The first question we have to ask ourselves, before we ask anything else, is whether it is more important to us that our beliefs are as true and accurate as we can make them-or whether it is more important to us that our beliefs “work” in our lives, that they provide us with comfort, reassurance, and a sense of identity and meaning. What is true and what we would like to be true are not always the same, and many false beliefs will “work” for the people who live happily by them.
To ask the question “what are the benefits of being an atheist, agnostic, skeptic, etc.” is to implicitly begin from the assumption that what matters most is one’s personal comfort, not truth. If this really is your ultimate standard-and if your choice does not clash with the happiness and freedom of anyone else-there may not be any point in telling you that you’re wrong. But by the same token, you cannot tell anyone else that they are “wrong”-there is no wrong by this standard.
The Greeks once wrote,
“The beginning of wisdom is a love of truth,”
“Liberating” is the key word. You don’t have to choose sides, and belong to a group that is in competition with so many other groups that claim spiritual superiority. From this outsider’s vantage point, on balance, so much competition and conflict between religions outweighs their usefulness.
For the secular mind (a term I prefer to atheist or nonbeliever), life is much more comprehensible and simple. The ancient, clouded beliefs fall away to reveal the vast splendor of nature, of existence, the preciousness of being alive, being conscious, of being sentient. This experience is not mediated by the belief in a higher power; it is direct and very powerful. For some, it is almost too much to bear. Life may become poetry, but not everyone is a poet. Some may fall in love with nothingness and some may wish they had never been born at all.
In place of trying to puzzle out the hopeless mystery of God’s justice, a very human morality emerges that strives to make our lives better. Morality is something man does for himself and it is man’s sense of fairness that drives it as well as all forms of government or systems of justice. Human moral systems are imperfect, but they have been continuously improved with experience.
The secular mind feels at ease among other animals and life on this planet and accepts our place in the greater scheme of things. For some, family may become more important that fame. For others, pleasure may no longer be deferred for an afterlife. The realization dawns that each individual’s sense of purpose is independent of the workings that resulted in the individual, that the meaning of human life is for humans to determine and no one else.
“Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.…” – Shakespeare.
Why am I an Atheist?
Life makes more sense this way. Think of all the “big” questions: Why is there pain? Because things happen that don’t work well for us. For instance, natural disasters don’t usually work for our advantage. Also, diseases tend to hurt us. They aren’t out to get us. They’re just doing their thing, which we happen to dislike rather strongly because it interferes with our goals. Since the universe was not designed with us in mind, this makes sense.
Why is there evil?
There isn’t. There are just people who do bad things. There will always be people who would rather break the rules than follow them, and those people will always hurt others and themselves.
Why do good things happen to bad people, and bad things to good people?
Because life isn’t fair. If no one is upstairs keeping score, then there is no one upstairs to screw up and make bad things happen to good people, or vice versa. This makes sense in a world without a god. Regardless of whether there is or is not a god, life is still the same.
Imagine, A Christian and an Atheist walk down the street together. Regardless of what they see, think, feel, or say, they’re still walking down the street together. It’s the same existence for all of us, and what we believe about it doesn’t change it. If God had wanted us to worry about the intangible, God wouldn’t have put us in a tangible world.