I’ve discussed the basic fact of my atheism here in the past and those who follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook probably get a little sick of hearing about it. I freely admit that I do often use social media to put forth my ideals in not so subtle little jibs and jabs, some of which will wind up illustrating this article. One thing I’ve not really discussed is just how and why I became an atheist in the first place.
The fact of the matter is, I used to be quite religious.
“Hold the phone!” those of you who didn’t know me until after my de=conversion (I’ve stolen this term from Seth Andrews of thethinkingatheist.com – it’s the title of his book and I think it fits rather well) may be saying, “YOU were RELIGIOUS!?!” Indeed I was. Embarrassingly so, actually.In fact, there was a time in my life when I considered becoming a clergyman. I sort of grew up in church, not all my life, but definitely in the majority of my teen years; I even married the pastor’s daughter, a fact that was recently pointed out to me by an old friend who I’d managed to piss off with an Instagram post.
You’ve no doubt seen the “Keep Calm And…” memes that have been flying around the web in the last few years? These are throwbacks to a WWII era propaganda poster that was produced in England, The original poster featured a crown graphioc at the top and bore the legend “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” in bold type. It was originally intended as a morale booster for the people of London who, after countless hours and days of German bombing, were most definitely in need of some cheering up. The poster has found new life on the interwebs giving messages ranging from pop culture to size acceptance and gay rights. I’ve seen “KEEP CALM AND LOVE ONE DIRECTION” and “KEEP CALM AND DATE A GIRL WITH CURVES” and “KEEP CALM I’M GAY AND SINGLE” and so on. I became quite amused with the “KEEP CALM” memes for a while and even found an iPhone app that helped to design them. Soon I was posting “KEEP CALM AND CALL BATMAN” and “KEEP CALM AND PLAY XBOX” and the like. Finally I posted “KEEP CALM GOD DOESN’T EXIST.” and the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan with an old friend of mine who I knew from my church days.
She went by the Instagram user name Sweetkym70 (probably still does, I wouldn’t know because I’m pretty sure she’s blocked me on Instagram and Facebook since this incident) and not minutes after I’d made the post I saw a comment from her saying, “I Honestly do NOT like this post :(“
Now there were a lot of ways I could have responded to this. I could have said “sorry,” which would have been a lie because I was not sorry in the least for posting something she didn’t like. I could have said “I’m sorry you don’t like it, but that’s the way I feel,” which would have been a bit closer to the truth than a simple “sorry.” I also could have said “tough shit.” which is what I might have said to just about anyone else. Instead I went with the following: “That’s okay, Sweetkym70, not everybody is ready to set aside their mythologies and superstitions and imaginary friends.”
It may have been the line about “imaginary friends” that cost me an actual one. She responded with, “That’s just RUDE! Funny how you grew up in a church and even married a preacher’s daughter! YET turned your life to the devil! I feel sad for you!”
Now there are so many things wrong with that statement that I could have gone on forever. I could have pointed out that the preacher’s daughter she is talking about is, today, quite literally a whore. This is not a jaded ex spouse talking either. She actually sleeps with guys for drug money, or so I am told. I most certainly have not “turned my life to the devil” as she claims (that’s kind of like saying “you turned your life to Lord Voldermort,” I have no fear whatsoever of fictional characters). Saying that I “grew up in a church” implies not that I was raised Christian, but that I actually lived in the building. I did not. And on and on. What I did reply with was. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’d point out that the devil is no more real than god, but it appears that would be a waste of my time and energy. You’re right though, I did used to believe in god and the talking snake and Noah and his big boat, Jonah and his big fish… as well as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. The thing is, I grew up.”
The irony of that statement coming from a man who has more toys on his desk at work than most six-year-olds have in their bedrooms is not lost on me, by the way. Does that statement really explain it though? Am I an atheist because I have “put aside childish things?” Yes, the biblical reference there is intentional. A woman I was dating not long ago refuted that idea, saying, “I’m grown and i still believe stuff.”
So, maybe that’s not it. There are plenty of very intelligent people out there who still hold to religious beliefs. I’m sure there are plenty of doctors who will still toss salt over their shoulders when it spills or will take great pains to avoid a black cat too. Silly? Sure it is. But I also think that the idea of a Jewish zombie returning to earth after 2000+ years to call the faithful “home” is pretty fucking silly too.
To each his own?
A common question that we atheists seem to get from people revolves around just that point. “Why does it bother you if someone believes? If it works for them, can’t you just leave well enough alone? They’re not hurting you or anyone else, after all.” Oh how I wish it were that simple.
Honestly, I don’t really care what you believe. If you want to devote a serious part of your life to the worship of, say, Odin or Zeus or whatever deity suits your fancy, that’s up to you. Believe what you like and leave it at that and everyone’s happy, right?
Religions (and, thankfully, not all of them) mandate that their followers “spread the word.” This rears its ugly head in a multitude of ways from Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses canvassing neighborhoods knocking on doors and passing out “literature” to much more violent methods, such as the Crusades. Sure it’s easy to dismiss something like that by saying “but that was a long time ago. We’re so much more enlightened now.” And that may be ture most of the time, but let’s not forget that flying airplanes into buildings on September 11, 2001 was nothing if not a faith-based initiative.
Religion is designed to spread like a virus consuming everything in its path. Believers don’t just believe and let everyone else get on with their lives. They take their beliefs and try to create legislation based on them. I had a Sunday School teacher once tell the class (I was about fifteen or sixteen at the time I believe) that the “secular world” had declared a “war on Christianity.” She used the following example, “Did you know that it used to be illegal in this country for a business to be open on Sunday? That’s not true anymore. Tell me there’s not a war on Christianity.” She was referring to archaic “blue laws” that did, indeed, make it illegal to conduct many types of business on the “Lord’s Day.”
