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I don't have any religion
I am an atheist; I was born and raised a Christian (my father is a minister), and even went to Bible College, but in the end, I decided I didn't believe in Christianity, or in any other religion. I now believe quite firmly that there is no god whatsoever, no higher power, no supernatural realm. The universe and everything in it was 'created' naturally, through laws which are possible to discover and define through close examination and experimentation.|
As to what I believe, that is a different question entirely. I would classify myself as an existentialist humanist.
As an existentialist, I believe that the "meaning" of my life, and the "meaning" of the world around me, is defined essentially by my own existence. Since there is no "higher power" to give me a "reason" or "purpose", I must determine that purpose for myself. This determination is made based on what I perceive as giving me the greatest satisfaction/fulfillment, as most suited to my skills and interests, etc.
As a humanist, I subscribe to a set of beliefs that while there is no "universal law" or "universal definition of good and evil", there are general principles that can be used in forming a system of moral beliefs. A brief summary of humanist beliefs in this regards (taken from the International Humanist and Ethical Union at www.iheu.org) is:
"Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality."
The two systems -- existentialism and humanism -- are quite complementary. While many religious types try to claim that atheists will have no moral standards (since there is no god or higher power to tell them what is right or wrong), humanist groups are among the world leaders in promoting human rights and democracy.
The thing is, being an atheist is NOT so easy...if you follow a particular religion, you don't have to decide what is right, or what is wrong. Your god/preacher/parents will tell you. You just do what the religion says, and you're fine. For atheists, there is no such pre-defined system of belief. Instead, you must question for yourself, you must debate such questions with yourself, and with others. And in the end, YOU ALONE bear full responsibility for your decisions, right or wrong. You can't simply say, "That's what the Bible says" and slough off any further responsibility.
I have no problem with those who have religious beliefs. I have friends who are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Bahai, and many others. I respect their beliefs, and NEVER try to convince them that their beliefs are wrong. As an existentialist, I believe that it is up to each person to define their own existence as they see best...and if that definition includes believing in a particular god or religion, then that is fine. In fact, I believe there are many people who would be incapable of functioning as an atheist...they NEED someone else to define their beliefs for them, and feel lost without such guidance.
That's all fine...so long as every group respects every other group, I for one see no reason why we can't have a plethora of different beliefs. The problems come when one group becomes convinced that only they are right...and try to force their beliefs on others. And that is a crime of which NO belief system is innocent, atheists included.
[ Last edited by canadianguy at 2006-1-20 12:32 AM ]