Being atheist: The relativity of morality, a student’s perspective

We interviewed Josiah Clements, one of the few atheists on Huntington's campus, to see what brings him here and what he believes.

Photo by Mark Lewandowski
Photo by Mark Lewandowski

Raised by his parents in a fairly conservative Christian home in Columbus, Ohio, junior Josiah Clements was home schooled and expected to attend church regularly. As he grew older, however, the Christian world view seemed less and less likely to him.

“It came a time around my early teens when I was really questioning things that the Bible said,” Clements said. “It didn’t seem to line up with how my view of the world … functioned.”

Although Clements encountered several similar epiphanies throughout his youth, he continued to identify with the faith he grew up with. The dissonance stemming from his disagreement with Christianity, however, made Clements uncomfortable and he said he decided this wasn’t a life he wanted to lead. After researching the options and weighing them all carefully, Clements eventually decided that he agreed more with the atheistic perspective.

The conversion, Clements said, was not easy.

“It is infuriating [to hear] that ‘Atheists are Atheists because it is easier,'” Clements said. “From personal experience, as someone who has gone from being a Christian to being an Atheist, it is much harder being Atheist because you no longer have these ultimate truths to hold onto.”

Clements said he reevaluated everything in his life and pursued the truth through other options. After much deliberation and wrestling with the truth, Clements said he decided that the concept of a personable God is unlikely.

“If there was a God, I think it would be more like a deist model, where it put the world into motion as sort of a passive watcher,” Clements said. “I can’t say that there isn’t a God, but my beliefs strongly point to that there isn’t.”

Clements said attending a Christian-based university as an atheist has even been helpful in solidifying his own beliefs. Although constantly being challenged, he said he does not regret attending the university. He described the faith-intregation aspect of classes as his own “burden to carry,” not the university’s.

“It is kind of difficult to be constantly at ends with the ideology of the people around me,” Clements said. “[But I think] the best way to figure out what you believe is to be around things you don’t believe in. It helps really solidify … and articulate it more than having this abstract concept floating around in your head.”

Clements said he appreciates several of Christianity’s values and moral standings, especially Christ’s teachings of love. Although atheism promotes relative morality, Clements said he is driven to be the best he can be.

“Atheists have a bit more of a struggle in that there isn’t necessarily objective truth to the universe,” he said. “It’s more abstract. But that doesn’t mean that there [are no] morals. There are things that are conducive for mutual survival and just being a good person.”

Clements said he encourages the reevaluation and reconsideration of beliefs rather than simply accepting them at face value. No matter the conclusion, he emphasized the importance of critically analyzing the fundamentals of any given set of beliefs and validating its credibility.

“I feel like the modern Christian church … is very much like the Pharisees and the whitewashed tombs and the surface-level mask they put on for public appearances,” Clements said. “Which, if you remember, God will spit out like lukewarm water. So, if you don’t want to be spit out, maybe reevaluate and scrub some of that white paint off. Think, evaluate and see where that gets you.”

Josiah Clements is available for questions from the community regarding his faith. Questions can be sent to huntingtonian@huntington.edu and will be answered in a followup story online.

1 comment on “Being atheist: The relativity of morality, a student’s perspective

  1. Steve Leeper

    While I don’t arrive at the same conclusions as Josiah I admire his willingness to reevaluate his beliefs.
    My own reevaluations have led me to embrace a deeper version of Christian faith than I was handed as a child, one that sustains me through the complexities of adulthood in a changing confusing world.
    Kudos to both Josiah and HU for creating space for each other.


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