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Can an Atheist Have Hope in Something?

Updated on September 8, 2014
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What Does an Atheist Have Hope In?

This hub is copied from a comment I left on another hub. I chose to make a hub out of it because I think it was a fair assessment on my view of the world. For those who choose to base their only hope on the chance of a god, it's often difficult to imagine any hope being possible without one. That is not the case - and this hub is my attempt to bring that hope to life and share my view of hope with others.


My Story

My story is a long one. I wrote a hub on it briefly, called "why would an atheist study the bible" that you can check out if you want. i was raised in the church but I've always had my questions. I was told that I shouldn't ask, and just trust in god. Eventually, that failed to be enough. In college, I was a history and biblical literature major with an emphasis on theology. The more I learned about the early christian church (or churches) who wrote the gospels, how the new testament was compiled and how prone it was to outright forgery, I started no longer believing in it. When I learned about the old testament, I realized that a god that would treat his "creation" that way is not a good god. I also came to realize that any supreme deity that would be capable of creating the universe wouldn't care one bit about being worshiped. The god of the bible seems to be an egomaniac. He likes the smell of burning flesh. He orders sacrifice. He commits genocide, degrades women, is okay with slavery and commands the death sentence for rape victims who do not protest loudly enough to be heard. That's not an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god. And any god who has the power to do ANYTHING that he wants would not resort to sending himself to earth in order to sacrifice himself to himself in order to appease himself for the rules that he himself created. It's backwards - it's bronze-age justifications for things that were unexplainable - much like the ancient Romans thought that Zeus was the god of thunder because they did not understand where else lightning would come from - so they invented a god to explain it.


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Can You Have Hope without Believing in a God?

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Looking Towards the Future

As far as hope for the future, I can only make one point. This life is the ONLY one that we know with certainty that we have. Since I don't have a belief in god, it is my intention to live this life to the fullest. I do good things for other people. I volunteer my time and make donations to charities - not because a god commanded me to, because I was promised eternal rewards or threatened with eternal torture if I didn't, but because it's the right thing to do for other human beings, regardless of what they believe or don't believe. I can't imagine throwing this life away and bending to the will of a god without any evidence that he exists - only to find out in the end that god wasn't real - and I wasted my only opportunity to live a life that makes me happy and fulfilled by just being me. The cost of Christianity is staggering. It teaches you that you're inherently sinful - that you're not worthy of god's love or forgiveness unless you accept his son. You're taught that god cannot love you just the way you are because there's something wrong with you and that you need to ask forgiveness in order for him to accept you. You have to obey his rules and likewise try to force those rules on other people who don't share your beliefs. You're taught that everyone you love is going to go to hell and be tortured forever unless they believe the same thing that you do. That's abusive behavior. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm a loving, intelligent, compassionate person - and I don't need a god to be that way.


Fallacies, Logic and Lies

Many Christians resort to the use of an argument entitled "Pascal's wager" and I wrote a hub on that as well. It states, basically, that having a belief in something on the chance that you're right is better than not believing anything at all - but that's far from the truth. Either a god exists, or one doesn't. That makes it equal at 50/50. Those chances diminish, however, when you consider that there have been thousands of different god claims throughout humanity - which means that there's only a slim chance that YOUR particular god belief is correct. If I die and realize upon my death that you and other Christians were right, fine. I would not worship the god of the bible. He can punish me as he sees fit. He seems to have set up a system that makes belief in him practically impossible for those who are skeptical and are incapable of blind faith. If he has gone to such great lengths to hide his existence from those who have truly sought him, refused to provide concrete evidence of his existence and/or hardened the hearts of those who would seek him but then couldn't, then it's no wonder that secularism and non-belief is the largest growing population in many Western Countries. I don't do good because I have fear of punishment after I die. I don't do good because I'm hoping for a cosmic, eternal reward either. I do good in my life and strive to live as openly and honestly as possible because it's simply the right thing to do - and if that simply isn't good enough, then so be it. Skeptics like me cannot be expected to give up on finding out the truth to choose to believe in something that we see no good justification for.

If a believer dies and realize that they were wrong and either a different god exists or no god exists, what's the cost going to be for them? What would they have given up in your only life in service to this god when you could have been living as good of a life without him? The hope I have as an atheist is simple. I was fine before I was born. I didn't exist, and I wasn't afraid. When I die, I'm going to be fine as well. I'll either continue to exist somewhere else, or I'll be gone - and if I'm gone, there's nothing to be afraid of - and I don't need a promise of heaven to make myself feel better about dying. Everybody dies. Not everybody truly lives.

© 2013 Julie McFarland

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    • Joseph041167 profile image

      Joseph Mitchell 4 years ago from Nashville TN 37206.

      I read this and enjoyed it. We have similar backgrounds. I spent the first half of my life deeply embedded with hard evangelical religion. I was raised in a parsonage, and graduated one of their schools. I have only been a real Atheist for little over a year. I am chewing on a lot consciously, subconsciously, and unconsciously. You know, I am just going to leave it there before this gets messy, just keep it short and sweet. Right, I do believe in some kind of hope, what are we hoping for? I do believe in good, good will among men, gratuitous unmerited good, with no strings attached. This was a very good article, very true, and important. People need to know these things or at least be aware of the thought pattern involved here, absolutely. You have a good night man and I will ttyl so holla.

    • profile image

      valeriecudnik 4 years ago

      Great hub! I'm an atheist living in the bible belt. Shhhh! I think some people simply are afraid to admit that they don't believe -- because of those superstitions of going to hell, and others simply WANT to believe. It brings them comfort. Others go to church no so much for religion, but for the community.

      While I believe in no particular religion, I have plenty of hope. The world is full of opportunities and wonder. My live overflows with good things because I focus on the good and try to do good. (I believe in karma!)

