Category Archives: Atheism

Atheists to Remember: Marie Curie

Marie Curie, née Maria Sklodowska, was born in Warsaw, Poland, on November 7, 1867. She abandoned her family’s Roman Catholicism to become an agnostic as a teenager and received a general education in local schools and some scientific training from her father. In 1891, she went to Paris to continue her studies at the Sorbonne where she obtained Licenciateships in Physics and the Mathematical Sciences. She met Pierre Curie, Professor in the School of Physics in 1894 and in the following year they were married.

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Marie broke many barriers for her sex, becoming the first European woman to earn a science doctorate. She is most notable for the discovery of polonium, radium, and coining the term “radioactive.” Together with her husband, she was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, for their study into the spontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel, who was awarded the other half of the Prize.

In 1906, her husband Pierre was tragically run over and killed. Marie took over his professorship of general physics, winning another first for women. When she won the 1911 Nobel Prize for chemistry, she was the first person, male or female, to have received two Nobel Prizes. Despite the impressive feat of being the first person to ever win two Nobel Prizes, she was barred as a woman from the Academy of Sciences, which was an all-male organization. Marie continued on to become the director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris in 1914.

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The importance of Curie’s work is reflected in the numerous awards bestowed on her. She received many honorary science, medicine and law degrees and honorary memberships of learned societies throughout the world. In addition to the two Nobel Prizes, she also received, jointly with her husband, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society in 1903 and, in 1921, President Harding of the United States, on behalf of the women of America, presented her with one gram of radium in recognition of her service to science. In August 1922, Marie Curie became a member of the newly created International Commission for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations. In 1924, she penned “What Do I Read Next”, a memoir of Pierre Curie. In the memoir she stated, “Pierre belonged to no religion and I did not practice any.”

In 1925, she visited Poland, to participate in the ceremony that laid foundations for the Radium Institute in Warsaw. Her second American tour in 1929, succeeded in equipping the Warsaw Radium Institute with radium; President Hoover of the United States presented her with a gift of $50,000, donated by American friends of science, to purchase radium for use in the laboratory in Warsaw. The Warsaw Radium Institute was opened in 1932 and her sister Bronisława became its director. In 1930, Marie was elected a member of the International Atomic Weights Committee where she served until her death.

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Throughout her life, Marie actively promoted the use of radium to alleviate suffering and during World War I, assisted by her daughter, Irene, she personally devoted herself to this remedial work. She spent much of the remainder of her life pursuing her humanitarian goal of “easing human suffering.” Due to repeated and long term exposure to radiation, Marie died in 1934, at age 67, of leukemia. She became the first woman to be interred at the Pantheon on her own merits.

In her final moments, Marie worked on a book, “Radioactivity”, which was published after her death. The following year, Curie’s oldest daughter, Irene, with her husband Frederic Joliot-Curie, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for work in artificial radioactivity. Eve Curie, in her memoir of her mother, Mme. Curie (1937), described all of her family members as rationalists.

“Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame has not corrupted.” –Albert Einstein

Let us never forget those who sacrificed it all to make the world a better place, not for a posthumous reward, but for the sake of being good.

Sources:

http://www.nobelprize.org/

http://www.ffrf.org/

 


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The Problem of Hell

It is often touted by believers that if you do not believe in their specific version of Abrahamic deity, then you will perish forever in unending agony for your suspension of belief. Something I’ve often wondered, especially as a child, is how would an all-loving, omnipotent god be able to exist at the same time as a place of unending torment (created by that same god)? That question, while still a valid question that no apologist can give a succinct answer for, has paved the way for other questions. For example, why is the concept of Hell, a place of eternal torture, socially respectable? Why are people who hold such a primitive, distressing, and retributive view hailed, rather than criticized?

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Hell, after all, is a horrifying construct. Hell is portrayed as a place of everlasting torture, where non-Christians and nonbelievers (but not Christianity’s greatest mass murderers who “accepted” Jesus, such as Hitler) can be tortured and burned eternally simply for sincerely believing the “wrong” religion. Even innocents who may never have heard of Jesus, under traditional doctrine, cannot avoid this fate far worse than death. Some believers even go so far as to smugly declare that nonbelievers deserve to be tortured forever for not having the same imaginary friend, all while relishing in this idea of eternal punishment for others.

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Despite the fact that this hell would be preferable to worshiping, praising, and idolizing a celestial dictator in heaven while being surrounded by self-righteous pricks, there are other issues with this concept of hell.

