While I cannot remember the exact moment, I remember well the feeling I experienced when I first thought to myself: I am comfortable with the idea there is no god. The revelation that I could, after wrestling for years with the overwhelming evidence that my conception of a higher power was at best a fantasy, be at peace with the idea of a universe without god was an immense relief. No more cognitive dissonance. Gone were the days of attempting to reconcile the observable world with a book written by men who were unaware, even, of the Americas.
Some still call me a “seeker.” They believe that deep, deep down inside I am still looking for something. I am told that my questions are indicative of a quest for the very god that I deny; that my rejection of god is merely the result of moral decay and a miscalculated soul. And in a very real sense they are correct. I surely am seeking for something. I have been seeking for something since the day that my brain first began processing the data being delivered to it by my various senses. Like all men and women who have preceded me I am searching for a correct understanding of the world in which I have, by an accident of chemistry, found myself. I am not searching for god – I am searching for truth.
That, in my estimation, is the best definition of a term that is truly ridiculous. Yes, I am an atheist. But I am also an a-unicorn-ist and an a-mermaid-ist. It is not that I do not believe in the possibility of their existence – it is that I believe that possibility to be unlikely. I am perfectly willing to believe in unicorns, mermaids, fairies, angels, demons, gods, goddesses, and in the infallible truth of the Star Wars saga given compelling, logical, and scientifically vigorous evidence. But the evidence for any of those possibilities is yet to be discovered. I am an atheist – I do not believe in the existence of god – not as a matter of dogma but as a matter of science. I am simply unconvinced of the evidence.
This incredulity is costly. I am, because of my failure to believe in the infallibility of the scribbles of men writing thousands of years before germ theory occurred to the upright and most hairless of apes, a self-made member of a philosophical minority. Atheists are, in the minds of most of the citizens of our global society, not to be trusted, unpatriotic, immoral, and evil. We are accused of worshiping science. It is said that we hate religion and love only ourselves. I am asked to stop hurting people with my questions. Atheists are told they are at war with religion.
But I do not hate religion; I simply think religion is wrong. I do not worship science anymore than anyone else who has ever ridden a bicycle and trusted in momentum to keep them upright. If my questions hurt anyone's sensibilities, they are welcomed to ignore them. Yet I am slowly realizing we may well be at war with religion. I do not mean a literal war. It seems, however, self evident that the growing population of secularists, in America and across the globe, are increasingly unwilling to live under the oppression of ignorance. This is an ideological war that is being fought in ballot booths and battle fields the world round. From the heated platforms of political discourse in Washington D.C. to the bloody Tahrir Square in Cairo, the lines are becoming clear.
Prior to the modern age the world was divided between those who believed in a certain religion and those who believed in another. Now the world consists of those who believe in religion and those who do not. The difference is that we secularists do not have books or visions declaring it our duty to slaughter those who disagree with us. We do, however, desire a world that is not ruled by the autocracy of theocrats – be they dictators or a tyrannical majority – and we are right to demand respect and equality under the law. Atheists and our secular allies never declared war on religion. But we have been tortured, killed, mistrusted, feared, discriminated against, hated, and barred from public service for so long as to force us, now that we have grown in numbers, to assert ourselves. The religious the world round call this a war and have couched their terms in lead and laws determined to stamp us out. Truly we are not fighting a war on religion – as if we, the atheist minority, are the instigators. Rather we are fighting a war against religious oppression.
Atheists, and secularists more generally, need a rallying cry. We are at the cutting edge of a movement that threatens the very fabric of human civilization so far. For the first time in history there is a measurable amount of nonbelievers, of people who are not living lives dictated by the random positions of the stars or the babbles of men from Mecca. But like all progress it is not irreversible. History is full of men of science pushing the world forward and men of god pushing against them. So as we assert ourselves let us be clear: we demand reasoned, evidence based governance respecting the rights of believers and nonbelievers. We are searching for truth, and ask to be respected even as we seek for it outside the temples, mosques, and churches which serve as relics of an outdated mentality. We are leading the atheist revolution – the greatest period of intellectual and political upheaval since the Renaissance.