My recent conversion to atheism has been quite uneventful compared to some of the horror stories of fellow atheists who have been denounced as evil and rejected and scorned by their family and friends. I have not been vilified or rejected by my wife, family, friends, or co-workers. My family and friends continue to be a loving and supportive force in my life. Some of my family and friends still seemed shocked that I can claim that I find no convincing evidence for a personal and caring god. Most of them don’t try to convince me otherwise and believe it is a phase I am going through at this time and I will come to my senses in the near future. I truly doubt that will happen.
My father has been the one family member who has, in a very respectful manner, attempted to challenge my new beliefs with creationist arguments plus supposed biblical prophecy fulfillment. Those are arguments I expected and don’t really spend time thinking about them since I find them to be unconvincing. The one concept which he has repeated and which has caught my attention is the notion that I have no HOPE without a belief in God and how am I ever to give hope to my children. I would like to speak briefly about this notion of hope my father and other believers hold and my lack of it. The hope of a better life in heaven promised by God and the hope that this life has meaning or purpose only due to this promise.
Hope is defined by the dictionary as a feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust. In the Wikipedia page on Hope it states, “According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a ‘[t]rustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God's promises. Hope, is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God's guidance[;]... the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future.” I shake my head when I read that definition of hope. I am supposed to have confidence in God’s promises for my future from what he has done in the past. Really?!! The same all-loving and all-powerful god which has allowed billions of living things to suffer (animals included) horrible lives and deaths in the past and present time. I can hear those believers I know exclaim to me, “But, George, remember that time when you stupidly put yourself in a very dangerous situation and were only saved by the grace of God. Don’t you see God has a plan for you.” Of course there is no mention of the countless others who have put their trust in this benelovent being only to suffer miserably or see loved ones prayers go unanswered during times of great distress. Would any sane and reasonable person trust such a god and his other promises? Of course not! How can I cling to any hope that this deity extends to me? Yet, I don’t want this post to focus on the flaws of the theist’s hope, but more importantly do my best to explain the reality of hope for those who reject hope offered by a deity.
Is the discovery that there is no after-life reason enough to become hopeless? Is my life full of despair? No! Can the discovery that there is no reason to believe in a life after death cause some level of sorrow and gloom? Yes. The acceptance of this reality is a must if we are to move forward in obtaining real hope and real meaning to our lives. There is a great article by Julian Baggini on how Atheists must deal with this reality, Life without God.
As a nonbeliever, what kind of hope can I clng to in this life? I hope to be a loving father, husband, son, and friend. I hope to find a career which I am truly happy and find fulfilling. I hope that my children will be successful in all that they do and find happiness and joy in their limited time here on this earth. I hope that murders, rapes, and other atrocities will decrease in our society. These hopes are based on my belief that I and my fellow humans have the capability to fulfill them with hard work, critical thinking, and perseverance. If my hopes are realized, then it was I and those who actively supported me who should take credit for this accomplishment. If my hope fails, then I must take the blame and create a new plan to fulfill this hope. The same can be said for society and its hopes. Those hopes can only be accomplished through the active work and effort of the collective individuals within the society. The pursuit of this hope is what gives life its meaning. My journey and effort to become a better father, brother, and friend gives meaning to my life. My pursuit of knowledge supplies meaning to my existence. We CREATE meaning in our lives. Human’s incredible creative ability is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. All of humanity’s progress can be attributed to the pursuit of hopes of individuals fulfilled through great effort, creativity, critical thinking, and sacrifice. One shining example of this progress and achievement of a hope is how science and those who practice it were able to eradicate or significantly reduce many diseases which plagued humanity for centuries through the development of immunizations. I am sure there were many who prayed to God for centuries to rid them, their loved ones, or society of these diseases to no avail. This hope became a reality only when individuals through hard work, human intelligence, and the application of science were able to create a solution. Human effort, intelligence, and creativity, not wishful thinking and belief in deliverance by a god, is the only way to fulfill our hopes. This is the reality of hope.
**This is my first time ever writing something for public consumption. All honest critique and comments will be appreciated**