Anyone who engages in the practice of psychotherapy confronts every day the devastation wrought by the teaching of religion.
Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jello, and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.
When I was a Christian, I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like be an atheist. From what my parents and pastors told me, I imagined it would feel like an aching hole in my stomach, a purposeless sadness in my chest, and a taste of cardboard in my mouth. Of course, I was asking the wrong people. I should have asked some atheists what it felt like.
The truth is that atheists feel pretty much the same as everybody else. We feel happy and sad, excited and bored, nervous and peaceful, ashamed and proud, lonely and connected, horny and disgusted, transcendent and confused and small and breathless.
We do not carry around the thought “God does not exist.” You could not tell an atheist from a believer on the street, at the office, in the car, while shopping, while eating, or while making love.
An atheist might feel socially isolated in Alabama or a church, as a Christian might in San Francisco or a university faculty lounge. An atheist might feel suffocated by religion, or he might barely notice it. Sometimes, a miserable atheist will find purpose, comfort, and community in a religious conversion. But if Christianity is a fairy tale, I would hope we can find more honest solutions to our problems.
It is perfectly natural to be an atheist with happiness and purpose. Atheists can only chuckle when Christians ask them how they can find meaning in life without God.
In my case, converting from Christianity to rationalism made my life much better.
Now I can be more honest. I don’t have to accept some scientific facts and reject others. I don’t have to excuse God for commanding rape or torturing children with painful diseases. I don’t have to uphold some Bible verses and ignore others.
Now I can be more free. I don’t have to feel guilty about silly things, only when I’ve hurt someone. I can live whatever life I want, whatever life I think is good. I can discover morality with reason and compassion, not take it from an ancient and prejudiced book.
Now I can be more fulfilled. I don’t have to surrender my passions and plans to the will of a dictator. I don’t have to “empty myself” and take on somebody else’s personality. I can be me, and me to the fullest.
But those are not my reasons for being an atheist. The best reason to embrace atheism is because it’s almost certainly true.