Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why I am a shitty Atheist

So I have been reading some of my fellow atheists blogs and lately a lot of the rumbling has been about whether or not an atheist should be insulted when a Christian friend, family member or even stranger makes the statement, "I am praying for you".  Well the consensus seems to be that it is highly insulting and that any atheist worth his or her salt should be insulted.  I scratched my head at this...why?

It is not the first time that I have read one of the blogs of my fellow atheist bloggers and scratched my head.  I think it is important to think for ourselves so I do not think that is a disrespect to them.  I hold a lot of respect for most of these guys and follow their blogs fairly regularly, at least as much as my hectic life allows me to anymore.  I am not detracting from their blogs or their views in any way, just I don't necessarily agree with them all the time.  Hell, when I used to be a Baptist Pastor I didn't agree with my fellow Baptists all the time so why should it be any different now?! lol

Before I go any further in this blog I want to make something clear. I am an atheist.  I say those words unequivocally.  I don't blare it from the roof top, I am not a "Atheist Manifest" thumper, I don't go around trying to convince the world of the "wonders" of logic, reason and atheism but I am still very firmly set in what I hold as truth and facts.  My family and I have discussions all the time.  Not just my family that I grew up with but the family I have become a part of and already acknowledge as my own.  Especially in the family I am marrying into, we have had a few discussions on the subject...and I am sure there are many more ahead of us because it is what we do, we discuss we pursue knowledge and we enjoy the exchanging of ideas and ideology.  But at the end of the day, I am without a doubt an atheist.

Now you may say (with a condescending and knowing smile) what exactly do you mean by that Julio?  What do you believe that makes you an atheist.  Simply put I do not believe in superstition, I do not accept the concept of faith.  Evidence that cannot be seen is not evidence at all and there is no substance in hope therefore I reject faith based on the definition the Bible gives for it. (Hebrews 11:1)  I reject the existence of God, Allah, The Great Spirit, the Universal Consciousness and any other form of unproven and unsubstantiated deity or superstition.  I do not believe in the existence of heaven or hell or anything in between.  I do not expect others to agree with me, I do not force my views on others...I just hold these things as firmly set in my mind.

Having said that I find that there are a few things that I just seem to be different from my fellow atheists and I am sure many of them will disagree with me, as is their prerogative and right...a right I respect.  Here are just three things...

(1) "I am praying for you"

When a Christian tells me that they are praying for me I am not instantly insulted.  Especially when a family member or friend tells me this.  Now, allow me to clarify, I am not saying I am NEVER insulted.  I do understand that for some it is a condescending way of telling me that I am wrong, they are right and it is just too sad that I am so friggen stupid that I just can't see the nose on my face.  I agree that there are many people out there that when they say that they are telling me I am going to fry in hell and it is just too bad I won't make it to heaven with them.  But that is not always the case.

Understand that Christians, over the years, develop a manner of speech.  They don't know how to "think outside the book" for lack of a better way of putting it.  When my close family members look at me and say, "Julio, I am praying for you" I understand that they are really saying, 'Julio, I love you.  I don't understand you and I don't agree with you.  I am scared of what will happen to you if you are wrong.  I don't know how to change your mind so I will do the only thing I know how to do...pray for you."  Now if I want to, I CAN take insult in this.  Sure I can.  But I am bigger than that.  I realize that behind it is love.  That love may be accompanied by a lack of understanding and a lack of knowing what else to do or say, but it is still love.  I choose to see that love rather than to see the insult.

Now I will tell you, I have not always seen it that way.  I have always been one to jump to the defense on it.  But a recent conversation with somebody I love and respect a lot brought it back into perspective for me.  What am I going to do when I am forced to stand next to the casket of my mom or my dad?  Am I going to sit there thinking "You old (expletive) you never could quite leave it alone could you?"  Or am I going to see the face of a man or woman that loved me, and suffered more often than not silently, because in the doctrine they firmly believe in I was going to be forever lost to them.  That does not mean I have to agree with them.  That does not mean I have to even pretend I agree with them.  But it does mean that I CHOOSE to see their intent...not what insult I can take away from it.

(2) A world without religion

There are those that often talk about a world without religion.  I myself have often referred to a world without religion.  One of my favorite posters is the one with a picture of the twin towers and it says, "Imagine a world without religion".  This may sound good, this may sound nice but first it is a pipe dream and second it is a dangerous dream.  Allow me to elaborate.

First, I want to set some ground work for my argument.  I know that Atheists and Christians alike will disagree with me on this but humor me.  People on a whole are in need of some sort of control.  This control is manifested in a three strand "rope".  If you take a single strand it is easily broken and control is lost.  The three strands are: Government, Religion and Self-Interest.  If you have only Government you have the failed Soviet Union, if you have only Religion you have theocratic states like Iran if you have only self interest you have anarchy and chaos.  The three work together to form a society that we all can live in.  When you have too much of one you have trouble as evidenced in the ebb and flow of our own culture here in the USA.

