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Sharp Left Ahead: Atheism doesn't mean absence of emotion

I’m an atheist. That phrase tends to have a negative connotation attached to it, but more people every day feel free to own up to those words.

Atheism is a sleeping giant in this country. Gallup polls, independent polls and the census all differ slightly, but those who say they have no religious affiliation seem to fall between 13 and 16 percent in America.

I focus on this and not only atheists (the percentage of atheists fluctuates between one and seven in the U.S.) because many unaffiliated are reluctant to come out and admit atheism or agnosticism to friends and family.

My point is that this group is much larger than any other religious minority. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism all fall just above or below one percent of the population, while Christianity still dominates at a whopping 80 percent.

The Jewish community makes up a little more than one percent of America, but how many Jewish congressmen, governors and justices have we had in top positions throughout the year? Atheists should be doing the same thing in the political arena because we have important concerns that need to be heard and acted upon.

The best way to accomplish this goal will be to show others — who have rejected religion but are still reluctant to be labeled atheist or agnostic — that we have more practical answers to the societal questions that are most consequential to people.

Atheists, like myself, tend to focus on the material aspects and questions that plague society. However, it is the moral and societal questions that are more consequential to most of us.

And many atheists or agnostics I talk to seem to ignore the emotional side of life and dismiss this as irrelevant feeling. We, as atheists, need to be making the argument that we can take both a materialist view while also acknowledging the emotional side of life.

Let’s use love as an example. I’m sure that because of some basic instinct, I love my girlfriend for the sole purpose of preserving society or some other basic need for the survival of the human race, and this is all good, but it doesn’t explain the love I have for my family or friends that I would do just about anything for.

For Valentines Day, my girlfriend came to town and gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever received. It was a deck of cards, and written on the front it said, “52 reasons I love you” and included a deck full of marked cards.

It’s corny, I know, but anyone who has been in love before knows that we live for those corny moments in life. Just because you may not have a religious affiliation, doesn’t mean you can’t feel humans’ basic emotions.

That feeling I felt in the moment isn’t any less real because it can be explained by electrical impulses in the brain or some other psychological crap. And you don’t need to believe in a god or a soul to come up with legitimate answers to these types of questions or emotions.

I think many people are turned off by the belief of atheism because atheists do little to explain the more important questions of life. Most of us atheists seem to be too focused on proving the Big Bang or trying to convince creationists that it’s impossible for Jesus to have ridden on the backs of dinosaurs (both are noble quests nonetheless).

Even though Rick Santorum falsely believes that gay relationships will destabilize society, the falsity of this belief does not stop his pledge to annul all gay marriages if elected. Beliefs, emotions and imagination all have consequence in real life even if you can’t touch them.

“That which we treat as real becomes real in its consequences,” W.I. Thomas.

William Hoffman is a freshman studying journalism and political science and a columnist for The Post. Email him at wh092010@ohiou.edu.

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