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com defines “Blue Law” as “A state or local law that prohibits commercial activities on Sunday.” The site goes on to explain that, “Blue laws have been part of U.S. Legal History since the colonial period. These laws, which today are usually referred to as Sunday closing laws, prohibit certain types of commercial activity on Sundays. Originally these laws were directed at personal activities regarded as moral offenses, such as gambling or the consumption of alcohol. In the nineteenth century, however, state and local governments passed laws that forbade businesses from operating on Sunday. Although these laws were clearly based on Christian beliefs, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that they do not violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Many blue laws have been repealed since the 1960s, but some laws that ban the sale of alcohol on Sunday remain in force.”
I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. Its not so surprising that we really don’t have any “blue laws” on the books here that I am aware of, but in Phoenix, AZ where I grew up, it is (or was, I don’t know if it still is) illegal to sell alcohol between 1 am and 6 am Monday through Saturday and 1 am and 10 am on Sunday. Why can’t I buy a beer at 9 am on Sunday in Phoenix? It makes god sad.
Let me say for the record here and now what I wanted to say to that moronic Sunday School teacher all those years ago. Not making your religious beliefs the law of the land is not an affront to your religion. It is not an attack on your personal beliefs. Perhaps believers would understand it better if, perhaps, McDonald’s was outlawed based on the Hindu belief that cattle are sacred animals? Or maybe to appease Jews and Islamic people one should be required to obtain a license to purchase bacon? What about an edict stating the legend “In Goddess We Trust” must be added to all US money in order to make Wiccans happy?
Still, I am again digressing from the point, as I so often do. Just WHY am I an atheist? I guess the easiest answer is that I don’t believe in anything I can’t see or touch or that hasn’t been proven. Now theists are trained to respond to a statement like that with something like, “Do you believe in oxygen? You can’t see that. You can’t touch that, I know they’re trained in this way because I was trained that way when I was a teenager. It’s what they call in the sales world “overcoming objections.” Christians hold their own form of sales training meetings; seminars, if you will. This is where they’re taught to become “fishers of men.” Like any good salespeople, they are taught to present their case (their “pitch” if you will) and to then listen to their mark for any objections to what they’re hawking. They’re trained with pat answers to overcome these, again, just like a salesman. It’s really pretty obscene when you think about it in those terms. Because, unlike the Kirby vacuum man, what they’re selling is intangible and ultimately useless. Its fairy dust, rainbows and dreams, mana from heaven. In short, its complete bullshit.
I suppose that the best answer to my question “why am I an atheist?” is that I find religion to be, on the whole, nothing short of evil. Christianity in particular disgusts me with its doctrine of Original Sin, teaching us all that we are inherently evil and worthless just for being born. We didn’t do anything to earn this curse, however. We are deemed worthless because of something that was done millennia ago.
Makes perfect sense.
Additionally, religion encourages and even requires the indoctrination of young minds. “Get ’em while they’re young, people,” urges Cardinal Glick (George Carlin) in the Kevin Smith film Dogma. It also makes perfect sense. If you’d never heard the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Whale, David and Goliath or the Virgin Birth until you were an adult, would you have ever bought a word of them? Kids, on the other hand, will believe any line of shit you care to feed them. It works so well with the whole Santa Claus thing, after all.
Religion is used to manipulate people. The best example of this in modern times is probably to be found (in of all places) on Facebook. Tell me you don’t share the disgust I feel when I see images with the legends “Like for Jesus or keep scrolling for the Devil.” or the really disgusting one that features a limbless infant with the words “1 like = 1 pray…” as if all the heartfelt prayers in the world are ever going to return that child’s arms and legs. People putting this shit out there are worse, in my opinion, than the greediest televangelist ever. Seriously, they make assholes like Jim Bakker and Paul Crouch look like good people.
Religion seeks to limit scientific and social advances. Think about it. When Gallello had the idea that perhaps the Earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around, who took issue with it? The church. Who today is doing everything they can to prevent marriage equality from becoming a reality every chance they get? The religious right.
And why is it that atheists are the least represented minority group in American legislature? Surely there are atheists in congress, right? I’m sure there are, but they’re certainly not speaking up about it. A January 14, 2013 article on The Huffington post stated, “The religious makeup of the Congress sworn in January 3 is virtually unchanged from the infamously gridlocked 112th Congress. There are 482 Christians, 33 Jews, 3 Buddhists, 2 Muslims, 1 Hindu, 1 Unitarian Universalist, and 1 open religiously unaffiliated member.” One. Open. Religiously. Unaffiliated. Member. Out of 523 people. One. What. The. Actual. Fuck?
An atheist can’t admit to being atheist in this country if he wants to get elected to office.
The automatic assumption seems to be that if someone is a Christian they instantly hold the moral high ground while an atheist must have no morality at all. Never mind that no atheist ever said that a black man and a white woman should not be permitted to marry. No atheist ever had an invisible friend tell him to sacrifice his own son. No atheist ever said it was against some divine law for same-sex couples to wed.
If I’m flipping through the Yellow pages (okay so its 20 years ago) and I’m looking for a plumber or an electrician or a fucking dog groomer and I see an ad with that little fucking ichthus fish on it, silently beckoning me with its unspoken message of , :choose us… we’re good Christian people…,” I’m bypassing that ad instantly. Fuck those people. Give me the ad with the Satanic Leviathan symbol instead. Them I know I can trust.
Did I ever actually answer the question? Probably not, but I feel better now.