Now That You’re An Atheist… May 8, 2012

Now That You’re An Atheist…

I like Crommunist‘s take on the age-old question, “Why are you an atheist?”

Better yet, he asks, what has changed since you became an atheist?

Here’s just one of his examples:

Because I am an atheist, I am on the organ donor list

Far more pragmatic and less self-reflectively thanatophobic than the first one, I realize that my body is a meat machine that has a lot of parts that can be inordinately useful to others when I’m dead. I hold no reverent sentiment toward my meat — when I die, that’s the end of me caring what happens to my body. Bury me, burn me, freeze me, shoot me into space, carve me up and use me as a bizarre sideshow in a Hallowe’en display — I won’t be around to have an opinion. However, I am cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of people who are literally dying to have a fresh shot at my slightly-used organs. If my atheism-fueled joi de vivre leads me to a premature death in a freak motorcycle-jousting-with-a-tiger accident, let those salvageable bits of me go to some use!

What has changed for you?

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  • TiltedHorizon

    What has changed for me since I became an atheist? My happiness quotient for starters.  When I was Catholic, everything that went wrong in life was a punishment from god, retribution for any sin, knowingly or unknowingly, perpetrated by my parents (as in Numbers 33:4) or myself (a first born son). I lived in constant fear of hell and divine retribution, never once feeling in control of my fate.

    Atheism has turned events once ascribed to the hand of god into random chance and dumb luck. Now that I no longer feel like the divine mob has a hit on me because my father would often “take the lord’s name in vain”, I sleep much better. A hot iron falling to the floor next to my foot is not a message I should heed, it is simply physics, a transference of energy from my hip bumping the ironing board. Thankfully, the good night’s sleep keeps me alert enough to move my foot out of the way.

    Thank You Reason.     

  • Not much, actually.  Besides the god thing.

  • Because I am an atheist, I had a much easier time with the whole identifying as queer thing.  It was a depressing process, but at least I never stressed about God’s purpose in making me gay/asexual/whatever.  I figured the cause was some so-far-undetermined naturalistic process with no purpose, and all I had to worry about was my response to it.  My response is to live my life in a way that makes me happy, without regard to an imagined purpose.

    Oh, and since I had a lot of atheist friends, coming out was painless.

  • KarlVonMox

    I have always been an atheist – so I cant make any comparisons!

  • bobo

    What has changed?  For the first time in my life, I feel free.  And I no longer have that nagging guilt-complex.

  • DigitalAtheist

    It has taken me a few minutes to think of a reply. I think the thing that has changed the most is that it helped me in dealing with my mother’s recent death. Up until a couple of years ago I was torn up wondering why “god” would punish my mother–one the kindest people you could hope to meet–with a long list of diseases and incurable conditions. It was finally the Alzheimer’s diagnosis that broke the camel’s back. There had been a long list of things before: watching friends and family die from cancer, heart attacks, various organ failures, accidents…

    It wasn’t enough that in her lifetime she had survived polio, had heart arrythmia, high blood pressure, diabetis, and COPD. Alzheimer’s on top of it was just too much

    To some, it may sound like the typical theist’s claim of just being mad at “god”. But that would be wrong. It was a case of realizing that sometimes crappy things happen to people and it is just a cause of nature. Some of the things she suffered through medical science has a hold on and can fix: hypertension is usually controllable with medication. The symptoms of COPD can be aleviated with proper treatment. Polio is well controlled just by a vaccination. But Alzheimer’s is an enigma. There are some things that can help but the long slow march carries on. No praying was going to fix it, and to be honest, any being that would give it to someone was cruel, a being that allowed it to happen for some nebulous reason fit the same calssification of cruel, and any being who couldn’t cure it was definitely not a god.

    The upshot of my realization is that I’ve been able to accept her death for what it is: the breakdown of the human body due to age, disease, and environmental factors. Gone were the days of the past where I (and lots of others who still believe) would wonder if somehow we were the cause of/reason behind stuff like this. No more worrying if I should have prayed harder. No worrying about if she did enough to make it to some boring Paradise. Her memory is in a heaven of my own making; My MEMORIES!.

    No, her death still hurts… but the gilt, the worry, the why did this happen? That baggage is burnt and buried.

  • Me, too. I do think being an atheist must be less stressful, though. I’ve never had to deal with the “why me?” dilemma that seems to torment so many theists.

  • Patterrssonn

     It helps me stay in the present and appreciate life more.  It tells me that life is for living, that this is it. It helps me be kinder to people as this is it for them too.

  •  Like bobo, I feel free and am no longer ridden with Catholic guilt.  I also have a greater sense of being part of the universe, and am no longer afraid of ghosts.

  • STRANGERS: I feel more connected with strangers, somehow realizing that we are all just spinning through space together on this ‘pale blue dot’ of a planet called earth.

    SPACE: Speaking of outer space, I notice the stars more, and am more likely to have glimpses of the vastness of the universe compared with our own comfort zones.

    FEAR OF DEATH: I was on a commercial airplane not long ago when we hit a LOT of turbulence the pilot announced that we should prepare for a crash landing. We ended up flying through the storm ok, but what amazed me afterwards was how CALM and peaceful I was during that time. I had practically zero fear of death. Not that I wanted to die, and yes I thought about being gone from my role as a son, brother, father, husband, etc., but it was more of a calmly nostalgic “Hey, I’ve had a pretty good run of it here, and if I don’t make it well I think I’ve done a lot of good for others and they’ll eventually get by without me”, rather than a frantic anxiety that would not be able to change the outcome anyway (I don’t know how to make turbulence stop and I know that frantically praying it to stop would do nothing).

