In praise of atheism

In yesterday’s post, I suggested that the “new age movement” has gone from a small group of spiritual pioneers, to a more dogmatic mainstream religion. I am not basing this on any scientific examination, of course. Being spiritual means I can get away with unfounded opinions and unexamined assumptions. I take it on faith.

Hm. Did I just make you mad or make you laugh?

Several hundred years ago, the Church tried to stop a scientist from challenging their unexamined assumptions. They eventually failed. Galileo’s response is just as true today as it was then: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use.”

It used to be that “new agers” criticized Western religious people for their blind acceptance of outdated dogma. Today, it has become more apparent that us so-called non-religious spiritual types are just as guilty of blind faith as anyone else. We go to psychics to tell us what to do in our relationships and careers. We go to gurus and ask what we should believe. We listen to someone “channeling ascended masters” and swallow it whole. We sit in a Sedona sweat lodge with a pop-star self-help guru until we die of thirst, because he tells us to.

It seems to me that it doesn’t matter what religion or non-religion we attach ourselves to; when we look outside ourselves with blind faith and unquestioning obedience, we give up our God-given right to think for ourselves. When we ask someone else what to think and how to live, we abdicate our responsibilities of choice, intention, consideration of issues and appropriate action.

In this regard, I have to acknowledge atheists for the truth in their criticism of many of us living on faith: that we often accept blind faith out of laziness, and do not think for ourselves, even on the most fundamental questions of our existence and purpose on this planet.

I think that if we actually displayed more critical thinking, atheists wouldn’t be so hard on us. I don’t believe that it’s really ‘God’ they have such a problem with – it’s what we’ve done (and failed to do) in the name of God. The problem is that we have used faith in God as an excuse for inconsiderate actions and catastrophic mistakes.

My friend Dan used to be religious years ago. Today he’s an atheist. One reason he changed his mind was the treatment his gay and lesbian friends got from Christians. It seemed at the time that belief in God did not promote compassion or thoughtful action. In fact, the opposite happened: the beliefs of religious people dictated their thoughts, which, unchallenged, led to hurtful actions. Of course, Dan’s scientific education also cast a critical light on beliefs posed by religious people. Eventually he decided that, if he wanted to lead a thoughtful life, he needed to forsake his old religious ways.

I still believe in God, and still consider myself a spiritual person. I still believe that spiritual teachers have a lot of wisdom to offer the world. But now I also believe that atheists have something to offer us that we have not properly valued: the call to consider our actions and beliefs independently as we affect the world around us. Let us think for ourselves and be reasonable in our treatment of one another.

One last point about considering our actions: Jesus once told a story of two men dying and going to the afterlife. One was poor, but lived a good life, so he went to heaven. The other was rich, but led a selfish, inconsiderate life, so he went to hell.

In neither case were these men judged for their religious beliefs, their wealth, their grasp of the Law of Attraction or their faith. They were judged on what they did with what they had.

And on that point, there’s no reason to believe that atheists won’t go to heaven.

Unless you don’t believe in heaven, of course.


About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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5 Responses to In praise of atheism

  1. Dan says:

    pretty much everything you wrote in that paragraph is true but obviously there are many other factors. One that was probably larger than anything was something you hit on early in the post, the lack of critical thinking. That plus a scientific eye to cause and effect plus the gblt thing. The gblt thing was actually getting an inside look into their community and seeing acceptance and love that the church was lacking, acceptance even of those who diametrically opposed them. finally, i think my single biggest praise of atheism is the ability to embrace new ideas and notions of truth without having to worry about making it jive with some sort of established dogma.

  2. Pingback: Love vs. Belief | Still Waking Up

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  4. Amy Phoenix says:

    Breath of fresh air. Thank you for listening to your conscience.

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