Hello, I’m Marcia Wallace and I’m an atheist. I’m a former English teacher, lover of literature and medievalist. I’ve also been a police dispatcher and a travel agent in my life. I live in Michigan with my husband, a dog and cat who runs the house.
I won’t bore you with my story of how I came to be an atheist. It’s similar to so many others. I left Christianity searching for some truth. I explored other religions, found out none of them were true. I became an atheist. Education and critical thinking were the culprits.
What I do want to talk about is what atheism means. I say that atheism is a conclusion, not a belief. I don’t believe no gods exist, I have come to that conclusion through research and logic. It seems simple. No evidence for a god, whatever one you choose, would lead any skeptic to the same conclusion. The idea that multiple gods are worshiped throughout the world and each culture believes theirs is the true deity is evidence enough for disbelief. So why are believers so dedicated to their belief in a god?
I think believers, even those who aren’t fundamentalists, rebel at the thought that humans aren’t special. They want to think that the universe was made for the purpose of supporting human life, specifically a small group of believers in a particular god, theirs. I find this particularly arrogant and one of the worst harms of religious thought.
The universe wasn’t made for us. We fit into this little corner of a huge, and mostly hostile universe because we won the evolution lottery, and that is a hard concept for deists to understand. The idea that we, as humans, are separate from this earth, from the rest of life on this planet, has led to abuse of life and the planet itself. The religious, even mildly religious, will deny humans are animals, that we are a species just like apes and butterflies. They want to believe humans are “special”.
Being separate from the rest of life, because of the mistaken belief that this planet and everything on it is put here to be ours for the taking has led us to overpopulation, drought, plague, war, pollution and climate change. We have a total arrogance when it comes to our place in this world. The religious believe that humans are not part of life, but above it because that’s what religion teaches. Religion says we were put here to be masters of the earth, that the animals, the plants and the very rocks are human’s for the taking. It teaches that other life isn’t to be respected, but used. It teaches that humans are different from the other life on this planet, that humans are the only animals that feel, only human places count, only human life is important. That could be positive for our survival as a species, but religion further divides and deceives.
Religion teaches that only certain people, those who believe in their god, are important. They are the special ones, the chosen ones, the favored by the correct and true god and all others are false. We all know what differences in religions leads to. How many wars have been due to religious differences? Of course we call all see the absurdity of old fights in other lands about other religions, but never the absurdity in their own religious differences. Why the disconnect? Because they want to believe they are the special ones, the ones who have been given the gift of god’s favor in return for their faith and worship. Because they want to be special, separate, uncaring, unconnected, and not responsible for the treatment of this world and those in it.
What is troubling about that thought is that believers miss the beauty of not being special. We, the human species, is part of this earth, related to every living thing on this planet. We are made from this earth, from the stuff of stars. We are part of the earth, part of life and part of the universe. How is that not amazing? If we would only think of ourselves as what we are, a human animal connected to everything on this earth, perhaps we could realize being special isn’t special. It’s a disability.
When we realize that we are a species, the human one, and we are all related, it changes the perspective. Humans are all we have, our survival and success as a species depends on helping one another, on taking the wide view and rising above religious differences. We need to understand and accept that we are part of this earth, made of the same stuff as this world, part of the amazing web of life that has evolved in this little part of the galaxy.
What is special, what needs to be protected, is life. All life is precious. We don’t know of any other life in the universe as yet. We hope that there is other life out there, but we haven’t found it. For all we know, life is rare in this mostly hostile universe and a planet such as ours is unique. We, as the human species of great ape, are a part of this haven of life, not apart from it. We have a singular opportunity to understand, respect and protect life and this living world, the only one we know of. We are special in that we, as humans, know all earthly life is connected. We know it’s a fact through our DNA research. What might be possible if we left our imaginary gods behind and instead looked to what is important, what is real, what is the basis of everything, life and the world that produced it? What if we believed in our connection to everything? What if we believed that the universe wasn’t made for us, that we were privileged to be part of it, connected to every other bit of the universe through the atoms that we’re made from, like every other thing we see, smell, touch or know of. But only we can say the words. Only humans can tell each other they are made of star stuff and know what that means.
No, we’re not special, we’re much more than that. We’re the universe learning about itself. We’re the stars expressing themselves. We’re part of the most amazing thing in the whole known universe, life. The best part is that this is not a statement of belief, but a statement of fact. Compared to what is real, religion seems so small.
Marcia Wallace is 65, retired and living with her husband and a dog and cat in Kalamazoo, MI. She is a former teacher, police dispatcher and travel agent, currently an artist. She is active in volunteer work for her neighborhood association and in an international medieval recreationist group. She is a logical atheist, meaning atheism is a logical conclusion given the evidence or lack thereof for any deity at any time in history.