I'm an atheist. There, I've said it.
It's been a while since I've posted on the subject, but I continued my soul-searching and found that my faith slowly evaporated in the face of reason. While I'm always open to reassessment in light of new data, I now consider myself an atheist.
It's been a gradual transition, driven more by introspection and research (religious history, cosmology, emergent behavior, AI, quantum physics, etc.) than by any traumatic "I've-now-lost-my-faith-in-God" event. Interestingly (to me, anyway), coming to the conclusion that I no longer believe in the Divine was less of a personal journey than learning to accept the fact and integrate it into my world view has been. It wasn't long ago that I strongly self-identified as a Catholic (however errant), and I still feel a certain fealty to the Church even though I no longer subscribe to most of its teachings. To watch my entire concept of the universe and my place in it collapse has been disorienting to say the least, and at times outright stressful. I used to consider atheists to be the bad guys
, after all!
On the plus side, I've found that my overwhelming sense of awe and wonder about the universe and those who inhabit it hasn't diminished one whit, and I take enormous comfort in that.
To be clear, my belief system (or lack thereof) does not constitute an admonishment of anyone else's beliefs. To the extent that others' beliefs don't infringe upon me and mine or inhibit progress I welcome them and the color they add to the human experience. I could
be wrong. I don't know everything, but I do know that it's wrong to force one's beliefs onto others. Discuss, debate, and educate, but in the end it's up to every individual to decide for themselves what the universe means to them and where they fit into it.
I also hold no grudge or vendetta against any religious institution or practice (again, so long as it doesn't stand in the way of human progress). I'm not planning on changing the way I celebrate any holidays, `cuz religious significance aside they're still an integral part of my culture. I still say "bless you" when people sneeze and I still truly wish them well. I'm still willing to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, though admittedly it's not at the top of my list. I guess that last part isn't really a change. ;-)
I think the hardest part of this all has been dealing with the question "what if I'm wrong?". Christianity preaches a dire outcome for non-believers, after all. Again, in light of research and reason the threat of Hell has largely lost its validity. I did some historical research on the concept of Hell, and was surprised to find that as a meme it has been continuously evolving since some of the earliest European mythology, often incorporating concepts taken from known works of fiction, and later espoused as Truth.
After that it's been a matter of transitioning my entire ethical structure from one with an external focus to one with an internal focus. Though I never really spoke of it with anyone (I found myself ill-equipped to even begin a conversation on such subtle and abstract concepts while simultaneously processing them without getting lost in my own thoughts), this was an uncomfortable journey that ended with me in pretty much the same place I started. I find that in the end my concept of what's right and what's wrong isn't significantly different now that it's no longer informed by divine providence. I'd say now that my ethical paradigm fairly closely follows some subset of Utilitarianism
as its ideal, while in practice there's a good handful of hedonism thrown in as well 'cuz, 'ya know, I'm still a lazy hormonal meatbag and all. (BTW, that Wikipedia entry is great stuff. I highly recommend it.)
Building one's own ethical framework provides an opportunity for a lot of granular introspection and philosophical self-discovery that might not happen when subscribing to a ready-made ethic. For example, it allowed me to realize why I've always reacted so negatively to the idea of selfishness as "the only real virtue," or why I wish Ayn Rand was still alive so I could punch her in the nose. ;-)
Anyway, enough of the rambling. You all get the point. I'm still working out a few minor details, but I've gotten to the point where I'm now comfortable with the world I see around me again. Feel free to comment, congratulate, or condemn as you see fit. Feel free to debate as well, if that is your wish, but unless you are one of the 3 people who gave me detailed responses on LJ waaaay back when I was actively soliciting them (my eternal thanks if you are), or the handful of people who spoke with me in person (again with the muchas gracias) expect my first question to be "Why didn't you speak up when I was looking for counsel?". ;-)
*whew* There. That didn't hurt a bit. :-)