The never-ending war between believers and Atheists — the evildoers — must stop. I am nothing more than an unbeliever, but I am an Atheist. You are no more righteous than me. Believe in that.
It would seem, at first glance, unnecessary to start this article by saying I’m an Atheist. Actually, I fear I am being extremely redundant, for I’ve said and affirmed my individual posture in life, when it comes to the lack of belief in a deity, in fairy tales, or in the supernatural, many, many times before. Also, even though Spinoza kind of started — some may contest this — , or the one to be blamed for, the now so-called “Atheist Movement”, I dislike labels, thus, I do not enjoy being labeled in any way. But you know, if the word does exist, better use it properly I guess.
I’ll be more straightforward this time, or try to anyway. I am tired of all that is being said about Atheism all around the world. It seems the word is automatically correlated with evil, of which the meaning one could argue about for centuries, philosophically speaking. As with believers, unbelievers cannot be generalized. People are different, we evolved this way.
Try and make a quick search on Google for the word(s), let’s say: ‘Atheists’; or better than that: ‘Anti-Atheists’, and you can almost feel the hatred that pops up from the search results. Yes, there are indeed people out there looking for blood. They want to taste it and to show the rest of the world what they’re doing. All the signs of warmongering are there, when most of us, so-called Atheists, don’t really care if they have the gift of believing or not. If they want to appraise Apollo, or worship Thor. Evidently, they all come from religious websites, individuals or other church-related organizations, and the plain old simple-minded religious fundamentalist nuts. The ignorance in most of them doesn’t baffle me anymore, it worries me instead. It’s flabbergastingly stupid and benighted. Completely devoid of all the values they pretend to defend.
It is imperative people understand what is, and how it feels to be an Unbeliever…
In this story, instead of an Atheist, I’m going to refer to myself and others of the same fabric, as an Unbeliever. It is my definition of Atheism — not believing, so I guess it’s not a bad label for me, at all.
When I say I am an unbeliever, I do not mean solely that I am not a Mormon or a Methodist, or even that I am not a Christian or a Buddhist. These seem to me to be relatively insignificant divisions and subdivisions of belief. I mean that I do not believe in any God that has ever been fabricated, in any doctrine that has ever claimed to be revealed, in any scheme of immortality that has ever been postulated, in any creed that has ever been invented by a human mind.
Let’s be stupidly honest here. There have always been men and women without the gift of faith. They don’t require it, they don’t desire it, and would probably not even know what to do with it if they even possessed it at all. This, assuming we are all made by a God(s), in some way or another. So, even though a believer could say that God does things in mysterious ways, it appears as a contradiction in itself.
They, the unbelievers, are apparently no less intelligent than the faithful, and seemingly no less righteous. How great the number of them in the world, would be, of course, gruelingly difficult to say, but they surely exist and are considerably greater in number where enlightenment seems to be more prominent. Since they have no organization and no creeds, they can, of course, have no official spokesman. Notwithstanding, any one of them who speaks out can be trusted to speak, in a way, for all of them. Like the spiritualists, or religious, the unbelievers, wherever found, are of one nature and one language. I can’t nonetheless, pretend to represent more than a single perspective of unbelief. But, let us not forget about the main principle of an Unbeliever — not believing.
The very expressions that I am forced to use put me, right at the start, in a difficult position. Belief, being first in the field, naturally took a positive term for itself and gave a negative one to unbelief. As an unbeliever, I am compelled to disagree with the believers. What they call unbelief, I call belief. I was certainly born to it, but I have tested it with reading and conjecturing, and I hold it mightily. What I have referred to as the gift of faith I do not, to be precise, regard as a gift per se. I consider it, rather, as a survival mechanism from an earlier phase of thinking: in short, as a form of superstition. It, and not the thing I am forced to name unbelief, seems to me to be highly negative. It denies reason. It denies evidence, in the sense that it insists upon introducing elements that come not from proven facts, but from the imagination and wishes of mortal men and women.
Unbelief does not deny reason and it obeys as closely as it can to fact-based evidence.
As to Gods, they have been, I found, countless, but even the names of most of them lie in the deep compost which we know and call civilization. There does not seem to me to be a good reason for holding that some of them are false and some of them, or only one of them, true. Again, each was created by imaginations and wishes of men who could not account for the behaviour of the universe in any other satisfactory way. But no god has satisfied worshipers forever. Oh no. Sooner or later they have realized that the attributes once ascribed to him, or them, such as selfishness or lustfulness or vengefulness, are unworthy of the moral structures that men have evolved among themselves.
Upon this speculation of sorts, not to call it fact, follows the gradual doom of the god, however long may the faithful stick to his cult. In the case of the god who still survives in the loyalty of men after centuries of critical observation and examination, it can always be written down, that little besides his name has remained unscathed. His attributes will have been revised so many times, that he is really another, completely different god. Nor is this objection met by the argument that the concept of the god has been purified while the essence of him survived. In the concept alone can he be studied; the essence eludes the grasp of the human mind. I may prefer among the various gods, that God who seems to me to be the most meticulously cleansed of what I regard as unholy elements, but I make my choice, obviously, upon principles that come from observation of the conduct of men.
Whether a god has been created in the image of filthy or pure desires does not matter much. The difference proves merely that different men have desired gods and have provided themselves with the gods they were able to devise. Behind all their devises still lies the great chasm of ignorance. There is no trustworthy evidence as to a god’s absolute existence.
