Why Can’t You Leave Religion Alone? blog by Seth Andrews

 

 

Why Can’t You Leave Religion Alone?

Seth    Jan 28, 2011 2:00:54 PM | Date Modified: Sep 5, 2012 4:13:14 AM

The protests come every day from the religious, and they go something like this:

* “Why spend your time disproving God?”

* “Why not just let people believe what they want to believe?”

* “Why can’t you leave religion alone?”

As one YouTube commenter said recently, “No one can explain to me why it is so important to convince theists to abandon their beliefs.”

The answer is simple. Pages like this one exist because religion exists.

Religion permeates our culture, shows up on our doorsteps with literature, scriptures and threats of eternal damnation, influences our science books, contaminates our political systems, indoctrinates our children and postulates that its doctrine must be followed, lest we be destroyed in body, in soul, or both.

Non-believers are simply responding to the avalanche of religious messages that bears down upon us daily.

Religion gets carte blanche to be as vocal as it wants, to knock on our doors and accost us in our homes, in our places of work, in our personal and professional lives. Believers are charged with a life mission to preach, teach, disciple, shout it from the mountaintops and to “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Religion…is everywhere.

Ask yourself. When’s the last time an atheist rang your doorbell with the Good News of Humanism? How often do you find Richard Dawkins books in the dresser drawers of your hotel rooms? When was the last atheist temple erected in your neighborhood? Have you ever attended an atheist revival? Has atheism demanded 10% of your household income? How many dedicated atheist television channels come through your satellite dish? How many atheist verses were you instructed to memorize as a child? When’s the last time someone thanked a FARMER (or even the cook) at the dinner table instead of God?

On a more radical front, what’s the name of the last atheist who sawed the head off of an “infidel?” Or sentenced a shrouded woman to death for displeasing an oppressive husband? Or strapped explosives to his belt in order to kill hundreds in a public square? Or publicly hung a gay person for his lifestyle?

It’s everywhere. Religion is a pounding drum that has gone mostly unanswered for a long, long time. And religion is not satisfied with merely existing quietly in the homes and hearts of the faithful. Its very nature compels the believer to proselytize, preach, promote, convince, convert and prevail. If you play on the team of the religious, your game plan is to stay, always, on offense.

Throughout our history, those who raise a simple hand of protest against these advances have been portrayed as the real problem. Religion has attempted to marginalize and defeat legitimate questions and concerns by indignantly portraying any resistors as misguided, immoral, rudderless, angry, miserable, lost and alone.

And when skepticism challenges wildly improbable (or impossible) stories found in the bible, the Qur’an and other holy books, the religious wail, “Why can’t you just leave us alone?”

The irony is thick.

And religion impedes curiosity and inhibits learning, as the much-maligned Creation Museum proves. It stymies critical thinking. It stretches us to believe the unbelievable. And it poisons the foundational teachings we are using to train up the generations of tomorrow.

Pages like mine exist as a response… a counter-argument to ensure that the cacophony of superstition does not go unchallenged. And if your belief system is so undeniable, so factual, so provable, so real and so true, certainly it can withstand the opposing viewpoints presented here and elsewhere. Certainly, it can survive the acid tests.

Just remember. Religion began the argument. It amplifies itself before the world. And it threatens all mankind with punishment upon its rejection.

We are atheists. We are moral. We are reasonable. We are thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, happy, fulfilled and well-informed.

And as long as religion insists on fixing human beings who are not broken, we will respond with the evidence that we are not the problem.

-Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist, written 01/28/11

Why Are Atheists “The Enemy?”

I was just reading/listening to Teresa Macbain’s story–

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/30/151681248/from-minister-to-atheist-a-story-of-losing-faith

Religion so often does the opposite of what believers think.  It makes people intolerant.  Why does Teresa’s community that she gave guidance and counseling and encouragement and support to, turn on her this way and treat her like an enemy?  Do Christians view Jews as the enemy?  Or Buddhists?  Or anyone who happens to have faith in something else?   Then why are atheists the enemy?  And especially atheists who were previously Christians?

Tell you what, listening to Teresa’s story…struck a chord with me.  I haven’t become an enemy like she has.  I am not seen as a betrayer of the faith as she is.  But I have lost friends since I made it clear I can’t believe anymore.   I also find myself suddenly having to walk on eggshells worrying how much should I exult in this new feeling of freedom?  How much singing out and speaking out and shouting out with joy can I do before I am admonished for offending someone?

Really, all it takes to offend a Christian is to say the words “there’s no such thing as god.”  Say those words and they are offended, personally and deeply offended.

