Gary B.

garyName & Location
Gary B.
West side of Lake Union, Seattle, Washington.

How long have you considered yourself an Atheist?
I have been an atheist since 2005. Before 2005, I was content knowing that (a) all religions were man made, (b) I could avoid the effects of organized religion while I pursued my interests, and (c) the existence or nonexistence of a god was not necessary for a meaningful, enjoyable life. During 2005, I could no longer ignore the undesirable effects of the political rise of evangelical christians in the U.S. and the threat of muslim jihadists worldwide. Thus, seriously considering whether a god existed became important to me.

How do you prefer to describe your non-belief?
Simply, there is no tangible evidence of the existence of a supernatural god that created the universe and that actively (or not) intervenes on behalf of any individual.

There are a number of books written by atheists that refute the existence of a god. For example, in The God Hypothesis, Carl Sagan discussed alleged proofs of the existence of a god. One proof was called the Cosmological Argument. That Western Civilization argument is that everything around us was created by something, which in turn was also caused by something. As you trace backwards to a root cause, you arrive at the uncaused first cause. (A cause that itself was not caused.) Something that always existed. A god.

An atheist counterargument can begin with the statement that it is not more obvious that a god always existed than that the universe always did. According to Sagan, most astrophysicists believe that 15 billion years ago all matter compressed and then exploded. The result was that the universe expanded and all matter condensed into galaxies, stars, planets and living beings. The compression and explosion idea is a theory using logical reasoning based on scientific evidence. Granted, it is still just a theory. However, that a god caused the compression and explosion is a theory using emotional reasoning without any credible evidence.

Christians believe, based on faith, that the bible is the inspired word of god and cite the bible as evidence that a god exists. There is no credible evidence that the bible is at best anything more than the well-intentioned writings of men. Thus, the bible can’t be used as credible evidence of a god.

Life decisions based on faith that a god exists is the same as life decisions based on superstitions.

Can you describe a personal event or discovery that had a major influence on your non-beliefs?
A series of events influenced me. First, my parents were from families with different religious faiths (catholic and baptist). Thankfully, my parents did not raise me in either faith. However, occasionally my baptist relatives made evangelical comments to me that mingled god’s love with the fear of death. They questioned whether I was saved.

Second, after graduating from college, I visited catholic and baptist churches to find out what I had missed as a child. Eventually, I joined a baptist church and decided to give the experience at least a year. I was shocked to realize that it was not acceptable to question church teachings, even from a sincere desire to learn. I was ostracized because I did not put my intellectual curiosity on hold to sponge-up religious instruction. What I missed from not going to church as a child was conditional love and strict instruction.

Third, when I was 34, I was diagnosed with cancer. While I fought cancer, there were many opportunities for come-to-jesus moments. Yet, facing surgery, I was incredibly peaceful with knowing that belief in a god wasn’t important. During six months of radiation treatments, I thought of death frequently and was peaceful knowing that no one knows what happens after death. I did not feel guilty about my peace and certainly was not interested in talking with controlling or well-meaning religious people. Life is too short.

Fourth, the recent books, debates, and documentaries by vocal atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have been stimulating.

Why did you join Seattle Atheists?
I joined to meet other atheists.

What do you consider to be a common misconception about atheists?
Theists believe that atheists do not have moral values. Whose moral values are they referring to? Theists really mean that atheists’ moral values do not come from the same foundation (e.g., sacred texts, hearing god, instructions from religious leaders) as theists’ moral values.

Initially, a child learns the moral values of his/her culture. Parents model those values for their children. Hopefully, an understanding of those moral values matures when an individual tests or questions those values. (The absence of a dogmatic pounding of unsubstantiated religious beliefs to under girth moral values might help individuals mature.) Not all individuals need an imaginary super-friend to have the requisite empathy for others in order to discern right from wrong.

What is the meaning of life?
There is no universal meaning of life. Life just is.

What are 1 or 2 of your favorite atheist-related websites?
I don’t have favorite websites.

If you could have a serious discussion or debate with one living person in the world, who would it be?
I don’t idolize anyone.

Share a favorite quote.
“If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be–a Christian.”
–Mark Twain’s Notebook

Best unsolicited advice?
Avoid negative people.

About the Author