Recent debate here in Australia, in the U.S. and around the Western world has been focussed on immigration and religious intolerance. The minor kerfuffle about 'no religion' being given poll position on the upcoming census form has also heightened debate.
Debate, of course, is a very good thing, so I thought I would share ten reasons I am an atheist to reassure anyone thinking of pointing a finger my way that you have nothing to worry about.
1. I didn't have to convert. I didn't even have to tell anyone. And it was free. No money changed hands and no guilt was applied. I just said to myself, "I'm an atheist" and it was done. Welcome aboard!
2. Once I recognised I was an atheist, I didn't have to do anything. No church, no praying, no begging forgiveness. No rules. I live my life without worrying about whether or not I am adhering to the facets of a faith. I can just be.
3. No need to differentiate between, or give weight to, confusing levels of belief. Whether someone believes in God, Santa, unicorns, ghosts, goblins or the Tooth Fairy, I apply equality to all supernatural beliefs, which is refreshing.
4. Owning no religious belief is empowering. Instead of following a restrictive religion, I now view myself as an integral part of the entire universe. I am made of the same stuff as the stars, not cobbled together suddenly by magic, and therefore made of particles as old as the universe itself. This is an incredibly profound realisation.
5. The sense of equality and unity. People are all the same, regardless of belief, colour, nationality, or any other superficial differences. We and all life on our planet share the same origin in a soupy primordial mix millions of years ago. It's a feeling that delivers a warm smile, a feeling of wellbeing and a wonderful sense of belonging.
6. Freedom from doctrine. I follow the natural human moral compulsion to "treat others as you would like them to treat you", without ascribing morality to any particular religious instruction or acting out of fear of retribution. And I don't have to adjust my conscience to accommodate those uncomfortable aspects of a religion I disagree with.
7. Ignorance is bliss. Science provides many answers to fundamental questions and is constantly searching for more. The vast gap in our knowledge is tremendously exciting, filled with wonder and allows my imagination to soar without the need to contrive supernatural answers.
8. Self-sufficiency. I am my own boss. Atheism has no rules, no headquarters, no spokesperson. No referral service or councillors. It doesn't exist as an organisation. It is whatever an individual makes it and its interpretation is entirely up to me.
9. I ask for proof before belief, not an unreasonable request. Atheism to me means accepting what has been proved and being fully open to what has not. I do not believe there is a God, but I am very willing to be proven wrong about his or her existence and that of the aforementioned Santa, unicorns, ghosts, goblins and the Tooth Fairy.
10. Long term comfort. I know what happens after death. My body will decompose or be cremated and my remains will once again become part of the stuff of the universe. I don't worry about Heaven or Hell, an afterlife or purgatory. The acceptance that life will end when I die is tremendously empowering and comforting. What could be more exciting than knowing I will one day return to the universe I -- and all of us -- came from?