Atheism, though it represents the lack of belief in the existence of any gods, any supreme being, or any supernatural agency, stands for a great deal more, particularly the tradition of humanistic atheism to which I personally subscribe.
SELF-DETERMINATION AND RESPONSIBILITY
It stands for the principle that man is capable of, and responsible for, the betterment of mankind. It stands for the principle that man is not born inherently evil, or without "grace," but can make of himself whatever he chooses, through his behavior, actions, and self-determination. Atheists do not believe in predestination or providence, but in man's ability to make decisions is in his own life that can affect that life's outcomes.
INTELLECTUAL LIBERTY AND RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY
We stand for the principle that natural laws govern the universe, and that the exploration of these laws is a positive exercise for humanity, and neither a waste of time, nor a threat to decency and goodness. We do not believe in suppressing the truth, even if that truth flies in the face of scripture or religious tradition. We believe in intellectual liberty, freedom of expression, and tolerance for those of other races, sexes, beliefs, and orientations.
ALTRUISM AND LOVE OF MAN
We do our deeds of love for our fellow-man, not out of our love for any god or gods, or out of any desire to achieve a reward after death, but out of a genuine love for our fellow man, and for him alone. Our good works are not performed as a service to, or in obedience to, any supernatural being or beings, or laws. They are performed for our fellow-man alone.
HUMAN REASON AND HUMAN DIGNITY
We believe that human reason can determine what is morally right and what is morally wrong. Where human reason is in conflict with scriptural or religious traditions -- on issues such as sexual and labor slavery, child executions, blood sacrifices to supernatural beings, the superiority of one sex over the other, the necessity that religious dissenters or ethnic minorities or homosexuals be put to death, and the taking of sexual prisoners of war -- we defer to human reason to determine what constitutes ethical behavior. We give no deference or obedience to the commands or lessons of scripture when they conflict with human reason or human dignity.
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
We believe that freedom of conscience should include the right not just to choose ANY god or religion, but to choose NO god or religion. Just as freedom of speech includes the right NOT to speak, and freedom of assembly includes the right NOT to assemble, we believe that the free exercise of religion includes the right NOT to exercise any religion.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE
We believe that the government choosing which religious activities its citizens must observe is an infringement upon freedom of religion, in exactly the same way that choosing which words its citizens must speak would be an infringement upon freedom of speech.
JUSTICE ON EARTH
We believe that justice must be achieved by man on earth, and that no afterlife provides an opportunity for justice denied here. We do not believe that any god or gods can be counted on to mete out justice in any supernatural manner.
THE MEANING OF FAITH
We believe that faith is just that, "faith," and that to demand expressions of faith, or observances of religious ritual, practice, or worship, demeans not only freedom, but belies the very concept of faith.
PROTECTION OF THE PEOPLE, NOT JUST GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
The framers of the United States Constitution stated in Article VI, Section III, wrote: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." We believe that this admonition extended protection to the people, too, and not just government agents, that no religious test should ever be required of them.
FREEDOM FROM SILENCE
We believe that religious tests can take many forms, one form being the requirement that we take part in religious observances with which we don't agree. We believe worship includes prayer, and that requiring us to acquiesce, bow our heads, and clasp our hands, and silently attend at prayer exercises, upon the command of the government or its agents, is improper.
SOURCE OF LEGITIMACY
We believe that government are instituted among men, and not by god. We believe that basing the acts and laws of government upon holy books or religious traditions, rather than upon reason, is not only improper, but fraught with danger. We believe in democracy, not theocracy.NEXT: GINA'S AMAZON.COM DOSSIER
The beliefs I have just expressed to you are widely-held and widely known in the humanistic atheist community. They are no secret. They are not shameful. Americans, from Mark Twain to Katherine Hepburn to Noam Chomsky to George Carlin, have held these beliefs. If these beliefs are evil, then so am I. I report, you decide.