Sometimes I hear it said that I'm only an atheist because, "That's the easy thing to do." That people are non-believers because they are lazy. These people will claim that the faithful are the ones walking the hard road... That belief means that you can't sit idly by. It shouldn't be too hard to guess that I disagree with these thoughts wholeheartedly.
Fist of all, most any atheist can tell you that being a non-believer is not 'the easy thing to do'. This is
doubly true depending on where you live. I can tell you that in many places in the United States, simply being open about your atheism can be a very bad idea. I've heard no shortage of stories about people being disowned by their families, dumped by friends, have a boyfriend or girlfriend suddenly leave them, be passed over for jobs or professional advancement, threats, or simply have people's attitude change for the worse. I ask you, what is 'easy' about risking ones relations and social circle? Meanwhile, the easy thing to do would be to espouse to belief in the Christian religion. Say you're Christian, and no one bats an eye. But be honest and your world could be turned on it's head.
Then there is the thought that we are 'just lazy'. Often this is a dig at the supposed thought that we're just too lazy to wake up early, get dressed up and go to church on Sunday mornings. While it may be true that we don't get up and go to church, that doesn't mean we are eternal sloths that sit around and waste our days away. Maybe I prefer to sleep in on the weekends, but after a long work week, who doesn't? One thing for sure is that I'm far from lazy. I constantly have projects, and even though I like to get those elusive extra hours of sleep on the weekend, I'll still find myself rising early to catch a live Manchester United game, get a start on my day, or just to surprise my wife with breakfast in bed.
But I certainly wouldn't say that the lack of dragging myself into church makes me lazy. But again, if I wanted to play the easy card, I could've just pretended to still be a Catholic. You know that type. The type of Catholics that don't ever go to church except for maybe Christmas or Easter. It seems that this isn't very uncommon among many generic Christians as well. Oh, they don't go to church, but they aren't labeled as lazy since they still believe... So let me get this straight. An atheist that doesn't go to church = lazy, but a believer that doesn't go to church = a-okay?
Another area where it is clear that being an atheist is not the easy road or lazy mans choice, is those of us that really look into and research things. I'm one of those people who loves facts. The more I know, that happier I am. But knowledge does not come easy. When you really sink your teeth into figuring something out, trying to understand it, or simply trying to understand yourself, it can take dedication and a very real investment of your time. Reading books, thinking about things, discussing with others, maybe taking classes. These are not the actions of someone being lazy or looking for the easy way out.
Actually, I'd wager that religion offers the easy way out, and a way that leaves you plenty of opportunity to be lazy. Why bother with all the hard work of trying to learn about something, or to understand something when all you have to do it 'have faith'? Don't research a question, simply pick a side and stick with it on faith alone. No need to back up your stance with facts or research... it's just your faith, and who am I to question it? And what of prayer? Surely, that's the easiest excuse in the world to be lazy. What's that? Your cat got out and need help finding her? Do I get my coat, walk the neighborhood looking for kitty, or do I just hold my hands together and talk to myself for a minute or two? Which one sounds lazy to you? The person who helps put up posters, or the one holding a conversation with the ceiling?
The late president John F Kennedy once said:
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
We don't do these things because they are easy, but because they are hard... I think that can be said of many atheists. No we don't broadcast our non-belief to purposely make ourselves magnets for
potential hardship. But we do ask ourselves the hard questions. What do I really believe and why? What is the truth, and do I want to know what it is no matter what? I feel that asking that second question is a hard thing for some people to do. And I thing it takes a brave person to answer that same question in the affirmative. I am an example of such a person. It would be all too easy to just accept the stories I was told and never question them. It would be easy to assume that the warm fuzzy tales of eternal life, forgiveness and Heaven are not just stories, but actual unquestioned truths.
Yes, cheating death does sound like an attractive proposition. But it's the easy way out, and I'd wager, not intellectually honest. Instead I choose to know the truth for what it is, no matter what it is. I'd rather know the uncomfortable truth for what it is, than to live a happy lie. While the truth may not promise me never-ending bliss, it does give me understanding and mountains of appreciation. It wasn't the easy path, but knowing what I know, it would be an easy choice to make if I had it all to do again. I cast aside the manufactured assurances and false security in favor of something better... the truth. It may not all be happy, and it may not always be pretty, but it is mine, it is yours, it belongs to all of us.
Understanding our lives, what they could be, what they might be, and that we will eventually cease allows me to live my life to the full. Doing what I feel needs to be done, putting nothing off that I would later regret, trying to make change in this world here and now. No waiting around just waiting for the supposed 'next life' to get here. No, I don't think the search for easy street or laziness are inherently atheistic. In fact, my experience has shown that the inverse is often true. So keep asking those hard questions, continue making a difference, continue helping out, and maybe, just maybe this silly fable of the lazy atheist will go the way of the Dodo.