It’s not meant to be an offense.  If I went 40 years of my life thinking I have a horrible singing voice and always being ashamed to sing, afraid to sing…and then one day I’m told by a voice teacher I have a really great range and wonderful potential as a singer, I’m going to want to tell people.    The same is true if I go my whole life believing in something that makes me feel I can’t ever be good enough, that I was born corrupt and I need to do this and this and this to be good or to be loved…and then one day I find out it’s all a lie and I was born into this world exactly right and exactly as nature meant me to be–I would want to sing that news from the rooftops!  I’d want to  tell my friends, my family, people I care about whom I still see struggling in the dark.   And yet…it offends people.

No Christian, especially not the ones who live for Jesus and give their whole life’s work to serving Jesus like Ms. Macbain, want or ask to lose their faith.   It’s not a road believers take intentionally.  It’s a path they stumble on.

We’re not supposed to ask questions.  I know a friend who was kicked out of her church for asking too many questions.  Why is that?  If Christianity is true–if any religion is true–it should be able to withstand any questions put to it.  It should  not shy away from the new discoveries of science either, but rather welcome those discoveries as further proof of its unshakable truth.

Instead when I asked questions, the kind of questions that put parts of the bible or god’s actions or Jesus’ actions, into doubt, I was given the same pat answers: “we are finite beings; how can we possibly understand god?”  Or, “god works in mysterious ways.”  Or, “have faith.  God will reveal this to you in time.”

And then that time never comes.

I look at the bible and I wonder, how can this loving god that the Christians believe in order little children dashed to pieces or pregnant mother’s bellies cut open with swords?   How can this just and merciful god order a man stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath or…allow his followers to teach that women are worth only half as much as men and should be silent, should not wear jewelry or braided hair or… speak aloud in church, and daughters can be sold into slavery.

These are the questions that catch us unaware.  We are like everyone else, Christians going along with what we’re told, assuming someone bothered to do the research and confirm it’s all true.  We nod our heads and sing our songs and high-light the appropriate verses in the bible.   But then one day someone points out something in the bible we didn’t know was there.  Or maybe one day it suddenly dawns on us that it makes no sense that Satan would hate the people who deny god, his enemy, and would want to punish them.    Or that god would punish Adam and Eve so severely for simply being ignorant, for making a mistake, and not just them but all of humanity.

Atheists are not the enemy of anyone.  Atheists simply do not believe in the supernatural–and have lately been brought to the point that we aren’t so silent about it anymore after having to hear politicians who should know better declare our country a “Christian nation” when it’s not, or for that matter have  Christianity shoved in our face wherever we turn.  How does this make us bad people worthy of hate?  How does this make someone like Teresa Macbain worthy of being shunned by the very community she served and helped for years?

Once upon a time God created himself an enemy.  I’m not sure why.  A lot of pain and suffering would have been avoided if he hadn’t.   But he made Satan and then punished Satan for being made.  Sometimes I feel like Christians want to have an enemy too.  So they hunt down people who dare to not agree, and attack them, call them ignorant or evil–arrogantly tell them they’re going to hell–basically punish them for daring to be, just like gays, true to who and what they are.

God Made His Own Enemy

Christians want to claim the biblical god is omniscient.   As in, he sees past, present and future.   What this tells me, and why I think it makes him a malignant, sadistic monster–

Before he made Lucifer he knew Lucifer would become Satan, and he knew some of his angels would follow Satan, and yet he made Lucifer anyway.  He made his own enemy, knowing ahead of time he was doing it.  He even made hell as a place to put his enemy in.  This tells me Satan is not really God’s enemy but working for God, serving some purpose for God–an enemy created for a reason.

We are supposed to hate and oppose Satan.  And yet God put Satan here–God created Satan.  Why?  To trip us up?  To cause us to fall and thus be then at God’s mercy generation after generation, each generation inheriting the sin of doing something God set us up to do in the first place knowing ahead of time we’d do it–making Satan and putting us in close proximity to Satan so for sure we’d do it?

Before God made Adam and Eve he knew where Satan was, knew what Satan would do, knew what his newborn and ignorant human creations would do should they come face to face with Satan.  Knowing this, God did it anyway.  He put those child-like gullible naive humans in close proximity with the enemy he, God, had created, knowing what would happen before it did.

And as he knew and planned for it to, it did happen.  Then God punished his creation for doing what he put them in close proximity to Satan to do, just as he punished Lucifer for doing what he had been made to do.

