“Atheist” has always been a loaded word for me. I’d grown up being taught to distance myself from such people, to not trust anyone who didn’t even try to believe in the supernatural. The few interactions I’d had with open atheists generally reinforced this view, though now I understand more why that happened. Regardless, after I lost my faith, atheism wasn’t the first thing on my mind.
I had just admitted my faith was lost, and I was surveying the damage.
Some people can abandon a faith with few problems. My journey wasn’t so smooth. Years of mental gymnastics and excuses for what I thought was great had finally caught up to me. About three decades – all of my remembered life – had been spent shoehorning Christianity into reality.
And now the shoe didn’t fit.
Acknowledging that I was wrong meant I had to question everything else I believed. Was I wrong about other aspects of the supernatural? Was I wrongly ignoring other faiths? What else was I blind or oblivious to?
Those aren’t easy questions to answer. The next few months did give me some insight. Faith looked more and more hollow every time I was around it. Other faiths didn’t jump out at me as having the right answers. Worse, they required some of the same lies that I told myself when I was a Christian.
At some point, I realized my beliefs needed to be fair. I couldn’t give one set of beliefs a free pass that I couldn’t give anything else. My assumptions had to be uniform and strictly controlled. Part of this was to protect myself against future exhortations to believe in the invisible. Another part was to shore up my dwindling confidence in my senses.
The process took a while because I was still afraid of the dreaded “atheist” word. Everything seemed to be pointing towards no belief in any deities. I had to at least try to avoid it.
But agnosticism offers no refuge.
It came back to honesty and fairness. In a strictly philosophical sense, I could appreciate that there wasn’t any way for anyone to really know if there are deities out there. But that sense appeared to be a thin veil over every fantasy rather than just one.
There was enough evidence that I became familiar with to make a decision. Cosmology and astronomy gets time from the Big Bang to now without much fuss. Evolution gets life to its current diversity. None of these things require people to like the idea or even be around for them.
Deities only became an issue when people became an issue. Outside of that, there’s nothing showing dinosaurs worshiped gods or trilobites believed in ghosts. The supernatural only makes sense within the framework of human experience.
Moreover, agnosticism felt like I was conceding too much. Part of that was my anger, I admit. Now, though, it’s a reflection on how agnosticism is frequently used to avoid standing up for oneself. It should not matter if someone is agnostic or atheist or theist or gnostic. But the use of the terms devolve into exchanges where people have to beg everyone to admit ignorance. That’s not how I wanted to spend my time.
After all was said and done, I had to admit that I didn’t have faith in any supernatural deities.
I didn’t feel great about it. I remember capitalizing the word “atheist” when I started blogging. It was a nod to the fact that I didn’t feel on equal footing. There was still an element of shame in being honest with myself and what I believe. Yes, another vestige of Christianity rearing its head.
Over the years I’ve become more used to it. The fear of the term exists, but only to the extent that others have a negative reaction towards it. I can’t control that reaction, but I also can’t let that reaction control me.
I don’t believe in deities. Sufficient natural explanations of time and matter do a good job of explaining how people got here. Without gods. If that wasn’t enough, there are more natural phenomena of people starting cults and other fringe beliefs. They show a pattern of social belief, of groups forming around something that isn’t real.
Put both of these things together, and the likelihood that nothing is out there increases quite a bit.