Has Your Life Changed Because of Atheism? October 14, 2007

Has Your Life Changed Because of Atheism?

Here’s a letter-to-the-editor that gets it completely wrong:

The current interest in atheism reminds me of a story of a century and more ago. The distinguished speaker Robert Ingersoll was in Chicago to present the case for atheism. Walking in the loop district, Ingersoll paused to listen to a gospel message by Christian evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who was preaching on the street. After the message, Ingersoll challenged Moody to a debate on the existence of God. Moody agreed.

Moody suggested that Ingersoll have several people describe how it changed their lives to learn there is no God, to be convinced the Bible is a tissue of lies and that Christ could not have risen bodily from the dead. He said that after those testimonies, he would produce scores of former thieves, addicts, gangsters, prostitutes and the vilest of criminals whose lives were changed through faith in the saving grace of God and the cross of his son, Jesus Christ.

Needless to say, the debate never came off, for no one has ever been changed by atheism. God is real. His book is inerrant and infallible and Jesus lives.

Lyle P. Murphy
Overland Park

So to summarize: God makes you feel good. So he must be real.

I don’t even know if the story is true or not (It sounds like it’s made up and I’m not finding any references to it). It doesn’t matter.

The commenters are already responding about how atheism has changed their lives for the better:

I grew up Catholic and becoming an atheist has been the most freeing experience of my life.

My life was changed by atheistic ideas. I no longer believe that God wants me to kill infidels or sinners.

Personally, becoming an atheist opened my mind to a whole new way of critical thinking, and that did change my life in a positive way.

But to say something is right because it makes you feel good or act differently is absolutely illogical.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian[/tags]


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  • Kate

    Hmmm, hard one. This is really only for the people who grew up religious and then changed. Kinda hard to describe atheism’s impact on your life when it’s always been the norm.

  • Kate: sure, but this is presumably in comparison to how religion changed the lives of those who initially did not have it.

  • Mriana

    I don’t know. I think the only thing that has really changed, if you can call me an atheist and many Fundies people do, have for most my adult life, is that I feel liberated because I’ve come out and said, “I am a non-theist.” “I am a Humanist.” This has struck some verbal battles, but I have never felt religious in the sense of this so called ‘letter to the editor’. I’ve never had the concept of a personal god, but always understood Einstein’s “impersonal god” and everytime I said something different from Christian ideology, I get the Inquistion, but it’s what I truly believed. Yet I allowed them to silence me.

    Now that I’ve labelled myself and claimed a worldview for myself, few have labelled me out of anger because of something I said. It’s more of a liberating thing for me to stand up on my own two feet and actually say something similar to Joseph Campbell’s Prometheus (see my MySpace page). 😆 I don’t feel ashamed of my views like I did when I was trying to be accepted by X-ians as one of them because I was born into it and feared rejection, but as I said, before it is liberating to say what I really believe and feel without allowing others to oppress me for it. IMO, that is the key, because many people maybe hiding behind a cloak of X-ianity (or even Islam) to avoid persecution for how they really think, believe, and feel.

  • Gadren

    First of all, until a few months ago, I lived in Overland Park, and so I apologize for the sorts of opinions on atheism that the area has.

    Secondly, my life has truly changed because of my atheism. I used to be in the LDS Church (Mormon Church) and, while not all of this was explicitly stated, there was an encouragement to think of myself as a soldier in God’s army, constantly under attack by “the world,” yet destined to prevail as long as I followed the church teachings. While socialization with non-members was OK, there was always that feeling that it was just easier and better to hang out with those who “shared my standards,” and when I did get together with non-member friends, at the back of my mind there was always that need to convert them.

    Now that I am an atheist, I have lost that persecution complex, realizing that when people oppose what I say, they aren’t out to get me. I feel much freer to make new friends without having the pressure to change them. I’ve been able to decide my morals based on their actual good or harm instead of following ancient texts blindly. Most importantly, I’m able to behold the universe as it truly is — not with slack-jawed “awe” that’s amazed at “how great God is,” but to truly understand the way it works and to study it.

  • PrimateIR

    This reminds me of that scene in “The Emperor’s New Groove” when the bad shoulder angels argument for doing things his way is his ability to do a hand stand and then the good angel agrees that he has a good point.

    Whether or not atheism changes you is irrelevant.

  • “Has Your Life Changed Because of Atheism?”, I like to think it was organised religeon that changed my life and common sense that changed it back; It just so happened that the state of mind I reverted to was atheism.

    Point being, I like to think of atheism as a neutral and above all natural state of mind. So in that respect the answer No! Atheism didn’t change my life.

    “No one has ever been changed by atheism” True! Atheism can not change anyone’s life it can only repair and revert it.

    I bet I read this back later and come up with a load of exceptions- but I’m sure you see what I mean 🙂

    Regards,
    Dan

  • Let’s see…

    Before I figured out I was atheist, I was a good father, a good worker, funny, honest, caring, politically active, civic-minded, kind, and generous.

    After I figured out I was atheist, I was still all of those things. So, it didn’t change me much at all, but afterwards, I guess I also figured out why I was all of those things.

  • Richard Wade

    So to summarize: God makes you feel good. So he must be real.

    Is there one of those Latin-named fallacious arguments for this, something like, euphoria ergo veritas? (Pardon my mangled Latin) I do hear it often from believers in subtle forms like “I just have this good feeling when I think of God,” or “If only you could feel the way I do.” Sounds like someone trying to get me started on a drug.

    Since “it feels good therefore it’s true” is fallacious I’m glad to see that for the most part the responders here aren’t falling into the same argument for their atheism, with the exception of the effect of feeling better when we stop banging our heads against a wall. That part is understandable.

  • Susan B.

