I believe that although religious faiths can and have helped many people find inner peace and motivation throughout the globe, I view both my life and that of others from a purely secular perspective. Though my family on my mother’s side is staunchly Christian and my father’s agnostic, I was raised in a very neutral atmosphere as neither of my parents wanted to pressure my sister or myself into committing to beliefs we didn’t yet understand. Instead, they decided to let us figure it out on our own over time.
Growing up in Kennesaw, Georgia—like most other places—allotted me plenty of outlets to explore different faiths without pressure. Together, my sister and I listened in on sermons at our local church and partook in several youth group activities. Though the Christian community was receptive and everyone present appeared to be happy, I just didn’t feel like I had found a spiritual connection—the whole point of a faith. I decided that religion, or Christianity at least, simply wasn’t for me and that was and still is okay with me because I find that removing religion from my life doesn’t lead to me to cynicism or immorality. Rather, it has just locked my focus on the here and now. Without any expectation of an afterlife or rebirth, I feel the drive to be completely present in every waking moment and to live the way I know is right and can be proud of whether or not it aligns with beliefs of the many faiths throughout the world. Over the years, I have developed my own code of ethics I can call my personal creed. This is to be kind to those deserving, appreciate all the little joys in life as well as have patience with the annoyances, and hold myself to my responsibilities. Instead of seeking out religion for guidance in the face of moral ambiguity, I look inward for answers which has led me to even more self-discovery than I think I could ever have found in a temple.
I have heard criticisms from several different people that I’m missing out by living outside of religious communities and that atheism is all negativity. It is true that there is a plethora of individuals who are vengeful and unruly in their expressions thwarting those who think unlike themselves, but these are actions of individuals and cannot generalize an entire following. Personally, I don’t feel that being an atheist means embracing a culture of negativity, but simply stepping away from all religions passively and upholding secular ideals instead. By doing so, I am not trodding on other lifestyles; I’m just choosing an alternate one.
I don’t feel disheartened about my spirituality since I am still able to find purpose and love in a secular world. As far as I can tell, at the core of every religious faith and every practice and every prayer is the desire to feel a sense of belonging and direction as life can often be daunting without something steady to rely on. For this reason, I think everyone is entitled to believe in whatever makes them happy and atheism does so for me for several reasons. Firstly, I love that I have unlimited freedom to choose my virtues and fulfill them on my own conscience. Like so many other members of my generation, I strive to be a free thinking individual and by building my own pyramid of thoughts and convictions I am successful in that. It feels far more rewarding to me knowing that whenever I do something for the greater good I am doing it because I know it is right and not just because that’s what has been preached to me. This makes all my actions speak for who I am. Now I’d like to be clear in that I do not think religious people would be without a moral compass if they gave up their faith; their nature is innate and I admire their kindhearted spirits. What I’m saying is that I take pride in my personal brand of morality because I arrived at it independently and that these are simply two different routes leading to the same ultimate goal of finding humanity.
Shane Battis is a journalism major in the Bob Sheiffer School of Journalism at TCU.