Introduction to Atheism
Atheist is defined by the Oxford American Dictionary as a negative. The definition reads "a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or gods." Imagine defining Christian in a similar manner: "a person who does not believe the Jews were right to reject Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah."
And that's the way atheists are viewed in general, in terms of negatives. They don't want the Ten Commandments posted in public buildings. They don't want prayer in school. They don't want "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag. They don't want "In God We Trust" as our national motto.
It's time we stopped viewing atheism as a series of negative statements. Atheism itself is a very positive step toward taking your life and your thoughts back from the control of others. An atheist is more than just someone who doesn't believe in gods, she's a person who believes in herself. She's a person who invests the time and energy to consider a topic or problem, contemplate causes and outcomes, and arrive at a solution or answer that fits with her knowledge and understanding. She is a person who draws strength and comfort from being right and true to herself, rather than following along with a group despite any misgivings she may have.
A better definition of atheist might be "a person who derives her own code of morality and behavior based on available evidence, rational self-interest, and a process of self-evaluation."
This is not an easy life. It's also not a life of mindless self-indulgence. Part of the allure of a faith-based system is that it purports to provide the answers to every conceivable problem - for when all else fails, every faith-based system has some form of "if God wills it." A tidy catch-all phrase, but one that implicitly means "I don't know, but my faith in my god tells me that everything will work out exactly as that god has determined it should work out. It's out of my hands."
To apply atheism to your life requires that you try to understand what's going on, looking into root causes and probable outcomes. Abortion, global warming, poverty, charity, modern policing methods, Big Brother, and Stand Your Ground laws are all topics that need careful consideration, not knee-jerk reactions based on a holy text or the public policies that grew out from it.
No one can hope to be an expert on everything - thus we go back to the allure of faith-based systems - but we can hope to gather enough information to have a working understanding of what's going on with topics important to us. This is an important part of everyone’s personal development.
Atheism isn't an answer or an end unto itself. It's a starting point. It's a rejection of the easy answers and feel-good fellowship of a faith-based community and an acceptance of yourself as a vital, important, thinking person and member of your communities - local, national, and global, but, above all, personal.
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