This is one of the first essays I ever wrote that wasn’t for school. I’m not sure when exactly it first showed up on my old website, but I’d estimate around 2002 or so. My views have certainly developed more over time, but this was a good introduction to what would come later.
What is it that draws us to believe in god? Is it the promise of eternal life? Is it the comforting feeling of someone always watching over us? Is it the fear of death, or the fear of hell? Is it a way to rationalize the events around us, both good and bad? Or is it simply an easy way to explain the ultimate questions, such as how the universe was created and why?
Any way you look at it, you can’t deny the overwhelming power the word “god” holds. People kill for their god. People die for their god. People will do just about anything in the name of their god. When it comes down to the bare bones reality of god, however, belief in god is pure human logic. Logic, by definition, is “a method of reasoning or argumentation” – it doesn’t necessarily have to be sound logic, however. A person reasons that the Bible, for example, must be true because it has been believed to be so for thousands of years – therefore, it is to them and that is proof enough that there is a god. Their logic dictates their behavior, and subsequently, their way of thinking.
Unfortunately, reality is not decided by our logic, and logic is not always founded in truth. Just because you believe wholeheartedly in something does not necessarily make it so – therefore, the idea of god is completely subjective. If one can so easily reason that there is a god, why is it so hard to accept that there are people out there who have reasoned otherwise? Logic may be flawed in many cases, but it is our most useful tool in analyzing data and evaluating it objectively; that is, in reality. And if you’re going to evaluate something rationally, you must work, of course, within the confines of reality. Does the existence of a higher power fit into the limitations of reality?
I have been, and always will be, a realist. I take things for what they are, how they are, and I accept this information and move on. I cannot and will not accept, however, information that is not based in scientifically established truth or information that is just forced upon me without my consent. This is how I was abruptly introduced to the world of Christianity – my head submerged in a bowl of water, and my beliefs and life structure decided for me before I could even articulate my own name. I wasn’t given the choice to think for myself and come to my own conclusions as I grew up, to decide if my parents’ religion was the one for me, or if religion was for me at all. My struggle through parochial grade school and my later years in a public high school, where I was free to do a little educating of my own, led me to become who I am today – a secure and established atheist. In truth, I was an atheist all my life – I just had to wade through all the indoctrination, brainwashing, and cultural and religious taboos that are attached with this lifestyle to be able to fully embrace that aspect of myself and be open about it. And I couldn’t be better off because of it.
Ever since, however, this has also made me become painfully aware of the trials and tribulations atheists must face in today’s world, including the misconceptions, misunderstandings, and close-minded misjudgments formed by those of religious institutions and their followers. This intolerance and injustice cannot and should not be tolerated, especially in a country that supposedly promotes the free exercise of religion and speech and the separation of church and state. Instead, religion has come to dominate almost every aspect of life, even though, statistically, those who consider themselves part of a religious denomination are on the decline.
My purpose in writing this simple essay (none of my arguments are too detailed here) is to examine why this is and give examples of how the general populace’s view of atheism is unfounded and skewed by religious propaganda and bogus assumptions, disproving the common false impressions and conclusions drawn by theists. I also want to delve into the psychology of atheists (or, at least, this atheist) and analyze why we think the way we do in hopes of giving you a better understanding of the atheist mindset and thought process. I am not, in any way, trying to convert you to my way of thinking. I’ll leave those despicable tactics to the Christian missionaries. I only wish to spread understanding and acceptance, and if that causes you to question your own beliefs, so be it.
The first step towards this acceptance and understanding is education, so please read the following with an open mind and good sense of humor. Introductions aside now, let’s start by listing some of the common inaccuracies associated with atheism and some of the more frequently used arguments against atheism and set the record straight on all of them. I’ll also mix in a few FAQ-type queries to prevent a few less smartass e-mails I’ll inevitably receive…
You say god cannot exist because there is no proof, but isn’t it impossible to say that since there is no proof that he doesn’t either?
