I very recently came out of the closet as an atheist. The transformation in my life since removing the disturbing emotional psychobabble I carried around for most of my life has been nothing short of astounding. After being raised as a Catholic, and being emotionally and verbally abused by nuns, I became what I call a religious dropout. I tried to ignore religion; be indifferent towards it. But in my mind I carried the ghostly specter of heaven and hell, the twelve stations of the cross, the ever watchful mind reading power of the Almighty and the tempting, cunning and evil power of the devil himself.
I am a methodical person by nature, a systematic and organized thinker. It’s just the way my mind is wired I suppose as I have had no particular formal training that would explain my comfort with spreadsheets, time management and task prioritization. I don’t know what took me so long to finally take the approach I take to other problems in my life, but I can only say that I forced religion into the ‘Annoying bullshit I don’t want to deal with’ category for decades.
Now that I have vanquished the dark cloud of doom from the dark recesses of my brain, I feel absolutely liberated, confident and fearless. It’s like a new world has opened before me and I’m free to learn as much as I want about the natural world and the wonders of life. My interest in science, literature, and the historical battles fought by the brave men and women who stood up to the power of the church and other religious leaders is stronger than ever before.
So I am still a fresh, bright-eyed atheist who wants to share what he has learned and help others find their way out of the superstitious morass they were most likely indoctrinated into as a child. Recently I have read people complain on some blogs and on Twitter that they are tired of listening to the atheists go on and on with their arguments against religion. These complaints come from alleged atheists as well as the faithful and those in between. They claim to be annoyed by the attempts to convert the faithful to atheism and have even called atheism a “faith based position” as much as religion is. Some take a lackadaisical position and claim they are above the fray. Live and let live why don’t you, let people believe what they want and get off your high horse.
I was quite taken aback by these statements at first. I reflected on my own writing and the type of discussions I’ve been involved in since making the transition from angry ex-Catholic to free, clear thinking atheist. I don’t feel atheism is a faith-based anything. It’s not even a belief system. It’s an acceptance of life on life’s terms. An acknowledgement of reality! But could I be guilty of annoying people with my excited attempts to educate and enlighten?
After some careful consideration, here’s what I’ve decided. Those who claim to be agnostic or atheist but can’t be bothered with all the debating and find it rather annoying should revisit history. Religion has for thousands of years spread its message through violent suppression of the resistors, and brainwashing of the credulous. Christianity in particular was spread literally at the point of a sword with torture, detention, lynching and burning at the stake as the price of heresy and refusal to convert. The Catholic Church has tried to suppress scientific discovery through violent persecution of those brave and brilliant human beings who were starting to discover the truth of the world around us. Galileo spent the last years of his life under house arrest by the Church for the unthinkable crime of saying he thought the Earth revolved around the Sun. It took the Catholic Church over 300 years to apologize.
In the United States, the only democratic nation on Earth where establishment of religion is specifically prohibited in our founding legal documents, we continue to fight the attempted spread of religion into our schools, our government and our laws. Today, in 2011, our legislators sponsor bills to insert the teaching of a creationist “theory” of life on Earth into our classrooms. Today, in 2011, the GOP House Judiciary Committee passed a bill to put In God we Trust on 9,000 Federal buildings. Today, in 2011, Christians are building a Noah’s Ark museum that will feature a full-sized Ark showing how Noah kept two of every animal species on Earth with his family on the Ark. It is being built in Kentucky and the state government, in fairly obvious violation of the Constitution, is assisting with tax breaks. So our children will be taught that a 600 year old man built a big boat and walked two of every species of animal on the planet into his boat so that an invisible, mind reading celestial dictator could murder every other living thing on Earth in a homicidal rage because we were wicked. They will be taught that the millions of species of animals on Earth today and the almost 7 billion people all came from Noah’s family and the animals he kept on the Ark. So the religious don’t just practice their religion privately, or in churches, chapels and other houses of worship.
I should not be surprised by the appalling lackadaisical attitude toward all of this. After all, the majority of our electorate doesn’t even bother to vote, finding politics just too annoying and bothersome. So it is to be expected that a comparable approach and attitude will be taken toward the battle that continues to rage between those who support the Constitution and a secular system of government, and those would put prayer in the classroom, in the courthouses and state houses, and fight against the progress and knowledge that modern science brings us.
On an individual basis, I have no desire to debate with The Convinced, but I will not shy away from that debate if they seek me out. My only goal in a one on one setting would be to help the person who is struggling with their religious identity, forced upon them by their parents at a young age, and looking to get out. I was that person and if I can help even one other human being shake off the chains of superstitious nonsense, it would be incredibly worthwhile.
On a larger scale though, I will not sit quietly by while others do the heavy lifting and fight against the attempted encroachment into the public square by religious leaders and those they enlist. I will raise awareness, join communities and assist where I can.
So to my fellow non-believers, if you choose to ignore the conflict so be it. But don’t expect me to, even if you find it all mildly irritating. To The Convinced who argue atheists are just as bad as you are, or that we’re part of a faith-based belief system just like you are, that we are trying to convert people just like you are, that we seem awfully angry about something we claim not to believe in, well screw you and the Inquisition you rode in on. If you want to teach your children they live in the Ultimate Totalitarian Regime, with an undetectable, invisible Dictator in the sky who watches them from cradle to grave, who knows and tracks their every thought and who upon death will judge them and either reward them with an eternity of sitting on a cloud worshipping Him or punish them with an eternity of suffering on a fiery lake of burning sulfur, that’s your business. But if you try to teach that shit to my children, well now it’s my business.
