The Incredible Lightness Of Being An Atheist

“Always stand on principle, even if you stand alone.” – John Quincy Adams

My life is not much different from the average humanoid living in the United States. Outside of the relatively minor celebrity I enjoy as a public figure, I have bills to pay, deadlines to meet, family to interact with and errands to run. I experience the inevitable failure of those objects most of us depend upon, such as mechanical failures on our vehicles, appliances and whatnot.  I have the same frustrations about rising fuel costs and other economic issues that most others have.

The only difference is that as an atheist, I live outside the shackles of religion.  My existence is not further complicated by the cognitive dissonance that comes with religious belief. I don’t have to spend endless hours trying to make sense of the glaringly obvious contradictions, errors, interpolations and forgeries that are part of the Bible, Koran or any other religious book.  

I don’t have to try to explain why I believe in a human-sacrificed savior that never existed. I am not required to justify why my prophet is a pedophile. I can go through my day without the need to defend the inefficacy of prayer.  I do not need to elucidate about the utter ridiculousness of a deity that causes a sports team to win a contest, but ignores children dying of starvation or abuse – or both.  I do not need to try to explain how a god can be three separate beings, but also not be three separate beings.

I never find myself with the need to rationalize why I hold to the ancient beliefs of ignorant, bronze-age men instead of embracing the collective of human scientific discovery and insight. I am without the need to explain why I am a hateful, discriminatory bigot toward lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered human beings – or anyone else that is different from me.

I do not have the burden of wondering what I did to piss off a god so much that he has decided to allow disease to ravage my body.  I am free from the fear that devils and demons are lurking in the shadows with the intent of tripping me up, possessing me, oppressing me or otherwise causing mayhem in my life.

I am not concerned with the myriad of issues that complicate the life of the average believer. I don’t have to go through my day having to navigate the mental gymnastics it takes to maintain a belief in deity in this day and age.  I am free to question, to think, to negotiate between fact and fiction, to navigate the waters of logic. I can explore the wonders of nature without the inclusion of fairy-tales, because nature is awesome on its own.

I am liberated, unbound and uninhibited. I have been emancipated, released from the prison that enslaves the free expression of thought, suppresses inquiry and squashes the engagement of inquest.  I am unrestrained by the chains of doctrine and dogma that stifle the one thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom – the ability to reason.

Being mentally imprisoned is far, far worse than being behind physical bars and religion is a prison of the worst type.  It fetters the mind in a perpetual state of delusion. It shackles the human strength of mind, chains the fortitude of contemplation and restrains the ability to wonder.

Those who are bound with the chains of religious belief cannot image how liberating it is being an atheist.  How wonderful it is to know that morality has nothing to do with how you speak, what you watch on TV, listen to on the radio, the way you dress, who you have sex with or what you put into your body.  That morality is the simple act of doing what is right, regardless of what you are told, instead of doing what you are told, regardless if it is right.

Christians are fond of saying that unbelievers have been enslaved by Satan, are bound into sin without God and freedom only comes through Christ.  This is delusion at its worst, because it exchanges the truth for a lie.  Believers are the ones who have been enslaved, not by a demon, but by ignorance, both willful and not.  They lie to themselves when they exuberantly shout that there is “freedom in Christ,” all the while existing in a bubble of servile credulity that requires the constant rearrangement and suppression of natural thought patterns, as well as the bowdlerization of free inquiry.

There is no freedom in any religion. Only the Freethinker is free…

  28 comments for “The Incredible Lightness Of Being An Atheist

  1. November 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Mr. Stefanelli,

    Excellent article.

    If you attended AAI’s annual conference in Houston Oct. 9-11, you saw
    Richard Dawkins award Christopher Hitchins a much deserved lifetime
    achievement award.

    Also featured at the conference was my new novel, The Knowledge of
    Good & Evil (Macmillan, 2011). It’s received worldwide endorsements from Freethinking organizations:

    AAI — “Never has the fight against religious ideology been so thrilling.”

    Stop Fundamentalism magazine — “Kleier fights fire with fire, using
    religion itself to undermine fundamentalism and narrow-minded dogma.”

    Atheist Activist — “The Knowledge of Good & Evil is a book that all
    Freethinkers should embrace and promote with a passion–a powerful
    tool in the fight for a more rational, reasonable society.”