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First, if an eternity of unending suffering for others makes you feel comforted, then you should not be described as “righteous.” I think “immoral psychopath” is a much better fit. The problem with finding pleasure in someone else’s eternal misfortune is believing that they deserve the misfortune. Seriously, people that have beliefs in hell and the punishment for pure evil are more likely to support violent retributive policies such as capital punishment and the use of torture (Campbell & Vollhardt, 2013). People who believe in a literal Satan and Hell are also more likely to be intolerant of homosexuals and generally more prejudiced against minorities (Wilson & Huff, 2011). This makes sense when you understand the in-group bias, us vs. them, nature of religion and how determining that they (everyone that does not share your belief) are destined for hellfire makes them less of a person or more deserving of prejudice and punishment.

Second, Hell is not a biblical concept, at least not in the common depiction of hell. The King James Version of the Bible has 54 references to Hell. However, it is not the Hell that Christians preach, but they are all mostly mistranslations (or intentional ones). The English word Hell is translated from the following three words.

Tartaros/Tartaroo – “The deepest abyss of Hades”

This word is the closest resemblance to the English depiction of Hell, but it is only used once. 2 Peter 2:4 is the only location where it is used and it still doesn’t coincide with the common perception of hell because the Bible says “the angels that are there are to be reserved unto judgment”, explicitly stating that this place is for angels and with no mention of this place being reserved for man.

Sheol/Hades – “grave” or “the world of the dead”

These words simply meant a place where the dead dwell. There is no suffering mentioned nor is it understood to be an actual physical realm. If you substitute “grave” or the “world of the dead” in everywhere these words are used it becomes apparent that the Bible is riddled with mistranslations.

Hinnom/Gehenna – These words refer to a literal valley outside of Jerusalem where animal carcasses were tossed and burned. This is also the place where the Jews sacrificed children in their idolatrous days. The mention of the valley of Ben-Hinnom was usually to scare children back onto the right path. Because it was basically a garbage dump, there were always flames burning and worms (maggots) feasting on dead flesh.

With the proper etymology and translation of these words, it is easy to see that the majority of the references to hell are mistranslations. Most likely they are intentional ones, since the idea of Hell as a place of eternal suffering was added much later as a part of Christian doctrine and fan fiction. As it usually happens, artists and writers took the ambiguous descriptions of hell and transformed them into the hell we know today. In fact, there are two primary culprits responsible for the current concept of hell: Dante Aligheri with his Divine Comedy and Hieronymus Bosch with his fantastical paintings of hell.

“I have no respect for any human being who believes in hell. I have no respect for any man who preaches it. I have no respect for the man who will pollute the imagination of childhood with that infamous lie. I have no respect for the man who will add to the sorrows of this world with the frightful dogma. I have no respect for any man who endeavors to put that infinite cloud, that infinite shadow, over the heart of humanity.” — Robert G. Ingersoll

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Campbell, M., & Vollhardt, J. R. Fighting the Good Fight: The Relationship Between Belief in Evil and Support for Violent Policies.

http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/30/0146167213500997.abstract

Wilson, K. M., & Huff, J. L. Scaling Satan.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11577971


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Top 10 Public School State-Church Violations

TOP TEN STATE/CHURCH SCHOOL VIOLATIONS

Freedom From Religion Foundation

http://ffrf.org/

Brochure by Freedom From Religion Foundation

http://ffrf.org/images/Top10_Brochure_14x8.5.pdf

1) PRAYER AT SCHOOL EVENTS

School events, including graduations, may not include prayer. For more than 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently struck down prayer in public schools.

School staff, including coaches, may not organize, endorse, promote, or participate in prayers with students. Teachers and coaches may not lead prayers or deputize students to lead prayer. Even a public school coach’s silent participation in student prayer circles has been ruled unconstitutional. Borden. Schools and athletic teams may not appoint or employ a chaplain or other spiritual leader.

2) COMPELLING PLEDGES OF ALLEGIANCE

Students have a constitutional right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Nor can students be required to stand or otherwise be penalized for exercising this right. Even before “under God” was belatedly added to the previously secular pledge in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court had already affirmed this right.

3) SCHOOL BIBLE DISTRIBUTIONS

The distribution of bibles to students on public school property is prohibited. Allowing bible distributions in public schools or on public school property is an “affront not only [to] non-religious people but [to] all those whose faiths, or lack of faith, does not encompass the New Testament.”

