Feel-Bad Atheism

One of the rhetorical epithets of atheism is this notion that it’s an empty worldview. Nature in all its cold indifference is all that there is. There is nothing more than an existence of suffering and pain. Comfort is a delusion.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it?
The whole point of describing something in this way is to make it sound less appealing than it really is. It’s like handing someone a glass of water and then talking about how the local water treatment plant suffers from budget cuts. Go ahead and drink the water. I’m sure it has acceptable levels of bacteria and lead in it.

Looking at atheism, this is something I used to believe. Destroying belief in deities had to mean an empty existence where nothing better can be expected. I expected that the world would seem different if I lost my faith in an all powerful Bronze Age war god. I expected that I’d lose all hope if I abandoned my beliefs.

I didn’t need help to be afraid.
Anxiety and depression can do terrible things to a person without any help. I just had the lucky chance to experience that help. It was the gift that kept on giving. I couldn’t give it up because I had no clue what would happen if I did.

And the terror felt very real. People outside the faith don’t always get this. They might chalk up these silly beliefs to a lapse in judgment or stupidity, but there are all kinds of preaching out there that works hard at getting around common sense. Fear is one of those things. Christians can be made to fear things so much that it will alter their behavior when the idea of the supernatural is anywhere on the horizon.

Things changed in a good way when I lost my faith.
I stopped being afraid of a good amount of things when I stopped believing in zombie Jesus and old legends of burning bushes. This was the exact opposite of what I’d been told. Still, there are times when I’ll have this vestigial sense that I should be afraid. Nowadays I recognize the feeling as useless conditioning.

It was that realization that helped me consider that there were many other things out there that were wrong. Being godless isn’t about being a pessimist or cynic. Yes, there are some pessimistic and cynical atheists out there. But that problem exists regardless of ideas about the supernatural.

Beauty and inspiration hasn’t ceased to exist for me. They just pop up in different places. When I see deaf people laugh at hearing for the first time, I feel pretty good for them. When I read about people successfully going into space, I think it’s great. When I see people looking out for each other when they don’t have to, I am reminded that this is a feature of humanity and not a flaw.

No deity is required to think about these things. I know there are people who’d beg to differ. Who are they to tell me or anyone else how to feel? They only had that control earlier because I’d been bound and chained to believe them. Without threats, and without those chains, there’s nothing holding me to those ideas.

Life isn’t always beautiful, but that’s true regardless of what anyone believes. There will be good times and bad times, ups and downs, ins and outs. Letting go of faith was scary, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.