I wish to speak about faith, which is a thing I usually speak publicly about only sparingly.
But there appears, at present, to be an unmerry war betwixt people who have faith, and those that are thought to have none.
I shall be upfront. I am an atheist. This will not be news to those of you that follow this tiny, wee blog, but it is not impossible that there are new folk, having a quick looksee at what I have to say. Hello, and welcome, to you all.
So. An atheist. What right do I have to speak on the matter of faith? More than you’d think. Perhaps.
I find it befuddling that a lack of religious faith generally equates, in the wider public mind, to an assumption that a person lacks some vital ingredient in their inner life. That this lack of belief in a benevolent (or otherwise) greater power means a dilution, or negation, or a person’s spiritual worth. That somehow, not believing in an intelligent source of our being even makes, on occasion, the atheist an object of pity. I have experienced this.
Please do not mistake me. You may have whatever faith you choose. I will not berate you for it. I am certainly not here to try to change your faith, as I think the freedom to allow people choice in belief is one of the greatest gifts that we, as humans, can give to one another.
Yet I must speak.
Merely to explain what being an atheist means, to me.
To say that I think that limiting ‘spirituality’ to those who choose to to follow a religion is innately unfair. When people achieve great things, or survive terrible events, it is often spoken of as a ‘triumph of the human spirit’. This is, without doubt, true, and is most often used without reference to religious belief.
I do think that we folk are capable of the most extraordinary things. I do believe that our drive to achieve, or survive, can make us wonderful.
And I think that it comes from us.
If anything, it elevates my view of us. Of people. I view this as a form of spirituality, because when we choose to be (and we do, for the most part, have to choose it), we can be amazing.
What about our place in the universe?
I believe in what science has shown us, though we still understand so little.
We are lucky. Oh, but we are lucky!
Even those of us that do not gamble have already won a cosmological lottery so vast and all encompassing, that it is wondrous that we are here at all.
We are so small.
Just look at night sky, for more than a passing moment. You’ll see some stars.
Keep looking. More will appear.
Keep looking. Still more.
In fact, if you keep on looking, the depth and the vastness of ‘out there’ will hit you, ‘down here’.
You will likely know this. You might not know that for me, an atheist, this sheer, seemingly (but not actually, of course!) endless depth, the scale of this beautiful universe, is most deeply moving. It is, for me, as close as I think I can ever get to a religious experience, in the traditional sense.
It may be trite, but we are, after all, made of stars.
What about the afterlife?
Well, to be short, I do not believe that there is one.
Does this make me lacking, spiritually?
Not if we are talking about my belief in the human spirit as a thing we can see, in those that do the incredible, from those who endure grievous illness, to those who manage to struggle to live every day, some in the most abject poverty.
But I do believe that we are organisms, that have a (more or less, without interference) natural lifespan. Whatever our personal situation, when we die, we die.
How does this affect my view of life?
You may think, if you are of a religious persuasion, that my atheism, my sureness in our tiny presence in this here universe, would make me careless, maybe even cold.
This is not so.
In my view, this life is all that any of us will ever have.
This makes it rather important.
When a child is reported dead, it cuts to the bone. For me, this is a tiny one of us that has lost the opportunity to grow, to become the person they could have been.
Natural disasters and acts of aggression are deeply hurtful. So much pain is, and should always be, a source of real distress to those of us who believe that once even a single person is gone, we have all lost a great deal.
With only one such fatality, a person has suffered, and we have all lost, suddenly and without good reason, someone like us.
What about me?
Well, I’ll peg it, soon enough. I shall, I should imagine, pass into history unnoted. This does not cause me concern. All of my forebears have done so, and I’m pretty sure some of them were much better folk than I could ever hope to be.
From the atheist perspective, I merely hope that, in a couple of generations, I will be a peculiar footnote in family history. My only grab for ‘eternity’ is that this footnote might be kind.
You reap what you sow, as one of your weighty theological tomes says, and I have always tried to aim for kindness, at least.
I, personally, do not have a book.
That is a lie. I have many books. But I don’t have a belief in an organised faith.
I have my own faith.
I believe in us.
Because I, sitting here, writing this blog, and you, sitting where ever you happen to be, reading it, are so very lucky to simply be doing so.
Why don’t we make the very best of it?
I wish you all well.