4) CREATIONISM

Schools may not teach religious doctrine, including creationism and “intelligent design.” The Supreme Court has firmly struck down attempts to prohibit evolution or teach “scientific creationism” in public schools. No controversy exists in the scientific community regarding evolution, which, like gravity, is a fact. Teaching that there is controversy about the validity of evolution in science class is akin to teaching astrology along with astronomy, or alchemy with chemistry. The scientific literacy of students and our nation is at stake.

5) DENIAL OF ATHEIST STUDENT CLUBS

Schools may not ban atheist/secular clubs if other non-curricular clubs are allowed. Under the Equal Access Act, if public secondary schools permit noncurricular clubs, they cannot discriminate against student clubs based on their religious, political, philosophical or other beliefs. All clubs must receive the same rights and privileges.

6) GRADUATION IN CHURCHES

School events, including graduations, should not be held in houses of worship. Public school programming, including graduations, testing and recitals, should not occur in churches, because any student could “reasonably conclude that the District would only choose such a proselytizing environment aimed at spreading religious faith . . . if the District approved of the Church’s message.” Budget considerations cannot trump students’ rights.

7) CHURCHES MEETING IN SCHOOLS

Churches must abide by school rental policies, pay fees, and only use property during rental hours. Granting a fee waiver or discount to a church is illegal preferential treatment, forcing taxpayers to subsidize religion. Rental rates should minimally cover extra costs, including AC, heat, janitorial overtime and clean-up, etc. The church may not use school property during non-rental hours — including to store equipment, park a trailer, or display messages or advertising. The practice of churches renting public schools for worship remains divisive and controversial because of the inevitable appearance of school sanction, spurring ongoing litigation.

8) DISPLAYING RELIGIOUS MESSAGES

Religious displays are not permitted in public schools. Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools, including crosses, the Ten Commandments, bible verses, bibles, religious figures, portraits of Jesus, etc., even if privately paid for. These may not be displayed on public school grounds, public school hallways, offices, classrooms, or anywhere in view of students and parents.

9) YOUTH PASTOR ACCESS TO STUDENTS

Schools may not give religious groups unique access to school property to befriend, proselytize or give presentations to students. Schools may not allow pastors, religious youth clubs, ministers or churches onto school grounds during the school day to “talk” with students.

10) PROSELYTIZING VIA MUSIC

It is a principle of our public educational system that every activity in a public school ought to have an educational purpose. Elementary school music classes and high school choruses are a frequent source of school First Amendment violations. The line is crossed when that purpose becomes devotional, proselytizing or religiously coercive.

‘VOLUNTARINESS’ IS NO EXCUSE

Public schools that host religious events often excuse them by calling them “voluntary.” Students are a captive audience who, as the Supreme Court has stated repeatedly, cannot be required to forfeit rights or benefits as the price of resisting state sponsored religious practices.

If you are aware of these or similar violations in your public schools, report violations to: http://www.FFRF.ORG/LEGAL/REPORT


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Athemyths: Without God, There is No Purpose!

A recurring myth among religious individuals is that without God, life has no meaning or purpose. There are many reasons why a theist may hold this idea, none of which are grounded in reality. This is usually a refusal to accept death as the ultimate end and an appeal to emotion, in which a person assumes that their life has a meaning or a purpose given by God or presumes that there is an objective meaning to life.

First, there is no evidence that there is any objective meaning to life and it cannot be established with any epistemic certainty. Testimonies do not hold up to scrutiny as they are subject to the myriad biases of your brain. Holy texts are riddled with contradictions, inconsistencies, and outright falsities. Until there is a reliable means of establishing an objective meaning of life that provides substantial evidence, the appropriate response is to suspend judgment. Sure, it is an uncomfortable thought to some that there might not be any objective purpose to life, but the inability to accept this does not mean that we should adopt fallacious concepts to satisfy our ego.

Second, there are many people that do not believe in your deity, or any deity, and it would be preposterous to claim that the 1.2 billion Chinese who have no predominant religion, or the millions of people who claim to be nonbelievers, are not leading meaningful lives. The existence of a god is not required in order to have a meaning or purpose in life. Meaning is subjective. What you find meaningful someone else may not. There is plenty of meaning to be found in literature, music, science, and human connection, to name a few. To think that these things somehow lose their meaning if there is no god is absolutely absurd.

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Finally, this myth presupposes that the god given objective meaning or purpose in life aligns with their own. What if it doesn’t? Without evidence to support the claim, there is no way to know if your subjective meaning or purpose of life coincides with any objective meaning or purpose of life. Most Abrahamic religions hold that the purpose of life is to serve God. What good is life if you are going to spend it grovelling in fear at the feet of a celestial dictator? What good is life if your only purpose is to worship, praise, and be a subservient slave to a cosmic master? Would you accept that same purpose if it were a terrestrial dictator or master? If God is the ultimate embodiment of love why isn’t he held to a higher standard?

