Monday, April 22, 2013

Natural Born Skeptic: My Atheist Journey Part 9

Purpose And Meaning In A Godless World (Continued)

We all seek purpose in our lives, and we all seek a deeper understanding and meaning to why we exist. I think that the naturalistic worldview can serve many more minds in ways that religion has traditionally done so. From my earliest memories as a child I was captivated by science. I wanted to know. I was driven towards the way science can explain things in precise detail. I poured over statistical reference books – illuminated by the knowledge of knowing the true facts about the world. Religion never gave me such information; it glosses over detail and is purposely vague and light on specifics. Perhaps that’s why it never intrigued me as a kid. I just couldn't accept the idea that our world was a mere 6,000 years old when all the geologic data I had learned said otherwise. And I just couldn't accept that my purpose in life was to serve an invisible being called “God”, who I was told is perfect and free from all earthly desire, and yet still got extremely jealous when I did not recognize him.

When I discovered that religious belief - even when it's in some of its moderate incarnations, poses a terrible threat to the progress of the free world, my insulated secular bubble had burst. I had recognized that the world around me is teaming with faith-based ideologies that seek to diminish that freedom to their liking, and that the freedoms I take for granted in the US should never be. My purpose became one dedicated towards thwarting the tide of oppression that seeks to enforce its mind-forged shackles upon the liberated.

I've come to recognize that the purpose driven life is up to each one of us to create for ourselves. I don’t need my life or my actions to have cosmic significance in order for them to have purpose. Why should I care if the universe doesn't notice my noble efforts? And why should you care either? What matters is what happens in our celestial neighborhood to the living conscious beings that are affected within it. To require universal recognition mandates the kind of arrogance religion often produces. I've always thought that the religious worldview that demands the greatest cosmic significance to human life and its talents was anything but the humble portrayal that we so often hear. Nothing could be more arrogant, more self-centered and conceited, and more solipsistic than thinking that the entire cosmos – all that exists and all that ever will – billions upon trillions of stars and galaxies – were all created and designed for us. And I say to those folks who need this belief to feel special, you can believe that if you like, but please don’t insult my intelligence and try to tell me that this human-centered worldview is humble.

I don’t deny that there's something special about human life. We have evolved the unique ability to figure out nature’s deepest secrets. Humankind is in a sense, nature becoming conscious of itself. And although at a purely physical level, we are all just matter in motion, naturalism does allow for emergent properties like consciousness that allows us to perceive the awe and mysteries of the cosmos, and the recognition that we are alive and can experience joy, pleasure, pain and suffering.

Along the path of my atheistic journey, I went from a skeptical kid to an adult who found passion and purpose in advancing the case for atheism and secularism. But my goal in life is not merely to get everyone to disbelieve in supernatural gods. I want to eliminate what prevents people from being rationally informed with the best evidence based knowledge that exists, and the two main culprits are ignorance and religion. Now if religion disappears, something will inevitably replace it. For most atheists today, the ethical framework that we feel should replace religious belief and morality is secular humanism. I'm a secular humanist as much as I'm an atheist or a naturalist. Secular humanism is the best overall philosophical framework that we can use to build a humane society because it emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world free of the impediment of dogma. Religious morality is believed simply because it is believed to come from god. There often is no secular justification for many of its "morals" without reference to believing that it's what god wants. If a belief prevents someone from accepting scientific facts about the world and affects their ability to make rationally informed decisions based on evidence, and if the belief requires one to make others believe it too, then I’d feel an imperative to put a stop to this growing meme. And if that isn't a noble life purpose, I don't know what is.

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