I would not say that god doesn’t exist simply because there is no proof because that is a logical fallacy. I don’t believe in dragons, for example, yet there is no evidence out there to disprove that dragons exist. But given the circumstances and the sheer lack of true evidence, it is, for me, the easiest conclusion to come to. The god question is basically the same idea. God is something that cannot be tested, measured, or discovered, which is how we, as humans, prove anything. Even those who believe in god use this standard to prove almost everything else. I do not believe that science has all the answers, but look where science was just 60 years ago. An ice pick lobotomy was considered a revolutionary solution to mental illness. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got thousands of years to go (if humanity lasts that long, of course). We don’t even fully understand our own bodies yet and you expect the secrets of the universe’s creation to just plop down in some scientist’s lap? How anyone can cling to same conclusions ancient people did thousands of years ago is beyond me. I think more logical theories than “some really big guy in the sky made us” have blossomed since then.
Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?
How can I fear something that I don’t believe exists? If I cannot buy that there is a big man in the sky, how can I possibly buy that there’s a big guy under the ground, either? Hell and Satan are beliefs that go along with Christianity, not atheism.
But what if you’re wrong?
I could say the same to you. There are so many religions out there that they are too numerous to begin to count, yet almost all of them claim to be the “One True Religion.” If this were so, only one religion’s god could be “right,” and everyone else who had belief in a slightly different god (or no god at all) would burn in that religion’s version of hell. So basically, anyone who follows a religion is taking just as much a chance as the atheists on this one. Good luck to us all, then.
Atheism is a religion, too. It is a belief that god doesn’t exist, just like theism is a belief that god does.
This is one of the worst, but most common misconceptions regarding atheism. Atheism, by definition, is a disbelief, not a belief. Sure, an atheist can say “I believe there is no god,” but it is a different use of the word. (There are multiple uses for many words in the English language.) Semantics is a fascinating little game debaters often play to make the other side appear to be stating something they’re not. This is exactly that, and two can play at this game. Let me revisit my dragon example. If I were to ask a theist if they believed in dragons, they would probably respond, “No, I do not believe in dragons.” (At least I hope so, anyway.) Therefore, does this theist now belong to the “dragons do not exist” religion? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? So does a “god does not exist” religion. You know why? Because there isn’t one. And if you still don’t believe me (there’s that word again), let me put it this way – religions have to have certain characteristics to be considered a religion, correct? I think it could be agreed that some of these characteristics include (besides a belief in a higher power) miracles, the afterlife, supernatural occurrences, use of prayer, rituals, preachers/leaders, holy books and/or scriptures…I could go on and on. My point is atheism includes none of these, so how could it ever be considered a religion? Let’s not kid ourselves.
So how was the universe created without a creator?
Questions like these are usually asked by the type of people who think Darwin was actually claiming that people came from monkeys, but I’ll do my best to humor the ancient logic here. You have to learn to think outside of the box for a minute. When someone suddenly came to the conclusion that the world was round, how long did it take for his theory to be taken seriously? When someone said that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, how long was this idea persecuted? Do I know the exact answer to how this universe came to be? No, but I think I’ve got better ideas than, “A big guy who just always existed came and flicked the light switch on.” This is the same outdated conclusion that peoples of ancient times came to for thousands of years…isn’t it time for a change of ideas? Let’s worry about discovering the little truths before we jump to the conclusions about life’s greatest mystery. And how have we discovered any of those little truths? Through science, not some archaic, infantile “big man with a long, gray beard” fantasy, and modernizing god by making him some “all-knowing glowing orb of power” or some New Age crap isn’t making him any more real. We’re no closer to an answer than the Aztecs were. Let’s get with the times, people.
There are more people who believe in god than do not. Can so many people be wrong?
Absolutely. A lot of people believed the earth was flat, too. Considering there are so many different religions with their own version of god, how can you prove that yours is any better or more “correct” than the next? (Even the Catholics and the Protestants can’t get along, and they basically have the same beliefs!) Besides, religion isn’t a good thing simply because of the sheer number of people who believe in it. A disease isn’t a good thing because of the number of people who have contracted it, after all. Also, as a side note to the uninformed, there are 14 million professed atheists and agnostics in the United States alone, which is more than all the Mormons, Jews, and Muslims you’ll find here, so we’re more common than you may think. Sure, there are more followers of organized religions in the world than us, but might does not make right, as they say.
