Now Playing: State of Grace by Taylor Swift (you come around and the armour falls, pierce the room like a cannonball, now all we know is don't let go)
A lot of people ask how atheists deal with morality if dear old God isn't in the equation. What stops us from doing what is wrong if there is no eternal damnation to scare us out of our minds?
If you knew me as a little kid you'd know that I was almost embarassingly shy, but not in a way you might think. I was pretty gosh darn terrified of getting into trouble, sure, but I was also terrified of doing something wrong. Much later on my sense of right and wrong became much more defined and I saw no problem with sassing teachers and flaunting dress codes, but my moral development is no worse than any God-fearing person my age; arguably, mine is better, because I actually use logic to justify how I treat others instead of a book. At the ripe old age of six I had very good idea of what was right and wrong, and I did that without God. So I think if I can do it, so can you.
The thing that stops atheists - non fucked up atheists, and I'll admit there are quite a few on the kooky side - from doing bad things is the innate desire to be good people. When you grow up without God your natural instincts are heightened; empathy, compassion, justice - these things don't just exist in the law and in scripture. Arguably, they are stronger in our minds, encoded into our very being.
A lot of people think that what I do is 'wrong', and therefore I have a pretty shit sense of morality. Perhaps. If you think being open about sexuality, engaging in normal teenage relationships, masturbating, and being a feminist is worse than being a sexually frustrated bigoted religious hypocrite, then sure, I'm doing 'wrong' things. If you think that my peaceful difference of opinion with God and my sometimes feisty clashes with religion popping up everywhere - my classroom, my university, my bedroom, literally fucking everywhere - is in itself worse than being religious, even when 'being religious' also encapsulates religious extremism and bombing and rape all that other nasty shit that religious people like to pretend isn't religious but it really fucking is, then yeah, I'm...immoral, but at least I'm not dead or behind bars. The atheist idea of morality is much more forgiving of human nature; we are by nature social beings, sexual beings, and when you try and ignore or suppress that shit happens. Rape culture is born out of our society's inability to be grown up about sex, to teach people the facts about sex and sexual health, to educate our young people on healthy forms of sexual expression and, ya'know, teaching men not to fucking rape. The people I know who have a bit of a reputation for being 'promiscuous' are perhaps the most moral people I know in terms of sex and sexual interactions; they are very clear, almost vehement in stating how they think men and women should be treated in a sexual context, and yet they're judged by how many people they've slept with instead of their 100% rape-free record, which is more than what a lot of their 'decent, upstanding' Steubenvilling right-wing religious counterparts can say.
Growing up is a total shitstorm - for everyone, not just me. Atheism has been very healing for me, to come to terms with reality, to figure out my life, to decipher right from wrong. Religion is an atrociously bad and inefficient way with dealing with humanity; it just doesn't work. Abstinence based sex education has led to a massive spike in unwanted pregnancies and STDs in the US, religion is the primary culprit behind the appalling treatment of women in the Middle East, and religion doesn't stop people from doing 'bad' things; it just makes them feel incredibly and unecessarily guilty about it. I live my life by the facts - the facts that contraception doesn't make you a whore, you won't go blind if you touch yourself, there's nothing wrong with sex or sexuality, and there's nothing bad about being an atheist.
The idea that humans are immoral savages without God is something I find quite offensive; I find the whole idea that I've achieved all that I have achieved and overcome all that I have overcome because of God to be extremely offensive. When I woke up after my surgeries, agony ripping through me with every breath, bloody and confused and disoriented, I didn't thank God I was alive. I thanked my surgeon - you know, the person who trained for years in science and fact and knowledge to keep people like me alive. When I graduated from highschool, the granddaughter of two illiterate women with a fancy diploma and a handful of A grades and a certificate or two, I didn't thank God for my academic achievements. God had nothing to do with it. I was the person who procrastinated and cried and freaked out over every assignment. I was the person who slogged my ass to school - I'm pretty sure God didn't do that on my behalf. It was my teachers who marked every essay, who explained every problem, who discussed every issue, not God. Whenever I am presented with temptation, temptation to do something wrong - and by this I mean the raping and pillaging and murdering type of wrong, not 'masturbation is Satan's typewriter' wrong - the thing that stops me is not God; not God at all. Not for a second to I consider the absurd motion that I'm being held accountable to a supernatural being; that a Divine Creator of the Entire Fucking Universe seriously gives a damn whether I murder a tiny percentage of a tiny population of a tiny planet in a tiny Solar System in this incredibly, impossibly vast universe. I don't do bad things for the simple reason that they're bad, and I don't want to be a bad person. That's it, really.
Morality really is that simple.
But what about temptation? The very idea is problematic. Temptation is not inherently bad; we're hardwired to be vulnerable to sexual temptation and, surprise surprise, we wouldn't be here if people didn't give in occasionally. Everything that is considered 'temptation' in our sex-negative, God-happy society is just...humans being humans, really. Real temptation is more accurately classed as desperation; a psychological panic in which we do things out of an innate desire to save our skins.
If you look at all the terrorists and criminals in our world, they are either religious, clinically insane, desperate, or a combination of the three. Atheism doesn't cause anarchy, or even a corruption of morality; instead I would argue that religion is more likely to be a force of corruption than atheism. When I hear people spouting absurd claims about premarital sex will kill you, or that you can legitimately kill someone for apostasy, or that it's okay to rape a woman dressed like a slut, I find it very interesting that I am the one labelled 'immoral'. The idea that one can do anything they like because nothing is stopping them isn't atheism; it's insanity. And if you think that the only thing stopping us from being hardened criminals and destroying the world is God then...you're only one delusion away from insanity, mate.