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Why Atheism?: Part V, Nothing? Really?

March 23, 2008

Did my journey really end with a belief in nothing? Of course not! I can no more stop pondering morality and ethics in life than I can stop being a father. I wouldn’t even want to. The end of the search for a belief system was nothing more than the end of a chapter, and a successful one, at that. In fact, shortly after my epiphany about god, I found something that exactly matched what I do believe.

The Affirmations of Humanism:
A Statement of Principles

  • We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
  • We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
  • We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
  • We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
  • We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
  • We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
  • We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
  • We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
  • We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
  • We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
  • We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
  • We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
  • We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
  • We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
  • We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
  • We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
  • We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
  • We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
  • We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
  • We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
  • We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

Pretty nice, huh? Every one of those affirmations is something that fits into what I believe, so it turns out that I was a Secular Humanist the whole time; I just hadn’t realized it yet. Some of you may be lead to wonder two things:

  • Do I regret the large amount of time I spent on this, especially since I was looking for a religion and came up with something else?
  • Is that it? Is it over?

In response to the first, I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that I don’t regret any of it. How could I regret spending any amount of time that enhanced my values, helped define my morals, and made me a more confident and caring individual and widened my understanding and wonder of the world? In this case, the ends justified the means. I’m now more conscious of my actions and my motives behind it, carefully considering each choice that I make. I’m more aware of how I treat others, and try my best to treat them well. My love of learning has been invigorated, as as my love of life. Also, I may make some jokes about being an arrogant bastard, but my sense of humility is also stronger than before. It’s hard not to be humble when you face the prospect of an absolute end to your your life with nothing left but memories and dust. I’ve also learned that, because of this, you have to make your life as significant as possible, whether you become a great artist, a great scientist, or just a great dad. That last is my goal. Learning the value of humility is probably one of the most valuable things I have learned, even though I must work hard to stay humble. As an aside, I also learned that you can’t believe that god made the universe just for you or even humanity and accurately call yourself humble.

My sense of wonder is also stronger than before. “How can that be?”, a theist may ask, “You don’t believe in the supernatural!” It turns out that one doesn’t have to look far in order to be amazed. In fact, everything that we actually have to be amazed about is right here in the real universe, no god needed. I’m amazed that that humanity is arrogant enough to even conceive of putting people on the moon or a robot on Mars, then actually went and did it! I’m amazed that we have a probe that recently left the solar system, and is still transmitting to us! I’m amazed that there are fish so far under the surface of the sea that they evolved bioluminescence to combat the utter darkness at the bottom of the sea. I’m amazed that I’m a dad, and doing an pretty good job at it! See, what’s wonderful about being amazed by things that exist within nature is that I can find the answer to a lot of it. Rather than saying “God did it, isn’t that amazing?”, I can say, “Oh! So that’s how the eyeball evolved! That is amazing!”

Question number two does not require such a lengthy explanation, but if I know me (and I do, better than ever) there will be one anyways. Am I done? Have I found my beliefs and don’t have to think about it anymore? Hell no! If that was the result, then the whole thing would have been a failure. The journey of understanding yourself and the world ends on the day you die. If I didn’t have to die, it would never end. Never.

You have to make your life mean something, a meaning cannot be provided to you from outside of reality. A lot of things give my life meaning; being a good father, a good husband, a good friend, a good person, and learning and loving as much as I can and imparting that knowledge and love before it’s my time to go. I’ll make my mistakes and hopefully learn from them, just as I will from my victories. It’s a work in progress, and the story goes on ’til the day I die.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Darron permalink
    March 23, 2008 1:07 pm

    Great post Joe! I agree whole-heartedly!

  2. Meggie permalink
    March 23, 2008 8:22 pm

    Secular humanist values parallel those that are taught in the church without having the “front man”, for lack of a better word. You said in one of your earlier posts that our differences in “religion” was almost a deal breaker at one time. It may have been on a superficial level, but in the end, whether or not you call yourself a Christian or a Secular Humanist or an Atheist or an Agnostic or an Alien….it doesn’t matter to me. You are the most kind, gentle, loving, honest, moral and devoted person I know. That is all that is important to me. Sharing values is what matters to me; not terminology. And you are right…you are an excellent father and husband. I won’t trade you in anytime soon! ;0) LOL

  3. March 23, 2008 8:26 pm

    Hon, when you do finally trade me in, trade me for Allyson Hannigan and send me video, please.

  4. Meggie permalink
    March 23, 2008 8:52 pm

    Sorry, babe, she’s not my type…..maybe Shannon Elizabeth. Maybe…..

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