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- Atheism & Agnosticism
I am God
Has man become God?
Some lament that in the absence of belief in a higher power, "man becomes God." However, this is not to be lamented. In fact, this prospect is nothing short of extraordinary. What could be more empowering than the notion that we are the masters of our own destiny? That we hold the keys to our own fate? That we are the final arbiters of truth and justice and right and wrong? That the buck stops with us?
However, this prospect does present us with an important realization. If we are to embrace our ultimate power and responsibility, we must confront ourselves and our actual moral potential.
If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
If you were God, what would you do?
If you were God, or at least had the power of a god, what would you do? Would you end hunger? Wipe out poverty or suffering? Would you seek to exploit your privileged position, taking advantage of lesser people in service of your own petty whims and pleasures?
This comes down to the most important question the theist must ask himself. Not whether he believes in right or wrong, but why he believes in it. Does he believe in it because he fears punishment? Because he secretly desires eternal pleasure? Or does he believe in it because it is, independent of his own mind and soul, the right thing to believe? If you were God, what would you do? Whether you are an atheist, theist, nontheist or polytheist, answering this question provides a window into your true moral character.
But isn't man flawed?
Man may be flawed, but so what? If we read the Bible or the Quran, it appears that the Abrahamic God is flawed too--he gets angry, jealous, unstable, terribly violent, xenophobic, sadistic and generally irrational. Moreover, man's flawed condition means that, even if he were to follow God's orders all the time, he would mess up a lot anyway (whether in the interpretation, communication, or execution of those orders). So centering everything on God is no panacea. And this is all assuming God actually exists in the first place, which we don't know. By contrast, the absolute reality of human existence compels us to center morality on humanity.
It is only if morality is independent of God that we can make moral sense out of religious worship. It is only if morality is independent of God that any person can have a moral basis for adhering to God’s commands.
The sovereign human
Just as adults do not need a powerful father figure telling them what to do, human beings do not need God to find purpose and morality. Indeed, human history can be thought of as a process of "growing up." In our early history we were like helpless children without direction. We tried to reach out to a higher being for guidance. Hence the development of religion.
Today, we are grown up, smarter, more tolerant, open-minded and self-sufficient. We are capable of finding purpose and meaning on our own without a higher authority. We have become independent. We have reaffirmed an appreciation for humanity in and of itself. Humanity has become our highest priority.
Just as a child does something because a grownup told them to, humans under God do things because God told them to. When we grow into adulthood, we trust ourselves to make our own decisions and we do things because we want to or need to. The same applies for godless people.
If we all took the responsibility that being a God entails, instead of passing the buck upstairs and hoping "he" will solve our problems, the world would be a radically different place. Good deeds would be done not for the self-centered abstract justification of gaining eternal life or avoiding punishment from a cosmic tyrant. Instead they would be done for the sake of human wellbeing, and for goodness in and of itself.
By focusing on a "higher power" rather than their own power, human beings have lost and continue to lose their true moral potential. When this mentality changes, human life changes in an incredible way.