Friday, March 25, 2011

Are Atheists Angry?

Note: The following post will use the broad terms of "Atheists" and "Christians".  I do not presume to speak for everybody in either of those groups.  When I speak of "atheists" I speak first of myself and those that I know with the understanding that there are exceptions to every rule.  The same goes for when I speak of "Christians", I speak of my personal experiences as a former Christian and my experience with other Christians.  Do not take the broad statement personal.  If the shoe fits wear it, if not then be a grown up and put the shoe back. Don't get your feelings hurt by insisting on personalizing statements.

I was reading an article on yahoo about a pastor that got fired for supporting a book (Love Wins by Rob Bell, check out the YouTube video for it here) in which the author contends that not so many people are going to go to hell and that Christians are not such an elite crowd after all.  As expected the outcry is that, of course, there is only one way to heaven and everybody else is going to hell.  A hell that is at the center of the earth, filled with everybody that has gone there over thousands of years...occupancy must be pretty tight there...

Anyway, as I watched the you tube video for the promotion of his book, I was struck by his example of the art expo at his church where somebody had attached a note to a painting of Gandhi saying "Reality check: He is in hell".  And I couldn't help but think to myself, "And people think ATHEISTS are angry!"  Let's face it, one of the more common complaints you will find as you read across the internet and talk to people about atheism is, "Why are atheists so angry?"  or "Why do you hate God?".  Another aspect of this is that I often run into people who seem to think that I am an atheist because I got angry at God, or angry at church, or angry at religion or angry at...heck...take your pick...either way it always seems to come back to anger. So let me just point out a few thoughts on the subject...

I don't hate God

It is a simple logical statement.  I cannot hate someone that I do not believe exists.  Hate acknowledges existence.  I am not angry at God anymore than I am angry at Santa Claus for not giving me a Mercedes Benz for Christmas (or at the very least getting it confused and giving me a buxom blonde named Mercedes with a penchant for dancing and nudity!)  I cannot be angry at an imaginary person anymore than I can talk to them and expect a reply or assistance of any kind.  The simple fact is that to hate or be angry at God would be an acknowledgement of his existence.

Was I ever angry at God?  Absolutely.  Those that know me, know that I went through a journey to reach the point I am at today.  I was not always an atheist. I was raised in a Pastor's home, was trained as an old fashioned Baptist preacher, began preaching when I was only thirteen years old and was a pastor and taught theology in a Bible institute.  When my daughter died it was the catalyst for me to begin questioning things I had always accepted as truth.  I was out of state at the time of her untimely death and when she died I remember the very first question that started me on this quest for truth that led me to atheism: If you cannot trust God to protect your family when you are off doing his work then who can you trust?  That was the first time that I dared to question every thing that had been drilled into me from childhood.  Over the next few days I could make a fortune with a dime for every time I heard the words, "God knows what is best.  God knows what he is doing.  God has a plan.  She is in a better place." The platitudes began to disgust me and irritate me.  So yes I freely admit that my journey that led to athesim began with anger at a being that I firmly believed in at the time.  But the quest that began in anger developed over time into a quest for knowledge and understanding.  That journey began with anger, traversed through agnosticism and eventually led me to athesim.  I am today at peace with my daughter's death, though there are still times I blame myself for it...but ironically I do not blame God.  Once again, I cannot blame somebody that does not exist.

Now there are those that would read this and will just condescendingly shake their head and say, "Tsk, tsk, he is just in denial and is really and truly still angry."  My response to them is that it is easier for them to assume I am angry rather than to confront the obvious and prevalent lack of logic, truth and facts in which they have immersed themselves.  I understand that some might find that offensive and I apologize, but please understand, I am equally offended by the dismissal of what I have worked hard to understand and the conclusions I have reached as some simple temper tantrum of a child rebelling against a supposed benevolent father. 