Atheists are immoral because they have no religion or beliefs.
Definitely not true. Despite what many religious leaders claim, one can decide for themselves what is moral and what is not without the help of religion. Someone human was responsible for the founding of every religion – Muhammad founded Islam, Jesus’ followers (apparently St. Paul) founded Christianity, etc. Some group had to sit down and agree on the beliefs, rules, and ideas that shaped their religion, so, therefore, their morals were based on what they believed to be their god’s will and what would best serve as worship to that god. Atheists, such as myself, do the same thing all these thousands of years later. I know it is wrong to kill, to steal, to rape, and basically any other crime you can think of because these infringe on the rights of others. I don’t need a god to inform me of that obvious notion, and at least I do what is right because I believe it is right, not because I fear that my sins will yield punishment in the afterlife. “Do unto others…” are wise words, but is it an original thought? It’s more of a basic, logical instinct than anything else, and The Bible certainly wasn’t the first place it appeared.
Atheists are angry people.
That is a funny statement, especially when it comes from fundamentalists who stage more angry protests over music, movies, abortion, and anything else they deem sinful than any atheist group I can think of. Really, the only time we’re angry is when someone pushes his or her beliefs on us rather than just accepting us and co-existing. Many theists have no problem telling atheists that they’re going to burn in hell for all eternity, yet get terribly angry and offended when an atheist expresses their opinion on the matter. Wouldn’t it piss you off if you were told day after day that your life structure needs to be altered completely or you will face everlasting pain, agony, and misery? Atheists should be angry purely for that reason alone, but really all we want is to be left alone. Sure, I’ve met a few bitter bastards who have been known to lash out at theists completely unprovoked, but can you blame them? You try being the persecuted minority instead of the undeniable majority and we’ll see if you’re on your guard 24/7. I can’t speak for every single unique person on Earth, but I know why I’m an atheist, and that’s what I’m defending here.
Atheists must be unhappy and depressed without any reasons to live.
This is a statement similar to the “angry” myth. Think about it – who honestly sets out to be unhappy? Atheists aren’t constantly mourning that there is no god – quite the opposite, in fact. Atheism is a liberating feeling to many. Free of all religious inhibitions, atheists embrace life and milk it for all its worth, striving to live it to the fullest by seeking happiness in the here and now, not in the afterlife. If anything, atheists live happier lives than theists in the sense that they are out doing as they please rather than attending a church they may not agree with 100% or making forced sacrifices out of guilt. What was once a hell-worthy trespass just a few decades ago is now perfectly acceptable, so why fear something that is so malleable depending on the culture? Many theists fear death and hell their entire lives, whereas atheists just view death as the inevitable end to a good thing. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather live my life on my feet embracing it every minute than on my knees hoping things will improve someday.
Atheism is arrogant in its assumption that there is no god.
In that mind frame, theism is arrogant in its assumption that there is one. Religion is also arrogant because all religions consider themselves the “One True Religion” and everyone else is supposedly wrong and must convert, so let’s not call the kettle black here.
Atheists are communists. Karl Marx was an atheist, after all.
Atheism was around before Marx ever existed, and way before his communist theories. Atheism is a position involving philosophy, not politics, and while many try and mix the two, they are totally different things. That’s like saying all Christians are Republicans. Political affiliations are a choice like any other. Marx may not have been religious, but neither was Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations, who helped found capitalism and is generally considered the father of modern economics. While Marx’s Das Kapital does mention religion, he never states that to be communist, you must be an atheist, too. Marx himself, although widely believed to be, did not consider himself an atheist according to several accounts, but a “practical-critical” thinker. Marx sought to transcend atheism by revolutionizing the social conditions which create people’s need for god, never actually standing against the idea of believing in god; he saw no need to debate it. He just assumed his ideas would make belief in god trivial.
