The gentle atheist does not equate “religion” with “superstition.” Rather, to be religious is to aspire to a life of significance and meaning in the face of this immense, mysterious cosmos–in which we have more questions than answers. It is to acknowledge partnership and compassion toward our fellow beings and our common descendants.
The gentle atheist resolves to live a life of curiosity, appreciation, and commitment. The gentle atheist acknowledges the immensity of time and the cosmos, and that such greatness and subtlety range beyond human imagination. In humble investigation: in expanding the boundaries of human insight; lie wonder and mystery enough. There is no need for superstitions, dogmas, or idolatries. The “afterlife” lies outside the current scope of human investigation. Therefore, it is not relevant to enlightened conduct in the here and how.
At the same time, the gentle atheist acknowledges that belief and disbelief alike can be employed in unhealthy ways: as ploys to evade the realities of life and death on the one hand; but also to evade our human commonalities and the need for a discipline of compassion on the other.
The gentle atheist holds that any realistic morality must derive not from any supernatural source of power or authority, but from mutual commitment to broad human flourishing.
Recognizing that human flourishing is maximized as a respectful part of the natural world, rather than in attempted mastery over it, the gentle atheist aspires to a life of sustainable relationship rather than short-term exploitation.
From this comes the gentle atheist’s commitment to a life of principle, engagement, and challenge. Religious meaning is attained through a life lived well, courageously, with generosity of spirit.
The gentle atheist reasons that the very paucity of human knowledge and the rich variety of the human condition, call us to humility, respect, and compassionate action toward our fellow human beings–even toward those with whom we have differences.
The gentle atheist acknowledges the demonstrated scientific reality of group dynamics. Our attachment to our own group can dictate nuances of belief–or non-belief–rather than the other way around. Group dynamics can lead to self-justification, self-serving delusion, and all too easily, to emotional or even physical violence. In discipline and humility, the gentle atheist resolves to sincerely try to refrain from group assumptions.
“Our” goodness is not enhanced through comfortable condemnations of “their” badness. The gentle atheist aspires to transcend the easy answers and easy disdain of simplistic “us versus them” thinking. As part of this, the gentle atheist does not fear the language of religious tradition but, rather, takes an analytical attitude toward both its possible uses and its liabilities.
As creative intellect finds value in the arts: in poetry and in metaphor; there can also be appreciation for metaphor around religion, aspiration, and conscience. The gentle atheist is inclined toward an attitude of patience and compassion. At the same time, the gentle atheist resists temptation of religious language as an abstraction of power or a means of evading life’s more difficult realities.
In all this, the gentle atheist strives for meaning in the face of death; aspiration in the face of the world’s harshness; and personal and societal evolution in the face of tragedy, imperfection, and entropy.