    GAYS: I find myself much more sympathetic to the LGBT folks, knowing that almost all of the discrimination against them is based on mythology and fairy tales.

    NEWS: I notice religion creeping in all over the place in the news, etc., whereas before I mainly noticed the role that religion plays in opposition abortion. Now I notice religion impacting a whole spectrum of women’s health issues, condoms in Africa, worldwide terrorism, the religious blame game after natural disasters, the preponderance of Catholics on the US Supreme Court, laws against buying a car on a Sunday, God Bless You when someone sneezes, national prayer day (days like that I would never have even noticed  before), etc. It’s like I see religion almost everywhere.

    Well, those are a few thoughts on this, off the top of my head.

  • Same, but I sure did fight it for the longest time. Although the answer of “our god” didn’t stick, the question of “who made all this?” did for the longest time from my childhood indoctrination.  The concept of needing some religion, any religion, was burned into my mind. Guess they only winged me.

    So I did the religion hopping thing for a while, always feeling like some kind of failure for not having the same vacant happy look on my face as everyone else. Eventually I realized that I was only looking for something I was comfortable with rather than something that was true, and that was only because I thought I had to. Not for my own sake, but for everyone else’s.

    Once I got past that, it was smooth sailing for the longest time. That was, of course, until people started deciding I was going to follow their religion whether I liked it or not. That’s when I started yelling back.

  • monyNH

     Luckily, I was raised in a pretty progressive Congregational church, so I never had any of that hellfire & brimstone crap to get over, which was good. (In fact, I don’t remember hell ever  being mentioned in all those years of Sunday School and church attendance.) I have become much more political since realizing I am an atheist…in part because I see all those tiny, insidious ways religion is used to separate individuals from their rights as citizens, but also because I feel more personally responsible for my part in the world. If you truly believe we have no other reason for being here than to leave a better world for those who come after us, you tend to look at your responsibilities to your fellow Earth-mates a little differently.  🙂

  • Odd… another post on the topic was just made probably around the same time this one was posted.

  • Sam

    “motorcycle-jousting-with-a-tiger accident”


    Please tell me, sounds like fun! I’d give the tiger a better than even chance of having a good dinner.

  • Since I’ve become an atheist, it has become easier to make sense of the Bible. There’s no requirement that everything be in harmony, so if the most sensible reading over here claims A and the most sensible reading over there claims B, I can accept both.

  • Sharon Hypatia

     “those tiny, insidious ways religion is used to separate individuals from their rights as citizens”
    Perfectly put! I just love it when someone can distill the truth down to one neat clean sentence.

  • Actually not much. I have been an atheist since I was seven or eight years old.

  • I posted this on that page – but I’ll repeat it here:

    I am no longer afraid of being who I truly am inside. I am no longer closerted as far as my sexual orientation or my gender identity. I am taking the first steps to correcting the mismatch between my gender and my physical body. I am happier, more confident, and less anmxious than I have been in years.

  • Vend Tana

     I am so sorry for your loss.

    Your past paragraph resonates with me. After our son was stillborn I obsessed over every detail of what I might have done wrong. I kept trying to figure out why this happened, who was to blame.

    Finally I realized, none of it matters. What matters is that he is gone, nothing will change it, and life goes on. It hurts and it’s hard but there is no God or punishment or penance involved.

    That was when the healing process truly began for me.

    So yes, less baggage, more honest emotions. That is what atheism brings.

  • Kworthgirl

    What has changed since becoming an athiest?  I took back words that religion has co-opted and tried to collectively own and they have new meanings for me…like peace, love, grace, mercy and sacred.  Every moment feels sacred now.  Each second I get to spend with my kids or my husband or breathing is sacred because it’s finite and I know some day I will be worm food.  Sacred isn’t owned by a day or a ceremony.  Biggest change. 

  • 69ingchipmunks

    For me there would be no more guilt for having lustful thoughts about women. I mean how could God give a young male teenager hormones and young women boobs and make the guy feel guilty for what was inevitably going to happen??
    That, and I could think whatever I wanted without fear of thought crime.

  • Nude0007

    I finally managed to get rid of the guilt and confusion that was actually destroying me, literally.  All these contradictory verses and teachings, then I began to read what atheists point out about how the bible is for a lot of bad things, and I realized I had been taught a bunch of worthless lies as truth. It still hurts and enrages me on occasion, but overall, I am far and away much happier and more sane. Anyone who gets away from religion will be.

  • Digitalatheist

    Thank you. I’m sorry for your loss also. I’m glad to know that i’m not the only person who feels this way about dumping the baggage of worry and quilt, and facing the truth of the matter. It isn’t easy, but at least it IS real.

  • MG

    Since I decided to be honest with myself and admit my true beliefs, it’s been a reaction similar to when I became a feminist in my teens–a consciousness raising. And the problem with that is, it makes me pretty much constantly angry, because all the injustice is in my face all the time. Once you are made aware, you can’t unsee the harm religion does, any more than you can unsee all the harm the patriarchy does.  And that can be exhausting.

  • Xeon2000

    A lot of changes I attribute more to growing up and experiencing the world. I was never that religious to begin with anyway. Realization of my atheism has probably increased my political awareness on social issues. My views didn’t change much, but the amount of time spend thinking about them did. Since artificial intelligence and cognitive science is a field I’m interested in, my atheism has helped shape my understand of the mind and my “self”.

  • Mairianna

    Wish I could hit “Like” about 1ooo times on your post!

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