As for the thing called revelation, as I see it, carry the proof further. All the prophets swear that a god speaks through them, and yet they foresee contradictions only. Once more, men must choose in conformity with their own principles, or moral values. That a revelation was announced long ago makes it difficult to examine of course, but does not otherwise attest its soundness in any way. That some revealed doctrine has lasted for ages and has met the needs of many generations proves that it is the kind of doctrine that survives and satisfies, but, yet again, not that it is divine in any way.
Secular doctrines that turned out to be perfectly false have also endured and satisfied someone, somewhere. If belief in a god has to proceed from the premise that he exists, belief in revelation has first to proceed from the presumption that a god exists and then to go further to the assumption that he communicates his will to certain men. But both are mere conjectures. Neither is, in the nowadays state of knowledge, at all capable of providing proof.
Let’s suppose a god did exist, he was a he, and suppose he did communicate his will to any of his hand-made creatures. Who among them could comprehend that language? Who could take that dictation? And who could overwhelmingly coerce his fellow men, that he had been selected and that they must accept him as genuine? The best they could do would be to have faith in two assumptions and to test the revealed will by its correspondence to their imaginations and wishes. This does not follow without a leap of the reason into the realm of hypothesis. Nothing is proved except that men are everywhere very much alike. They have the same members, the same organs, the same glands, in varying degrees of shapes and sizes. Being so much alike, they are instinctively inclined to agree upon a few primary desires. Blessed be the religion by which those desires appear to be fulfiled in some way or another.
One desire by which the human mind is repeatedly teased with is the desire to have an after-life. It’s not difficult to explain. Men live so briefly that their puny plans far outrun their ability to execute them, and they know it — I know it. They see themselves cut off before their will to live is exhausted. Naturally enough, they wish to survive, and, being men, believe in their chances for survival. But their wishes render no possible proof yet again. No wish is evidence of anything beyond the wish itself. Let millions embrace it, and it is still only a wish. Let each separate race display it, and it is still only a wish. Let the wisest hold it as fiercely as the most foolish, and it is still only a wish.
Whoever says he knows that immortality is a fact is merely hoping that it is. And whoever argues, as men often do, that life would be pointless without immortality because it alone brings meaning into human fate, must first argue, as no man has ever quite convincingly done so, that life has an unmistakable meaning and that it is just. I am convinced on neither of these two points. Though I am, I believe, familiar with all the arguments, I do not find any of them notably better than the others. All I see is that the wish for immortality is universal, that certain schemes of immortality imagined from it have been more generally accepted than others. I can merit the religions that provide these successful schemes, with a more astute insight into human wishes than other religions have had, but I cannot credit them with greater authority regarding truth.
It’s all guesswork.
Many believers, I am told, have the same doubts, and yet have the strange aptitude of putting their doubts behind and entering passionately into the fellowship of the faithful. I can’t really grasp this concept. So far as I understand it, such believers are moved by their desires to the extent of letting them rule, not only their conduct but also their thoughts. An unbeliever’s desires have, apparently, less power over his reason. Perhaps this is only another way of saying that his strongest desire is to be as reasonable as he can. Despite the way this condition is interpreted, the consequence remains the same.
An honest unbeliever can no more make himself believe against his reason than he can make himself free of gravity. I feel no obligation whatever to believe. I might once have felt it prudent to keep silent, for I understand that the race of men, while sheep in ingenuity, are wolves for orthodoxy; but just now, there are so many varieties of belief that even an unbeliever may speak boldly and not be judged, or killed.
So, I must answer some questions which unbelievers are often asked. For instance, does it not persuade me, to realize that many wise men have contemplated upon supernatural affairs and have been won over to belief? Nope, not in the least. With all due respect to the gods, revelation, and immortality, no man is sufficiently wiser than his fellow humans, to have the right to insist that they follow him into the regions about which all men are seemingly ignorant.
Unbelief, from my perspective, is not ignorant and devoid of humanity. It is simply rooted in courage and not in fear. Belief is still a predicament of those ancient races who, out of a lack of knowledge, filled the forest with satyrs and fairies, and the seas with fantastically huge monsters and the ends of the earth with deformed cannibals. So, the defeatists among believers have populated the void with witches and devils, and the hopeful among them have occupied it with angels and gods. There are breathing myths, there are comforting legends, there are consoling hopes. But they have, as the unbeliever sees them, no authority beyond that of poetry, even at an epic literary level. Beliefs, like tastes for that matter, may and do differ.
Among the dangers of nature’s tendency for randomness, the unbeliever doesn’t look for safety to any watchful providence. Though he knows that knowledge, science, is imperfect, he puts all his trust in those. Each discovery of a new truth brings him true joy. He builds himself up, so far as he can, upon truth, and strengthens himself with it. By doing so, he never falls into the ignorant grasp of superstition, but instead grows more robust and ecstatic in his courage. He may still have many fears, but he does not multiply them in his imagination and then fight them with his wishes, and prayers.
Does the unbeliever lack certain merits that are attributed to the believer? The confidence, the unquestioning obedience and blind faith? He may, yet it must always be remembered that the greatest of believers are the greatest of tyrants. If the freedom rather than the despotism of faith is to better the world, then the improvement lies in the hands of the unbelievers.
I know there are a lot of people, unbelievers like me, who are mystified by the feeling of belonging. But it is not what an Atheist is, or what Atheism is supposed to be. Don’t be an Atheist because of a trend or because it may seem fashionable. It’s a righteous, intellectual position which was, and still is in certain parts of the globe, condemned and judged by many. Learn how to unbelieve, or if like me and many others, you were born to question the unquestionable, be wiser.
I unbelieve, therefore I am an Atheist.
Written with the help of my words, other people’s words, and books.