It is a common misperception, promoted and sustained by religious leaders, that atheism has nothing good or positive to offer the seeker. Nothing could be further from the truth. It will be one of the major purposes of this weblog, and more specifically of this category, the Garden, to explode that myth, and there is no better time to start than now. To counter this oft-held misperception, here follow some of the benefits of atheism:
Atheism quenches the fear of Hell. As an atheist, you do not have to believe that you are a worthless sinner or poison yourself with guilt every waking moment; nor do you have to fear that your actions may offend the arbitrary standards of a looming cosmic tyrant or condemn you to an afterlife of eternal pain. In place of this impossible and irrational standard, atheism offers a rational morality based on conscience, where it is up to us to take responsibility for our own actions, to refrain from causing harm if possible and make amends if we cannot. To an atheist, morality is grounded in human needs and human concerns, not the inscrutable whims of a higher power, and is within our power to live up to if we diligently practice virtue.
Atheism banishes the fever of religious hatred. As an atheist, there is no longer any reason to view those who disagree with you as the enemies of God, fit only for conversion or destruction; these people become human beings again with their own point of view, with the potential present for understanding and compromise. To an atheist, there is no martyrs' afterlife inspiring suicidal acts of terrorism, no violence can be justified by claiming God's will, and no war is ever holy. Instead, it is our task to overcome the things that divide us and bring about peace.
Atheism offers the happiness of intellectual freedom. As an atheist, no one tells you how or what to think; you have the freedom to make up your own mind, to use your own judgment, and to come to decisions because they are your decisions and not because an ancient text or an anointed priesthood tells you so. You are free to study and learn wherever the inquiring mind takes you, with no field off-limits and no theory too dangerous to examine. Most of all, you are free to doubt. To an atheist, no belief is sacred, no tradition inviolable, and no bit of knowledge beyond questioning. In the eyes of religion, asking certain questions is blasphemy, but an atheist has no gods to offend, only the truth, and the truth cannot be blasphemed.
Atheism offers the exhilaration of choosing your own purpose. As an atheist, you are not a pawn in a cosmic game, trudging through life toward a predetermined end; you can throw away the chains of holy writ and set your own course, steer your own path. To an atheist, life is not a prescripted morality play or an exercise of a god's whim, but a wide-open horizon, gloriously real and significant. Whatever makes your life meaningful and gives you happiness and contentment is your right to choose, so long as you respect others' right to do the same.
Atheism offers a deeper appreciation for and wonder of life and the cosmos. As an atheist, your vision is not clouded by elaborate mythologies that, regardless of their literary merit, offer no insight into the way the universe really works. You are free to use the most powerful and the only effective tool for uncovering the truth humans have ever invented, science, and to accept its conclusions without reservation that they may contradict some time-eroded dogma. To an atheist, the universe can be viewed as it truly is, an awesome, intricate and majestic thing arising from the interaction of a few simple and beautiful natural laws that we can discover.
Atheism imbues our actions with true significance. As an atheist, you have the assurance of knowing that your accomplishments are neither unimportant trifles nor mere imperfect replicas of ideas in the mind of God, but are real, important, and entirely your own. When you discover or create something new, you are the first person to have ever done so, and your achievements genuinely matter because they are done in the only and therefore the most important world that there is. Since there is no afterlife where justice will finally be done, there is all the more reason to work to see that it is done now, to ease the suffering of those in pain and fill all people's lives with happiness and love. To an atheist, this world is our home, for we have no other, and that gives us the greatest incentive to care for it, protect it and improve it for us and for our descendants.
Atheism gives confidence that you are on the side of right. As an atheist, there is no longer any justification to limit people's freedom, to stifle their speech, to control their thoughts, to enslave their lives, to enrich yourself at their expense, to oppose the growth of true understanding, or to focus your efforts on some other world which we know not of, rather than this one where our hands and our efforts are needed. Religious groups around the world are behind these sins and many more, but atheists can oppose them unequivocally with no reservations that they might be contravening God's will by doing so. To an atheist, life has the satisfaction of knowing that you stand for the right values, the ones that will bring humanity the most happiness in the long run, and the ones that focus on things that are true and verifiable, which are the only important things.