Over the summer I had to do something I’d never done before: come out to my mother. When I say “come out,” I don’t mean the common definition; the two of us squared with that one a long time ago. No, this time around I was coming out as an atheist.
“Oh, you don’t mean that,” was her response. “It’s just a phase.” As a 20-year-old, liberal-minded young woman, I find it hard to believe that the “pfft, there is no God” beliefs I’ve held since my formative years are “just a phase.” But like they say, ignorance is bliss, especially for parents.
Right now, the annual conference of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking place in downtown Portland. Peter Boghossian, a philosophy professor here at Portland State, was one of the featured speakers earlier this month.
Boghossian’s lecture, titled “Walking the Talk,” was mainly about how atheists should be role models for the behavior they want to see in other believers. Atheists should critically examine their beliefs, just like they expect Christians to do.
In saying that both atheists and Christians should examine their values and beliefs, Boghossian wants atheists to be more explicit about what exactly they believe. Specifically: What evidence would they need to start believing in God or some other form of higher being?
Atheists should remain open-minded if evidence should surface of the existence of a god. According to Boghossian, individuals going around with “nothing can convince me otherwise” attitudes are just as close-minded as they believe their Christian counterparts
While Boghossian makes a good point, making rules for atheists seems counterproductive to what it really means to be an atheist.
Atheism is derived from a rejection of the existence of any deity. There’s practical atheism, wherein individuals live without believing in a god and explain natural phenomena without divine reasoning. Then there’s theoretical atheism, which consistently makes arguments against the existence of a god.
Atheists don’t believe in God. If you’re in-between beliefs, or more of a skeptic, agnosticism is where it’s at. Since atheists don’t believe in a god-figure, should they be subject to the same rules and stigmas as followers of other religions?
Most of us probably have the token “atheist” friend that consistently posts anti-religious, pro-atheist/evolution statements on Facebook and constantly argues with others about their differing beliefs. Honestly, that kind of behavior is just as annoying as militant Christian or insert-random-religion-here behavior.
Making any kind of generalization about any one religion is counterproductive to open-mindedness. Christians (or any religious practitioners) should respect the views of others and, inversely, atheists should respect the views of those folks who practice a religion.
Despite all of this, when it truly comes down to it, religious (or lack-thereof) beliefs are personal.
It’s really not up to one individual to tell others what they should or shouldn’t do. If I want to believe that God doesn’t exist, that’s my prerogative. Yes, as a college-educated individual, I should definitely have some logic to back up my rejection of the existence of a god, and I do. But those reasons are going to remain private.
Proving your devotion to atheism won’t really do anything to spread the word of logic, but it might piss a lot of people off, just like Christians who constantly shove their beliefs down our throats.
Any walk of life, any system of belief is generally centered on the experience of the individual. Since atheism rejects belief and appeals to logic, it only makes sense that it should be considered extremely personal. I say that because much of our society is built loosely upon fundamental Christian beliefs. To reject faith is, in a sense, rejecting society, or at least facets of society.
The late Christopher Hitchens, one of the most famous proponents of contemporary atheism, once said, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Like the quote says, if something can’t be proved, we don’t need to believe in it.
Faith is personal; lack of faith is also personal. Rather than focusing on governing the personal beliefs of others, we should all just worry about ourselves. Like Nicki Minaj says, “You do you, I’ll do me.”