The Atheist’s Dilemma

Slamming celebrities is okay. We do it all the time, and a whole media industry exists just to obsess over every sip of Starbucks coffee, every Hawaiian vacation, and other minutiae of a celebrity’s daily life.  When it comes to awards shows, we all implicitly know the drill:  a network devotes 3-4 hours of prime time to broadcast what amounts to a bunch of people congratulating themselves for doing their jobs.  We watch for the clothes worn, the speeches given, and live performances.  Over the years, the hosts of these shows have had the task of making the show more entertaining by upping the quality of the jokes.  It’s been a slow process, but the culmination of Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes ripping celebrities left and right a new one was, for me, one of the best things on TV awards shows for … well I don’t know how long. But it was his last comment when he thanked God for making him an atheist that has generated the most polarizing opinions on it.  Was it so horrible?  Personally, I thought it was a brilliant phrase that demonstrated a kind of high comedy that’s rarely seen nowadays.  This was no wardrobe malfunction, slip of the tongue, or unaware the microphone was on.  Nope. This was planned and really well executed. The fallout has had a surprisingly long shelf life, and watching Gervais on CNN the other day was pretty interesting.  In his unscripted appearances, Gervais is candid, but often struggles to find the right words to express his opinion. Nevertheless, he makes some valid points about why he’s an atheist and dispelling the view that an atheist lacks morality.

However, his comments create a bit of a bind for those like-minded folks:  Do atheists have a moral compass that’s similar to those who profess a belief in God because both learn their lessons of right and wrong from primary and secondary sources that are rooted in religion?  I consider myself in the same camp as Gervais, but have found that when I tell people that I’m not a believer, the range of emotions is really startling.  The first concern goes to raising children without any sense of belief in God.  Julie and I never really hid the fact from Maya that God isn’t real, but we told her to understand that many of her friends do believe it and that she should respect their views.  Now,  she’s set foot in churches and synagogues when friends or family members are doing some kind of religious ceremony, but I can say that we raised her without religion, and she’s one of the most moral kids I know.

I often tease her that she’s an atheist Mormon because she says she’ll never drink alcohol, do drugs, or consume caffeinated drinks on a regular basis.  But it’s not the prohibitions she imposes on herself that makes her moral, it’s her outlook on the world.  She’s an honest kid who truly wants to help those who have less than her. She is very loving, kind to her friends, respects her parents, and generally the kind of kid you don’t have to worry too much about.  Sure she has drama like all high schoolers, and she’s not immune to the rampant consumerism, status, and gossipy BS that comes with living in an affluent community like ours, but overall as an atheist (which she lets her friends know about) she’s comfortable with the knowledge that we’re here on this earth because of a variety of factors at play in the universe (creation by design not being one of them).

Okay, I kind of got off track, but it was to illustrate the answer to my original question — which is to say “No.”

Oh, and because I’m a big music fan, here’s a song sums up my own beliefs:

“Faithless,” Rush (Download)

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