So before I get to the real meat of this post, I need to give a bit of an intro and background. It's long, so bear with me.
Since becoming an atheist, I have realized that atheists can sort of be grouped into one of three catagories:
1. You were born into an atheist/non-religious family and have never held any religious beliefs.
2. You were raised in a "religion as tradition" type of family. Maybe you went to services, got first communion, etc, simply because it was a family thing. Perhaps you did believe at one point, but it wasn't a huge part of your life and it wasn't a big deal to become atheist.
3. You were quite religious in the past and your faith was a very integral part of your life. Becoming atheist was like a complete about face in terms of how you viewed the world.
I am definitely the third one. I was raised in a traditional Catholic type home until about 12 or 13 when my parents decided they wanted a church that offered "more." We eventually became part of a small, very Bible-based non-denom church. Being a depressed and lonely teenager, I clung to Christianity and my new Christian friends as a safety line. Believe me, I was gung-ho, a real Jesus-Freak. You know when you see those infomercials for some worship song compilation album and there are the people at the concerts singing with their eyes closed, hands in the air? Oh yeah, that was me. My life basically revolved around my faith. Without getting into my whole deconversion story (another post, perhaps) I eventually went off to college and realized that when I thought for myself, I couldn't actually believe any of that crap. And here I am today.
While all types of atheists bring unique things to the table, I feel that us ex-religious nuts have a very valuable view on this whole thing. We know both sides of the spiritual coin. Most of us are very familiar with the Bible and Christian/evangelical culture and mindset. When the fundies get all worked up about something, we can usually help explain it. We do not rationalize it, but we often can make the connections and recognize the thought processes behind their loony ideas. So I guess armed with this knowledge, I hope to occasionally post topics illuminating the "other side" and showing how life really is better here.
So without further ado...The Beauty of Existence
One of my biggest pet peeves about Christians is their attitude that us atheists must live such cold, sad, dreary lives. I admit, I did once feel the way I now hate. When you live with the idea of a benevolent creator in your head, every day is a glorious existence in his creation. I remember being at a Christian camp and laying out under the stars, discussing with my cabin mates how glorious god was to have put the stars all in place. I wondered how atheists could find any beauty in the world if it was all just science and randomness. Oh, the naivety.
My loss of faith sort of mirrored the beginning of my scientific education (I am a chemistry/biochem major). I was learning the complexity and precision of the world and the universe beyond at the same time my faith in my creator was fading. However, what I found was not cold and mechanical. On the contrary, it was so much more beautiful and awe-inspiring than ever. Often, Christians will use an argument for a creator that is something like "you don't create a masterpiece by dumping over a tray of paints. It must have a painter, a creator." This is not necessarily true. While the chances of knocking over paints and getting the Mona Lisa are pretty slim, if you did this repeatedly, you would probably eventually come up with something beautiful (I'm convinced that most of modern art is created this way anways, ha!). Isn't that piece of art almost more spectacular because those particular colors just happened to fall in that particular way when they could have fallen any other countless of ways?
This is how I now view my life. Every plant, animal, stream, mountain, and cloud is a breathtaking creation of chance (yes, I am aware that evolution is not entirely random, but work with me, okay). Every day that I wake up and all those tiny processes that let me breathe and think are still working, I appreciate life even more. I am more humbled by those starry nights now because they have no creator. They are random and still beautiful, and also beautiful because they are random. Perhaps you've heard those facts about how perfectly fine-tuned our universe and earth are. Isn't it nuts that planets millions of light years away are made of the same things earth is? That we are subject to the same physical laws and constants no matter where in the universe we are? It's all so perfect on its own.
I've also found that life is much more sacred. When leaving a faith with an afterlife can be very, very scary (which, again, is a post in itself), realizing there is nothing beyond opens your eyes so much. It sounds so cliched, but I have to say it:
This. Is. Your. Only. Chance.
Every day, every breath, every heartbeat is precious. Live it up. This is also everyone else's only chance. I try so much harder to be nice to people and love others because I want their lives to be as amazing and fulfilling as they can be as well.
I could go on and on, but this is long enough, so I'll wrap it up. We may not know the origins of the universe or life quite yet, but do we really need to have gods and creation stories to explain it all? There is something, dare I say it, miraculous in the concept that we are simply the result of random reactions. I am so happy that I have come to this realization and that it has helped me see my place in the universe. If you haven't already, take time to see this as well, and your life will be much more rewarding.
I am going to close with two quotes (which you may know) that sort of sum this all up.
"As ever, when we unweave the rainbow, it will not become less wonderful"
"Isn't it enough that a garden is beautiful without there being fairies at the bottom of it?"