Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Labeling myself

Our society is obsessed with labels.  While they are often crude, stereotypical and used to divide individuals from a group, they are integral in our society.  The nice things about labels, however, is that we decide what they mean.  We can choose how to label ourselves to include ourselves in a group of like-minded people. Outsiders to that group may not like the label, and may even disagree on what the label actually means, but what really matter is what members of that group consider to be their values.

I have made some changes in my life that have made me rethink the groups I am associated with and helped me define the kinds of labels that should define me.  I made these decisions a couple of years ago, but was closed about it in public because I was unsure of my personal beliefs.  I have had time to decide what it is that I do believe and with which groups and labels I wish to associate myself.  Now that I know what I believe and how I want to be known I am coming out and labeling myself publicly for the first time.

There are three labels that I have decided to associate myself with.  I will list the labels that I have chosen, the reasons I have chosen them and most importantly, what that label means to me.  As I said before, others outside these groups may consider these labels differently, so I will explain what that means from my perspective.

Firstly, I am an atheist.  As an atheist I do not believe in a God or Gods.  I do not believe in Zeus, Thor, Apollo, Ra, Jesus or God the Father.  I do not believe that there is a being who is watching over me, blessing me or judging my behavior.  I also do not believe that the universe was created by a consciousness. That is all that being an atheist means.  It doesn’t mean that I am a devil worshiper.  It doesn’t mean that I immoral.  It doesn’t mean that I eat babies.  All it means is that I do not believe in any form of a God or Gods.

Second, I am a materialist. A materialist sees reality as the physical matter of which is it composed. Thought, feelings and will can all be defined in terms of matter and physical phenomena. I am a collection of the nerve impulses and synapses in my brain responding to physical stimuli.  I do not believe in a soul, a spirit or a part of myself that is not my physical body.  I am my body and when I die my brain will no longer send those impulses and I will cease to be.

Third, I am a humanist. A humanist is someone who believes that life is fragile and that it matters. That each individual who is lucky enough to have one has the rights to have a good one. It is amazing that we exist at all and we should go out of our way to help those in need, because this is the only life that we get.  Everyone who has one has a fundamental right to have the opportunity of a pleasant one.  Those who have enough to survive, or who have excess, should give and donate to those who do not, so that they may experience the basic rights and necessities of life to survive and be happy.

This is who I am and how I choose to define myself.  I was not raised with these ideals, but developed them over time after years of observation and thought.  I used to be religious. I enjoyed spending time with like-minded individuals who supported my beliefs, but I have left that behind me and found a new identity.  One that I love and that makes me happier than I was before.

My goal with this blog is to share my journey from being a Mormon to becoming an atheist, why I changed my ways of thinking and how I feel now.  I will be sharing a lot of scientific principles and discoveries that helped me to make my decisions, along with future discoveries that reinforce those beliefs and expand my knowledge of this fascinating universe that we live in.

I will be talking a lot about how atheists are perceived in the U.S. and how I have lost friends because of my decisions. I will criticize religion.  I will post anti-religious ideas and images.  I do this not to anger those who have those beliefs or to persecute them, but because being critical is part of life and especially science.  Any group that says not to doubt, not to seek other sources or think about alternative views is destructive to the human experience.  Religion gives answers and says not to doubt them. Science asks questions and doubts the answers until the evidence can be tested, retested, verified and upheld, and can even then be refuted and tossed out when further discoveries are made.

As will become the norm, I will end these blogs with a quote or a comic.  I will do both for my first.

“I am not an atheist because I am mad at your god. I am not an atheist because I love sin. I am not an atheist because I don’t want to answer to authority. I am an atheist because I sought the truth about reality. I have accepted nature and my place in the universe. I will live and I will die. I wish to leave this world knowing that I did my best. I hope our descendants inherit a world that can sustain them.” – Mike Autrey

I had to add a second quote to fit in with my last point.

“Truth does not ask to be believed. It asks to be tested. Scientists do not join hands every Saturday or Sunday and sing, ‘Yes. Gravity is real! I know gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down, down. Amen!’ If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about the concept.” – Dan Barker

Finally, a comic.

Thanks for reading! I hope you are all well.