Atheists Are Spiritual, Too

As a nonbeliever, I know that science--indeed, anything that generates a sense of awe--can be a source of spirituality.

Continued from page 1

I don't know why the God question is so enmeshed with all of these other social issues, but it is. It shouldn't be. It's OK to be a liberal Christian or a conservative atheist. I am a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. I don't think there is a God, or any sort of anthropomorphic being who needs to be worshipped, who listens to prayers, who keeps a moral scoreboard that will be settled in the end, or who cares one iota about who wins the Super Bowl. There is no afterlife. We just die, and that's it.



Which is why what we do in this life matters so much-and why how we treat others in the here and now is more important than how they might be treated in some hereafter that may or may not exist. If we knew for certain that there is an afterlife, we wouldn't have great debates about it, and philosophers over the millennia wouldn't have spilled all that ink wrangling over it. Since we don't know, it makes more sense to assume there is no God and no afterlife, and act accordingly. That is, act as if what we do matters now. That way, we'll think about the earthly consequences of what we are doing.



I am sick and tired of politicians, and just about everyone else, kowtowing to the religious right's hypersensitivities and politically correct "tolerance" for diversity of belief-as long as one believes in God. Any God will do-except, of course, the God who promises virgins in the next life to pilots who fly planes into buildings. Those of us who do not believe in God have had enough of this rhetoric. In America, we are supposed to be good and do the right thing not because it will make us rich, get us saved, or reward us in the next life, but because people have value in and of themselves, and because it will make us all better off, individually and collectively. It says so, right there in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights-products of a secular eighteenth-century Enlightenment movement.



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It doesn't matter what God you believe in, which religion you adhere to, or even if you don't believe in any God and are nonreligious. If you want to live in the United States, there are rules about how you must treat other people. Religion and politics should be treated as Non-Overlapping Magisteria, or NOMA, in paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould's apt model for religion and science. "Non-Overlapping" means that religion is private and politics is public. If you want more religion, go to church. If you want more politics, go to the Capitol. Don't go to church to politick, and don't go to the Capitol to preach.

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Michael Shermer
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