After a cheap shot claiming I want to abridge the right of a free press to print what it deems news, and a false claim that I said “the Easter celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a concoction of the Bronze Age mentality that arose out of ignorance and superstition,” [which of course it is], George Vavrek in a recent “My Turn” op-ed in The Daily World got down to his point: in essence the writer claimed that I and other atheists believe there is no meaning or purpose to our existence. He made this claim so that he could put in a plug for the wonders of Easter and his belief that “the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . is the key to knowing the answers to life’s most important questions. . . .” In other words, the writer is yet another delusional, sky-god, true-believer. Certainly he is entitled to his delusions but I wish the sky-goders would stop telling those of us who do not adhere to their theistic delusions what we believe. In fact, contrary to what Vavrek claims for me, I know that there is meaning and purpose to our existence - - not in the sense that Vavrek means when he uses those terms, that some sky-god will provide answers in an afterlife and for Vavrek and other sky-goders the meaning and purpose in life is to serve their god, obey authority and await His revelations after death.
No, the meaning and purpose to our existence comes from life itself. The universe, life on this planet is wondrous, lush, mystifying and amazing, full of aesthetic inspiration and existential feeling.
One need not have Jesus to experience the joy of living. There is a “sense of amazement, and [a] deep, almost mystical appreciation,” says atheist Phil Zuckerman, a “sweetly, wistfully, mournfully churning” when one sees crocus pushing their leaves out of the ground after a hard winter, the buds on the fruit trees swelling as the weather warms, when one hears a Mozart concerto late at night or sees a magnificent Broadway musical, remembering my grandmother, smelling dirt in my hands as I garden, read a good book, watch the waves break over the cliffs during a storm on the Oregon coast, “act altruistically” or attend an anti-war march. Meaning and purpose for existence come through these sensations “not to mention a deep sense of the profound mystery that is existence, the beauty that is creativity, and the power that is justice.”
Contrary to what sky-goders claim, being an atheist does not mean that a person does not have morals or that one believes in nothing. I believe in a lot of things: single-payer health care for all citizens; the prohibitions enumerated in the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments; the rights of people to live free from fear and free from want; protecting the environment; the right of marriage for gay people; economic justice fighting racism. Many of the things in which I believe sky-goders have opposed - - women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of Black people to live as equal citizens. Many things sky-goders believe in I have opposed; the death penalty; torture; preemptive war; McCarthyism.
I believe, as do secular humanists, “in the potential of humans to solve problems and make a world a better, safer, and more just place . . . reason, science, and rational inquiry . . [a commitment to] democracy, tolerance, open debate, human rights.”
Life and living are far from meaningless. “Existence,” Zuckerman writes, “is ultimately a beautiful mystery: being alive is a wellspring of wonder, and the deepest questions of life, death, time, and space are so powerful as to inspire deep feelings of joy, poignancy, and sublime awe. Atheists ask those deep questions; examine themselves; seek answers although I suspect that most of us know we will never find the answers. It’s enough to ask the questions. I wish the sky-goders would ask more questions rather than proclaim their hubristic knowledge in the answers.