This week’s Wait But Why blog entry, How Religion Got in the Way is their latest triumph. It addresses every facet of my thoughts about faith, religion, spirituality and atheism.
I carry a secret with me every day. I don’t believe in god. In fact, I believe that the probability that god exists is extremely low. This makes me a bad person in the eyes of most despite the evidence to the contrary that I am socially concious, generous and good. While I respect the right of my family and friends to believe what they want, I fail to understand why their belief is so much more acceptable than mine.
Bob understands, thank god. He also doesn’t see how faith in a force beyond us would make us better people. We both know that our moral compass is socially ingrained, not divinely bestowed. Neither of us believes that there is a sacred force manifesting good or bad stuff for us any more than we believe in Santa Claus.
What we do believe is that we are a part of the earth and the universe in the same way as the stars, trees, dandelions and earthworms. We belong to nature as opposed to the other way around. We don’t subscribe to the notion that humans are the apex of evolution or god’s crowning glory. Neither do we imagine that after our bodies die, our soul will live on forever, flitting around on the clouds, burning in hell or perhaps haunting our enemies and loved ones.
Bob and I believe that when you die you are dead. To us, the afterlife looks like a composting project, wherein the nutrients in our bodies get broken down by microbes and used to fertilize plants. Yes, the quarks and leptons that once were Bob and Camille will live on beyond our deaths but we don’t refer to them as our souls.
As long as we keep all of this to ourselves, everything is fine. It’s when we share our secret that we risk offending others and ostracizing ourselves from polite society. To most people, atheists are evil. I’m not sure why my failure to believe is so alarming and have never thought to ask until now. So I ask our readers, “Why it is so important to believe in god?”
To be fair, many of our friends also shy away from the notion of a God. Their word for belief in the invisible powers that be is “spirituality.” If spirituality is another word to describe our connection with the earth and its beings, then I have it. If it means personal growth, then I’m also in. But more often than not the word spirituality goes beyond connection and growth to indicate belief in a guiding force. That’s where I draw the line.
My particular belief system, or perceived lack of it has put me in a lonely place. Imagine if nearly everyone in the world loved dogs, loved talking about their dogs and thought you were a bad person because you didn’t have a dog and weren’t that interested in having long conversations about them. Oh geez – bad example…
Which is why it was so refreshing to read How Religion Got in the Way.
The more I learned, the more I realized my whole country disagreed with me—I’d read that 96% of Americans believed in God, 90% believed in Heaven, 73% believed in Hell, almost half believed in the Bible literally—talking snake, Noah’s Ark, people living to like 200, etc.—and 61% believed that “a democracy cannot survive without a widespread belief in God or a Supreme Being.” I learned that the deeply religious even included a number of science-minded geniuses like Isaac Newton. Meanwhile, atheist was a bad thing to be, something derogatory, something to keep your mouth shut about, especially if you ever wanted to run for office.
There’s almost no word ickier than spirituality. It’s vague, amorphous, somehow very annoying, and it manages to turn off both the religious and the non-religious. And if you gather five people who all say they’re actually fond of spirituality, they’ll be defining the term in five different ways.
Tim Urban of Wait But Why is currently my favorite online writer. He is the first person to put into words what I am thinking since Joe Bageant passed away in 2011. Tim and Andrew Finn teamed up last year to create what I consider some of the most insightful articles on the Internets. Not only is Tim’s writing funny but his clear-headed observations and perspective align so completely with my values that I am tempted to seal Plastic Farm Animals with a link to Wait But Why and let them take it from here.