I used to think it would be a perfect world if everybody followed logic, rejected superstition and tossed off the chains of religion.  But look around you, for every person you know that scares the "hell" out of you with their religion, imagine what they would be like WITHOUT their religion.  there are many former drunks, drug addicts and violent criminals that "found" faith (or it found them) and it gave them purpose and direction.  While you and I, as atheists, may look at them and smirk at their "simple mindedness", imagine how this world would be without this "coping mechanism".  Imagine how busy psychiatrists would be if people didn't have their own personal shrink to talk to every night in their prayers before bed.  I am not saying that it is ideal, I am not saying that I agree with it.  I am, however, saying that the history of the world proves without a doubt that as a whole society needs something that they can use as a guiding force, something that gives their existence meaning and something that comforts them.

Not only does religion serve as a coping mechanism and as a comfort for people of all races and cultures but it also serves as a control mechanism.  Constantine understood this.  I have always said that one of the most brilliant men in the history of the world was Constantine.  Rather than allowing the Roman Empire to dissolve and disappear he reinvented it.  He realized that where the sword had failed religion would succeed.  Men are anxious to die on the edge of a sword to become martyrs and heroes but to control the "souls" of men is to truly control men.  Therein lies the secret to true control.  Constantine understood this truth.

This system of control is evident in the world we live.  Look at the religious right.  Have you never noticed that  all the issues that are of the greatest importance are in one way or another sexual in nature.  Abortion, gay rights and sex education in schools and in our culture as a whole.  This is the most intimate part of who we are and if the church can control us where we are truly ourselves then they control us in every other aspect of our lives.  Not only that but let us face it, we live in a world of political correctness and it is behind closed doors, in the most intimate moments that our "souls" the essence of who we are, as it were, is truly open, revealed and most vulnerable.  These are also matters (sexual issues) that affect the future of their control.  If we "kill babies" and have intimacy that does not produce more children then it is only a matter of time till there is no one else to control.  Studies have suggested that part of the preservation of the species is tied to religion since religion throughout the history of mankind has in one way or another had some tie to sexuality and propagation.

The conclusion of this argument is simply put that a world without religion would be a world that is confused a world that would lack direction and a world lost in chaos and anarchy.  If we think a world with religion is bad, imagine a world in which the basest of man's instincts and urges go unchecked.  We make the assumption that if there were no religion man would become advanced and would become more logical and would live together in harmony and the world would be a better place.  There is no more evidence to support this pipe dream, this mythological utopia then there is to support the existence in a deity of any kind.  As a matter of fact, the evidence of man's history shows that even with religion those basest of urges have come out, have shown what destruction and havoc they can wreck.  In a world with religion man must form a religion that justifies his violence often working his way through contradictions and self conflicting conclusions. Imagine a world where such moral wrangling were unnecessary due to the absence of religion. This is not a world I would want or wish to live in or have my children raised in.  So in some convoluted logic, religion does serve a purpose if nothing more than to provide a coping and control mechanism for the preservation of the species as a whole.  There are those of us in this species that see religion for what it is and choose to reject religion while still maintaining the rules of society, but not everybody would do so, and if it takes my neighbor thinking he will burn in hell if he kills my children for screaming loudly while playing outside in the yard, then so be all means...PLEASE...believe in whatever God that keeps you from crossing that line.

(3) Atheist Proselyte-rs

Due to the arguments above I do not go out and actively try to convert people to atheism.  I worked with a man that had not had a drink in 15 years.  Before that he had lost everything.  Went from a man with money to a bum on the street due to alcoholism.  He "found" god and it changed him.  His "faith in God" was his coping mechanism that changed the direction of his life and allowed him to be a manager of a local retail store, have a happy marriage and a house of his own.  What right do I have to rip out what was, for him, his foundation, his coping mechanism?  Tear away what served as the building blocks for a new life and his life falls apart again, how is that conducive to anything good or positive?  How is that a good thing?  I cannot find a justifiable reason in doing that.

Most atheists I know are ok with their kids believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and that ghosts haunt the world on Halloween because it makes their kids happy to live in those fantasies.  Most of us would not sit down and tell our three year olds that their imaginary friend  is just that and that they need to grow up and deal in facts and realities.  If you do then you are no different than the world I grew up in where Santa Claus took away from the "truth" of the Birth of Jesus Christ and the Easter Bunny led children away from the "truth" of Christ's resurrection.  Generally we allow it because it makes their world bright and beautiful.  In that same line of reasoning, if there is no truth to the fairy tale of God, Creation, Heaven and Hell and it makes these peoples' life ordered, happy and complete then why should we be the ones to rip that away from them?

How do I deal with people who have questions about my lack of faith?  What do I do to leave this door open for my children?  I teach my children to think for themselves, to question everything and to not let anybody ever tell them what they have to believe and to never allow anybody to stifle their curiosity.  I teach them that nothing is as it seems and that they cannot allow their religious and political beliefs to be established by others without them researching and studying for themselves.  If after they do that, they still choose to believe in God, then so be it, that is their choice and I respect that choice.  But if they demand facts, they demand reason, they demand logic...then who knows where that road will lead them.

So in reply to my atheist friends and fellow bloggers, I respect your views on these matters, but I have to respectfully disagree with you.  What is good for you and is good for me may not be good for everybody.  To those that are of faith, I apologize if these arguments come across as arrogant and condescending, that is not my point or my desire.  I respect your views on faith and religion, and respect your choices...these are merely mine..and mine alone.


Will Shealy said...

Okay, so I agree with many of these points. I do have to point out though (as you knew I would) that I cannot see, prove, or quantify love. And yet, you acknowledge it. Just sayin'


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