Empowered by Atheism – Matthias Chan

Be the God you want to see in the world.

Now that I’ve gotten your attention, let me explain.

In my spiritual journey throughout the school year, after exploring many faiths and religions through the CRGC and discussions with other Interfaith fellows, I’ve finally ended up at agnostic atheism.  Believing that there is no God, however, wasn’t as liberating as one may think. Instead, it put a huge burden on me. Because God wasn’t telling me what was right and wrong, and there wasn’t some divine plan that worked for the good of everyone, it placed the burden on me to fill in those gaps.  For atheists and agnostics, for whom a divine judge is absent, humanity has become the sole arbiter of right and wrong. We’re not just the judge, but we are the jury and executioner as well. To borrow some terminology from Nietzsche, God is dead and we have replaced him. Because God is no longer sitting on his throne in heaven, there’s nobody looking out for us up there and making sure that everything is going to be alright.  That is now our responsibility. Theologians like Irenaeus, Augustine, Al-Ghazali, and Ibn Sina have struggled with the question of how suffering exists under the rule of an all-powerful God. But now, in the void vacated by the Almighty, it’s our job to alleviate the wounds of humanity. 

This task isn’t just for those who doubt the supernatural.  Embodying the compassion our world needs is a fundamental tenet of all the world’s religions.  Abraham shows kindness and hospitality to complete strangers and guests. St. Paul urges Christians in Ephesus to embody Jesus’s self sacrifice.  Krishna teaches Arjuna to treat all beings with kindness and compassion, and Buddha commanded his followers to show compassion to all beings. Guru Nanak told early Sikhs that they must show kindness to all.  Zoroaster said, “Doing good to others is not a duty. It is a joy, for it increases your own health and happiness.” All of these holy figures knew the importance of kindness and compassion, and they all practiced it in their daily lives.

I dream of a future where atheists, theists, and everyone in between unite to create a better world, because it’s time for us to take up our role and be what we want and need God to be in a world filled with pain and suffering.  It’s time for us to become the God we want to see in this world.  It’s our duty to become selfless, protective, generous, loving, and everything else that we know humanity desperately needs in order to repair the world and work towards the greater good for all.  In the words of Jim Greenbaum, founder of the Greenbaum foundation, “Being a bystander to suffering is not an option.” 

Be the God you want to see in the world.


2 thoughts on “Empowered by Atheism – Matthias Chan”

  1. Hi Matthias,

    I think your essay is thoughtful, well reasoned, open minded, compassionate and beautifully written. You represent the best aspects of Humanism and Atheism. I hope you will always stand up for what you believe in (now more than ever)!

    Best Regards,

    Thomas W. Jendrock
    (Westport CT)

  2. WONDERFUL. What is religion but man telling himself how he ought to be?

    When we take away the veil of some other entity being responsible, our mission becomes crystal clear.

    Some humans will need that super other telling the story and providing the morals, and religion fulfills that need. Some humans, like those who created the great stories, can write the mission and the morals themselves.

    Religion, perhaps, should be the means, but not the end.

    Wishing peace and love to all.

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