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.