Freethought Today · April 2014

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Former clergy enjoys atheist peace of mind

When I was a Christian, we’d talk about the “peace that passeth understanding” that neither I nor anyone else I knew experienced. I did frequently see theists uttering incantations, while clinging desperately to their straw of belief, during one of life’s flash floods.

When I was a theist, that was also my kind of peace. I was taught that atheists never have peace of mind. That was a huge lie.

Sometimes I see believers on TV with ecstatic happiness on their faces, and in such moments I recall George Bernard Shaw’s thought on the subject: “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”  

Since I became an atheist, I’ve observed believers under stress, mentally and emotionally struggling with all the “why, why, why Lord” questions, while offering supplications to the sky Lord. As if the emotional turmoil of a crisis event alone isn’t enough, the theist is also cast into additional mental chaos with unneeded irrational and absurd thoughts.

I saw this first hand at hospice group counseling several years ago. It was pitiful seeing the believers in the group trying to process their grief while also irrationally juggling their God delusions.  

The peace I’ve experienced as an atheist for the past 42 years is not some futile attempt to go past human understanding. To the complete contrary, it’s based on understanding. I’ve experienced peace as an atheist in the midst of terrible relentless pain, frustration, death of my spouse, near death myself and other very stressful and painful human events. So what is the etiology of my atheist peace that’s so very different from my former theistic kind of peace?

As an atheist, I don’t have delusional “God” thoughts confusing, disturbing, complicating, filtering, warping and frustrating my daily life and sense of reality. 

My peace emanates from my understanding of verifiable sciences (not ancient religious tales), about what and who I am and my place as a living creature in the universe.

My peace comes from not having nonsense and extraneous thoughts unnecessarily disturbing me, during critical times when I need to deal with and focus on the crisis and problem at hand.

Because of the first two reasons, I have a solid, clear, unshakable peace. It is a philosophical and resilient peace. It’s like a strong safety net, woven from rational information, not fantasy tales. 

I find the meaning of “philosophical” very interesting as it relates to the subject of peace:

(1. Relating or devoted to the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence; (2. having or showing a calm attitude toward disappointments or difficulties.

My knowledge of what and who I am, how I came to exist and how all my atoms will return to the universe’s recycle bin. That is enough for me. 

Peace is always with me because my primary raison d’être is rational: survival. I also determine the purposes of my life, not the edicts of superstitious clerics, past and present.

Integrity and backbone

Science and theistic religion both offer explanations for life and the universe. Only science offers verifiable, falsifiable evidence. Monotheistic religion asks for belief with no evidence and often threatens anyone who dares question monotheism’s most ethically immoral edicts and scientifically absurd writings and teachings.

I find the lives and words of atheists and agnostics like Thomas Edison, Democritus, Helen Keller, Carl Sagan, Dan Dennett, Andrew Carnegie, Ted Williams, Christopher Hitchens, Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Bernard Shaw, Stephen Hawking, Linus Pauling, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, Peter Higgs, Steven Weinberg, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Robert Ingersoll, Marlon Brando, Sam Harris, Gore Vidal, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Katherine Hepburn, George Carlin, Arthur C. Clarke and Thomas Paine (to name just a few) are testimony to the kind of peace I’ve attempted to explain here. 

As a member of the Clergy Project, I recall how my dear fellow member “Grandparaja” recently provided so much wisdom and emanated such peace before his impending death. What a beacon. I’ll never forget him. But he was not an anomaly. I have never observed an atheist go through the added emotional turmoil, and the begging for answers from the Sky God, that so many theists do when facing death.       

I certainly don’t contend all atheists have the kind of peace I’ve written about, but at least they should be free of monotheistic bats banging around in their mental attics. 

Reading the bible led to my becoming an atheist. The explanations about human life and the universe that I’d been taught all crumbled, and the moral disconnect of blood sacrifice of a son became repugnant.

Then, as I studied the sciences, I found new rational information on which to hang my faith hat. I think we humans do best knowing verifiable truth.

There are many atheists for whom the sciences are not a major part of their reading or study, but they also project the kind of atheist peace I’m writing about. Therefore, I conclude that their peace comes from a lack of delusional nonsense in one’s thought process, and does not require the knowledge of the sciences.

My wife (and my former wife, who died in 2001), would fit that category. Even as children, they did not eat the baloney placed in front of them. I greatly admire humans who possessed unwavering integrity and backbone, even as children. Mark Twain would be another with enough common sense and natural perception to write, “It was the schoolboy who said, faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

Thomas Edison was not privy to the scientific information available to anyone curious enough to search the Internet today. His take on religion was frank: “I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious ideas of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God.” Also: “So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake. . . . Religion is all bunk.” 

I think the bunk, in the brain, that Edison mentioned makes it impossible for theists to ever experience the peace of mind that is possible for an atheist. The bunk is like opium for the addict, and it’s still a damned fake.

 

Florida FFRF member Mason Lane was born Dean Aughinbaugh and changed his name for the music business, from which he’s retired. Before that he was general manager of WHME-FM Radio (Christian programming) and pastor of Christian Faith Church in South Bend, Ind., then dean of students and soccer coach at DeVry University in Phoenix. Justifiable Homicide, available on Kindle or Nook, is the story of his journey to atheism. Google “reverbnation” and “mason lane” to sample his music online.

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