As an atheist, I have everything to live for and nothing to die for. The finality of life is exactly what gives life meaning. Death only appears on the surface to invalidate any meaning or purpose of life because it seems to give rise to an idea that there is no reason to do anything all, like garner knowledge or improve the self, if we are going to die anyway. However, there is a point to garnering knowledge or improving the self and that purpose is to enjoy life. The very finite nature of life prevents us from knowing and experiencing everything our world has to offer. That ephemeral epiphany allows us to relish in the moment, whether it be the laugh of an elderly loved one or the taste of your favorite food. These things matter and have value because the opportunity to experience them is finite in nature.

Suspending the real fantasy, the thing we call life, and devaluing your earthly life, the only guaranteed life that you have, is truly living without a purpose or meaning. That would make religious believers that perpetuate this myth the real nihilists.

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” Alan Watts

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Christian Persecution or Christian Privilege?

Most people are so oblivious to their Christian privilege that they have never thought to look at it from another perspective. Imagine that Islam was being pushed on you and your children against your will and that when you spoke out against it they cried “persecution!” Yes, somehow, when we ask you to keep your religion to yourself and out of everything that affects everyone else, you claim to be “persecuted.”

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Christians are so persecuted that they can expect time off for “religious holidays” and they are never pressured into celebrating a religious holiday outside of their own religion. Christians are so persecuted that they can readily find music and television programs pertaining to Christianity without fear of ever coming into contact with any from another religion. Christians are so persecuted that they can worship freely without any fear of threats, violence, or being socially stigmatized or disowned by family and friends.

Christians are so persecuted that it is almost guaranteed that the politician representing them or their area will be a member of their religion. Christians are so persecuted that they don’t have to fear losing their jobs due to their religion and people will not judge them in the workplace based on their beliefs. Christians are so persecuted that references to their beliefs can be seen every day by everyone, such as billboards, churches, and more. Christians are so persecuted that they can pretty much guarantee that anyone they come into contact with will have a decent understanding of their beliefs.

Christians are so persecuted that their faith can be an aspect of their identity without it being a defining aspect (e.g., people won’t think of you as their “Christian” friend like they would their “atheist” friend). Christians are so persecuted that they can complain about being “persecuted” and their religion being under attack without it being perceived as an attack on another religion. Almost like how someone is going to view this as an attack on Christians and Christianity. Almost, but not quite.

That’s only naming a few of the ways in which Christians are “persecuted”, yet they cling to this incessant idea that they are persecuted. When do they feel most persecuted and oppressed? When other people do not share their belief system! On closer examination of this “oppression”, it’s more commonly the case that claims of persecution are better explained as annoyance at the removal of privilege or the curtailment of their ability to force their views on others.

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Everyone has the freedom of expression. There are still consequences to the expression. There are still legal limits to the expression. Your rights and freedom of expression end abruptly where mine begin. This perception of freedom of expression was well addressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes when he said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

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Recognize that you have privilege. You are not being persecuted, but you are persecuting others. I am going to end this post on two amazing quotes that address this issue perfectly. Enjoy!

“…one of the great secrets of human nature is that the one thing people want more than love, security, sex, chocolate or big-screen TV’s is to feel hard done by. Why? Because being hard done by is the shit. Feeling hard done by is the sweetest of drugs. If you’re being persecuted — it must mean you’re doing the right thing, right? You get the mellow buzz of the moral high ground, but without arrogantly claiming it as your own. You get an instant, supportive community in a big dark scary world of such scope it may well literally be beyond rational human processing. When you are hard done by, you get purpose in a life where otherwise, you’d have to find your own. And when you ride that high, then no amount of logic, no pointing out that in actuality you and your beliefs are at a high point of popularity and influence for the last hundred years — is going to pry that sweet crack-pipe of moral indignation from your hands.” —John Rogers

“Racism tends to attract attention when it’s flagrant and filled with invective. But like all bigotry, the most potent component of racism is frame-flipping — positioning the bigot as the actual victim. So the gay do not simply want to marry; they want to convert our children into sin. The Jews do not merely want to be left in peace; they actually are plotting world take-over. And the blacks are not actually victims of American power, but beneficiaries of the war against hard-working whites. This is a respectable, more sensible, bigotry, one that does not seek to name-call, preferring instead change the subject and straw man. Thus segregation wasn’t necessary to keep the niggers in line; it was necessary to protect the honor of white women.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates

Some of this script was adapted from a wonderful post called 30+ examples of Christian Privilege by Sam Killerman on It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.


