I just saw Richard Dawkins speak. Pardon me, but I’m feeling inspired. I enjoy being an atheist, and am happy because of it. A few reasons why:
No external divine benediction is necessary for things to be beautiful, meaningful, of value. Being an atheist, I know that I must make my own way in the world, that I must pursue what I find rewarding, what makes me happy, what is good. No other force will deliver this. No god, angel or saint will come to my, or anyone else’s, aide and therefore I know that I must be active in my pursuit for satisfaction in life. The only life that I’ll ever have, wherein I know it is my duty to make it as good as possible.
Likewise, I know that things are wonderful not because hint at something larger or divine. They are wonderful because they are. Sunsets and reddening clouds need not be orchestrated by god to be beautiful. Beauty, in absence of director or agency, simply is. It springs up and presents itself out of literally the basic building blocks of the universe. With the intercession of absolutely nothing, the world is supremely amazing.
When I look at another human being, I know that I’m looking at one of the most complex phenomena that exists in the universe, a system like myself that contains depths and wonder. We are complicated. We are amazingly and wonderfully fascinating and beautiful, and it is intrinsic. If we attribute our higher emotions and impulses to the divine, we sell ourselves short. By saying “all good comes from God,” we severely discredit ourselves. Human beings are wellsprings of empathy, creativity, love and compassion. We are authors of profound goodness. No divine being interceded and to create the love between you and your family and friends. No angel is overseeing the connections so many make on a daily basis. That comes, entirely, from ourselves, and for that we should be joyful.
To those who say that such a view of the world is “mechanistic” I’d reply- what a glorious mechanism it is. How wonderful and amazing it is that such a mechanism, the universe, exists at all, and has managed to produce life, intelligence, and and wonderful phenomena all by itself. It is a “mechanism,” yes, and it is precisely because of that that we exist at all. It is precisely because of the mechanistic achievements of the cosmos that we have stars, planets, life, multicellular organisms, intelligence, and creativity. It is precisely because things are mechanistic- regular, predictable, systematic- that we have evolved here in all of our functional complexity. That mechanistic view of life itself, of the world itself, should not be dismissed as cold. Instead, we should see the system of the world for what it is, a glorious set of machinery so amazing that it encompasses love, humanity, and the whole spectrum of who we are.
It is all there is, and it is enough.