In fact, when communism was established, leaders of the movement tried to do away with churches and temples in hopes that the people would “worship” them instead. When this did not work the way they had planned and the people simply worshiped in private, they reinstated the churches because religion kept the people content. The famous Marx quotation, “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” comes to mind here. The infamous reign of communism could never completely wipe religion from the minds of citizens of the Soviet Union, even in a largely atheistic society, but many were still proud communists. Some very terrible things were done by atheists in the Soviet Union, but they committed these crimes because they loved power, not because of their atheism. They didn’t go around murdering people in the name of no god. Corrupt politicians come in all forms, despite their beliefs or lack thereof. I never said that being an atheist automatically makes you a good person, although some people would say that their religion does just that. Please bone up on your history before you draw conclusions on poorly researched assumptions.
Both Hitler and Stalin were atheists, and look at all the horrible crimes they committed.
Speaking of poorly researched assumptions, this one is just a blatant lie. Let’s tackle Hitler first. I understand that no one wants to claim Adolf Hitler as their own, considering the guy basically sums up the word “evil,” but he just wasn’t an atheist, and there is plenty of documentation to prove this. You won’t hear this from many Catholics, mainly because most of them are blissfully unaware of it, but Hitler was born a Catholic and firmly believed in god throughout his career and right through his suicide. In his infamous book, Mein Kampf, he states, plain as day…
“…I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.”
He actually believed that what he was doing was god’s will. Why do you think he hated the Jews so much? You may have heard the term “Christ killer” before, which refers to the long-standing Christian belief that since the Jews were the ones who helped crucify Jesus, they were damned while the Christians were saved. Despite what we’ve heard the Catholic Church claim today, Hitler never left the Church, and the Church certainly never left him. They supported him throughout his career, and there are plenty of pictures of prominent holy men shaking hands with Hitler or giving the Nazi salute. As Hitler created his empire, great literature was burned everywhere, but Mein Kampf was never part of the Index of Forbidden Books put out by the Catholic Church. In fact, he was never excommunicated or even condemned by the Church at the time. Popes contracted with Hitler, Franco, and Mussolini, giving them veto power over who the pope could appoint as a bishop in Germany, Spain, and Italy. They agreed to surtax the Catholics of their countries and send the money to Rome in exchange for making sure the state could control the Church, which proves why church and state need to be separated so badly. Hitler’s troops were often blessed with holy water by priests before battles. Soldiers of the vermacht wore belt buckles that read, “Gott mit uns,” or “God is with us.” Prayer became mandatory in all schools under his administration. Even with quotes like this remaining from a speech he made in 1933…
“We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”
…this rumor remains. As for Joseph Stalin, much of what I said in my reply to the “communist” accusation applies here. If you understand the way religion works, how it brainwashes people into blind submission, then you’ll understand what Stalin was trying to do. In a way, communism literally became the religion of the Soviet Union, with Stalin hoping to take the place of a god through carefully formulated propaganda. He did not murder in the name of atheism (How does one murder in the name of nothing?), but in his constant quest for supremacy and greatness. Some historians even debate whether Stalin was a true “militant” atheist at all, bearing in mind that it was he who re-opened the churches and monasteries during World War II, even freeing many priests from imprisonment and ordering a procession of Our Lady of Kazan. Stalin simply proves that anyone, despite their beliefs or lack-thereof, is capable of immoral acts. I would not debate that. My point is that, more often than not, religion is used as an excuse to carry out, justify, and cover up these evil deeds rather than stop them, and if more people thought for themselves, these types of historic tragedies could have been prevented.
There are no atheists in foxholes.
This is probably the most famous saying theists deem as a “clever” bash of atheism. I, however, have a clever retort. If there are no atheists in foxholes, does that mean that if everyone was an atheist, there would be no wars? Judging by how many “holy” wars there have been throughout history and many more that still rage on today, one could rightfully state this, but I’ll get into that subject much later. As I’ve mentioned before, true atheists have no fear of death and hold no possibility in their minds that there is the potential of a god, so this logic is coming from a purely biased, theistic point of view. There are plenty of atheists who serve in the armed forces, by the way. I’ve gotten e-mails from a few because of this essay.
