“So what doooo you believe in, then?”
This is the most common question I receive from friends, family members and strangers alike after I calmly explain that I am not Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or a Game of Thrones fan. Sometimes I’m convinced that it is the last part that bothers them the most.
“I believe in many things: love, friendship, kindness, ink-stained paper, a stiff drink before 5 PM, marriage equality, less violence and more compassion, only smiling when I’m actually happy, reading to expand my mind, and refusing to make my bed in the morning.”
I pause to examine the reaction of my audience and then continue.
“What I don’t believe in is blindly following a set of rules that have been carved into a stone by an unknown person thousands of years ago.”
The conversation always ends up the same. Regardless of what I say, the acute response always ends up being some version of, “Wait…so you don’t believe in God?”
“No, I don’t,” I sigh, as the baffled looks penetrate my skin as if I am a caged animal at the zoo.
Sure, I’m an atheist, but I don’t define myself by it. I don’t mind religious people as long as they don’t discuss my impending damnation and preach their beliefs to me.
There are a lot of asshole atheists out there, who in my opinion, are no better than the theists that they condemn. They will berate anyone who actively follows a religion and believes in an omniscient deity, regardless of which one they choose to worship.
If I want to join that group, I could say, when was the last time an atheist bombed or attacked another country based on religious disputes? The answer, of course, would be never. We are, coincidentally enough, the most non-violent of all people. If I was an alien examining Earth, my first reaction would be, “I think they’re fighting over which religion is the most peaceful.”
This makes me sad. Sad in a made-for-TV movie kind of way.
I prefer to believe in the good of humanity for the sake of empathy and altruism. I’d love to believe that human beings are innately good and that we don’t perform acts of kindness in hopes of a reward after death, or for fear of punishment. In a way, atheism is the best way in which I can explain my optimism about the world.
I may not worship a God, but I do believe in people- people that I can converse with, smell, see, kiss, hold hands with, hug, smile at, and hold in the middle of the night. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We are only as good as the deities that we have invented.
Life is so much more riveting and raw, passionate and mad, messy and zealous, when we accept that this is all there is and this is all we’ve been given. There is no past, there is no future. This notion is what pushes me to actively pursue all of the things that I’ve ever wanted to do.
And nothing is more freeing than that.
-By Marisa Crane