    Just had a rather heated argument at last week’s DDD (a mostly religious discussion group at my school). Some of the religious members were arguing that reason isn’t the only way to know things because even with logic you have to make certain assumptions, and that therefore their “feeling that God exists” was just as valid a way of finding “truth”. How do you even respond to that?

    Quite frankly, I don’t think my life has changed because of atheism, since I wasn’t too religious to begin with and became an atheist gradually while I was pretty young.

  • When evaluating the proposition that Christianity makes people morally better, one should consider the fact that the most virulently Christian nation in the Western world, the United States of America, has far higher rates of social ills like teen pregnancy, STDs and juvenile mortality than the comparatively secular European nations. And the highest rates of these things, within the country, appear in the most uniformly Christian states of the Bible Belt.

    Also, there’s reason to question just how effective Christianity actually is at changing people’s lives or behavior. Christian-themed “abstinence-only” sex ed programs have no detectable effect on the likelihood of teens to get pregnant or get an STD. Prison programs like Charles Colson’s “InnerChange” that push Christianity on inmates, likewise, are actually slightly less effective at preventing recidivism than doing nothing at all.

  • Jen

    Atheism is so freeing for me, personally. And it is so much easier than trying to reconcile the completely nutty Biblical teachings with the other nutty Biblical teachings. And while it can be depressing that I can’t live forever, I enjoy not feeling guilty because God is watching me all the time.

  • Atheism is definitely liberating for me. I’m no longer bound by the confines of a religion (Catholicism) that preaches hatred and intolerance, and I now know that I’m a good person because I want to be, not because I’m scared of going to hell.

  • My life as a devout Catholic was an absolute nightmare. Atheism hasn’t really made my life good, but it did free me from that nightmare, so it’s definitely a great thing in that respect.

  • Being an atheist has changed my life. I’m no longer afraid of thinking the ‘wrong thing’. I can look into other religions and into philosophy and science without worrying that I’m going to learn something that will cause me to change my belief and then be in danger of condemnation from God. This has removed a great deal of stress and anxiety from my life. I think that is definately a change for the better in my life.

  • Cygnus_Darkstar

    Susan B.,

    It is true that in order to reason you must have a set of axioms, but their argument is flawed for insisting that all axioms are equally viable. The scientific worldview relies on only a very few actual axioms: causality, the validity of induction, and the existance of an objective reality are the only ones that come to mind at the moment (though if anyone has others, feel free to bring them up). The crux of the matter is how you choose the axioms from which you reason.

    Your friends want to choose the axiom “There is a loving, omnipotent, omniscient being who created the Universe and has a personal interest in my welfare and especially my sex life” (sorry, couldn’t help myself there) based on the subjective fact that assuming said axiom gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. If we made that an acceptable criterion, people could have worldviews reasoned from the existence of unicorns and the FSM. The axioms needed for the scientific worldview are only those necessary to create a self-consistant system capable of describing the current world and predicting events in the future (e.g. if I drop this ball, it will fall to the ground).

    In reality, though, your friends use most of the same axioms as a purely scientific worldview. They almost certainly believe (wether they think about it or not) in causality, the validity of induction, and the existence of an objective reality. You can argue that the inclusion of their premise (the existence of God) is unecessary and built on unsure footings (their emotional desire for his existence).

    Hope I helped 😀

  • Polly

    Materialism/Atheism is AWESOME! I was a fundie and I KNOW the difference. It’s had a huge (though mostly internal) positive impact on my life. I feel like my IQ went up about 15 points. It’s like a filter has been removed from my mind. A filter that used to sift “offensive” ideas and information. The floodgates are now open. 😀

    I really do think this is GOOD NEWS and I DO want to share it. I never thought the so-called Gospel was good news at all – just so much gobbldeygook about hellfire and “relationship” with a savior-zombie.

    But, freedom from the shackles of the mind that is dogma? Now that’s something worth sharing!

    How many lives is Islam changing in the US, today? Is that the work of god, too, according to xians?

  • Aspentroll

    I’m 73 now and all my life I went along never getting into any trouble in any way, never went to church, was a policeman for 30 years, retired
    with an excellent record. I even saved lives while being a cop. Then I got a computer and started researching religion and found out that I had been an atheist all along. What a surprise.
    I was told that atheists were very bad people,
    who lived with out any rules and were all going to a place called “hell”. I saw “hell” in the form of drug addiction, murder etc. all
    right here on earth while being a cop.
    I’ve been there, folks and when I die I doubt I’ll be going very far at all, maybe into a ceramic jar on a shelf in my family’s home or my ashes spread where they think I would like to be.
    From what I’ve read “heaven” will be totally deserted and “hell” will be filled to overflowing with members of the Roman Church for all the heinous acts they committed down through the ages.

    No, I’m not worried because religion and god are absolutely imaginary.

  • I’d stopped making art because the religious symbolism I was trying to work with was so laden with unpleasant associations, and I was struggling to make it make sense; I wanted to treat it as a valid mythology, while being told that the Bible was ‘the word’ and I had to ‘have faith’. I haven’t had the urge to paint for years. But since becoming an atheist, I’ve started sketching ideas like mad. My creative urge has come back.

  • Mriana

    I saw “hell” in the form of drug addiction, murder etc. all
    right here on earth while being a cop.

    Someone who sees things similar to what I do. Not that I’ve seen murder and alike, but I’ve seen what people do to each other and to me that is hell on earth, but by the same token we can strive to make “heaven” on earth.

    I’m not worried either because I’ve been through hell (if you read my childhood experience, you know what I’m talking about) and the way I figure it, IF there is a heaven, it is beyond human conception and not worth the precious little time we have on earth trying to figure out what it MIGHT be like. I rather strive to make things better for the next generation and future generations, if at all possible. There is also so much beauty and wonder to enjoy in this life to waste it all worrying about such things too.