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Don't Tell Me I Believe in Nothing

By Bret P --

Our family recently welcomed my first niece into the world. This is the first child among my siblings, and I don't have any kids of my own (parenthood isn't in my immediate future either). I can tell you that I couldn't be more thrilled or amazed at the miracle of life. Yes, I said miracle.

Baby Girl! This is my Favorite!Image by melinal via Flickr

Does it sound a little mystical? It might sound strange coming from someone who is a committed atheist, but I think one of the gross misconceptions of non-religious people is that somehow we're incapable of wonder or amazement.

The path from Christian fundamentalist to moderate, agnostic then ultimately atheist, has been an interesting (and freeing) journey to say the least, but it hasn't been without its share of conflict and hurt feelings. I've had plenty of accusations hurled my way, and while many are more entertaining than insulting, I actually get a little irritated when someone tells me that I believe in nothing or have no purpose, simply because I don't believe in god.

I can only speak for myself, not other non-believers. I believe in a lot of things. Generally I believe in things that are factual and based in reality, and try to reject beliefs that are not. So what do I believe?

I believe that all we have is now. Even if an afterlife exists, there's no evidence for it, therefore I choose not to live my life under the assumption that there is one. I try to enjoy life in the moment, because, as far as we know, we only get one shot. Whether there is eternity waiting for me or not, doesn't matter. This is the only life and reality I can tangibly perceive.
"If it is to be, then it is up to me."
Cheesy quote I know, but that's a reality of giving up on the idea of divine providence. I don't think there's a cosmic guiding hand that cares about my well being (or anyone else's for that matter). With that assumption, I have to make the best of the situation, work hard to get what I want, and do my part to leave this world a better place than I came into it.

I believe that all we have is now. [...] I don't think there's a cosmic guiding hand that cares about my well being (or anyone else's for that matter). I believe that factual evidence is the best way we can really know what's real and what's not. How do we know that Santa Clause is not real? This might be a stupid question, but if you apply the same scrutiny to Jesus Christ you'll get the same result, but with far more angry resistance. Apparently an ancient text with mystery authors and no significant secular historical correlation has more authority than Moore's poem "Twas The Night Before Christmas". Willfully believing in things that have no basis in reality doesn't help us understand our world better.

I believe that we don't need to have a personal relationship with a deity to have purpose or be happy. We exist in this modern era, lucky enough to perceive and understand our world. If being a speck in the universe seems insignificant, think about all the odds of us actually being here, let alone you as an individual.

I believe in the love of friends and family. There is such a thing as unconditional love, but that depends on who we surround ourselves with. Certainly the human condition isn't perfect, but I can't help but believe that we'd progress faster if we tried to understand human motivations, instead of making rigid judgments.

I believe we need to constantly challenge the information we're given. With all the propaganda out there about world disasters, war, terror, and other life's tragedies, the truth is that we live in the safest era of human civilization. Technology has allowed news to travel at the speed of light, and we're bombarded by it. That doesn't help our perception, but put it in perspective. We can't afford to live in fear.

When I held my niece for the first time and looked into her eyes, I saw the miracle of human existence. I'm more than optimistic for her future. She's going to have the benefit of growing up without fundamentalist superstition or dogma. She's been born into a loving household with exceptional family support.

I can't help but have the opinion that simply being here, being loved, and having the freedom to pursue what we love is enough to fulfill the proverbial human soul. I look forward to the day when we can enjoy life for what it is, instead of looking for something imaginary to fill some perceived void. I may be without a belief in the supernatural, but my life is full of purpose, wonder, and amazement anyway.