The first batch of humans God made became so corrupt God decided to send a flood to purge the earth of the corruption and start over again?  If God knows the future he knew before he made Adam and Eve that the first batch of humans would be too corrupt, and yet he made them anyway, deliberately, and then regretted making them.  As if a being who can see the future could “regret” anything.   Actually a mass genocide was part of God’s divine plan.  He absolutely intended for his first batch of humans to be corrupt so he could destroy not only all human life, but all life on the planet and start over.

Why do this?  Why not make humans right in the first place?  What did making a corrupt first batch of humans, and then destroying them and starting over, accomplish?   What other “good” did sparing Noah’s family but killing all other life accomplish?  Unless this God specifically enjoys genocide–enjoys torturing and killing his creations.

All those animals and sea-life that died and insect life that died…were they corrupt?  Why did they have to die?  Could they help it that they were born at the same time as a bunch of humans God made knowing they’d become corrupt?  Why flood the earth?  Why wipe out everything?  If God is all powerful he could have simply caused all the humans he deliberately made knowing he’d end up killing them, to drop dead from heart attacks.    Or just with a thought–make them all cease to exist.  Why the flood?  Why the mass genocide of all life, not just human life?   And how can a omniscient God “regret” anything?   It was all a part of his plan–his divine plan.  Which means his plan is perfect.

I could go on with this but I won’t.  My point is the creator of evil made evil for a reason.  The first batch of humans would not have been corrupt at all if Lucifer had never been made.  And yet he was made.  God made his own enemy.  God put dumb humans in close proximity with his enemy knowing what would happen.   God made humans knowing very soon he’d have to purge the earth–kill all life–because those humans would be corrupt.

How can it be called free will when we are made by a creator who wants us to fail?  Who put his enemy on this earth to not only make us fail, but to force us to have to grovel and beg for salvation?   How can it be free will when God knows before he makes us, which of us are destined for heaven or hell?   Do we who are destined for hell have any way to change his mind?  Change the perfect divine plan?   Over the last 30 years while I worked and struggled to believe something illogical, love a God despite what the bible told me about him, God knew up there in heaven–knew all my struggling was in vain and that in the end I would roast in hell.  Even though I spend half my life trying to be good enough to be one of his saved.

It’s like putting a carrot in front of a starving horse and saying “if you pull this plow another foot you’ll get this reward,” so the horse pulls hard, body trembling, one foot and then another, but always that carrot is swinging just out of reach…until one day the horse just gives up and drops in his traces; then the last words he hears before his farmer shoots him in the head is, “I always knew you’d fail me.”

Becoming Atheist

It seems to me people think it’s a choice, being atheist.  Like, I wake up one day and think, “today I’m going to become atheist.”  That’s not what happens!

For many it’s not about “becoming” atheist at all.  They simply are atheist.  They’ve heard all the bible verses before–all the arguments, always the same cherry picked verses people quote.   They’ve perhaps tried various faiths or religions, or at least looked into them, but none are backed up by fact or evidence, and so they can’t believe.  Not everyone can have magical thinking, and that’s what it takes to be a believer–any kind of believer.  The same quality children have to be able to believe in a Santa Claus.  Magical thinking.  The ability to suspend disbelief or put aside the questions and just have FAITH, trust that what a million or more people say is real–if so many people believe, it must be real.

But for others like myself, we did believe once.  We were able to set aside the doubts and nagging questions.  Like, having a little pebble in your shoe; rather than stop and shake it out, you keep walking, hoping it will slide to the side where it can’t be felt and you can walk normally for awhile, without limping, forgetting the pebble is there…up until it finds its way back under your foot again where it hurts.

No Christian wants to lose their faith.  That’s the thing.  Every Christian really loves the idea of seeing Jesus when they die, and not having to cross the valley of the shadow of death alone.  To see loved ones you miss.  To be young again if you’re old, or strong and whole again if you’ve been hurt, blinded, or crippled by some disease.   We all like to think we’re special, too special for us to deserve to just…cease to exist after we die.   There must be a reason we were made.  Certainly this isn’t all there is!

Belief is like a teddy bear.  Once you have it, it comforts you.  You don’t want to let it go.  In the storm, in the dark, it’s what you reach for to clutch tight against you.  The idea of having that taken away…what a scary thing!   So you block your ears whenever anyone says anything that stirs up that doubt again, brings the pebble back under your foot inside your shoe.   You don’t want to hear.  You don’t want to risk losing something you treasure, something so much a part of you for so long.

No born again Christian (or any kind of Christian) asked to become an atheist.  We were all Christians once, desperate to keep the faith alive, the hope of seeing our loved ones again, of living forever in some paradise.  But then something happened.

