With the recent violence in Aurora and Wisconsin, the secular community has once again come under attack for our godlessness and our insistent stance on separating church from state. Congressmen and women have claimed that "god is angry" with America because the "atheists" have taken "god out of schools and our lives". The always jovial and friendly televangelist Pat Robertson, you know, the guy who spews this kind of crap constantly, has now blamed "satanic atheists" for all that's going on.
And, of course, the Twitterverse and Facebookland are filled with the whole "it was probably an atheist that committed those crimes because they don't have any morals or ethics and they eat babies and hate god and punch old ladies and kick puppies and think killing is awesome". Maybe not in so many words but that is the general gist of the comments and conversations I have been witness to.
The most common statement I have come across lately is the "how easy it is to be an atheist because you just don't care about anything and don't have to worry about god judging you". To this statement, I cry a loud and resounding "BULLSHIT". Being an atheist is fracking hard and trust me when I tell you that I have tried with every ounce of my body to "believe" but simply cannot find the logic behind it.
"Ha!"You say. "The atheist wants to believe because deep down they know there is a god!" No. Sadly, deep down inside I am 99.999999999999% sure there isn't. There reason I try to believe is because, face it, reality bites sometimes and I don't have the lovely cushion of security and comfort religion provides. When a 6 year old is gunned down in a movie theater I don't have that "she's with Jesus now" mentality. I have reality telling me that a 6 YEAR OLD is dead and her parents will never see her again. She will never grow up. She will never have a boyfriend, smile, eat, play, hug or kiss anyone, and she will never have the luxury of being alive that everyone seems to take advantage of. The theist has the blissful advantage of being sad for this tragedy, but then actually believing that this little girl is now crowned with a halo and fluttering around Heaven with Jesus and all of her dead relatives and pets. Her parents are comforted in their beliefs that when they die, they'll "meet up" again and everything is hunky dory. How nice. Really, I don't mean that in a snotty way. There is no snark behind that statement. To have that belief that someone you love is "waiting for you" in the next life, makes these horrible things well, a little less horrible.
Let me tell you. If one of my children were killed or died of a disease or something horrible like that, I would die myself. Because, as an atheist, I don't have that belief of them "watching over me" or "in Heaven" or that I will "see them again". My reality is that my child is gone. Forever. And I will never, ever, ever, be with them again. So when tragedies like Aurora and Wisconsin happen, or I read about a baby with terminal cancer, or children starve to death, I'm not thinking they are in a "better place". I cry because they are dead and gone forever. And that is a hard pill to swallow. A very very hard pill.
There have been only a handful of times that I tried very hard to put myself in the place of a religious person and try to "believe". The biggest one for me was my grandmother's death. I couldn't fathom that one minute she was here and the next not. I would give both my arms and legs to see her for just 5 more minutes. The theist has the comfort in believing that they actually will. The reality that my grandmother is gone forever is devastating, even after almost 20 years. Death, at least for this atheist, is terrifying, and I don't want to face it. The reality that my life, my parents' lives, my children's lives, my husband's life and all the lives of the people I care about are fragile and temporary frightens me to no end. There are nights I wake up out of a sound sleep so afraid that I am going to die that I can't fall back to sleep. It's horrible.
It frustrates me to no end when people say they are "living for the next life". Why? Life is so amazing and wonderful, why would anyone waste it waiting for the afterlife. It boggles the mind. And it frustrates me even more when I'm told I "have it easy" with "no responsibilities or consequences" for my actions because sky daddy doesn't exist. That's a scary statement. It implies that the speaker is only decent and good because they fear repercussions from "god". That, if in fact they did not have god in their lives, they would be on murderous rampages. How absolutely frightening.
So let me tell you, an atheist doesn't have it easy. Apart from being blamed for all the crap that goes on in the world, blamed for corrupting the childre, and moral fibers of society (I think we are tied with gays and lesbians on that one), blamed for being "intolerant" and general "meanies", we also carry the huge burden of seeing things as they really are. There's no "he's dead but...." in our little world. There's no "satan", causing people to do evil. There's no "god's will", determining who lives or dies. There's no notion that we are this amazingly special creature created in the image of a deity who rule the planet and the Universe. As the amazing Bill Nye, the Science Guy said, "I'm this guy standing on a planet. Really I'm just a speck. Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck. To think about all of this, To think about the vast emptiness of space.There's billions and billions of stars.Billions and billions of specks".
It's pretty humbling to be a speck.
But reality as an atheist isn't all doom and gloom. I have the wonder of the Universe to marvel at and realize how absolutely amazing it is to be here at this moment right now. The landing of the Mars Curiosity puts everything into perspective on how marvelous it is to be a human being. No deity or supernatural forces needed. Reality may bite when dealing with "the hard stuff", but in the end, it is really awesome and it is what makes this little trip around the sun so much more worth it. I don't have the promise of an afterlife running around my head. I have the promise that this life is all of I've got and I've got to make it worth something to myself and the people around me. What a waste to do otherwise.