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Lapsed anthropologist-turned-burlesque performer and post-modern punk housewife/homesteader living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a hunky husband, gorgeous daughter, adorable corgi, fluffy rabbit, and three clucking fabulous chickens.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Atheism

I think I'm finally coming out to my mother as an atheist.

She sends me emails full of adorable pictures of animals, usually labelled something like "Proof of Creation", and I usually just say something about how cute I find the giraffe. She has made her disdain of evolution and Darwin quite clear, and how she finds people who believe in it to be idiots. Which means she would find me to be an idiot.

Today, I made my usual comment about a funny raccoon, and when she responded with something about how these pictures prove God, I decided I had to be honest.
"Well, I believe in evolution, but yes, the fantastic diversity of life is always awesome." She countered with the belief that all creatures are made perfect, and I countered with the belief that imperfect creatures exist all the time, indeed spontaneous miscarriages often result from miscoded genes leading to the termination of a non-viable pregnancy. Mutations happen all the time, newly-birthed individuals surviving only a short while. Or mutations happening and the individuals surviving with extra limbs, or no limbs. Imperfection surrounds us all the time, and just because we are filled with awe when we see nature working perfectly, we can't ignore that mistakes happen all the time. I have a congenital joint disorder, and a bum thyroid. I was not made perfect.

A friend of mine said he thought perhaps it was the concept of a godless existence that was troubling and difficult for our religious relatives to grasp, and therefor they couldn't understand why we would choose to believe such a thing. Anthropologically, I understand the role that religion plays. It creates community, a sense of belonging. It tells you what your place in the world is, it helps alleviate the anxiety caused by the random brutality of life.

For me, science fulfills these functions. I feel a sense of community with other life, I feel part of it instead of separate and above it. I understand my place in the world as a human, the only living species of the genus Homo, a member of the Hominidae family of great apes. I am not descended from a monkey. Monkeys are not apes. I am not descended from apes as we know them, either. Rather, modern apes and I share a common ancestor way, way back.

I don't believe in an interventionist god, I don't believe in a deity that cares deeply about me and my life, and is keeping track of all my deeds, good and bad, to determine whether or not I deserve eternal paradise or eternal torture. I don't believe in the persistence of consciousness after death. I believe that this makes life more important, because it is finite. I understand that to a theist this may sound like I think that nothing we do matters, so why not kill, rape, steal, etc. if there is no grand judgement? On the contrary, if nothing we do matters, then the only thing that matters is what we do. We have evolved past our base instincts, we have developed an understanding of compassion and kindness, of morality. You can be a moral person with out being a religious person. I am a good person, because I want to be a good person. I think stealing, lying, raping, and murdering are all wrong. 

To me, existence is even more inspiring and amazing without a divine hand guiding it. The idea that this vast diversity of life that surrounds us is the result of millenia-long processes of natural selection and sexual reproduction is infinitely more satisfying to me than the thought that it was created static and perfect over the course of a week. I feel like I have an obligation to protect the environment, to minimize the negative impact I have on the global ecosystem, because I don't think that the world is going to end anytime soon. 

I'm not trying to dissuade my mother or anyone else from their faith, but I do think that we can be respectful of each other, and not resort to name-calling or disparaging each other's beliefs. I plan to raise my children without religion, and with a strong understanding and appreciation of science. Maybe they will come to religion of their own accord, and that's fine. They'll still be my kids. 

Love should be unconditional.


  1. I'm very proud of you! It's so hard to do that with Moms... It was really rough for me. Love should be unconditional.

  2. I'm going through the same thing right now. I have mostly kept my mouth shut- before this summer I was a meandering sort of agnostic, and then after some life-changing events I realized that I really was an atheist. Neither of these fit my fundamentalist-Christian parents. :/
    I'm reading your post and hoping to find the courage to do the same one day.

    1. I wish you courage and luck. Things went well with my mom, because love should be unconditional, and lucky for me in this case it is. I know not everyone is so fortunate, sadly. I hope your parents are as understanding as she was about where I was coming from.


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