Does it make us evil that this something…happened?  Do we deserve contempt and to be branded as demonic or worse…because this something happened?   I have been an atheist now for three years.  I was a Christian for over 30.  Has anything changed for me?  I don’t think so.  I still FEEL all the things I did before.  I still feel in tune with that little voice inside, that I now realize is really myself, my rational self that comes and comforts my animal, frightened, instinctive self.   I love the same, care the same, still possess what I once called “the fruits of the spirit.”  I feel guilty when I make someone feel sad.  I feel the same strong desire to not cause hurt or harm.

Nothing has changed.  And because nothing has changed in me, this has reinforced for me that what I had before was just a different explanation for what I’ve had all along.  I haven’t lost it.  What it is simply isn’t what I thought.  It’s not a supernatural being or a eye in the sky or imaginary friend.  It’s not a teddy bear.  It’s my strength I have within me, that I didn’t believe in–thought I needed this crutch instead, to be strong.  But I don’t because…it’s all still there inside me, making me strong.

All on my own.

I didn’t ask to become an atheist.  But I’m really glad I did.  I like living with the perspective I will cease to exist when I die.  Perhaps it will make me try a little harder to make a difference in this life, while I live.  Then if I’m wrong and I do find something after death, it will be a happy surprise.  And if I don’t, I won’t be here anymore to feel regret–but I also will not have wasted my life on something false, either.

Silent No More!

And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I deem the essential principles of our government. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.
Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

“As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation.  But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?”      -John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.  Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.” -John Adams

“The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.”
                        -Spoken by Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joseph Lewis

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.  Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated.  I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
                            -George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, 1792

“. . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on my quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.”  Benjamin Franklin
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Tolerance.  For three years now I have been an atheist, after over 35 years of being a born again Christian.  What have I had to learn like I never had to learn before?  Tolerance.

When I was a Christian I thought nothing of not only proclaiming what I believed, but arguing about it, vehemently, sometimes even rudely.  Everyone else’s beliefs were wrong and mine were right.  And often I had other people back me up on it too, because mine was the acceptable, popular opinion.  I was indignant if anyone disagreed.  I couldn’t remotely entertain the thought that I might be wrong, or that my mother could be wrong, or her mother, or the church leaders I had grown up listening to and believing every word.  And the BIBLE!  The unblemished Word of God.   His might–at my fingertips if only I believed hard enough.  The “good book” that Christians arm themselves with in defense against Satan. 

I remember as a child I had cards in a box and each card had a bible verse on it.  I would memorize the card, and once I did, I’d put it aside and then memorize the next.  Until I could say one verse after the next correctly, and in order.   I did this because the church I went to preached that Satan is repelled by bible verses.  So I learned them.    And they sounded right to my young ears.

And of course they did.  They were cherry picked for the impressionable young.  There was none of the darker verses found throughout the bible. Nothing about burning witches or about women being forbidden to speak or ask questions in church, etc. 

At bible camp we sang our songs over and over, both morning and night, celebrating, among other things, having been “washed in the blood” or being “under the blood”–(a hold-over from the blood baptisms of pagan Mithraism Christianity replaced–where followers stood under a grate while above them a bull was sacrificed.).  To this day I can sing every song we sang then–I remember every single word.  Because that is part of belief.  It starts out as an idea.  It is repeated in verse and in song.  It is memorized.  It takes root inside your head –becomes a way of thinking and habit…until you forget when it started or where it came from.  That’s when you accept it’s always been, and it is true, absolutely true, so true that everyone should know!   Or so I thought.  Someone at some time must have done their research to prove it’s all true–so I didn’t have to–again, or so I presumed.  I just…accepted that the bible was history, and the tales in it–about real people.  But really, were they?   Did people like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John… actually exist?  Jesus too?   No one seemed to question it in my little bible-camp world.  I never heard anyone at my church or at that camp question if these characters in this book ever lived at all?  No one asks this.  No one asks WHO exactly wrote the bible, or why, or who hired them to write it?  For what purpose?  What was the agenda?

As a Christian the religious holidays were wonderful. Filled with fellowship and wonder and reverence and even hope of the promise the birth represents, and the sacrifice on the cross represents.  I walked around with a cross around my neck.  I was never a bible thumper but I was a Christian and I loved getting the warm and fuzzy Christian spam emails I got, and if anyone asked me oh sure, then I’d talk about my faith because then I knew it was safe.  Here was someone who would agree with everything or most everything I did.  I could talk and they’d nod their head and then they’d talk and further feed my belief, strengthen my delusion that this whole thing really is true.

