An opinion piece in the New York Times on Sunday, authored by Susan Jacoby and titled “The Blessings of Atheism,” generated nearly 300 comments. When I went to add mine, the comments had been closed. Here is what I would have said:
I have been reluctant to identify myself as an atheist, because of the sometimes very strong negative responses that engenders. But I agree with Ms. Jacoby that those of us who do not believe in a supreme being should not be afraid to speak up and speak out, that in fact we have a responsibility to do so. I am not suggesting that we start proselytizing, but rather that we show others who we are; that we are not heathens, not vile, immoral human beings, that we are loved. Some in fact have taken to calling this status “humanism.”
And while I would not call my conversion from Catholicism a blessing, it has been profoundly liberating. I do not spend a moment worrying about future judgement. I do not struggle with questions of faith, of how and why and when. Yet I have enormous faith. To refer to atheists as non-believers is incorrect or at least inaccurate. I believe very strongly and very deeply–in myself, in you, in our capacity to love. I believe that we have only this, only now, and that while we do, we must be the best we can, and do the best we can, not because of a final reward (or any reward) or for a place in heaven, but because it is right, by any moral compass, sanctioned by religion or not.
I believe that I am a kind and decent human being. And that should be enough for any loving and benevolent God, if that is how it turns out.