“So if you don’t believe in God, what do you believe in?” I’ve been asked this question numerous times by many different people. Most are theists and all have been religious. In fact, just the other day I was asked this question by a fellow soldier. As I have stated in the past, I have recently become more outspoken about my Atheism. Most people don’t say anything to me about it although I can often tell they are thinking something. Well, this soldier, I assume, had enough of biting his tongue about it and struck up a conversation about my “beliefs”. While most people try to avoid discussions on religion and politics, I enjoy talking about those things (well religion more than politics, but still). I couldn’t help but laugh when I was asked what I believed in. “Surely you have to believe in something, everybody believes in something” is the reply I get when I answer that I don’t believe in anything.
First off, I think the problem begins with the word “Belief”. Belief in a religious context is really just another word for faith. This is where things get tricky. I have had it argued that surely I have trust and faith in certain people, my wife for example. However, that sort of faith is earned by me through demonstrable evidence that leads me to conclude that I can, indeed, trust someone. Ultimately you do have to “put yourself out there” so to speak and that requires having faith in someone but I do not generally go around and give my faith to random people I do not know. So it could be said that I do believe in something. I know this is not the type of belief the people asking me this question are talking about though. They are referring to some “higher power”. Until I was able to differentiate between the different meanings of the word “belief” I often found this question tough to answer. I would say things like: “I believe in myself.” Or “I believe in nature.” While these statements are true they weren’t the answers they, or I for that matter, were looking for. The real answer is I don’t believe in anything, period. Now, as an Agnostic Atheist I reserve judgment on whether there is a “higher power” or “ultimate being”. There could or could not be something like that in existence. There is not enough evidence to form a good opinion one way or the other on that fact and so I cannot form a valid opinion on the matter. I lean towards the nonexistence of such a being but do not except it as undeniable truth.
Religious people just cannot grasp the concept of not believing in something. I suppose when you think you know that God exists it is difficult to understand my point of view. However, I pity those who are not willing to open their minds to such a concept. The funny thing about that is; this person asked me to go to church with them one Sunday. I declined because I feel that would be just a waste of my time. I did, however, express my interest in attending some sort of bible study to better understand its contents as well as religious dogma. Due to my denial of the request to attend church I was accused of being closed-minded and afraid of being "converted". I couldn't help but laugh at this for the simple fact that this same person (who claimed to be different from me in that he was, in fact, open-minded) was showing in his inability to understand my point of view and the thought of this hypocrisy I found amusing. Well, after further discussion on the topic of religion I actually showed (several times) that I knew more about this person's religion than he did. Understand that I did not do this to show my superiority of knowledge on the subject, but only to prove that I do have an open mind and that I have actually studied religion. The fact is that having an open mind is the very reason I am an Atheist. Instead of just blindly following the majority in their religious doctrines I opened my mind and questioned their beliefs. I looked for answers to questions that most religious people are afraid, or at least unwilling, to ask. Through logic and reason I concluded that most, if not all, of it is complete nonsense. Still I research and attempt to learn more about religion, though. I am still looking for the answers to the questions that are yet unanswered, and yet I am closed-minded? Oh the frustrations of dealing with theists!
So, I am going to go off topic now because I'd like to take this time to talk about something that I consider at least a little relevant to this post. A family member of mine shared a link to this blog on Facebook the other day. Someone on her friends list made a comment to the effect of: "So if you're an Atheist than why do you think you should get Christmas and other religious holidays off from work?" Well I knew my family member probably felt trapped by such a comment and so I commented as well. What I had to say is irrelevant here. The point is, that family member contacted me afterwards and expressed concern with not being able to answer such a thing. I sympathized with being in such a situation. There was a time that I, too, was afraid of expressing my point of view as an Atheist. While there were many factors causing this fear, one of them was the inability to refute such comments and answer similar questions. This is partly what motivated me to become more active in the Atheist community as well as do a hell of a lot more reading. While I had the answers all along I realize now that the problem lied in to not being able to properly express them. I found that the same conclusion I came to on my own were the very arguments just about all Atheists agree upon. In fact, from the extensive research I have done thus far I have found that there are only a certain number of arguments used by theists in the first place. There are different forms of these arguments but they are only a specific amount of them. I am still looking for something new.
So to Atheists I say this; READ! Pick up a book written by an Atheist and learn to better understand your position. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Russell, there are many, many good books out there to help guide you to better understanding yourself. Learn about religion too! There is a saying that "The fastest way to become an Atheist is to read the bible." This is true in so many ways. While I have not sat down and really read the bible I have read and learned enough about it to point out the many contradictions, hypocrisies, and immoral lesson within that book. Sitting amongst a group of soldiers who considered themselves "Christians" I pointed out on numerous occasions that they, themselves, did not practice the very dogma they were currently defending. It felt good to prove my point (although I was still the only one to actually "get it") that most people who call themselves Christian are in fact mere imposters who know nothing about their religion. The reason for this fact I that religion doesn't require them to have any knowledge; they simply have to have faith. That is something I cannot, and will not, do. So to answer the question, "What do I believe in?" I say this: "Knowledge is power!"