The Responsibility of the Atheist

I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I envy Christians.  To believe in something so strongly, to have such complete trust in someone else, to be able to relinquish control of your life to another being and truly believe that they will take good care of it must be extremely freeing.  As an atheist I have no such luxury.  Granted, when I really think about it, it’s not a luxury that I truly desire.  But in all honesty there are times it sound very nice.

As an atheist, I’ve made the decision to take complete control of my life, and complete responsibility for my life.  In my decision making there is no one to consult besides my husband.  There is no lifting it up and waiting for divine inspiration.  There is no being lead in a certain direction.  There is only me, and my heart, and my knowledge.  And the responsibility for my choices and my actions lies solely with me.  There is no, “thy will be done and not my own.”  There is no, “all things work together for the good of those that are called according to his purpose.”  There is no, “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength.”

 When I face a dilemma, or wrestle with a decision, it is with the weight of the knowledge that the decision is mine to make, and the consequences are my responsibility alone.  I have to weigh what I want against what I believe to be right and best for all people involved.  When Christians say, “this is what I’m feeling God leading me to do,” I hear, “this is what I really want.”  When they say, “it’s in God’s hands now,” I hear, “I refuse to take responsibility for the outcome of this decision.”  There are many times when I have felt it would be easier to just follow my heart and say, “God lead me in this direction.”  I’m not saying that I don’t follow my heart.  I often do.  When a decision is particularly hard, or the pros and cons seem even on both sides of the equation, I usually do follow my heart, or my gut instinct.  But it is with the knowledge that I am possibly making a selfish decision, and I am prepared to deal with any consequences that come of that.

Another challenge that is unique to the atheist situation is that I have the same social responsibility to raise ethically sound children to be contributing members of society.  But I have to teach that what is right is right because it is right, and cannot fall back on, “because the bible says so.”  We rely a lot on the golden rule here when teaching behavior.  We teach that life is valued because it is amazing, not divine.  We teach stewardship of the earth to preserve it for future generations, not because it is a gift from God.  Religion is not necessary for raising kind, caring, empathetic children, but it would provide a nice short cut.

As tempting as it sometimes is to turn responsibility over to someone else, in the end it is just not something I can do.  Aside from the fact that I do not believe in God, I feel maintaining responsibility makes me a better person.  It makes me a more careful decision maker.  It prompts me to do research more fully on topics that I don’t understand.  It keeps me from following my heart when my head knows there is a more appropriate course of action.  It makes me live consciously.  Deliberately.  With purpose, and direction, and drive.  And really, it is incredibly liberating.  The world is mine oyster, which I with sword will open.

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