    Publishers Weekly — “Kleier’s undeniably gripping second spiritual
    thriller is bound to provoke as many arguments as his controversial
    first novel, The Last Day.”

    Would you be interested in receiving a copy?

    More power to your voice!

    Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving,

    Glenn Kleier

    • Al Stefanelli
      November 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      Heya, Glenn,

      I was not able to attend that conference, but I have heard what was said. Thank you for the props on the piece. I appreciate it. I am very intrigued by your book. Do you have it available for digital download? I can trade you an efile of my book for an efile of yours, and everyone wins!

      Thanks,

      Al

    • Tanya Smith
      November 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      Regarding the above comment by Glenn Kleier, the credit for the Houston convention should go to Atheist Alliance of America (AAA) not AAI, as AAI was not involved in the operation of the convention. Further, AAI is quoted as endorsing The Knowledge of Good and Evil but I am not aware of where this has come from and neither is our magazine editor. We have nothing against the book at all, but please do not use AAI’s name incorrectly. Perhaps the endorsement should be credited to AAA?

      Tanya Smith
      AAI President

  2. hazukiazuma
    November 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Nicely spoken, if rather more emotional than logical. But we all need to rant sometimes, and this was healing to my overheated brain after straining it on metaethics all morning.

    I have a question, though: what do you think of the Dharmic religions, especially Buddhism? That’s a lot harder to disprove than the Abrahamic religions, and much more nebulous. Specifically, how do you disprove the myriad Buddhist hells and so on?

    • Al Stefanelli
      November 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      I do not think highly of any system of religious belief.

      • Hazuki
        November 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm

        Okay, maybe I worded that wrong. Full disclosure: I am an agnostic-atheist, but had a very very strange story told to me by a friend, also atheist, who insists that she remembers her last life…and spent some 680 years in one of the Buddhist hells.

        I do not know how to disprove Dharmic religions. They are far less falsifiable than the Abrahamics. Isn’t it dangerous to reject something categorically without knowing something of it?

        • Tony
          November 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm

          I’m not sure “dangerous” is the correct word. I reject the religion of Islam, though I don’t know much about it (if all I knew was how misogynistic it was though, that would be more than enough to reject it). I reject the existence of Osiris and Yggdrasil, though I don’t know much about them. I also reject the Dharmic religions a well. Having just done a quick google search, I see, right from the beginning a big reason to reject this system of belief. Buddhist teachings operate under assumptions about this world that haven’t been proven to be true. When someone (really, it would have to be several scientific someones who apply the scientific method appropriately) can prove the existence of “The Screaming Hell” , “The Hell of Burning Heat”, or “The Crowded Hell”, I might be intrigued. Karma is another Buddhist notion I find abhorrent and ridiculous. That our lives are predetermined according to how we lived in a past life (and how that past life lived in a past life, ad infinitum) whether it was a “good” or “bad” life is a childishly silly idea. Karma is also dependent upon some sort of arbitrary judge who would need to sit back and judge people at the end of their lives to determine whether they lived a good or bad life. I find Buddhism to be just another superstitious philosophy with precious little foundation in reality.

          • Al Stefanelli
            November 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm

            Adults with imaginary friends are dangerous in many ways, not just those sociopaths and psychopaths that choose violence. The whole premise involves the passing along of a world view that is, by it’s very nature, supportive of bigotry and discrimination, as well as misogyny. It also involves the passing along of myths, fairytales and legends as truths – which has an adverse effect on our youth’s interpretation of what is real and what is not, particularly the field of science. Yeah, I think “dangerous” is a perfectly acceptable word to use.

        • Aliasalpha
          November 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm

          Don’t they all fail the standard “Proof or STFU” test though?

        • colubridae
          November 22, 2011 at 4:49 am

          You don’t have to disprove anything. They have the burden of evidence.

          Someone saying they remember their 680 years in a Buddhist hell is about as lame a piece of evidence as it gets.

          Why do you not understand some saying “they remember their 680 years in a Buddhist hell” even if they truly believe it, is not evidence of such a bizarre claim.

          No sane person would reject something without knowing something about it. But someone simply saying “they remember their 680 years in a Buddhist hell” is all the evidence I need to reject their claim. It’s impossible to investigate every crackpot claim. “680 years in a Buddhist hell” needs more than I said so, and by the way your statements are hearsay.

