August 19, 2014

Dear Christians: I build my beliefs based on evidence and reasoning, not faith.

Dear Christians is a recurring column that deals with my intersection between belief and nonbelief. It looks at my personal views of belief and deals with the myths of nonbelief that I was taught growing up. All opinions are, of course, my own. To see more Dear Christians columns, click here.

Dear Christians:

It recently came up in an online forum, one of those catchphrases that I had heard about from my fellow nonbelievers, but not experienced myself.

"You have faith too."

I know that it is hard to believe, but no, atheists don't feel like they have faith. I don't personally believe that I have faith, because I have relied on reason and evidence to come to my conclusions--a rather noticeable departure from my prior belief system.

The idea that atheists have faith tends to come from the idea that they take a leap of faith in believing in no deities, but I don't find that accurate either.

For me, I see no good reasons to believe in a god. I see no clear evidence of one. Thus, much like unicorns, or manbearpigs, I feel justified in believing that no such thing exists.

I am, however, open to evidence that I am wrong.

This is a vast departure from my prior state of faith. When I built my life around faith, I actively protected it by avoiding sources that could throw it into Christian. When we learned about evolution in high school, I would return home each evening, mulling over my A-Beka science book that stated the case for creationism. I avoided even watching television programs that would cast doubt on my beliefs. Things like Ancient Aliens were even off-limits to me personally.

Today, I am open to reading anything. I visit a number of blogs that don't align with my worldview--those blogs give me the chance to see things from different perspectives, and I value that. I read books that don't match what I believe, because in such books there's a wealth of perspective. I feel like more important than safeguarding my own experience is understanding the experience of others.

In the meantime, I do have answers to the "big questions". Can I be good? Yes. I'm perfectly able to tell right from wrong without a several millennia old anthology. Where did I come from? I understand evolution better than ever, and I see it as the clear progression of the planet and its lifeforms. Where will I go when I die? I will not exist. My body will enter the ground, and decompose (or preferably, be cremated), and I will only live on in the memories of those that loved me and those whose lives I touched. How do I deal with doing wrong? I make amends, as best I can, and put myself in the other individual's shoes.

So religion has no comfort for me that I don't already see in my nonbelief.

What would it take for me to believe in God and accept that there is ample evidence for him?

Well, a personal visit would be a ringer, but photographic or video evidence would be a nice start. I'm sure there's other evidence that could lead me to deduce that there is a greater being, but I have yet to see it produced.

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