I think it was while reading Sam Harris's comments about agnostic vs atheist that I realized I was a total hypocrite when I thought of myself as an agnostic. I was still trying to hedge my bets: just in case there was a god I wanted to let it know I was not completely swayed by the dark side. That Sam Harris moment caused me to dig deeper, to read more, and to become what I already was...a complete non-believer...an atheist.
Not long after that I came across Robert Ingersoll's writings and it was like being born again. I became Alfred E. Neuman--"What me worry?" I never actually believed in the first place, but it took me about 57 years to actually accept who I really was.
And the atheists said "amen."
(Ingersoll is a fascinating person from the 19th century) Pardon me for waxing nostalgic, this is some of his quote that meant so much to me:
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
"When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free -- free to think, to express my thoughts -- free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself . . . I was free! I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds."
Thanks for listening to my rant. Peter C.
There's a lot of negativity attached to the word no thanks to theists who use it only in hushed tones when it's to condescend. I actually remember a car ride when I was really small, probably pre-k or kindergarten aged, during which I mentioned that a new kid at my school was atheist. I didn't even know what it meant, so it was just a random thing I was repeating. My mom gasped, then tsked, then said something I don't remember in a quiet voice. I remember feeling like maybe I had said something wrong. I was kinda freaked out.
Annoyingly, the word has bad connotations for many people. It's just a symptom of living in the deluded world we live in.
Most of the negativity comes from the Cold War, and the paranoia about "Godless Communism." Billy Graham, and others, really did a lot of lobbying and damage... getting laws passed to put "In God We Trust" on our paper currency, where it never was before (just on some coins), and adding the undergod to the Pledge of Allegiance.
The money thing is highly unconstitutional, but congressmen and senators are too chicken-hearted to do anything about it. Same for the pledge; there is nothing in the constitution about schoolchildren (or government officials) having to recite a bit of drivel every day. It wasn't even written till 1892, to celebrate Columbus Day...which probably delighted the *bleep!* out of the survivinig tribes of Native Americans (includinig some of my distant ancestors.)
I almost stopped voting for one California senator for taking part in the "undergod" demonstration on the Capitol steps, but the alternative was not acceptable. (I wish they'd put "None of the Above" on ALL ballots.....)
I flip the meaning of this word by using it as a primary self-identifier and then challenging the misperceptions that arise. We are a growing portion of the U.S. population, and will only be able to exert influence to improve our culture if we speak up.
I know what you mean when you say that the religious see "atheist" as a bad word, at least here in America. We're the hated minority. Here's the answer...
IT'S NOT THAT YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD -IT'S THAT YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN ANYTHING. That and you're also in direct contradiction to what the religious are investing their lives in.
If someone says they're Buddhist on the other hand, hey there's no problem. Buddhist don't have a god, but they do have teachings to follow. The Buddhist has a glass that can be shown to be full -like all the other religions. The free-thinking atheist has a supposedly empty glass that could potentially be filled with all the bad things in the world.
With a supposedly empty glass, they can point at the atheist and say "you have no moral guide", "you don't see the truth we see", "you can be corrupted easily", "how can anyone trust you"...
Stay tuned though, soon you can fill your glass with Orderism -an ideology for the non-theist.
"I'm an Orderist"
Actually, it's not that I don't believe in anything. It's not at all that I have an "empty glass". Orderism? How does chaos fit into that? lol.
oh i know you're a good person. the ability to reason that allows someone to resist the magic sky-fairy, is the same reasoning that keeps us out of jail. And your glass is full of good stuff -but THEY can't see that.
They say Americans can't have an atheist president -well why is that? It's because of the reasons I stated before -no one can be sure where the atheist president is coming from -he might be under control of the devil for god's sake! LOL.
I'm writing a book, and a website on Orderism. -choosing order over chaos in every case (good over bad, reason over superstition...). It's a big subject and actually has some DEEP metaphysical hints. What this will mean to you is that, we can simply leave the religious people crying by the wayside, as we build the fantastic.
People are generally "lazy thinkers", they stop thinking when a suitable answer comes to them. Couple that with the fact they WANT to be led, and NOT be leaders themselves -religion just swoops in to save their day. So ya, we have to kick religion out and fill the void with something the smart and not-so-smart can agree on.
I actually am starting to really like the term Freeist. I'm not defining myself by what I am not as in atheism. I'm not agreeing to blindly follow any doctrine, sorry but as much as I like John's Orderism at first blush its still imposing an external structure on my beliefs.
I like Freeism because it reverses the nomenclature onto the theist. If they are theists and I am not then I am an Atheist. But if i am a freeist them automatically they are anti Freedom. I really like that distinction.
I like that :), Freeism. I also agree with it. It's a paradox to try to get a "free-thinker" to join doctrine.
But the masses WILL be led by something, they would soon collect under a flag (they'll form order out of the chaos, SEE).
That's great James Kz! Our fundie neighbors have said several times that our kids, now 18 and 20, have turned out so well, and they look kind of stymied when they say it. lol. You can see they wonder how us heathens did such a good job. :)
I feel a lot of pride with remaining true to my convictions regarding atheism, skepticism, free thought, critical thinking. It's hard won. I've had to put up with a lot from religionists. People can use whatever word they like, for marketing, and social change, and acceptance. But for me, I stick to "atheist."
Many people from minorities spend decades throwing around the terminologies that they want used to define themselves. I think discriminated-against people have a right to do that, and it's natural. Self definition can be liberating.
But for me, I'm atheist. Proud to say it.