I hate the word Atheist SO MUCH. And the lovely Oprah Winfrey – who I like on many levels – demonstrated why I hate it in her interview with Diane Nyad and her apparent inability to believe and atheist feel awe and wonder.
It’s very hard for people to reconcile atheism and spirituality. At least that’s been my experience. It’s very common for Christians – especially fundamentalist Christians – to view atheists as cold pragmatists who see no wonder in the world. There may be other religions who think the same way about atheists, but my community is predominantly fundamentalist Christians so that’s the perspective I’ll address here.
They seem to assume we’re all lab-coat wearing scientist who think nothing is miraculous. I see it in prayers and photos and remarks posted on Facebook every day. It’s a common sentiment that the beauty of a sunset can not be appreciated if you don’t believe in a God behind it. I often see comments that people who don’t believe in God can not truly be in awe of the miracle of their own children. I see memes about how a Christian feels sorry for someone who doesn’t believe in God because they can not be amazed at the stars in the sky.
So, you know, I wanted to set the record straight.
It’s hard to define what I am. I’m most definitely a humanist and I’m most definitely an atheist. However, I am NOT a GNOSTIC ATHEIST. A gnostic atheist would claim to know for sure that no deity exists. And I would not claim that. I often think Christians assume all atheists are gnostic, but you’d be surprised to find out that many of us fall more into the category of AGNOSTIC atheists. I don’t believe in a deity of any sort, but I’m not going to pretend I am capable of understanding everything in the universe, so I would never claim to be certain of the lack of one.
NOW! Humanist! Agnostic Atheist! That’s me.
But let me tell you – there may not be a religious person in the world who is MORE in awe with nature than I am. I photograph every sunrise or sunset I see with even the slightest shade of pink. Fog in the valley when I’m up on the mountain sends shivers down my spine. I drink coffee some mornings with the stars just for the hope to see one shooting across the sky. I am very capable of wonder and awe and very much able to be inspired by the beauty and miracle of nature.
But I subscribe those miracles to the simple amazement of this planet and how it works. I think my children are miracles like I think all humans are miracles. Miracles of science and evolution. But no less miraculous than if I believe they were from God.
The stars make me sad because I’m overwhelmed by the vastness of what I don’t know or understand. I look into the sky and I’m burdened by how much is out there that I can not explain. But that doesn’t mean I have to believe in God, and that doesn’t mean that my lack of a belief in God means I’m less inspired by it all than you are.
I see an ant carrying a bread crumb twice the size of it’s body and I marvel at the evolution that allowed him to develop the body to do that. I watch a butterfly escapee predation by scaring those who would eat him with his beauty and I bow down to the science behind those characteristics. I find the pragmatic explanations to the universe just as awe-inspiring as a religious person would find their own biblical explanations.
Spirituality is not only felt through religion or a belief in deities. If you believe I am less capable of spirituality because I don’t have a God to have faith in, then you simply do not understand my beliefs. And that’s okay! But just know that people like me are just as amazed by the twinkle of the stars and the laughter of their children as you are. Don’t feel sorry for us. You don’t have to understand us, that’s what makes the world beautiful – our differences – but don’t assume that we’re cold-hearted and unable to cry at a sunset.
Of course, all of this is coming from the girl who always cries at the OnStar radio spots, so maybe I’m just a weirdo.