As Americans celebrate our Fourth of July weekend, it occurs to me that American atheists have something more to celebrate in addition to the commemoration of our nation's independence from the British Empire. In fact, atheists from all over the world can celebrate being independent from gods.
As much as this holiday of independence marks a huge triumph for liberty and individual freedom it should also serve to remind atheists that most people in our modern society are still very dependent and enslaved by mythical gods, religions, and superstitions. American patriot Thomas Paine put it best when he stated,
“Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”
Being free from this tyranny and living and acting based on our common humanity is very liberating. This independence doesn't give atheists a license to do anything or mean that anything is permissible as many theists often claim, but it does put the responsibility of our lives and the lives of those around us squarely and independently on our shoulders.
There are no gods to praise or devils to blame for our good fortune or bad. Life is what we make it to be. We are not dependent on some deity to save us; we have to rely on ourselves and our fellow human beings for salvation. We are independent of threats of eternal torture and bribes of eternal bliss. If we want to create a better world for ourselves and our loved ones, we have to rely on each other.
I hope my fellow atheists will keep this in mind on this Independence Day. Celebrate your independence from religion as atheists. Theists still have at least one more tyrant to be independent from on this July 4th.
It really is perverse and telling that humanity has learned that democracy is a better form of government than a monarchy and yet religious believers still consider their deity of choice to be a feudal lord and master.
Happy Independence Day!