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A person can't live on atheism alone.

I look forward to the day when I no longer feel as if I'm in a confederacy with people who don't believe in gods. Not believing in gods, you see is a negative trait. I feel a lessening connection to people who believe in evolution because the retreat of creationism/intelligent design is pretty much in full force now, and its destiny is clearly consigned to the realm of rejection of germ theory, belief in a flat earth, and people who think Ron Paul would make a good president. Most Christians have moved towards some synthesis of a belief in faith and religion, however problematic that may be*. It will be good when the day comes that a person's atheism is just assumed.

After I first left religion, it felt natural to look for the same kind of nourishment in the rejection of religion that I found in religion. Looking for community, spiritual sustenance, and a functioning worldview. But atheism does not provide those things in itself. Atheism is merely the absence of a belief in God, and only provides the starting point for these other nourishing things. I've seen a lot of people debating the merits and shortfalls of 'atheism plus' on the internet, but really, any worldview structure that is constructed on atheistic assumptions is 'atheism plus'. All of your politics, all of your humanism, all of your ideas about 'how it ought to be' is 'atheism plus'. Once a person becomes comfortable with their atheism, their job is to decide what their 'plus' is. I like to support atheist groups and sites, and to encourage atheists to be strong and to support each other--because we still are the most misunderstood and mistrusted minority group in the United States--but I am increasingly interested in building up my plusses.

To me, what I don't believe in is not nearly as important as what I do believe in. And what I do believe in is increasingly becoming less important to me than what I do. I am aware of areas in which I fail to behave charitably to my fellow man in my personal life. I'm aware of my tendency to hold grudges, discount the opinions of people who think differently than me (see the above statement about Ron Paul supporters) and to be selfish in the way I allocate my spare time. One of the quotations that I find myself building most of my plusses on is this quotation by Arthur Schopenhauer:

"The conviction that the world, and therefore man too, is something which really ought not exist is in fact calculated to instil in us indulgence towards one another: for what can be expected of beings placed in such a situation as we are? From this point of view one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not 'monsieur, sir' but 'fellow sufferer, compagnon de misereres'. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes."

I want to be a good person. Accepting that there is no god was a step in the right direction for me, but atheism is not enough; I also have to believe in something.

*Why did god use a method of creation that looks exactly as it would be expected to look if there was no creator at all? And if he did use the violent, cruel, brainless method of evolution to arrive at mankind, what does it say about his character? He ends up looking more like the mad scientist than the loving god.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

    by Spencer Troxell on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:41:20 AM PDT

  •  Okay, I'll play. (5+ / 0-)

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:45:22 AM PDT

  •  I am both an atheist and a "devout" UU (11+ / 0-)

    At my church there are many atheists, and yet we share common values.  I love our 7 principles:

    Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

    1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

    2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

    3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

    4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

    5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

    6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

    7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    •  I get along with UUs. (7+ / 0-)

      As a teenager I was a member of LRY, the legendary UU Youth Cadre (we were on Nixon's Enemies List!  How cool is that?).

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:51:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I just joined a local UU church (5+ / 0-)

      this past weekend. My wife and kids had been members for a while, and I finally took the plunge.

      "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

      by Spencer Troxell on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:53:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In the front door.. (3+ / 0-)

      Out the back Unitarian. Lots of us. 30 years ago I taught Sunday school and was very involved. For many reasons typical of UU's I slipped out the back door but I am again thinking of coming back in the front door at 70 seeking community.

      I like sitting next to a Jew, a Catholic, a non-theist as me or a person of any other belief. I am at home where a Friday night Seder or a Christmas celebration are part of the universality.

      I am so weary of Christian fundamentalists need to turn what was once evangelism into an "our way or the highway" mindset. I doubt any will show up and sit next to me at a UU service with a badge announcing their beliefs. But if they did a smile and a mental note that my family motto is "late but in earnest" might work.

      •  I keep involved with my church by singing in (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the choir.  We've gone to having two services, and the earlier service wanted to have we formed a second choir.  Much smaller but still really good.  They need me, more than the large choir does, which is kind of a nice feeling.

        Plus, we usually get breakfast in between our early Sunday rehearsal and the start of the early service.  

        Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

        by Spirit of Life on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 10:47:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The UU's I've met (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pandoras Box

      have stated that you don't have to believe in a god but you do have to believe in SOMETHING spiritual.  That's why I'm not a UU member.  My atheism is a side-effect of a more general attitude that faith is an error in all cases, whether you're talking about gods or astrology or acupuncture or whatever.  Therefore I'd say there is no such thing as "spiritual" either.  It's just a catch-all term people use for stuff we don't scientifically understand yet.  There's an annoying tendency of people to assume the state of science is stuck in place (despite the long history to the contrary) and therefore all things not currently understood must be in a different class altogether and be non-science.  The irony is that people who say that think I am the one being hubristic when they're the ones pretending that the current state of knowledge represents the peak of all human achievement.

      •  yeah, that's not the case at our church (0+ / 0-)

        I know each congregation has a different "flavor" but our principles are as stated above, and nothing I can read there means that you have to embrace something spiritual

        it probably helps that at our church in particular the Director of Religious Education came out very straightforwardly as an atheist.

  •  hardly (17+ / 0-)
    Not believing in gods, you see is a negative trait.
    By that rubric, not believing in any preposterous proposition is a negative trait.  To be honest, it is believing in such notions that is a negative trait.

    If they are honest, Xtians do not believe in the vast majority of gods postulated by others either.  I just disbelieve (shorthand for have not reason to believe) one more god then they do.

    As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

    by BPARTR on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:51:00 AM PDT

  •  I'm an atheist (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WarrenS, Cedwyn, Carol in San Antonio

    who loves Thoreau and Emmerson.

    I like the thought of the oversoul.

    All souls are connected and the divine exists within us.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:51:05 AM PDT

    •  exactly (4+ / 0-)
      All souls are connected and the divine exists within us.
      as valentine michael smith put it, "thou art god."

      and one should never confuse religion with spirituality.

      Die with your boots on. If you're gonna try, well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

      by Cedwyn on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:55:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm an atheist too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter, coquiero

      and I am uncomfortable with the use of the terminologies you used.  There is no evidence of anything called a "soul" and I am fairly certain that there is nothing "divine" within anyone.  This is just new age woo talk, and I think you would find that an overwhelming percentage of atheists would disagree with your opinion.   Thoreau thought that the soul is something that survives the death of the body and brain.  Humans have brain generated conciousness and self awareness that dies when the brain dies.  Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism wrote a wonderful essay on the "soul".  You might want to check it out.

      •  agree (5+ / 0-)

        I am a materialist, and a scientist. I have no soul. I will have no afterlife. My mind is a function of my physical brain. I am part of earth, related to all other species. At death I return to the earth to be recycled, something nature did for billions of years before environmentalists thought of it.

        The atoms in my body were generated in stellar explosions billions of years/miles away. That is my connection to the universe. I need no mysticism. As Carl Sagan put it, we are made of starstuff.

        BTW, there are humanist groups like Council for Secular Humanism, for those who want to be part of a group of like-minded individuals.

        •  It doesn't get any more (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          awe inspiring than being "starstuff"!  I love Sagan.  I highly recommend the book his wife put out after he died titled "Carl Sagan: The varieties of scientific experience- a personal view of the search for God".  It is a reprinting of the series of lectures he gave in Scotland.

      •  Well, that's fine (0+ / 0-)

        I think my understanding of the soul is perhaps different than you are ascribing to me, but I don't have a problem with that.

        I don't think we all need to agree and use precisely the same terminology.

        That's exactly what I don't like about churches and organized religion.

        And trust me, I'm no New Ager.

        I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

        by coquiero on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:56:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Teminology can be troublesome. (0+ / 0-)

          The classic definition of a soul is something that is separate from the body and often is described as something that exists beyond the death of the body. If that is not what you are talking about, then maybe using a different term or description would be helpful. You described yourself as an atheist, but you would be hard pressed to find an atheist who espouses the idea of a "soul" in any form. Nor would you find many atheists who use the term "divine" to describe any trait of human beings.

  •  it's not about belief, it's about connection. (10+ / 0-)

    There is a specific area of the brain that is engaged with feelings of awe and wonder that are usually associated with religion.  When analyzed in detail, it turns out that the key to this is the deeply-felt sense of personal meaning in relation to something larger than self.  

    The object of that sense of meaning need not be a deity.

    The important part is finding a sense of connection with something larger than yourself.  

    For some, it's a sports team or performing artist, for others a school of philosophy or field of science, for others their family, community, or country, or nature at-large and the universe as a whole.  