      Thanks again for the good read!

    • A Thousand Words profile image

      A Thousand Words 4 years ago

      I'm something like an atheist also living in the Bible Belt. Also, about 95% of my family is Christian or influenced by it. Imagine how unpleasant it'd be if I had to be surrounded by them too often... Not because I'd judge them, but because they do judge me. Only the ones closest to me won't openly do it. But I know their thoughts because I and just about every other christian/former christian has had them. They think my actions will wind me up in Hell. But, I don't believe in Hell. ;) My only hope is that when I face death, our encounter will be be quick and kind. I'm trying to live my life to the fullest. I'm learning to love myself better, and that I'm worth something just because I'm alive. I'm learning to trust my own judgement and how to find things in this life that are worth doing. I'm making my own path. Creating my own future. Placing my own worth. I'm fully aware of it all. And I don't regret any of the hardships I've faced because it's all helped me to become a better and more confident me.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Congratulations to a great hub!

      You are pointing to some of the core issues of the unworthiness of a believe system which does not accept the positive value of life in all it's forms free of a constant sense of guilt.

      Placing this constant demand on people to live up to some mythological, supernatural being's expectations which have virtually no relevance to successfully leading a full life in the real world, is the first thing intellectually active, emotionally mature people should try to outgrow and put behind themselves as part of their personal development to free their minds and emotions from the limitations of religion ...

      A lot more focus should be placed on this very issue in a progressive society with humanistic values.

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Good hub,

      I am a believer, but not a member of Churchianity, so I will not comment on most of your hub, just state that you seem to be living your life to the commandments of Christ, and that if you, or any other 'former believer' did at any time have a personal relationship with Christ, then your turning away at this time whilst still obeying His commandments, should not (IMO) stop you from being accepted in whatever scenario exists when you die.

      Moses was 'away from God' for 40 years in the back end of nowhere, and still made the grade.

      Peace be with you.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      All of nature exists free of any religion or any supernatural, man made gods. What's wrong with learning to grasp reality and to do away with this myth of nature not being enough all on its own?

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Romans 8:21-23

      Amplified Bible (AMP)

      21 That nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children.

      22 We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now.

      23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons).

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 4 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Another great hub, JM! Voted up.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      @ aguasilver - how much longer will you keep your mind polluted with spirits from an old, outdated book of very little relevance to life in the real world?

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      For an eternity f hruz, for eternity.... :)

    • Joseph041167 profile image

      Joseph Mitchell 4 years ago from Nashville TN 37206.

      @- a thousand words- I so know what you mean, I know what your saying. My problem is also, that I still hold many of the same values that they do, high moral standards based on Reason and the Natural Order, this includes traditional family values as well as responsible government. Less than a year upon going public, open, as an Atheist, I rather rudely discovered that I am not one of them, do not get along with them, no longer wanting to be associated or identified with them. I am a dictionary atheist, so, maybe I will have to be content with that, and, probably wind up not belonging to the agenda or movement. I share more values with Pat Robertson and James Dobson, only, in addition to being ostracized by that crowd, I am an atheist now. I see no reason to throw my values and political views away with my religion. Sartre, Ayn Rand, Epicurus, Aristotle, all had values that would be absolutely not politically correct and not popular today. I guess, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, story of my life.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      There is always hope for reason to bring about enlightenment against the odds of mental pollution and religious indoctrination, etc. ... because NATURE and REALITY does exists, no matter how many fail to grasp how little evidence there is for the necessity of super natural gods to be part in any of it ...

    • A Thousand Words profile image

      A Thousand Words 4 years ago

      @ Joseph, I find it interesting that you had no change in values or political views. I had a HUGE shift in every aspect of my life. There are certain values that somewhat stayed the same and got stronger, but I realized that most of my views were seriously off-base. The more I learn about and understand the nature of things, the more I realize just how off I was, or why certain view points I had were/are more beneficial, but not necessarily "right" in a black and white sense. I'm definitely curious as to why you became an atheist. (Btw, I do not identify as an atheist, although I am also the textbook definition of an atheist)

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I grew up a devout Seventh Day Adventist Christian. Attending their high school in Oakland, CA, saved my life, and they taught me many valuable ways of living.

      After high school, I rebelled against the church because I resented its many restrictions, while it didn't make me a new creature. I returned after 7 years, blaming my rebellion on career problems. However, those career problems continued, and I inadvertently joined a cult, putting my life in danger. I told that story in the hub, "My Experience in a Cult".

      I escaped those circumstances and moved to Seattle, which I absolutely LOVED, and joined the most wonderful, supporting church there. However, career troubles continued, culminating in something not fit to put on the web. I prayed and prayed, counseled with my pastor, talked with a professional counselor, had friends who tried to help, but none of it worked. In the end, I suffered a nervous breakdown, and my brother rescued me and brought me to the Big Island of Hawaii, where my career troubles eased, but now the only church available was a pathetic corrupt shell that encouraged my brother's daughter to drop out of high school.

      Currently, I'm getting flashbacks from all this, which has led me to become an agnostic. Surely if Christianity was the be-all and end-all of everything, I'd have access to a decent church, right? Also, if things had worked out in Seattle, I could have had my brother send his daughter to me. Plenty of excellent schools and churches exist in Seattle; she could have attended one of those.

      Many people report feeling liberated when they realize there is no God, but I feel anxious and trapped. If there is no God, that means everything is entirely up to me. Yet, if I weren't so inadequate, I wouldn't be in this mess in the first place!

      I don't know if I'll ever return to Christianity. I find church services - even the music - highly irritating. I think all these religions are man's way of explaining the unexplainable, and how the world works. All have a degree of truth to them, but all are also cults. The difference is in how they're practiced.

      Thank you for your story.

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