        • Me
          November 22, 2011 at 4:53 am

          You don’t have to disprove them, the burden of proof is on the one making the positive claim (in this case, the claim that Buddhist hells exist). And anecdote, weird experiences or false memories/dreams are not proof. Why exactly do you think the Buddhist version of hell is any less crazy than the Christian one?

        • Obstruct Tenet
          November 22, 2011 at 7:35 am

          Research the Null Hypothesis.

        • Sandman
          November 23, 2011 at 6:47 am

          First up your defence of Dharmic religions:- I live in Thailand, which is Buddha Central. I see every day in countless ways the soft negative effects of such religiosity. Whether or not the iron fist is dressed in a velvet glove it remains an iron fist. Despite the fact a broken clock tells the right time twice a day its still damn well broken.

          Yes Dharmic religions are less directly negative in their influence, but if you think they dont screw up societies then you are as delusional as your Hell dreaming friend.

          Now, on to her dreams of Hell. Well matey, like most humans I have had dreams that I can fly. Does that mean I believe I can climb up on the roof, jump off and soar like an eagle? NO. A dream is a dream. To believe otherwise is a sign of mental instability. End of argument.

          Finally…an agnostic-atheist? Piss or get off the pot. Agnostics are just shlly shally trying to be smart word twisting fence sitters. There either is a god or there isnt. Make your bloody mind up. No proof of god = no god. See….simple isnt it?

          • Hazuki
            November 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm

            Thanks for the replies.

            One small quibble with the last post though: agnosticism and atheism are orthogonal positions. I am atheist in that I don’t believe there are any gods, but agnostic about it because I don’t know that for certain.

            Think of it as a faith claim on the X axis and a knowledge claim on the Y axis. This puts me in the third quadrant of the Cartesian system thus mapped out.

            Also, about my friend…well, it’s true the burden of proof is on her, but how WOULD you prove these things don’t exist? She has been getting a little weird, saying that she can still talk to her other self or filter her perceptions through it if it were still alive now. And apparently it said that it was its own choice to go to a Hell, that the sutras got a lot of things wrong, and that I, personally, need to stop worrying so much about going to one as long as I don’t commit murder, adultery, etc (which it would not enter my mind to do).

            This whole thing creeps me the hell out and I worry about her…

  3. jj7212
    November 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I’ve been told lately that demons have also come into my life, Satan is playing with me, ect… A couple of my old high school friends on Facebook have un-friended me, including two friends who are now pastors, for my ‘enthusiasm’ about engaging in religious conversation. My mom is in a worried frenzy about these demons who are sending me to hell and she won’t stop praying for my salvation too! I really liked the last paragraph in this post, Mr. Stefanelli. It’s exactly the reason I won’t be quiet about religion with my friends and family. I refuse to have people think that I’m going to hell or that demons are controlling me! I have integrity! It’s funny how christian friends will ‘un-friend’ you as FB friends. Their excuses are ‘I don’t want to hear these bad things about my lord and savior!’ Wah. I wanna kick it all out in the open! I’m not afraid of conversation to defend my integrity. Your articles help me with my sanity! lol Thanks!

  4. November 22, 2011 at 1:23 am

    “Christians are fond of saying that unbelievers have been enslaved by Satan” I get lines like this from my mormon father every time I challenge him on something and then ask him to provide proof that his beliefs are true.

    BTW, I love reading your articles Al, they’re always insightful or relateable each time I read them.

  5. Sandman
    November 23, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Another lovely bit of wordsmithing there Uncle Al.

    An eloquent and cogent explaination of why we are what we are.

    Hammer on my friend, hammer on.

    • Al Stefanelli
      November 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      Thank you, my friend, as always!

  6. lafranceprofonde
    November 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Why shouldn’t the post be emotional – this is an awesome and wonderful world that we live in and all the more so when one has shed the shackles of religion. The natural world is naturally fascinating. I sooo agree with all you said.

  7. Sandman
    November 24, 2011 at 4:24 am

    @ Hazuki

    Sorry to carry on with this but I still maintain your postion is one of a lack of conviction – an academic argument at best, fence sittng dishonesty at worst. When you need to use words like orthogonal and Cartesian in my book you are holdng a loosing hand.

    It isn’t that I am ill educated (I hold a PhD in Intellgence Studies and spent 20 years working in operational and strategic intelligence analysis) or believe the world to be black and white. There are few matters that are black and white…but I wholeheartedly believe that the exstance of supernatural beings classified as gods falls into that very category. There either are gods or there are not. To me the word “agnostic” just means you are an atheist who doesnt have enough conviction to wear the badge…much like the 15% or so of the US population who through various factors feel unable to fess up.

