If you are a young non-theist who wants their voice to be heard, consider submitting an article of your own to Generation Atheist. Visit our submissions page for details.
In its own way, saying you are an atheist is a bit like proclaiming yourself Christian, in the sense that the label actually describes only the bare back bone of your belief. Coming from a Roman Catholic family, and having mostly protestant friends (which in itself is a broad term,) you start seeing differences not only between variations between the followers of Jesus, but between members of the same sect. Likewise, I have seen splits in atheism, and not only between blogers over the elevator incident. I have personally felt it.
I have never been religious. Growing up, while I adored the humanitarian message that Jesus spouted, I ignored the fact that the bible doesn’t fit our modern times with its discriminatory view on women, homosexuals, other belief systems/philosophies, etc, etc, etc. I never understood why the grownups and my friends held these beliefs, but I myself didn’t want to care. God, then, fell into this category. I simply shook off the fact that he ought to exist. As I came more and more into my own, I started to start caring about the issues, and found after looking at the evidence, I was a progressive liberal. I had doubt that a god existed, but not ready to take that next step. Instead, I started to secretly ebb away from mass, In a brilliant plan to distance myself from the church. I was still under my parent’s thumb at the time, so it was the best I thought I could do. First, I started taking three to four bathroom brakes during service, then stepped singing, then stood at the back, finally finding myself not even in the building, opting to listen to my music outside instead. I even quit religious education. But the thing I was not was an atheist.
Enter Moose, my former compatriot and mentor when it came to becoming an atheist. As you can see, I was already essentially there, but I still had not asked myself the tough question: “Who is this god person anyways?” He, on the other hand, was a charismatic, slightly perverted baptist rebel who had turned to atheism head on - researching it and debating anyone who cared to disagree with him. He was an extremist, however, going to the point where he flipped off anyone who said they would pray for him. In his mind, not only did god not exist and evolution was correct, but everyone should think that. So I did what I thought was my religious duty and bit back, only to find my non religious side intervening and making me lose the argument, all the time greedily learning from him. I decided to embrace atheism, much to my parents chagrin. Unlike Moose, however, I still had to contend with my Roman Catholic family and protestant friends, who I spent 98% of my day with. Much to my surprise, it made the experience a lot more I eye opening, as I found that unlike what Moose said, my religious people were not all that he said and they did have legitimate concerns over scientific theories like evolution, and vice versa. So while I broke out of my shell by actually standing up to my parents, listening in on atheist blogs, and gathering my own information, I still retained my lax social belief.
So, where does this leave me today? I am an Atheist, but my disbelief in a god is much different than Tim Minchin, PZ Mayers, or Richard Dawkins. I am agnostic when it comes to whether one exists, but an atheist in that one shouldn’t exist. I equivocate any singularly powerful viewpoint dominating society as the destruction of society, much like in 1984 or Brave New World. However, I mean that absolutely; I’d be even be against a completely skeptical society as well. Conflict and trauma, it seems, has been proven to bring out the most progress, from the reformation, Magna Carta, French Revolution, to art and music. There would be no renaissance had the bubonic plague not destroyed much of Europe. There would be no New deal had there not been the Great depression. So too does this modern conflict between new atheism vs. old religion enrich our lives, giving us a reason to talk to each other and across the battle lines. It is helping to break down the old absolutist systems, gets a person thinking about what he truly thinks is right. Already, hatred spurred on by religious belief is dwindling, and people are realizing that the LGBT community and mothers who want abortions aren’t all the same, nasty people conservatism wants people to believe they are. Now I think it's timeto do the same to people of all labels.
When it comes to science, I even differ from Moose and Dawkins. Evolution’s a theory, a really good one, I’ll be it, but not complete. I’m glad to say that gap is shrinking, but there are still kinks to work out. That’s how I view science in general, as a bunch of theories. Too often, I think scientists take their work to be fact, when in a few centuries it will probably be replaced, as centuries of science already has. Yet, my point with this is not that they these theories should be listened to and questioned, trying to find it’s faults. It’s why I love science; it is never the "right" answer. It’s a step in the process, a long process I hope will never stop. Again, the fact we don’t know something or the fact what we know may be wrong only pushes us to make further discoveries and continue the progress of man kind. It would be difficult to come to the end of progress.
I write this to remind us, as the future generation of this movement, that life isn't absolute. Old absolutist observations aren’t always true, even labels like “atheist,” “Christian,” and “theist” aren’t the end all be all to someone’s beliefs. Science doesn't give us right answers, just more answers to analyzed and experimented with. As skeptics, we must never lose our probing spirit. Question everything, and make sure to get the whole picture before making the verdict.
Tomorrow: You are Okay, By Laura