the stories false, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t find meaning in it.
If singing songs, praying or going to confession makes you feel better, by all means, do what you have to do to feel better. As long as you aren't hurting anyone, do what you want to do. As an atheist, it doesn't offend me. I just choose not to do it.
For example, at thanksgiving dinner this year my family wanted to say grace before eating, but they know where I stand when it comes to religion. They asked, "Do you mind if we say grace before eating?"
No, I don't mind at all. If you want to hold hands and say some words to the sky because it makes you feel better, by all means. It's not hurting anyone and I'm not going against anything that I believe in because, well, I don't believe.
If believing in a higher power gives you comfort, go for it. If the little rituals and reading the bible give you peace and motivation to be a good person, please keep on doing it. I'm not going to try to convert you or call you stupid, even if I believe it is stupid. Some people need something to believe in. And maybe just believing in god makes him exist in some form, at least in someone's imagination. He's had a bigger impact on the world than I'm sure many of us have.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Ffiles%2F2017%2F01%2F19%2F636204316486976101416989795_atheist%2520otter.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Faz616578.vo.msecnd.net&s=432&h=fce0d204aa015a867572595ef38ca5c4a535f9e998bbfde8719ea1e189ea9ff0&size=980x&c=3568571918 crop_info="%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Ffiles%252F2017%252F01%252F19%252F636204316486976101416989795_atheist%252520otter.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Faz616578.vo.msecnd.net%26s%3D432%26h%3Dfce0d204aa015a867572595ef38ca5c4a535f9e998bbfde8719ea1e189ea9ff0%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3568571918%22%7D" expand=1]
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I understand the value of religion. I understand it makes people better. But just because I motivate myself in differently than you do doesn’t mean I’m a heathen, a deviant, or a devil-worshipper.
I don't hate Christians. I don't hate Muslims. I don't hate Jewish people. I don't hate anyone based on their religion. And I don't seek to change people's beliefs or try to convert people to atheism. Because I do respect however people find something to live for. I respect whatever way you chose to be a good person.
So I ask religious people to not hate me because of my lack of a religion. And please do not try to convert me. Just know that there are different ways of being a good person.