Ten Steps To Becoming An Atheist
Of all the roads we travel in life, one of the most important is that which beckons us to truth. It is a journey without end, yet impossible to navigate without honesty, integrity and commitment. Among the many steps along the way are those that lead us away from blind faith and superstitution and toward reason and rationality, including ten common steps found along the path to losing one's faith in God (though not necessarily in the order given below):
STEP ONE: REJECT MYTHOLOGY
Every cognizant human being has already taken this step: recognizing that not every notion is deserving of belief. We all know there are thousands of gods, stories and myths, lost to history, that are no longer embraced by anyone, and that there are still dozens currently believed by billions. Even if we believe in one particular god, we DISBELIEVE in many, many more. In essence, even the believer is an atheist with regard to every god but one.
STEP TWO: REALIZE THAT NOT ALL FAITH IS THE SAME
Understand the difference between "rational" faith - which relies upon evidence, experience and proven methodologies, and "blind" faith - which persists without evidence, or in spite of it. Consider that it is blind faith which underlies belief in God, and that the rational faith you easily and readily employ in other aspects of your life becomes much more complex and convoluted when you try to apply it to a deity.
STEP THREE: EXPLORE THE REASONS FOR YOUR BELIEF
Recognize that your chosen god depends largely upon where you were born and who raised you. Try to discern whether your belief is merely something you want or need, or if it is justified by knowledge and personal experience. Objectively re-examine the circumstances that have reinforced your belief, like personal "miracles" or "revelations." Did God truly "speak" to you or act upon your life, or did you struggle to interpret things that way? Does the "spirit of the lord" really fill your heart, or is it merely an exhiliration created by spiritual expectations or magnified by shared experience?
STEP FOUR: CONTEMPLATE BEING WRONG
Billions of people believe in a deity different from yours, and you can't all be right. However, you CAN all be wrong! Try to honestly imagine a world without any of those gods (including yours). How different would it look? Acknowledge whatever doubts you have regarding your belief. If you're religious, recognize that there are many commands and instructions -- presumably from God -- within your religion that you already reject or ignore.
STEP FIVE: EMBRACE A DESIRE FOR TRUTH
You should care whether what you believe is actually true or not. Be prepared to consistently take logical arguments to their ultimate conclusions (for example, if everything must have a cause, then so must God). Be willing to honestly examine whatever answers you may find, even if they're not what you were expecting or hoping for! Reject the notion that unquestioning faith is more valuable than objective rational inquiry.
STEP SIX: EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
Any position that is worth believing is worth challenging. Be willing to explore other points of view (including those of non-believers) and to invite critiques of your own rationales for faith. Or consider the arguments of those who believe in Gods you reject: How do their justifications for their belief compare with yours? If you perceive flaws or fallacies in their explanations, they may draw your attention to similar errors in your own that you've previously ignored or overlooked.
Here are some thought-provoking ideas to get you started:
STEP SEVEN: STOP RATIONALIZING!
Genuine integrity requires intellectual (and philosophical) consistency and the abandoning of compartmentalization (applying reason and objectivity to some notions but not others). Discard the convoluted explanations you've used to explain away the inconsistencies in your god and in your faith. If your religious text is the "word" of God, stop picking and choosing which parts you'll ignore or explain away. If God doesn't clearly answer your prayers, stop fashioning contorted interpretations to answer them for him.
STEP EIGHT: ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OWN MORALITY
Understand that even believers filter religious moral dogma through a comprehension of right and wrong that is fundamentally secular, and based upon empathy or experience. Even the most bastardized and hateful expressions of "morality" are often shaped by picking and choosing those elements of religious faith that serve one's own predilections. It is not the commands of God that direct our moral compass, but rather our own moral compass that guides us through such commands. This human morality remains with us whether we believe in God or not.
STEP NINE: ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES
As a non-believer, you will learn to no longer fear Hell nor desire the false promise of Heaven. Your loss of faith may dramatically alter some social and cultural aspects of your life, and may prove unsettling to family members and friends. However, removing the firewall of faith can also facilitate a new clarity of vision, including a deeper appreciation of the one life you have, as well as the realization that, while you are a human -- with human flaws and frailties -- you are NOT a condemned and broken soul in need of external salvation.
STEP TEN: REALIZE THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
There are many others who've taken the same journey. We're waiting for you.