Atheism has no moral messages. At least religion tries to instill important morals in people.
Of course atheism doesn’t try to instill any morals in people – that’s religion’s job! (I told you it’s not a religion.) Atheism does have several messages, however – the top one being “Think for yourself.” Just because someone believes they are moral does not make them right. Hitler thought he was doing the right thing, after all. Atheism encourages people to seek their own meaning in life, not have that meaning decided for them. It teaches people to be analytical about everything, to not just believe things because you want them to be true. It also promotes individuality and nonconformity, which often result in creativity and free expression. I see all these things as very positive messages, more positive than many of the negative images religions conjure up to persuade people towards their way of thinking.
Atheists are out to destroy religion.
As I’ve said before, most atheists just want to be left alone and not have their rights infringed upon, not instigate conflict with religious followers. However, it has been my experience that these followers are out to destroy atheism by constantly coming down on us and our ideas with no regard whatsoever, so why are many theists so surprised when we fight back by pointing out the numerous flaws in religion? Seeing no need for something or rightfully pointing out its flaws isn’t “destruction” – it’s conversation, and it’s one we should be having more often.
Now that we’ve got all that nasty, immature name-calling out of the way, let’s get into the nitty gritty of…
The Atheist Mindset, or Why I Am the Way That I Am
As I stated earlier, I was born a Catholic: baptized, confirmed, the whole bit. I suffered through Catholic school for ten years of my life, from pre-school until eighth grade. While their mission statement clearly stated that they not only wished to give me a proper education, but also instill in me the joys of our faith by studying the teachings and ways of god through his son, Jesus Christ, this was far from what I took from it all. They were correct in one respect. I did receive a proper education – in just how cruel its so-called “followers” can be and how hypocritical, manipulative, and disorganized the church itself really was.
I was basically your all around nice guy. I never picked on anyone, I never talked bad about anyone – hell, I didn’t even really talk that much at all. Yet I was mistreated and harassed for no other reason than because I was there and an easy target because I’d never fight back. I just stood there and took whatever names they had for me that week because that’s what I was taught to do, and I just assumed it was what I was supposed to do. It began to occur to me, though, after so many years of this, that I was really the only one paying attention to those teachings.
One of my most vivid memories of that time in my life was the day I stepped out of class to go to the restroom and saw my mother standing in the hallway. I could see that she was visibly upset, so I asked her what was wrong. She told me that she had tried to enroll my younger brother in the same school, but they didn’t want him. They didn’t want to “deal with him,” in their own words. My brother is autistic. At that age, I understood that he was different, but I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t accept him anyway, considering we were learning about this supposedly great man who accepted whores, lepers, and other undesirables, and he certainly wasn’t any of those. My brother was my best friend, since everyone else was so cruel, so that not only broke my heart, but it made me wonder if I wanted to be a part of something that didn’t want him.
It was then that I began to question my faith at a very young age, but I never really vocalized it. I kept all my anger, frustration, and pain bottled up inside. I wasn’t stupid – I didn’t want to go shoot up the school and exact my revenge. (Not that that was really heard of in those days anyway.) I just wanted a friend. A real, true friend, or at least something I could turn to in the meantime until someone came along. I thought that was supposed to be god, in the form of the Church. I was sadly mistaken.
As I reached middle school age, they began drilling us harder on the scripture, making us summarize entire Gospels in a matter of weeks. A priest came in once a week to speak to our class about The Bible, reading from it and interpreting its messages for us. We really weren’t given much of a chance to question this until my last year there, when that very same priest came in to talk with each student individually before we received the sacrament of confirmation, to answer any questions we had about our faith.
Basically, looking back at it now, I assume the only reason he did this was because we were now getting old enough to start thinking for ourselves, and the Church wouldn’t want that, would they? I’ll admit that the man knew the book like the back of his hand and was able to answer any question I threw at him, but I distinctly remember hearing slightly different answers to the very same questions in class from other teachers. It was then that I finally started to understand that this book was up to interpretation, that everyone could have a very different take on every passage. The more questions I asked in class, the more I realized that these people were just making this shit up off the top of their heads, and I was fed up listening to the bullshit.
