Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I am, and What I'm Not

I have a confession to make.

I'm an atheist. And yes, I suppose that some people might say that by the way they define god, there is no way that I could make the determination that there certainly wasn't one, logically speaking. And that argument has some weight, but I also can't, for example, tell for absolutely certain that there is no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. So I'm pretty much fine with the label "Atheist".

But you know what labels I'm not fine with? Morally bankrupt, or unprincipled, or one who believes in nothing. Religion does not have the market cornered on ethical behaviors. People in the USA, especially fundamental religious people, are so fond of saying that America is morally bankrupt because of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Well, I have nothing to say about sex or rock and roll, and I'm not even certain that I entirely agree that America is all that immoral, but if we are?

You want to know why I think America could be considered morally bankrupt? We have outsourced our values to Christian radio talk show hosts and politicians. For thousands of years societies have been in a constant state of re-evaluation about what it means to be alive, and to live a good, moral, ethical life. We have the writings of so many different people across nations and millennia to learn from, to learn how to behave ethically, and we revert to having morality spoon-fed to us by someone else rather than thinking for ourselves. Shame on us for being so inordinately lazy.

We stand on the shoulders of giants scientifically but from an ethical standpoint we define ourselves by the cultural values held by one set of peoples from two thousand years ago. People who question whether those values might be right are ridiculed. People who question whether the beliefs of those people are right are shamed. People who suggest that other such beliefs be part of a public school education so that students understand other cultures end up regretting it six ways from Sunday.

I refused to be shamed anymore. I refuse to be forced to be lazy. I refuse to let one religion, even if it is the dominant religion in my culture, define my entire viewpoint and morals and what I consider to be ethical behavior. It is my right, my privilege, and my duty to question and learn and change.

What about you?

Now, I'm not suggesting that this is true of every religious person. And I think Rose can come and defend the good people who believe in our dominant religion and not being put into a mold. But I think it is true enough of enough people that it is time I come out and explain why I won't be ridiculed for my beliefs.