If i ever came across a Jewish person, or atheist or anyone who was obviously not a believer, like someone wearing a turban or veil, oooh, I’d feel indignant inside.  I wouldn’t want to start up a conversation with them because…well, two reasons.  One, what did they know?  They were the lost.  The unsaved.  The ignorant.   And two…they might know more about their religion or beliefs than I knew about mine and I didn’t want my precious beliefs I hadn’t bothered to research, threatened in any way!  I didn’t want to look foolish, or have to be put on the defensive or hear the painful words said that MY beliefs are not true!  I didn’t want to be insulted by hearing someone say my Heavenly Father doesn’t exist or his Son who DIED for my sins…doesn’t exist!  That kind of thing offended me, angered me, deeply upset me.  So I avoided talking religion to these people–and in fact avoided people like this completely. I even avoided reading any books or articles by non-Christians which might challenge or put into doubt for me, my “faith.” I didn’t want to doubt, or question. I wanted to be like a little child as the bible commands, and blindly BELIEVE without question as good Christians do.

That was then.   Fast forward to now and I am an atheist.  Suddenly I notice how often people talk about their beliefs as if they think everyone agrees with them.  Suddenly people are making a big deal about whether our current President is a Christian or not–while I’m thinking, what difference does THAT make when most of our founding fathers were not!

Learning to not defend my new non-beliefs has been difficult, because I grew up quick to get indignant and angry and upset any time anyone attacked my Christian beliefs.  But to defend my new beliefs as a secular person who doesn’t believe…that’s wrong.  That’s offensive to the majority–to all those Christians who, just like it once offended me, get angry and upset and take it personally when they hear anything contradictory or like an outright challenge to their beliefs.   So really, it’s ok for Christians to broadcast what they think and believe and why.  That’s called witnessing.  It’s trying to spread the good news.  It’s a wholesome, happy message of hope.  A positive message. So it’s okay because since it’s so positive, how can it possibly offend anyone?  Right?

Well, it does!  I didn’t realize it’s a two way street, not just a one way street, until I found myself at an intersection and changing directions.  It IS a two way street and believe it or not, people who don’t believe in Christianity or the Christian god do still feel all the same burning passions inside them for whatever it is they do believe, be it belief in another religion, or belief in science, in evolution, in preserving the balance of nature, of being humane to each other and to animals.  Whatever the belief, it is close to the believer’s heart.

So when we have Conservative Republicans fighting to be nominated, and they’re busy vocalizing about how America is a Christian nation…which it isn’t and never has been…it basically says to all the rest of us who are not Christian, get the hell out, you aren’t wanted here.

There’s a Reason Rally on March 24th, 2012–a coming out celebration for Secularism.   Why?   Really, why?  What do people who don’t believe in God have to defend?  To cry foul over?   To get indignant about?

How about the fact this is our country too?  And we love our country too?  And we aren’t deceived by the bullshit they’re feeding the mainstream  that this country was founded by Christians–when we know perfectly well it was not.   This is our country too, and yet can a secular person, someone who does not believe in god or gods, have any hope of running for President?  No.  And how come that is?  Since when has the word “Christian” become the replacement word for words like wholesome, kind, compassionate, honest, ethical, caring, fair, gentle, forgiving, merciful, loving or good?

For a very long time people with no beliefs have felt no need to speak out.  For a very long time atheists and agnostics and pagans and heathens or whatever else you want to call us–infidels–whatever, have held our tongues and allowed the religious to walk all over those of us who don’t believe.  To silently smile and meekly try to change the subject rather than disagree and risk hurting someone’s feelings or upsetting someone.   But now we have the Religious Right trying to tell all of us that we are all of us Christians, and their puritan ideas of what is right and wrong, should be accepted by us all!   We’re back to that old song and dance again about how women should have babies if they get pregnant, whether or not they want to, and women should not have insurance coverage for birth control–which of course will mean so many more unwanted babies coming into the world with parents who can’t afford them.

I think it’s time to speak out.  I think it’s time that the secular population join together and protest our right to not believe, our right to not have to be silent just because our opinion is the less accepted, minority one, our right to not be governed by doctrine that seeks to keep our society in the dark ages, women under the dominion of men, and further allow our planet’s overpopulation crisis to multiply.

In my view such religious doctrine that abortion is murder (which the bible does not say, by the way), and the people or organizations like the Religious Right who seek to make war against women and take away their rights over their own futures–their own bodies, are one of the main reasons why  why our planet’s environment is so out of whack now–why we have too many people and not enough food–and why we have killer storms in parts of the world where they have never been before.

So it’s not just for the sake of our pride, and our desire to be counted as patriotic Americans too.  Nor is it just for the purpose of defending/preserving our human rights.  It’s for the sake of our planet, and for the sake of the advancement of science and understanding–the only weapons we have to defend ourselves, against ourselves.