There is a myth about atheists which I hear regularly from people, especially Christians. Basically, the idea is that people want to live a certain way, and knowing that god would not allow such things, they simply reject god in order to live a life of…well, sin. A Christian might say that our desire for sin overpowers our desire for salvation. That’s an interesting way to frame the discussion, but it is not how I would phrase it. I would say that I want to enjoy my life in ways that some would consider wrong, but which I don’t see reasons for them being wrong.
The idea that atheists turn away from god in order to not be subject to god’s laws (no matter the particular set of laws they believe) is based on the assumption that god’s truth is obvious to us, but we reject it. I understand why this line of thought makes sense to believers; the idea of god’s reality is so close to their mind that they have trouble imagining not believing in god. But the conclusion that atheists make concerning their views on gods is not a derivation of the lifestyle they choose. In fact, this conclusion is not a choice at all.
I never chose not to accept god, to reject god, or to not believe in any hods. Atheism is not a choice at all. It is what one concludes upon looking at the reasons, evidence, etc concerning god and finding that they are not convinced that one exists. Of course, one can have good or bad reasons to believe or to lack belief, and if one were to say that they didn’t believe in a god because they want to live their lives without hindrance, that is not a good reason.
So, if someone asks me if I am an atheist so that I can live my life in ways that are not acceptable according to their scripture, I tell them that it is mostly irrelevant what their scripture says because I don’t believe that it is any more than a fairy tale anyway. If a book tells me I can’t drink alcohol, I don’t reject that god and that religion because I want to drink., Rather, I have already found that I don’t believe in the god of that religion and subsequently found that this rule about not drinking to be silly in addition to my pre-existing lack of belief. And even if I think the rule silly before this lack of belief, people don’t actually reject deities solely because they don’t like the rules.
What I think is really going on here, in some cases anyway, is religious folks feel the desire to do things which their religions say they cannot do in good standing with their god. So when they see people outside of their religion doing those things, they project the sting of that desire as well as the guilt they feel at desiring it and place it on the person they see. Thus, they may conclude that the other person, in order to deal with this guilt, has convinced themselves that there is no god so that they can go about their sinning without feeling bad. The theist, for some reason, either cannot or will not understand that the lack of belief is actually derived from the so-called evidence not standing up to scrutiny.
Now, from my point of view, what religion often does is tells you that you cannot do things that are often in our nature, telling followers that these desires are either the work of Satan tempting us, our human pride in our own sinful ways, or some other mythology to explain away why we have desires that lead us towards “evil.” And some of our desires will lead us to do things we should not do, and we need to make sure that we are not controlled by these desires completely. But sometimes our desires are OK to explore, and not doing so will create resentment, guilt, and other long-term harm to ourselves for no good reason at all.
I’ve met too many people in my life who have lived a life of guilt, repression, etc based on religion-based fears to be able to give religion a pass on this. Telling people that their desires are evil is disgusting. Making people live in the closet (Ted Haggard, anyone?), creating a culture that makes cheating more acceptable than polyamory (I can’t tell you how many people will react worse to an open and honest sharing of your loved ones than to doing it behind closed doors in secret) , and to generally convincing people that they are sinners and guilty automatically for some mythological fruit-based sin….
For fuck’s sake, the Original SIn was because someone gained knowledge of good and evil? I won’t even comment…
I live my life according to an ethical view that makes primary honesty, concern for the desires of others, and doing no harm where hard is not wanted. If your scripture (or your interpretation thereof) states that something I’m doing with full consent of all involved, then I find your book silly. I find it silly because I see no reason to accept that any gods exist, let alone your particular interpretation of your particular book of your particular god.