Is it Atheists that are angry? here is a thought.  Let us compare for a moment Christians and Atheists. Compare their beliefs and practices.  Now mind you, as I said in my disclaimer, this is by no means a rule on all Christians OR Atheists.  This is my observations and personal experiences.  Yours may be different and you are absolutely entitled to them.  I will not judge you and your views, please return that respect.

Christians believe that, according to their sacred book, the Bible, all people are born sinners , born flawed due to a disobedient act made by the very first humans that were created by a divine being.  This divine being told them to not eat a fruit that he placed in their midst giving them access to it but forbidding them to touch it.  Now these two beings did not know that eating was do I know this?  Well, the fruit was the knowledge of good and evil, so without eating it they could not know what was right and what was wrong, so they did not know that eating this forbidden fruit was wrong until they actually ate it and because they ate it they not only condemned themselves but everybody that was born after them.

So after condemning all of us, this divine being sent his only son, when he is divine, omnipotent and all knowing and could have or make as many son's as he wants to die so as to save the other creatures he had already created.  Now here it gets tricky because this son is him and he is his son...they are one and the same yet they are different people, so in essence he is killing himself, but...not killing himself but rather his son.  This death is deemed necessary so as to provide a path of redemption for the victim of the farce of justice that occurred in the garden.  So now we have a path to freedom and redemption and all you have to do is believe in this sacrifice and accept Christ as your savior and be born again, or is it be good and follow the rules? or is it be baptized? or is...well frankly it all gets a little confusing at this point but you have to get it right because to NOT get it right will get you into the lake of fire, or hell, forever and ever.

Now this exclusive club that gets to go to heaven, well, certain behavior is demanded of them.  Live right (which is open to interpretation), be good (also open to interpretation) and love everybody (unfortunately also open to interpretation and argument).  In the country we live in, these chosen few, get to decide what is right or wrong, they get to choose what is absolute truth and what is not, they get to decide the behavior that should be required and what gets into heaven and does not.  There is also a need to go to other places, other cultures and other religions (that have their own set of rules and requirements to get into their exclusive club) and convince them that their way to this divine being is wrong and therefore they must convert to the Christian way of getting to heaven.

This is a system built on fear, exclusivity, control and a need to force others into a conversion to their own point of view and religious order.

As an atheist I reject the myth of the fall of man and believe that I am responsible for my own behavior, not some ancient curse on a person that was guilty of a crime that they did not even know was a crime till it was too late.  I reject that I must do what is right in order to avoid eternal damnation and instead believe that I do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do.  I do not feel the need to convert people to my point of view and respect the right of others to hold onto their beliefs without me judging them and only demand the same respect in return.  I do not feel the need to go around telling people they are going to hell and that God loves them but will send them to hell...which is a contradiction in and of itself. 

In the final analysis I would argue that there are more angry Christians then there are angry atheists.  What other organization in the world could tell every body to go to get paid to do it?  I would argue that I am more at peace with myself now then I ever was as a Christian.  As a Christian I spent more time worrying if I was meeting up to the expectations of a being I could not see, could not prove with facts that he could see me, judge me or even help me.  I spent more time trying to correct others and help them be the best Christian that they could be.  I find myself at peace with the world around me.  I am a father, husband, employee and friend.  I strive to be the best father, husband, employee and friend that I can be.  I look within me and I realistically note the areas I need to improve in and I strive to make those changes that will make me a better father, husband, employee and friend.

In conclusion, it is sad that there are those that assume because atheists do not believe in their god myths that we are angry at them, at their god and even worse their country.  By that I mean that there are some that would argue that atheists hate America because they hate God.  Well having dismissed the myth that atheists hate god, I further add that loving my country does NOT require a belief in God.  I do not hate God.  I do not hate America. I do not hate Christians.  I am not out to persecute Christians or take away their rights.  I do not wish to silence them.  I do believe in separation of church and state and do not believe that Christians should be given the preference that they are given in this country but I do not begrudge their right to freedom of religion and only ask that they respect my right to freedom from religion.



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