Pretty Good Reasons Not to Believe in God Watch: Guilt Free Atheism?

There are definitely problems with the following argument, but it nevertheless seems (for a lot of people) a rather strong utilitarian reason for becoming an atheist: Guilt free sensual and intellectual indulgence. Most theistic religions are, to put it politely, a bit uptight about indulging certain pedestrian pleasures of the flesh and mind, and if you become an atheist these moral restraints are considerably relaxed (indeed, they are absent altogether). You can masturbate, indulge in lusty or mean thoughts towards your neighbors, drink alcohol, fornicate, swear at Fox News, and smoke cigarettes—all without the twinges of conscience that maybe God is watching and doesn’t like one bit what you’ve been up to lately. The celestial policeman is also absent from your intellectual life. You can read any book and entertain any thought without the least self-censorship or pangs of conscience. Yes, you can even read Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, and The Onion. And you can watch Richard Dawkins mouth off at God on YouTube while you absent mindedly munch Cheetos. Nobody’s keeping an eye on you, so what the hell? Think Tom Cruise in his underwear in Risky Business.

At some point, however, guilt-free atheism, especially when it comes into contact with others, would seem to break down. If you’re an atheist, for example, is it okay to commit adultery or not discuss your HIV status with a potential sex partner? But within the limited range of private indulgences and intellectual curiosity, it would seem to be a form of bodily and psychological liberation to be an atheist. Prometheus unbound?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to Pretty Good Reasons Not to Believe in God Watch: Guilt Free Atheism?

  1. Chris says:

    I’m a theist, but I don’t hold to the “celestial policeman” thing. I drink alcohol, smoke every once in a while, and read pretty much everything that’s out there.

    I think religion – specifically Christianity – gets a rep for being “up tight”, like God has all the little Christians on watch and they dare not step outside these black and white bounds, or else!

    In my opinion, that’s non sense. It’s nothing more than tyranic fear, and if I thought God acted like that – if he wanted us to live in complete fear and *only* fear him – I would not worship him (even though I still think there is reason to believe in him). I’d be Milton’s Satan through and through – better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

    I think, if there is a God, that he’d want you to do the right thing, because it’s the right thing… not because of fear that you may be punished. And futhermore, I personally do not see anything wrong in drinking or smoking. And concerning reading things that are “anti-religious”, I think the truth will always win-out. As long as you can read something with an open mind, why would this be wrong? What argument can be made for honestly trying to discover truth as being something evil?

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