Sunday , October 21 2018
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Atheism Isn’t Really A Big Deal

MARTIN HUGHES

Atheism isn’t as big of a deal to me, anymore.

I’ve made peace, somewhat, with the idea that there is no God. When that happens, atheism isn’t so much presence. It feels more like absence.

When I first left Christianity, I was a new atheist who was trying to carve out something to fill the void. But the thing I found is that the world did not wait for me to fill that place that was once filled with Christianity. The world didn’t change because I found out God didn’t exist; God had never existed in the world. Everything kept moving, as it always had. I just knew that God wasn’t real, but that didn’t mean things changed.

It’s true, of course, that knowing that God isn’t real forced me, personally, to restructure the way I thought about the world — at least at first. God wasn’t walking with me. When I first left Christianity, the concept seemed amazing, headsplitting, lifechanging, and colossal. It completely changed my outlook.

For one, I saw I could be more grateful to people. I knew, now, that people didn’t come into my life because God put them there. They did them because they wanted to. In a way, this made the positive things people did more personal to me.

God wasn’t orchestrating a Grand Plan I had to figure out. Everything simply happened. Sure, I could organize things that happened into an order, or structure, that would help me predict future events. But I was doing this work; there was no deity behind the machine who personally loved me doing it.

That knowledge greatly demystified the world for me. God was always working in mysterious ways when I was a Christian, but people worked in often transparent ways, once you took the time to try to understand them. The world became less mysterious and simply began to make sense.

Another thing that happened is that the ideals I believed in became transparent, like facts more than abstractly perfect concepts. Take love, for example. I once believed there was an idealistic self-sacrificial love that only considered the other person, and not oneself. I believed this because I thought there was a God who embodied this concept, not necessarily because I saw proof of it in the world of human beings I was actually living with.

Now, without God, I’ve taken off the rose-colored glasses. The ideal is gone, and I see how people actually love. It’s gotten complicated. Most people have a lot of self-interest even in their most fervent feelings of love. For example, several people love according to their identities — if someone is part of a group that protects an part of who they are, they’ll do more for that person than they will for those outside of their group. Many times, love can be coaxed by the attractiveness, prestige, or possessions of the person receiving love. Love is also something that you feel when you give a part of who you are to somebody and trust them to validate that part of it. That trust is sometimes…very beautiful…

The way I judge these features of love has also changed. I used to get upset when people didn’t exhibit the self-sacrificial love I thought was the ideal. Now, I don’t have any reason to be; I can simply accept the world as it is. “God’s standard” of love is a made-up one that doesn’t exist in reality. I see the reality, and then I make judgments based on what I think is best for myself and those I care about. This is refreshingly honest and open, in my mind.

It’s really simple. It’s a straightforward way to live. And it’s actually quite boring, in many ways.

Honestly. Being an atheist, for me, is really not all that interesting. I just think about life without God. And love, trust, happiness, sadness, etc. — these emotions just seem to make more sense to me. They seem raw, more genuine, more real, more connected to the world I live and breath and exist in.

I guess that’s what I really feel. Connected. Like I don’t have to live in a fairy-tale life. I can simply take the world as it comes at me.

Sometimes I forget that I’m even an atheist. I’m just living life these days.

At times I think it’s strange how Christians try to cast this as unhealthy, as depressing, as me being “lost.” First, I’m not trying to be happy; I’m trying to live a life that feels as connected to the world I actually exist in as possible. That’s what gives me comfort. That’s what makes me feel at peace in myself, in spite of all the turmoil in my life. The last thing I want is to be happy because I believe in a story of something that’s not real.

Second, I’m generally more happy than I was as a Christian. A boring, transparent, “clear” spiritual life is much preferable to the turmoil I experienced in the ups and downs of the Christian adventure. Sometimes, I think it’s strange that so many Christians are terrified of experiencing this.

But I’ll at admit that other times, I do understand why it might be nice to think I had a big guy in the sky, helping me out. At other times I wish a had a million dollars in my bank account. But wanting those things doesn’t make them true.

The thing is…I don’t really think about being an atheist, really, until someone makes clear that they think it’s strange. They look at me like I’m an alien, like I’m strange, like I don’t belong in their world. Like they need to feel sorry for me.

It’s them that make me self-conscious. But without them? Atheism is strikingly straightforward.

That’s made me realize something else. When I “defend” atheism, I’m not doing it for me anymore.  Explaining why I’m an atheist grows increasingly repetitive and boring and, at times, pointless. Most Christians aren’t going to change their minds, and truth be told I’m not particularly interested anymore in making them full-blooded atheists. I’m more thinking about my life and the way I wish to live it.

It’s far more interesting for me to analyze and look for the best way to operate in the world than to work to promote the thought that God doesn’t exist. I know God doesn’t exist. But there’s still a lot I don’t know, and want to find out, about how the world works. And I find it fascinating to continuously discover the way things work — not in a fairy-tale world, but in the actual world that I exist in.

The world both of us are in.

So…I’ve answered the question of God’s existence a thousand times over.

Much of the time these days, it simply seems boring to not believe in God. It’s so often the religious who try to turn it into a big deal.

I’d just like to get on with my everyday, living-breathing, unembellished, simple and beautiful life.

Thanks for reading.