I'm an atheist....now what?

While I was religious (especially before I met my first atheist friend), I had this image that atheism=hatred of all things religious.  I think many people think things similar to this when they hear the word, which is one reason why I hesitated using it to describe myself for so long.  I'd even use the word "apatheist" to describe myself, since it portrays the meaning of complete apathy toward any deity--not necessarily hatred or dislike, just disinterest.

One misconception I had about atheism was that atheists stubbornly insist that there is no god, the same way most Christians stubbornly insist that there is a god.  While some atheists do this, I find that the vast majority simply assert that they have not seen enough evidence to support claims of existence of any deity that they have thus far encountered.  This is how I feel.  I do not see any significant evidence to support the claims of a god.  The only evidence I ever had as a Mormon was the burning in my bosom, which I was taught was the Holy Ghost.  However, since leaving the church and becoming atheist, I still have that same feeling in my bosom, so I must conclude either that it was not the Holy Ghost to begin with (which I have concluded) or that the Holy Ghost is now confirming to me that atheism is true (which seems absurd).

At any rate, as I find myself changing religious beliefs (or, more appropriately, losing my religious beliefs) I see this conundrum of trying to figure out what to keep and and what to shed.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I just found an atheist forum and I rather like participating in it.  On that forum, I asked a question concerning whether singing hymns was hypocritical for an atheist.  Nearly everyone that replied said that they saw nothing wrong with it.  One person even said that he/she sang in a church choir.  My preconceived notion that I had to cast off all things religious was false.  In fact, the truth is that I don't want to do that anyway.

I love singing hymns.  I've developed the habit of singing hymns as I wash dishes, bake, drive, and just about any time that I'm doing something with my hands, but not using my mouth or my brain for anything in particular.  As I've stopped believing in the Mormon church and in religion altogether, I've caught myself singing songs such as "Praise to the Man" and "O My Father".  I've stopped and asked myself if I should be singing these songs, since I no longer believe their content.  However, I've concluded that they're pretty songs and I like them, whether I believe that they're true or not.  So, I sing them.

I've been posting Christmas music on my Facebook wall every day now, since Black Friday.  Some of it is secular and some of it is religious.  But, I like all of it and I see nothing wrong with enjoying the music, even if I no longer believe that baby Jesus was literally the son of god.  I feel it's safe to say that most people don't believe in Santa Claus and yet they still enjoy music about him.  So, I don't see any particular need to believe in a god in order to sing songs about him.

I believe in seeking for good wherever it is to be found, and in filtering out the bad.  So, I still have my Mormon scriptures, I still have all of my manuals and books from the church.  There are so many good things that are taught there, so many wonderful lessons to learn.  The church teaches so much about how to raise children and how to strengthen family bonds.  I'll hold on to that.  I have the picture of the Ogden temple given to me by my family upon Karen's death hanging on my wall, to remind me how special marriage is.  I have the proclamation on the family, with a wedding photo superimposed.  I believe that family is important, even if I think that parts of the proclamation are misguided.

So, really, for me the main changes in becoming an atheists are 1) I'm more open-minded, since I no longer have one narrow definition of what is right and what is wrong, 2) I'm less concerned with proving myself right and other people wrong, 3) I'm more intrinsically motivated to do good, rather than being extrinsically motivated by my church.  Other than that, I'm basically the same person.  I sing hymns, I love the good parts of the scriptures and other religious teachings.  I enjoy beauty in nature.

I've had people tell me that I'm just trying to justify my lifestyle.  Go ahead and think that.  I really don't care what people think of me.  But it's not true.  I feel no need to justify anything because that would imply that I feel guilty about it, which I don't.  I truly believe that there is nothing wrong in homosexual activity or homosexual relationships.  Some say that I want to get god or society to approve of me.  This is also false.  I don't believe in god, so how would it make sense to say I want his approval?  And, I don't really care whether society approves of me or my relationship with Conrad.  I push for social reform so that gay people can be treated equal--that is not for myself, it is for humanity.  It is so the rights of all people will be recognized by the law and by society.

I've also had people tell me that I'm mad at the church or at god.  Yes, I am mad at the church--for lying, for oppressing black people and gay people, for many other things.  And I think I've been pretty obvious about this anger.  But, I'm not mad at god--again, how could I be when I don't even believe that such a being exists?  It doesn't make sense.

I do not worship science as a religion.  I worship nothing and no one.  If I see sufficient evidence to believe something (math, physics, biology, chemistry, etc), then I will believe it.  If I believe something is true or even "know" it is true and then see evidence against that belief that is more convincing than the evidence I had to believe it, then I will admit that I was wrong.  This happens in science, and it happens in math.  It is not uncommon for someone to have a proof of a theorem and believe that it is a convincing argument, but then be shown a hole in that proof by a fellow mathematician.  When this happens, usually the error is viewed as such and corrected.  This is how I believe knowledge is best attained.  I do not dogmatically stick to any one particular belief.  Yes, I have pride and I can be stubborn, but if you prove me wrong, I will admit it.  I do not seek to defend any particular belief or teaching, I seek only to discover all that is true.  So, if your Jesus teaches to love other people, I will believe that--I have sufficient evidence to support the claim that being kind to people is good and benefits society.  If your Jesus teaches that gay people shouldn't marry (which he never taught, by the way), I will not believe that since all of the evidence I have encountered shows that gay marriage is beneficial for society and in particular for gay people.