For many people the words “good” and “Atheist” don’t seem to fit together very well. Some view folks in the Atheist movement as being angry and kind of nihilistic, and frankly, some are! Others harbor distrust because let’s be honest many people who are Atheists were once very dedicated Christians, Muslims, or Jews.
I fall within a previously Christian category and I get the impression that some people are still quite perplexed as to why I have separated myself so clearly away from faith in Jesus. After all, for so many others Jesus seems to be, well, the perfect savior. Why go any further when the New Testament seems to pour with authenticity, power, and love?
Rather than giving my traditional reasons for why I no longer accept Christianity as a viable option for myself, I want to simply express where I see myself going from here. In other words, I want to give my own take on what authentic Atheism should look like. Also, in my view Atheism is secondary from desiring to first and foremost be one who loves and seeks out truth within this world.
To give you guys a nutshell, I think there are three important ways to be a good Atheist.
1) A good Atheist knows when to pick his or her battles. The further I go along this path the less I need or even desire to be dogmatic or forceful with my position. It is far more important to just ask the right questions. This is not to say that I don’t desire the debate. I desire the debate because I personally find it to be very helpful. It helps me articulate my thoughts and there is something honorable to me about having good minds that disagree engage in the struggle to exemplify the very best ideas. Purity within one’s reasoning is something I find highly desirable and attractive.
2) A good Atheist is driven to define morality fairly and live it out practically. I mean, here we are as a segment of people within the world that do not extract morality as being the authority and inspiration of a God or gods. This is the key contention, an Atheist concludes that there is a void in the place of traditional Theism.
We are the one’s who honestly do not find God in the world. It could be because an existing God does not reveal himself in our lives, but in terms of viability we think it is safe to say that gods are absent and quite likely nonexistent. This is the best our combined powers of observation and the arguments within the world religions appear to afford us. So if you want to know where I draw my morality from, I base it out of a simple principle to be honest and objective with how I approach all of life’s burning questions.
Is the endeavor of morality futile without God? Well, if you are convinced that morality must stem from an immaterial divine being, then yes, upon that definition morality is futile without that being hovering over our existence. If, however, you become convinced that an immaterial divine being is not evident or forthcoming, then morality is our creation. It is our creation that begins from assessing the positive and negative aspects of our actions. The need for empathy becomes very strong in this view. To be immoral is to lack the basic components for empathy that most people express quite naturally. I’m even willing to concede that for some people life is utterly meaningless. Some people, unfortunately are broken units in terms of possessing good judgement and concern with regard to the wellbeing of others. They become the definers of psychopathy and sociopathy.
What we should acknowledge in the end is that such attitudes are not the norm. They are the exception and what I am far less skeptical about now is the ability of the vast majority of our race to both exemplify and strive for empathy and compassion. Yes, it takes work. No one is claiming to live out a perfect utopia that we can all but entertain and imagine. By the way, many of us imagine it quite differently.
3) A good Atheist is not someone that does not want to acknowledge that a God exists at all costs. We are willing to concede this point if we find viable ways to do so. The contention, at least for any good thinker, is how to establish these basic arguments.