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God, and the Bible, is not Prolife!!!

I saw an anti-abortion billboard this morning that said abortion is wrong because life begins at conception. It reminded me of this Neil deGrasse Tyson meme and I decided to provide some statistics to make the case that, if you believe this is true and that the Christian god is responsible for all life, your chosen deity is responsible for billions of natural abortions.

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Estimates have placed the amount of humans who have ever lived around 100 billion. Anywhere between 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. In fact, approximately 30-40% of all fertilized eggs miscarry, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. With just some simple math we can see that billions have been naturally aborted throughout human history. That’s being generous too, since our ancestors did not have access to modern medicine and had to deal with harsh conditions like diseases, infections, and malnutrition.

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Let’s get more specific. What if you are a Christian who believes the Bible is the Word of God?

In Hosea 9:11-16, Hosea prays for God’s intervention. “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.” Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim be no longer able to have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Terminating a pregnancy unnaturally is abortion, right?

In Numbers 5:11-21, there is a description of a bizarre, brutal, and abusive ritual to be performed on a wife suspected of adultery. “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.” Basically, if a husband suspects his wife of adultery, he should take her to the priest and have her drink a “bitter water.” The priest will cast a curse, that she will miscarry the child if she has been unfaithful, in the name of Yahweh. Inducing a miscarriage is abortion, right?

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In Numbers 31:17, Moses gives the command, “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.” In other words, women that are with-child should be killed. Killing the mother of an unborn child is abortion, right?

In 2 Kings 15:16, God allows the pregnant women of Tappuah (aka Tiphsah) to be “ripped open”. The verse states, “At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.” Something tells me that ripping open the bellies of pregnant women might just be categorized as abortion.

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Abortion: Hosea 9:11-16, Numbers 5:11-21, Numbers 31:17, Hosea 13:16, 2 Kings 15:16

Infanticide: 1 Samuel 15:3, Psalms 135:8 & 136:10, Psalms 137:9

The murdering of children: Leviticus 20:9, Judges 11:30-40, Psalms 137:8-9, 2 Kings 6:28-29, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Judges 19:24-29, Exodus 12:29, Exodus 20:9-10, 2 Kings 2:23-24, Leviticus 26:30, 1 Samuel 15:11-18, 1 Kings 16:34, Isaiah 13:15-18, Jeremiah 11:22-23, Jeremiah 19:7-9, Lamentations 2:20-22

Child abuse: Genesis 22:9 & 10, 1 Kings 3:24-25, Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14 & 29:15, Matthew 19:29, Mark 7:9


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Atheists Believe in Nothing?

I received a message from this guy on one of the Facebook pages that I admin.

Tim

You do not think about becoming an atheist. Atheism is not a position that you adopt, it is the default position or a conclusion after you thoroughly examine the world religions and all they have to offer. There will always be guidance, whether it is from family, friends, or even your own experiences. Also, I don’t know a single atheist that would say they “believe in nothing.”

Atheists believe in lots of things. For example, I believe in family, friends, and fun. I believe in compassionately helping others. I believe in free thought and the criticism of ideas. I believe in trying to make the world a better place. I believe in life in the here and now and not suspending it for some afterlife that is not guaranteed later.

As an atheist, I do not have faith. Faith is the belief in things without evidence. If you had evidence, you wouldn’t need faith. Faith is not virtuous nor is it a pathway to truth. Most suicide bombers have more faith than you. I can tell you that as an atheist you will have to discover your own purpose and give your life meaning on your own. That alone should make you happy.

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To continue, to many atheists, religion is a crime against humanity. Manipulating others into changing their lives, sacrificing their individuality, and giving up their time and money for an afterlife constructed in the imagination of conmen is one of the worst harms you can bring against humanity. Instructing people to suspend the real fantasy, the wondrous reality that we call life, which is a fleeting moment of the ever-advancing example of human ingenuity, should definitely be considered a crime against humanity.

athhh

Our world has much to offer and religion always stifles our progression. It is almost always anti-scientific in nature and does not conform to new discoveries, which as you know is a recipe for disaster in any situation. Religion by its very nature is divisive. It establishes and enforces the in-group bias and that alone should be enough to turn away from it. We are all humans forged from the universe and we are like a brief flicker in a dark expanse. We have one unique opportunity to experience the universe and to enjoy human cognizance.

athhhh


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