It is sometimes – sometimes being an understatement – said that deep rooted to many atheists’ lack of belief lay an insecurity which leads to an endless hunt for the divine. Those atheists, it is said, are obsessed with deity precisely because they want for it to be real, they yearn for a god to be watching over us all. This is probably true for some, but there are many differing reasons and circumstances that lead to the kaleidoscope of atheist personalities. Though I cannot speak for all atheists, I can speculate as to some possibilities leading to the somewhat ‘paradoxical obsession’ as well as say it as I understand it within myself, from the perspective that has been my experience as a deity obsessed atheist.
One of the big drives, at least initially, is one of hungry curiosity. What are these god things that most people on this planet of ours all so fervently cherish? Once you start looking around, you are soon overwhelmed with the sheer volume of beliefs, ideas, concepts of deity, ways of life and countless worlds filled with mythologies and colourful supernatural assortments. It is definitely a vast and interesting bit of stimulation for those who like to learn things about the world and people.
Although it is not a particularly valiant drive behind secular obsession of deity, rebelling against a religious upbringing is no doubt a notable driving force. There is a bit of a tendency for the vocal atheists to pack some vitriol and I suspect the grudge that can linger for a while after an “atheist conversion” (or religious reversion really) often has this effect.
As realisation of my own atheist perspective sunk in, I was soon overtaken by a sense of utter frustration because of the lie that had been hammered into my head for a big and important part of my development as I grew from a child into a thinking person. It became obvious that I had been irrevocably changed as a person and there was nothing I could do to go back and live it all over from a naturalist and supernatural free perspective… religion had changed me and I longed to know who I would have been without it – but I could never know. So revenge becomes a last stab at defiance: let’s give religion a kick in the teeth and see if that makes us feel better – further bowing to it’s influence.
Eventually, as frustration gives way to acceptance, vitriol gives way to intrigue even compassion and you often find yourself wondering why you keep trying to convince the blinded world about The Emperor’s transparent obscenity.
Once you realise how many good reasons there are for not believing in gods and the supernatural and how little reason to think one should do otherwise, it can become fun to point these seemingly obvious reasons out to whomever happens to stumble into a debate about it.
After a certain amount of religious and mythologically themed material has been digested, it becomes rather obvious that it is fiction sprung from human mind and that there are simply too many differing, equally likely, or unlikely stories about gods out there for a single concept to stand out above the rest. Even more fascinating is that most theists don’t seem to have even the remotest interest in any of the other theist possibilities and just take it on faith – as it were – that their own story about God is in fact, more or less the only story about gods.
Pointing out such and other problems with the reasoning is fun at first, and some of that vitriol gets spent in the process but again it eventually platos as you realise that on such points most rational minded theists will simply shrug. Eventually you get bored with debating the irrational and hoping in vain for more than a rational shrug.
But if you are a personality that enjoys a bit of debate, religion makes for an endless source of subject and a limitless supply of subjects.
Prophets of atheism
There has been a bit of a recent atheist resurgence – in the west at least – and we now have representatives in the forms of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, The Brights and the likes – even heavy weight intellectual Hawkings all but joining the secular crusade. This is probably a good thing and perhaps atheism could do with taking a leaf from theism’s books.
Unlike religion’s instruction manuals of indoctrination, atheism has no notion of or framework for perpetuation. There is no holy secular scripture to guide atheists in why and how to spread atheism or how to live their lives, but we haven’t needed gods to teach us morals and life skills for a very long time. As for spreading atheism, it has always been up to the lucky few who happened to grow up in a secular childhood and society and the brave curious ones who are able to ask themselves questions and answer them truthfully.
Though some naturalists are vocal, the vast majority of true atheists are all but indifferent towards religion and the subject simply gets ignored or loosely sidestepped – which is understandable as there is really little more to talk about than mythology and the quirky fact that most of humanity still believe in so much of it.
We could leave things to turn out as they may. Maybe a kind of social, or intellectual evolution eventually will lead to a completely secular world, released from it’s divine shackling, but can we bet on say the zealous enthusiasm of Islam to spread itself fading out over 5, 20, 150… generations? Isn’t it a morally repugnant idea to leave millions of women to suffer their fate at the hands of their misogynist religions for any period of time, let alone generations?
This is at the extreme, but there are many other far more widespread religious repercussions causing irreparable damage to people socially, sexually, medically, technologically, intellectually and more. Is it not our moral duty, as good ‘souls’ to spread the truth about all this religious nonsense that cause so much pain and confusion?
Here even atheists just about agree with John, only the truth will set us free.
It’s hard to see atheism not spreading itself actively being a match for the working machines of organised religion and it could probably do with a few more dark horse priests.
The answer to the universe gods and everything
So we are all searching for something, a purpose, a “reason for being alive” the answer to life. Theists like to think they have found this answer in the supernatural, we are here to live, love and learn for some greater purpose in the afterlife, or the next life… notice how it is always some form of ‘life’, afterwards. It is death really that They speak off and it’s a way of saying our purpose is to avoid death, it’s almost the definition of life reformulated or restated.
There is more in less here, luckily. Without the supernatural distraction, they aren’t far off but there is already infinite purpose in simply living, loving and learning alone. Ask almost any parent about their purpose and you will soon find that in their children they find endless purpose. It’s music to the musician; ingenuity to the entrepreneur; danger to the brave; a new word to the linguist; a mathematicians’ breakthrough; a well cooked meal; a well placed ornament; a kiss in the dark; a swim in the blazing sun; a baby’s smile; a walk in the park and a man in the moon… purpose is everywhere we care to look.
The present has more than enough to offer, more than anyone needs and we need not continuously yearn for an unobtainable future, and it is liberating not to. Death is imminent, what we have is here, right now.
Douglas Adams’ Deep Thought satirically points out that we don’t even know what the question is, I wonder if there is even a question here at all.
Atheism is not just some insecurity leading the lost and confused to look for religion in some mysterious way. It is more often honesty and the willingness to uncover your ears and look at the whole story beyond that which you have been surrounded with.
Someone once said:
“ Living for nothing more than just merely living, is not only enlightening but uplifting – truly understanding and acknowledging that your life will end, gives you a certain kick in the behind to actually take advantage and honestly appreciate being alive. Nothing is more encouraging than realising that you will not live forever and that you will not be ascending to a better place after you finally close your eyes one last time; scary and liberating. “
All you have to do, is live and aim to make the most of it, now.