Essay on Atheism

This essay has a total of 2221 words and 8 pages.


Atheism




It is remarkable how many people insist I am not an atheist. It seems obvious to me
that I do not believe that any god exists, and that makes me an atheist. Nevertheless,
here these people are, so insistent that I cannot possibly be an atheist. "You're too
nice," they say, or "You really believe, you just don't know it." (How's that again?)
Sometimes I hear something like "You believe in something, and that is really God" or
"you are still looking, but you'll find Him." (He is invited to stop by my house at any
time.) When I have the time to converse with these people, however, it usually comes
down to this: I am really an agnostic, they say, because I am willing to admit that I do
not know there is not any god. It is apparently so important for people to believe that I
am "really just an agnostic," that I find this to be a haunting sign of the hold religion
has on people. It is tragic that the mere thought of a good friend or relative being an
actual, avowed atheist is so horrible that it must be denied.

Sometimes I have the chance to explain that I am an atheist not because I know there
is not a god, but because I do not believe there is. If someone insisted that their pet
fish could talk, I really couldn't say I knew it didn't, especially if I could not go and see
for myself, but it would still be fair for me to say that there are no talking fish. The
relevance of this is that I do not believe god exists any more than I believe fish can
talk. Certainly, I have not examined all species of fish, nor every single fish for that
matter, nor could I ever accomplish such a feat, but the claim that they exist is so
contrary to my own personal experience and reliable facts that I simply will not believe
it unless very definitive proof is provided. Of course, if I visit someone's pet fish and it
talks to me, I am still wiser to test the possibilities of trickery or insanity before
believing it can really talk. But if I found many fish that talked, trustworthy people
confirmed it, scientists published carefully researched papers about them, and
newspaper headlines read "INCREDIBLE DISCOVERY: TALKING FISH!" then it would be
more than reasonable to believe that they existed. No one really disputes such common
sense, until it is applied to religion.

I have never seen or talked to a god, nor seen a god do anything unmistakably godlike.
People insist that they know one exists, but most of them really say they only feel it,
and do not offer any other proof. Indeed, it is odd that even the believers brand those
few who honestly offer the more genuine proof of actually hearing god talk insane,
Believers are probably right about that, but their own "feeling" that a god exists isn't
any more convincing to me. Anyone might "feel" that fish could talk, but that wouldn't
mean it were so, nor would that be a very reliable way to know it was true even if it
was.

People still say there are billions of witnesses to god's existence, but since the vast
majority of them only "feel" that god exists, even trillions of witnesses would not count
for much. I am astonished how many people think that if the Earth stopped rotating we
would all fall off into space--they just "feel" intuitively that this is true, even though
the exact opposite would happen. (People at the equator would actually gain a few
pounds.) I agree that billions of people "feel" god exists, but feelings are only evidence
of what lies in our hearts and dreams. Feelings do not tell us much about reality outside
of ourselves.

People also say that the Bible says a god exists. The Bible also says that a guy lived
inside the belly of a giant fish for three days, somehow failing to be digested in its
stomach acids, and there was a flood "so great" that it covered all the mountains with
water for the purpose of fulfilling a genocidal whim of an apparently uncreative god.
(Why not just make everyone vanish instantly and save the world's people and animals
the suffering of being drowned?) Since these all sound like tall tales to me, I think god
is probably a tall tale, too. If the Bible said there were talking fish, I would not believe
it until I saw one myself. (The bible does fittingly claim the existence of a talking ass.)
Likewise, the Bible may say a god exists, but I still will not believe it until I see one
myself.

Most people I meet, however, do not realize that I am first a freethinker, and only an
atheist because of applying free thought to the evidence available to me. The reasons
I have for being a freethinker are actually rather different from the reasons I have for
not believing in a god. We all need humanity, not religion; reason, not faith. "That's
pretty harsh," some say. I ask why. It seems reasonable to me that if religion vanished
from the earth, but was replaced by the entire human race working humanely together,
nothing would be lost, and everything gained. Thus, we need humanity--that is, our
own humanity, as well as the entirety of the human species. However, we do not need
religion--it offers nothing that cannot be gained through other means.

It also seems reasonable to me that if people lived by reason instead of faith, a great
many tragedies would be averted, and an equal number of advances would be made,
especially in human behavior. I do not claim this as a recipe for utopia, only for
significant improvement. How many times do we find ourselves saying of a criminal or a
politician, "They are just so stupid! Any rational person would have acted entirely
differently." A criminal or politician can have all the faith we want them to have, but
they will still do stupid things--and that is the problem. Thus, we only need people to
act intelligently. We can do without faith. In fact, the "faith" of Islamic suicide bombers
and abortion clinic murderers is actually a real threat to humanity, as was the "faith" of
Red Party members in their belief that communism would lead to utopia. People can do
without faith. They cannot do without reason.

It is usually argued, of course, that we need religion in order to get humanity to behave
and work together. All evidence is to the contrary. Religion has not notably improved
human behavior. The Roman pagans were far kinder than the Inquisition Christians
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