An Atheist’s Awe

Recently in one of my philosophy classes we took up the question of whether an atheist could be part of a recitation of the Quran and take any meaning out of it. Many of the answers from theists in the class seemed to assume that there is an innate goodness in believing in God, and that atheists cannot fully appreciate the beauty of the world, that atheists are in some way necessarily missing out on happiness or fulfillment of some kind.

Now I know that all skeptics are not atheists, but I want to remind all of our atheist/agnostic/humanist or other readers to remember the idea of awe. In order to have a kind of belief, goodness, truth or beauty in the world do we need to believe in something beyond what we can see? OF COURSE NOT. Look around you. Check out how all of the world interacts, the immensely complex and beautiful human bodies, thoughts and minds that surround you. Look at the skies. Think about the sheer size of the universe, and yourself in comparison to it. Feeling the awe yet? If you’re not understanding the love in skepticism, check out Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. He beautifully expresses the wonder of seeing the size and power of everything around us.

There is actually the possibility of being religious but atheist. There are in fact some Christian atheists, who pray and partake of the Christian community but do not believe in God. I think there is something beautiful in this idea. God may be a symbol for all the goodness and truth we see in the world. Atheism is certainly compatible with those ideas.

Just a reminder to think about the beauty in your life…and remember the variety of kinds of skepticism and atheism

Image credit: NASA

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at

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