    When Dr Dawkins says that he is a “6.5 atheist” note that he uses the word ATHEIST. That is a more honest expression of a scientific position of uncertainty. He is a scientist and so, as I share a similar background, I can appreciate his position. It is one of honesty and integrity. I however am happy to be classed as a 7 – the other .5 to me is just an angel dancing on a pin head.

    It may seem I am getting frothed at a minor point of expression but agnostics are, to me, much like theologians arguing endlessley about how many angels dance on a pin head. There are no angels on the pin head, nor gods and supernatural beings in the sky. Position yourself anywhere on any graph you like, it does not change that reality one little bit. There is no evidence at all for supernatural beings, and a mountain of evidence proving that such ideas are the product of mans imagination and lack of knowledge.

    Agnostics are the weak link in the chain of secular atheists who strive for a religion free existance. The term is a clunky hangover from a time when the label atheist made you a social pariah subject to victimisation and violence. It has an Uncle Tom taint about it….the atheists who are too weak willed to stand up and be counted. The worn down fifth gear that prevents us hitting the ton in 4.5 seconds.

    In the times when theocratic pygmies cast long shadows such ivory tower academic positions are a luxury we can ill afford. Its time to put down the books and put on the knuckle dusters. Its time to fight for our freedom to live fear free and secular, or see the theocrats slowly take over while we argue about that 0.5 angel on a pin head.

    • davidct
      November 24, 2011 at 7:46 am

      @ Sandman

      You continue to object to the use of the word agnostic because of the way it has been traditionally been misused to avoid making a commitment. The term agnostic is not on a continuum between theist and atheist. Theism is about belief and Gnosticism is about knowledge. When Hazuki says that he is an agnostic-atheist he is stating that like you he has no belief in god or gods. He is also stating that he cannot know for sure that something that might be called a god cannot exist. This is how Dawkins puts himself in the 6.5 position.You on the other hand would be a gnostic-atheist which also makes you a 7. There is no question about your belief. When it comes to the knowledge part, you put yourself in the position of making the positive assertion that you know that no gods exist. We can then ask you for proof of that assertion.

      There is nothing theists like more than trying to shift the burden of proof in such a way as to force the atheist into the position of proving a negative. Taking the Gnostic position makes this bit of intellectual dishonesty easier for the theist. I try to make it clear in any argument that, I am not the one asserting anything. Avoiding any claims about certain knowledge helps keep this position clear.

      Personally I use will take the agnostic position for more abstract god concepts. When it comes to the Abrahamic concept of god is is easier to be a 7 since there are good reasons to know that that particular fiction cannot exist.

      • Hazuki
        November 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

        David hit the nail on the head. And I’m a woman, actually. A giant, hulking, 6′ lesbian in boots (though not particularly butch for all that…) but still female, LOL.

        Yes, it’s much easier to be a 7 (or as i would call myself, 6.999999 etc etc) about Yahweh.

  8. Paddy
    November 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    “I am without the need to explain why I am a hateful, discriminatory bigot toward lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered human beings – or anyone else that is different from me.”

    Damn straight! We don’t need to explain why we’re that way, it’s our god given right to hate as much as we want!

    Sorry, Sal, couldn’t resist. I know the wording just didn’t come out as you meant this to sound, but I had to chuckle when I read it. The other cool thing about freethinkers is that we’re free to have a sense of humor 🙂

    Awesome post. Keep it up.

  9. Paddy
    November 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Sorry “AL” I meant AL!!!!!

  10. rapiddominance
    November 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Sounds like a ticket to a brand new life. Tell me what I have to do to become an atheist!!

    I’m kidding. It just sounds like one possible response to the post. A choir and a pianist would give it a little more kick.

    The most interesting thing about the post is that there is really nothing to say in response. Its beauty isn’t in the dialogue or the information exchange–its the effect that it renders.

    As you are probably gathering, I’m interested in becoming a writer. Thanks for the work you’re doing.

  11. Rick Albert
    November 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    A bubble of servile credulity indeed

    Brilliant as always

  12. alexandra14c
    December 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I just stumbled upon this, and enjoyed it very much! You’ve summed up the joy that is atheism very well.

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