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:52:22 AM PDT

  •  believe in SCIENCE (7+ / 0-)

    That's it. I am a proud and unapologetic atheist and when people ask me what I do believe, I respond:

    Quantum Mechanics
    The Theory of Relativity
    Total Conservation of Energy

    (take your pick :-)

  •  Of course athiesm is not enough . . . (9+ / 0-)

    Ya gotta have sex and drugs and rock and roll too.  And a deep appreciation of nature for the "quiet times" . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:01:21 AM PDT

  •  So many causes in this world. Who needs religion? (8+ / 0-)

    We can not know whether there is or was some great creative force.  What we can easily determine (easily when we get rid of the guilt and the fear) is that the god of the Bible and organized religion is 100% disprovable.

    Dawkins points out that if there was a Creator its accomplishments and power would be so much greater than the small minded (and frankly Dickish) Biblical God.  (I am paraphrasing of course).

    People created god and religion because it was something they needed (or their leaders needed to impose order).

    It is scary to lose that safety net.  However, with our limited time on earth, there is so much to be passionate about, and so many causes, that if we can just set aside something that we cannot resolve in our current lifetimes, we can truly "live."

    So instead of defining ourselves by what we do or do not believe regarding the creation of the Universe, start defining ourselves  by what we do know and care about, and align yourself with the people who share some of your causes.  You will feel like you belong in no time.   For example we might not all agree on Jesus or Mohammed, but we all agree that childhood poverty sucks, and some of us agree that art is important...

  •  Conceptually, Atheism is not there to be enough. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is not believing in little pink elephants, puff the magic dragon and silvery unicorns enough...? Of course not.

    One can not point to a logical point of view and trying to define it as something more than it should be and that it should 'be enough' in other areas of life as if that one piece of knowledge should provide a nurturing/nourishment for one.

    If that's so, then by your example 2+2=4 is not enough either...and also as pointless to ascribe any more 'spiritual' meaning or depth to it.

    The Theory of Gravity is not enough.
    E=MC squared is not enough.

    Then again, Religion was never enough either, unless one likes to depend on crutches - crediting a (G)(g)od and/or blaming a devil/demon for things.

    No (G)(g)od makes the world the way it is. We do.

    -6.38, -6.21: Lamented and assured to the lights and towns below, Faster than the speed of sound, Faster than we thought we'd go, Beneath the sound of hope...

    by Vayle on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:30:33 AM PDT

  •  thank you for giving people another reason (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    side pocket, Fishtroller01

    not to like atheist...we're just negative people...single-minded in our focus on anti-religious issues.

    I think your intentions are good...and applaud you quest to find connection...but your assumptions about other atheist I could do without...I have strong connections with others...most of them theist...I join with others in common cause or interest...such as...our

    I wish you well in your quest for purpose and connection...but please to not tell me my atheism is a negative is just a trait...some people's opinion may be it is a negative me it's a positive...bigotry is a negative trait...and this diary can only reinforce bigoted beliefs towards atheist.

    We are not broke, we are being robbed.

    by Glen The Plumber on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:39:04 AM PDT

    •  See my response (0+ / 0-)

      to 'Dallasdoc' above. You've misunderstood what I mean by 'negative'.

      "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

      by Spencer Troxell on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:41:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I had read it...but...your framing of the message (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is my issue...again...I believe your intentions are good...but look at the words...


        boring...rejection...negative...not enough.

        it implies theism is:


        also...I think many atheist struggle...'so many believe...what am I missing..?? I wrong..??'..which can cause us to become overly occupied with defending our others and ourselves...maybe even obsessed...and I think that may be where you found yourself...extremism is not good for anybody...and we all must show respect for others if we expect to be if your point is you are moving beyond dwelling on your atheism...accepting it...and moving on to enriching other aspects of your life...I applaud you.

        We are not broke, we are being robbed.

        by Glen The Plumber on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 08:24:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That's a helluvalotta puncutation. nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glen The Plumber
  •  Lots of ways to connect; start with science. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Or maybe art.

    A much higher percentage of scientists are skeptics/atheists than the general population, and that just makes sense: if you really comprehend the underlying principles explaining what you see around you, there's much less need for manufactured mythology or deities to deal with it.

    Ironically I find the reality that the Universe really doesn't give a crap about my personal existence reassuring and liberating. It means that when I get a flat tire, it's not because God is mad at me for some transgression I can't comprehend; it's because shit happens.

