Saturday, April 2, 2011

What’s the Point?

I get that question a lot while blogging, in one of two forms. I can’t really say which is more common, as I’ve been asked each a handful of times.

What’s the point of blogging as an atheist? What’s the point of your life, if you’re an atheist?

Interestingly, each answer is somewhat related. In a way, blogging is itself one of the points of my life (not even in the running for most important, but I certainly value blogging itself more than other aspects of myself, atheism included).

I can’t speak for all atheist bloggers, but I like to write. Even before I had a blog, I wrote every day. At the heart of what most people are really asking here is: why blog about atheism?

Initially, my blog was titled “Down With Decorum,” and I posted on a broad range of subjects. I wrote a lot of posts where no one commented… then I wrote more posts where no one commented… and finally, when making comments about religion, I got a deluge of feedback.

I spent a fair amount of time writing about atheism, having spirited back and forths with the religious and non-believers alike. There’s just something about religion that gets people’s attention, and I believe a lot of people have very strong opinions on religion. Since civil society frowns on publicly discussing religion (in a bid to maintain a famine of intellectual debate), the anonymity of the internet affords people the ability to state their opinions much more boldly than they would otherwise.

The other issue that shares this characteristic is, of course, politics. The other blog I post at, Skeptical Eye, is all about politics… and a bunch of other stuff. As is this blog, since I sometimes go 6 days without talking about religion.

The truth is, how can you talk about atheism all the time? I think it would drive an individual mad, because atheism is not a positive study, it is a negative study in every sense of the word. Atheism is a critique of religion, not an institution or set of beliefs unto itself. It is not an ideology, it is one single idea. Some people, both believers and non-believers, manages to make more out of atheism than that, but atheism is merely like all abstract concepts of human invention: it is what each of us makes it out to be.

Which leads us to the purpose of it all. It’s always strange to be outright asked the question, “What’s the point of living?” I mean, where to begin…

For one thing, living sure beats the alternative. In point of fact, I should be asking Christians what’s the point of their lives? Why bother accumulating things, doing work you hate, making stupid little copies of yourself, or watching TV if the ultimate goal is to die and live for eternity in heaven?

I have tons of reasons to live. My wife, my dogs, my cats, the desire to have children, cartoons, sex, chocolate, the pursuit of the ineffable, video games, laughter, the smiles of complete strangers, serotonin, bonfires, the smell of Italian cooking, the new Batman movie, long and lazy weekends spent at home, the satisfaction I get from cleaning the lint trap while doing laundry, long conversations with old friends, short conversations with random passers-by, that look you get when you give directions to someone who is lost, the feeling you have when you thought you lost something but then realize it’s in your pocket…

Life is full of interesting things to do, not to mention plenty things that are boring… so even people who think their religion is the reason to live have something to stay busy with.

And as always, atheism is not a religion to me. Atheism doesn’t even make it on my long list for “reasons to live,” nor is atheism my religion. My religion is Justice, and my god is Truth. Ultimately, it is this which drives me in both my life and my blogging.

Well, that and dick jokes.


  1. On the subject of atheism being "a negative study," I have a somewhat different perspective. Until atheists are treated equally in the U.S., it seems that we have quite a bit to say and do that is positive. Much of what we right about involves standing up for our rights. Sure, there is the critique of religion aspect, but that is only a small part of what most of us write about. For many of us, it is also a civil rights issue.

  2. Maybe, on some issues... but atheists aren't exactly being oppressed. There's quite a few more demographics which are having a tougher time of things than atheists. Yes, we're under-represented in government, yeah "God" is on our money and in the pledge... but these are pretty much the extent of the "atheist issues."

    I think this is inevitable because "atheism" means so little; it merely means a lack of belief in gods. An atheist can be a socialist or a capitalist, for or against abortion, in favor of legalizing drugs or keeping them illegal... there's just nothing cohesive there on which to build anything.

    When it comes to civil rights, I find the biggest problem to be how people partition themselves into these little groups. Black people, Hispanic people, women, the disabled... they all fight their own battles, and this is precisely what the establishment wants. It's easy to defeat an opponent divided against itself. I am confident that real progress comes when white people are fight for the rights of racial minorities, when men are supporting the idea of gender equality, and when people of all religions agree not to connect faith and legislation at all.

    The battles that atheists are fighting could be just as easily adopted by Buddhists or people of nearly any non-Christian religion (Jews should oppose the depiction of G-d, and I can't imagine Muslims are on board with putting God on money). Ultimately, I see atheist organizations as completely defeating the point of atheism, which is to say people should not divide themselves into little groups and fight for their pet projects.


If your comment is too long, break it into multiple comments and post them all.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...