Being an atheist doesn't require much effort. There aren't any creeds to memorize or religious services to attend regularly. So long as you don't believe in any gods, even if you never give the subject a second thought, you're an atheist. Never thinking about it may not be the best course of action in modern society, though. There are good reasons to think that making a conscious effort to be open and deliberate in your godlessness
would be better for you and those around you. So perhaps it's worth considering some new year's resolutions related to being atheist, secular, and godless today.
The most important principles which the godless should commit themselves to are skepticism and critical thinking. You don't have to be skeptical or a critical thinker to be an atheist, but a moral and relevant atheism is one that is founded on a habit of skepticism. One of the worst intellectual failings which people have is simply accepting as true whatever claims they hear, regardless of the logical or empirical support which the claims may (or may not) have. Skepticism means not accepting whatever we hear; critical thinking means examining claims and ideas to determine how valid they are.
Engage in Self-Reflection and IntrospectionIt's easy to be skeptical and critical of others' ideas, but harder to exercise the same scrutiny of things we already believe. If we engage in self-reflection and introspection, we can skeptically examine the ideas we have accepted uncritically for so long. If our own ideas can't stand up to the same criticism which we apply to others' ideas, we're behaving hypocritically. What's more, the better we understand ourselves and why we believe things, the better we might understand others as well.
We never know enough — there are always new things to investigate. If we stop learning, then we stop growing and we lose the ability to improve or make better decisions about our lives. Too many people treat learning as something that ended once they left school; in reality, the learning we do at school should simply prepare us for learning the rest of our lives. Even if we don't have time for classes, we should commit to make an effort to read non-fiction on a variety of topics.
Many people are in the closet about being godless. This is often for good reasons, but being open, public, and unapologetic about one's godlessness is important: first, because it helps one feel more comfortable with oneself, and second, so that people can see that godlessness doesn't make one an immoral monster. Godless Americans should commit to setting a good example about what godlessness means, and should not imply that there is something shameful about it by keeping silent.
Godless atheists should commit to engaging religious believers in substantive discussions. These may obviously include discussions about religion, but should not be limited to that subject. We should engage others in conversations on philosophy, family, politics, and more — all from an explicitly godless perspective. We can make it plain that neither gods nor religion are needed in order to have credible, reasonable positions on various topics.
Politics and religion in America have become deeply intertwined, but this might change if godless Americans commit to taking part in local politics. We shouldn't be pushy, but we also shouldn't hide the fact that we are godless. We can establish a godless perspective in the sphere of politics and help religious believers get used to the fact that we exist and that we matter. Godlessness can contribute to society and make a difference
in all our lives.
An important issue for all godless atheists is the status of civic equality and civil rights. The godless have often been victims of discrimination and prejudice and we should commit ourselves to the pursuit of equal civil rights for all. There must also be a moral component to this because in order to help improve society, the godless must promote a moral and just conception of our community. Equality and full civil rights must be established for all citizens, whatever their faith.
One of the most significant issues which all godless Americans can agree on, whatever their political philosophy or beliefs, is the need to separate church and state. In no way should the coercive power of the government be brought to bear on behalf of any single religious group, belief, or tradition. Separating church from state means separating religious from civil authority
; the godless accept the authority of civil leaders, but not the authority of religious leaders.
Godlessness for the Future of Society
Some apologists for the involvement of religion in politics point out that religion is here to stay and isn't going to give up its claims on having a public voice. This is true, but it's also true of the godless: we are here, we aren't going anywhere, and we aren't going to give up on our claims for full civil equality and the ability to participate in society alongside everyone else. We have something to offer public discussion and debate, but if we are going to participate we must do so in a positive and substantive way.
Having a "Godless New Year" isn't about celebrating the new year without gods or religion, because most people do that. Instead, it means making the new year genuinely new by doing something different and making a difference — both in our own lives as well as in the lives of others. We should have a godless new year by bringing godlessness to the attention of others and to the service of our communities. Godlessness may not be a philosophy or ideology in its own right, but a godless perspective on issues and life still has something to offer — if for no other reason than because it's so rare, relatively speaking.
There are godless people all around, contributing to society and helping to make their communities better to live in. Unfortunately, most aren't known as godless because they don't reveal what they really believe. The situation for atheists is not unlike that of gays: in the closet out of fear of what others will say. This must change — when it does, godless Americans should be able to contribute even more.
Godlessness, free from the ancient hatreds and absolutism of religious traditions, stands a chance at serving the interests of peace and harmony in a religiously diverse society. Being godless doesn't automatically make a person rational, reasonable, and peaceful, but religion often makes things worse. Committing to the principles above as part of one’s New Year’s resolutions is a good step toward the future.