    I also derive immense joy and comfort from the mind-boggling beauty of the natural world, no deity required. The gem-like waterfall down the hill from my house will be gorgeous long after I (and everyone I know) is long dead. And that's okay. I photograph and paint in a pathetic attempt to better understand and share the beauty that's around me. This puts me in touch with lots of other folks with similar inclinations.

    •  If you find God/Nature/The Universe (0+ / 0-)

      to be violent, cruel, and brainless, maybe it's you who are out of step?

      Just sayin'.

      We, the dominant creatures here, are a social species - we survive by cooperating and helping one another. I believe that's "God's" arrangement, too.

      GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

      by gzodik on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:55:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Where did you get that? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Violent, cruel, and brainless? Not from the above comment that I could see.

        Now, maybe if one posited a benevolent god-concept in the midst of ... well, reality, one might find that god-concept violent, cruel and brainless. That fits my assessment of the popular middle eastern monotheistic concepts. I don't often see such claims made about the universe, although some do try to equate their gods with the universe.

        “The other night I was lying in bed, looking up at the stars, and I wondered, 'Where the hell is my roof?” -- Steven Wright

        by tytalus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 10:23:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Cruel? Of course not. Universe simply doesn't care (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I mean, it's not conscious. It's not a sentient being. Violent? Well, sure. Volcanos, hurricanes, supernovae. Yeah, the universe is violent in parts. Like saying water is wet. Brainless? Yes, based on all available evidence. There is no 'forward progress' in the sense of a divine plan, because there is no 'divine'. What you see is what you get.

        Anything else is the desperate but understandable human attempt to stamp some kind of existential meaning onto the universe because our fragile psyches seem to require it. But that's okay; we'll grow up eventually.

        •  So. (0+ / 0-)

          For absolutely no reason whatever, trillions and trillions of years ago, all the stuff there is condensed at a single point. This resulted in an explosion of indescribable force. (Doesn't that beat hell out of their version, where a dude with a long white beard waved his hand, six  thousand years ago, and said "Let there be light"?)

          Well, stuff has this arbitrary property of condensing into these "star" things that happened to have a property of emitting heat and light. And some of the stuff incidentally condensed into these "planet" lumps, circling the stars at a more-or-less constant distance, sort of like, well ... incubators.

          Anyhow, in a hit-or-miss fashion, stuff consisted of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, yada yada, and these, oddly, congealed into "amino acids" and things. For no reason, a fluky process then resulted in purposeless items like bottlenose dolphins, Albert Einstein, and rock-and-roll. Sometimes, it all strikes me as a little odd, but then, compared to what?

          So, I thought it might be nice if we stop and take a moment to give thanks for pure, indiscriminate luck.

          I believe the conventional closing here is:


          GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

          by gzodik on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 11:56:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're following a well known logical fallacy, (0+ / 0-)

            to the effect that because this universe ended up evolving in this particular way over this particular path over billions of years, and the odds of all those twists and turns lining up exactly so to at this particular instant in history....
            well, the odds are so vanishingly low that God must have reached down with his omnipotent finger to direct it thusly.

            But this is pure fallacy. The next universe down the string might have sentient beings evolving out of silicon with geometric faceted structures, pondering just how the galactic maelstrom just happened to produce exactly the right temperature of 2,346 degrees necessary for their silicon to crystalize, so obviously it must be....well, whatever their name for invented deity is.

  •  Atheism is liberating (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tytalus, pvasileff

    As an atheist, I do not have to waste time and energy trying to believe impossible things.

    "To be insulted by these fascists is so degrading." -- David Bowie

    by Steven Utley on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:53:19 AM PDT

    •  Steven Utley:UR comment above Indeed! (0+ / 0-)

      To add to it I choose to point out that a FACT & a
      CONCEPT are NOT the same thing.
      IMO a fact involves that which is proven.
      A concept is merely the
      offspring of an individuals
      I accept no obligation to
      have any truck with every Tom, Dick & Harry's concepts.
      As such, it is my interpretation within the world that I find myself living in that, as Utley writes, that I have no need to waste time & energy in my daily life by entertaining a "God Concept" nor an Atheist
      "Humanism " for me, as I define it is core enough for me and is not the plus of others Atheism.

  •  The error is in thinking there needs to be one (0+ / 0-)

    all encompassing thing that contains all the answers.  There isn't anything wrong with getting into multiple different causes and multiple different ways to satisfy your emotional needs.  It doesn't have to come from one single all-encompassing source.

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