Having to read your stoft was very disapointing and boring to me. I can’t discuss with people that only see a part of the puzzle. Find all the pieces, put them together and come back and tell me what you saw. People that pick points out to underline their opinion is very old age. The people you are criticising and trying to turn into atheist is proberly more clever than you are….love alway….Sharon.
First of all, I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I’m not sure which pieces of the puzzle you think I am missing, but I’m happy to discuss it with you. In regards to picking out points to support my position, or my opinion if you prefer, this is the only way to intelligently debate a subject. If my opinions have no facts behind them, they are nothing more than letters on a page.
You clearly miss my point. I am not trying to turn anyone into an atheist. I don’t care what anyone personally believes. I am trying to keep religion out of the public square in the United States because that’s the law here. I make no claims of being clever and I’m confident there are multitudes of people who are superior to me in every sense. If you compare yourself to others you will always find yourself lacking. I only try to do the right thing, which is sometimes clear and obvious, other times more difficult to see.
Hi, I was searching for something on Google and stumbled across you post “As a Christian, here’s what I believe”. I found it very entertaining and thought it did a great job portraying how strange and absurd the tenets of the Christian faith are. I also enjoyed this post and I am glad that you feel driven to blog about your beliefs and discuss them with others.
I have never really had any concrete belief in religion, I was exposed to it for a very fleeting time in my childhood and teenage years, but not long enough for it to do any lasting damage. I have a question for you, but I should give some background so you know why I’m asking.
From my teenage years through my mid-30’s I hung out all the time with the same group of friends. I never really thought of them as religious until we got older and I’m sure they never really thought of me as atheist, as matter of fact, the subject of faith or lack thereof is something we just never discussed. As we did age though it seemed that almost every time we gathered I would at one point or another be bagged on for my lack of faith. I really didn’t care, I found it amusing, and any discussions it sparked were civil and thought-provoking. One evening at a camp-out after most people had crashed already and there was just me and two others left around the campfire, my one friend complained about a man that was suing to have the words ‘under god’ taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance because he didn’t want his daughter to have to pledge allegiance to someone else’s god while pledging it to her country’s flag. I said that I could understand his point of view and all of the sudden the discussion escalated into an argument, and then a shouting match and ended with my friend shouting in my face that if I don’t believe in god (presumably his) then I should leave the country, after which he got on his four-wheeler and sped off.
I was floored. I couldn’t believe that he actually believed I should leave the country. We were on his property, I was angry and wanted to leave very badly, but my truck was blocked in by a bunch of people who were sleeping and I didn’t want make a big scene, so in the morning I apologized and so did he and I left a short while after.
He has apologized a couple of times about that, but things have never and will never be the same between us. I can not truly be friends with someone so intolerant of other’s beliefs. One of the things that came up before our discussion went south was that they were in the middle of badgering me about why I don’t believe like they always did and it occured to me that I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. At a later date I brought this up to the third friend who had been by the campfire. I pointed out how they goaded me to believe as if that was something I was capable of. So I said to him, ‘Pick anything you don’t believe in.’
he said, ‘OK’
and I said, ‘OK, now start believing in it.’
It’s impossible. This seemed to really drive home the point for him. They always acted as if my disbelief were some sort of personal choice that I made to be different or provocative. He has never tried to indoctrinate me since.
So my question to you is, before you ‘came out’ as an atheist did you walk around defending your faith and arguing with others, all while not acutally believing yourself? And, if so, why? Is it akin to the closeted homosexual who rails against homosexuals. I’m asking because the more I think about it, the more I’ve come to the decision that all those friends who would argue with me weren’t trying to convince me, they were trying convince themselves. I don’t think they believe, because how could any reasonable person study these things and say, yep that’s truth right there!
One last note to anyone reading this, religious or otherwise, the only HONEST answer anyone can give to questions about eternity/the afterlife is, “I don’t know.” You can say that you ‘would like to believe’ or that you ‘hope’, but you cannot honestly say you KNOW. That is true for everyone, you just have to find the balls to admit it.
Thanks for sharing Matt. To answer your question, I was never a defender of the faith. I went to Catholic School through the 8th grade and it was a pretty miserable experience. I left Catholicism behind when I went to a public High School.
To be fair, I do recall a few instances where, when some Jewish friends and family were discussing their faith, and mocking the Christians, I spoke up not to defend Christianity, but to apply the same questions to them about Judaism.
It is difficult to clarify what I believed in for all the years before I came out. I don’t think I believed in anything. When the topic would come up, I was typically the one to call BS on the whole thing, and walk away, but I didn’t have the facts. I didn’t understand the arguments. I didn’t want to.
Having kids makes a difference. We did not raise our kids with religion, although my wife tried to give them some education in Judaism. It almost forces you to study, to understand, and to prepare to answer their questions. When your kid comes home from school crying that Halloween is the devil’s holiday and they’re afraid to dress up, you get very motivated to learn and then teach.