Even when I was out of class, I still had to earn “confirmation hours,” so I was forced to attend meetings of a small group of religious freaks called “The Legion of Mary” once a week. Sitting there bored, holding my head in my hand, mindlessly reciting prayer after prayer, I grew to despise every word we were spouting as I looked around the table and saw life after wasted life slip by minute after minute. Their entire lives were dedicated to something that no one could prove even existed, and it was then that I vowed to not go down with them. It was then that I realized that I was an atheist.
I believe that I was one all along, that it just took a lot of time and reasoning to come to this realization. Brainwashing isn’t easy to erase, and neither is Catholic guilt. My entire family was Catholic, especially my grandmother, and it wasn’t exactly easy to tell them that I wouldn’t be attending church with them this Christmas because I didn’t believe in their god. I think many of them assumed it was some kind of phase I was going through, spawning from bitterness I had for my fellow students. It wasn’t, though, because when I began high school in a public institution, I made many friends that I still have to this day, and I gave myself my own education in religion during my high school years, reading many books, articles, and websites on not just Christianity, but other religions as well. I hung out with many different kinds of people with many different kinds of beliefs – everything from Wiccans to Lutherans to Buddhists to agnostics.
While I found their ideas fascinating, none of them fit me or what I felt to be right for me. I knew that there was no god for me, and that no denomination had nailed the meaning of life in my book. My main concern was this total lack of proof, which holds true in any religion. Everything is based on blind faith in larger-than-life characters, and I wasn’t about to live my life by works of fiction. I respected other faiths and what they believe, but all I wanted was to be left alone in that respect. My entire life previous to this, I had had an entire church shoving their rules and doctrines down my throat from baptism forward. We are individuals, and each of us has different needs, whether they are physical or mental. Is it not possible that two similar parents give birth to a very dissimilar child? Why, then, do we not see this in the aspect of religion?
I am not just an atheist because I didn’t quite “fit” into any particular religion, either. The way I see it, it is not so much that god created man, but that man created god. How else would the simple, common people of ancient times explain phenomenon like the sun or the rain? And since god is man-made, and man is flawed, what kind of “perfect” god could we possibly come up with? All gods are born from stories, like the Greek myths, for example. During Rome’s high point, you either believed in their gods or were fed to the lions, but as Rome changed leadership, Christianity took over and they instilled the very same principle, despite being martyred for their beliefs just years before.
All religions are just reflections of the society of the time, and all fall when their respecting society does. (For better or for worse, I’m not quite sure.) I’m sorry if I’m just looking for something more permanent. I can buy that there’s just nothing up there; that science has some of the answers, but not all. That’s why I always liked science. New or unproven ideas are followed by the word “theory.” They don’t claim to be right, or tell everyone else that they’re wrong. They’re just presenting their ideas based on what proof they have. This much cannot be said about religion.
In addition, I did not want myself associated with such a rich history of violence, misery, and hypocrisy. One thing that you’ll learn in public school history classes that’s conveniently left out of Catholic school is how religion is the leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for more fatalities than any disease or natural disaster you can name. Just look at the medieval Crusades, for example. The reason this period was called the “Dark Ages” was because religion ruled – there was no education, no fine arts, and especially no creative writing during this period. The people were miserable, starving, dying of disease, living in their own filth, or going off to fight “holy wars.” (And the only thing “holy” about these wars were the bodies left strewn about the battlefields.) All of this was because the church ruled all, forcing the people to believe that their “rewards” were in the afterlife; that this life was just in preparation for the next. That way, the people were kept in line and did what they were told, which included giving up all they had to pay for “pardons.” They actually duped these poor people into believing that if they paid priests for every sin they committed, that they would be forgiven and given a clean slate. Their short, menial lives greatly contrasted those of the rich zealots who called themselves “holy” men, who lived the high life during this period. This is the power of religion – a power that I refuse to bow to.
