The Joy of Atheism
About 13.7 billion years ago the Big Bang created a universe of only hydrogen, helium, and small amounts of lithium. All other elements were created in the cores of stars and in supernovas when some stars exploded. About 4.5 billion years ago our solar system was formed out of the remnants of supernovas, and we are formed out of our solar system. We are stardust. As physicist (and occasional philosopher) Lawrence Krauss said, “Forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.”
All living things die. All planets and stars will eventually die. Current evidence shows that even our universe will fade out over trillions of years. I find this amazingly liberating, and realize that life is to be lived joyfully and fully in the present, which is all we really have — while remembering the past and projecting into the future to give us guidance as to how to live now.
Some people think that our mortality means that our lives are meaningless. When we experience a good movie, play, or book, we can find meaning in them despite the fact that they are finite. Why should our lives be different?
Many religious people ask how atheists can be happy without a god. For me and for many atheists I know, the realization of our atheism has been extremely freeing and has opened us to our innate happiness.
- Atheism helps us to see reality as it actually is, without the mental filters of superstition preventing us from directly experiencing it.
- Atheism opens us to experience our selves, without the debasing idea that we are innately evil or sinful.
- Atheism allows us to experience true interpersonal love, without any imaginary supernatural intervention.
- Atheism gives us the freedom to think for ourselves, to construct our own meanings. We each can choose what we think has value.
- Atheism shows us that we can gain meaning by seeking to make our world a better place, for ourselves and our posterity.
- Atheism teaches us to take responsibility for our behaviors in the here and now, not for a reward in an imaginary afterlife.
- Atheism lets us see that we have to make choices about our future. No big daddy god is going to protect us from bad decisions.
- Atheism teaches us to treasure this moment, this life, and this world — because we realize that it’s all we have.
Here are three more quotes that show the advantages of atheist life and thought:
“When I became convinced that the Universe is natural — that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, of the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust.”
— Robert Ingersoll, 1896
“We experience happiness and suffering ourselves; we encounter others in the world and recognize that they experience happiness and suffering as well; we soon discover that ‘love’ is largely a matter of wishing that others experience happiness rather than suffering; and most of us come to feel that love is more conducive to happiness, both our own and that of others, than hate. There is a circle here that links us to one another: we each want to be happy; the social feeling of love is one of our greatest sources of happiness; and love entails that we be concerned for the happiness of others. We discover that we can be selfish together.”
— Sam Harris, The End of Faith
“There is no evidence for a god, no coherent definition of a god, no good argument for a god, good positive arguments against a god, no agreement among believers about the nature or moral principles of a god, and no need for a god. We can live happy, moral, productive lives without such belief, and we can do it better.”
— Dan Barker, of Freedom From Religion Foundation
Many theists complain that atheism provides no values, no code of ethics, no standard by which to measure any human conduct. This is true, but it’s like saying that quantum mechanics provides no such values. Like quantum mechanics, atheism is simply a conclusion about how the universe is — based on the reliable evidence. This is why most atheists are also Secular Humanists, or justHumanists. The philosophy of Secular Humanism takes the atheist position and adds another layer. It declares that humans are most important, not any imaginary gods. We have the power, thru love, reason, science, courage, and vision, to solve our problems. We shape our destiny. We are each capable of personal development and satisfaction. Secular Humanism holds as its highest goal the happiness, fulfillment, and freedom of all humankind.
There are many local and nationwide nontheist groups in the U.S. and thru-out the world. I’ve collected a list of some of them on our communities page.
This has been a long and involved article, so I would like to conclude with letting you know the bad news … and the good news. The bad news is that there is no god to watch over and care for us. The good news is that there is no Hell, and we can all love and care for each other — if we so choose.