Happy new year. Happy, happy. I want to be a happy, healthy, hopeful atheist, but throughout the workweek, whenever the obligatory supernaturalism is projected onto incidents by the ignorant around me and I reply placidly that it might be better to go with a reasonable explanation of world events, often as not, I get this tiresome response: "I don't know HOW you can do that- how can you live without believing in something?" And then comes the inevitable, "Well, you can believe what you want, but I believe..."

"Believe" is always the operative word, rather than "think," and as "unbelievers" we have come to accept that that's how it is; we prefer to organize our thoughts and determine facts, while the superstitious majority simply cling to random wishful fantasies, and by clinging, fail to progress. This immobility of theirs is overwhelmingly the "safest" position to take- not to grow, not to discover. How is it, though, that they are the positives and we the negatives/naysayers/UN-believers? They get to frame the discussion, they invent the terms, they give us our names.

I am being defined as hopeless, that I can't be happy and healthy, because I (negative) DON'T believe (positive), and that's a problem. Even here in the rational alternate universe of the Atheist Nexus, I read so many of our comments- and find myself inclined to make them- about what we are NOT, as rebuttals to those attacking us. I am anxious for a new language to be invented- a language of what is real and known. I want to see a clear, neat label on the jar containing DEATH. It's a freakish-looking thing, as a sideshow- but what a distraction from the main event. Why is immortality equated with hope?

It used to be comforting to consider that I would live forever- as long as it was something vague, in the distance. But then I got to wondering what the Hell I would do in Heaven and it got to be a bore. The only interesting conception of Heaven was one of a big, endless concert, just music and more music and dancing and whooping it up, but then, you'd have to be there with all those pruney church people and listen to preaching and endure the wails of the damned and I thought about eternity in terms of a long sermon and could only be horrified. And then I looked at dead animals in the road, and could plainly see that there's no reason to think they "go" anywhere- they just end. Ending isn't as bad as they say, and maybe, forever isn't what we really want.

When do we evolve past being a-theist and start being human beings? I want to celebrate, but not godlessness, not zero. We are something, we have something. We are not a negation. We need a holiday of our own, and a type of salvation that reclaims holiness for the living. Merely wishing for the infinite ain't all it's cracked up to be- there's so much more drama and excitement when a story has an end. The infinite seems so...limiting.

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Comment by Dichter on January 10, 2009 at 12:14pm
Rational thinking is the way to go, bro, but in what passes for present day American culture, there are a lot of ripostes I encounter time and again to the suggestion of Reason and endless dumbings-down of the argument, of course. Just consider how many times someone's blabbed at you an approximation of that "Miracle On 34th Street" tripe that, "Faith is believing in something even when it makes no sense"...? I get that kind of thing a lot, that it's beyond the rational; that is, the rational is brushed aside as inadequate, rather than the other way around.

Glad you got the gist of my mumble- I was feeling a little sickened by my relegation to the category, UNsickness. I don't have much spare time to post a lot of blogs or edit the snippets that I've started tossing up, so I tend to ramble and try to "render" or distill a heap of thoughts down to a few mangled paragraphs. One of these days, I'll take some time and tack some pretty pictures and sensible statements up on this wall.
Comment by Sentient Biped on January 10, 2009 at 10:32am
Mr Dichter -
Your post is articulate, and gets to one of the key points that needs to be addressed in order to encourage rational thinking. As you elaborate, even the word "atheist" seems negative. But why is rational thinking negative? It gives us science, understanding of the world around us, survival, pleasure, health, and a form of safety from religious bigotry. This, while religious fantasy stifles progress, creates discrimination, spreads disease, famine, war, and perverse thought processes. The narcissistic teachings of the monotheistic death cults, telling their members that they can live forever in hedonistic pleasure, after using up the resources of this world, are not positive. Those teachings prevent people from actually THINKING about what they want to do with their lives in THIS life, and impairs living in the "now". Those teachings promote acceptance of unacceptable status (slavery, poverty, bigotry). Even though a-theism means 'without' god, it also means 'with' rationality. And that is a Positive thing.

I would like to find a word with a different 'spin' - others have struggled as well, choosing "naturalism" (which makes some people think of running around naked - a nice thought, but that is naturism), "bright", or other concepts. When we are healthy and well, we say that we are healthy and well, rather than saying 'undiseased' or 'unsick'. When we are alive, we don't say that we are 'undead' (except zombies and vampires). Unfortunately, it means making up a new word. I like 'rational' but then no-one would know what I am talking about. Maybe we can resurrect a word from another language, Greek, Roman, or Chinese - but again, who would know what we mean? So I stick with atheist.

Keep up the (un)faith.
Daniel
Comment by Chiropteran on January 3, 2009 at 4:17pm
Nice post. As for the belief v facts...I don't know who said it but I think it sums up the atheist stance for me.

"Atheism is not a belief system, it is a conclusion on belief systems."
Comment by Rosa on January 3, 2009 at 3:15pm
Bravo! Excellent blog post. My two favorite arguments have to be:

1. Why is immortality equated with hope?
Absolutely! Being immortal must surely get to be extremely boring eventually and maybe even painful, as one would be doomed to watch the things one loves perish and degrade sooner or later.

2. "Believe" is always the operative word, rather than "think," and as "unbelievers" we have come to accept that that's how it is; we prefer to organize our thoughts and determine facts, while the superstitious majority simply cling to random wishful fantasies
I've often wondered why do theists often equate thinking rationally to believing. That's just like equating medicine to homeopathy (which people often do too). I think it's a problem of intelligence at the end, one must be just plain dumb not to recognize how beliefs are intrinsically different to rational thought, not that rational thought is just another brand of a given belief system.

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