If you want examples from more recent history, just take a look at the Middle East. The “holy lands” are full of nothing but corrupted governments, terrorist groups motivated by religion, and starving, displaced people. Now more than ever, we see footage of people gunning each other down over their differing beliefs, and now that we’re occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, Christian missionaries have began spreading their own propaganda to convert people to their way of thinking, which can only complicate things further.
President Bush publicly stated that he believes god has put him the presidency to lead America into war with the Middle East. Is that any different than what the hijackers were thinking on September 11th when they drove the planes into the Twin Towers? They were on a mission from their god, too. If the Christian god is a champion of peace and non-violence, as many believe the Muslim god is, then why does Bush believe he is doing god’s will? Why do you see signs and flags and bumper stickers that say, “God Bless America” or “God Bless Our Troops” everywhere? Obviously, this god does indeed support war, or he wouldn’t be doing so much blessing. What was I saying about the separation of church and state before?
It’s not just the idea of a higher power I don’t buy, either. The afterlife bothers me, too. No matter what you do in any religion, right or wrong, the real consequences are in this so-called afterlife. If I can’t believe in a god (or a devil for that matter), how can I buy this magical place where our souls all go and live in peace and harmony or a place where we are punished for our sins in pain and misery for all eternity? In fact, Pope John Paul II himself revoked the Church’s definition of hell years ago (How exactly does one do that, anyway?), changing it to simply “the absence of God.” Well, since I already live with the absence of a god each day, and I feel just fine, then what kind of punishment would this be? I just want to live my life to the fullest while I still have it, because no one can prove for sure if there is any more after the life we lead now.
I also can’t stand this fundamentalist, dogmatic shit the Catholic Church makes up as it goes along to further hinder living our lives freely, like its persecution of gays and all its silly little rules, like how you can’t eat meat on certain days. Since when is consuming a ham sandwich a hell-worthy trespass? Be fucking serious. They are paraphrasing one passage that says “God will hold true in heaven what is true on Earth,” and manipulating it to mean that they can create any rules they like and god will enforce them. I thought the whole point of religion was to worship a higher power, not become the higher power or order this higher power to do as you command. Some people do some seriously fucked up shit in the name of religion, like the guys who nail themselves to crosses on Good Friday in the Philippines, or the tribes in Africa who torture themselves in sadistic rituals, even going as far as cutting off women’s clitorises because they feel that any pleasure derived from sex is wrong (but only for females, of course). Sorry – not for me.
I see these Bible stories simply as tales created to instill morals. They’re entertaining ways of spreading what is right and wrong, just like the Greek myths or Aesop’s tales were then. People are more inclined to pay attention when the subject matter is spiced up a bit, or changed to better fit a different kind of people. Here’s one of my favorite examples of this. Do you remember playing the “telephone game” when you were a kid? If you don’t, the basic premise is that you get a bunch of kids together (preferably about 20 or so) and one makes up a sentence or a small story involving a few details. Then, that kid whispers it to the next one, and he to the next one, and so on until it reaches the kid at the end of the line. Then that kid relates to all of them what he was told.
But what he was told is, of course, completely different from the original story because everyone hears and remembers things differently. This is the same way the stories of religions were passed on for thousands of years. It wasn’t until much later that these stories were actually written down, and by then they had gone through so many changes that even if it was the word of god, his word had been fucked with so badly that anything worthwhile contained within was long gone. And even when it was written down, how many times was it translated and edited over time? We can’t even translate movies from Japanese (or vice versa) today without coming up with some fucked up shit (“All your base are belong to us!”). How, then, can we take ancient languages, some not even widely spoken anymore, and translate them without expecting some major changes? These are translations of translations of translations, and on top of this, many people have come along (such as King James) and edited passages for their own personal gain. (Apparently, James was a descendent of David, therefore making him the perfect king; funny how history changes so easily with the slight movement of a pen.)
So where does that bring us? Will I get old and gray and just drop all this shit before I die “just in case”? No. I cannot and will not change who I am out of fear of childish ghost stories spawned from a lack of imagination and outdated superstitions. I won’t blindly look the other way as children get heartlessly raped by priests and simply get transferred to other parishes instead of being locked away where they belong. I won’t turn a deaf ear to the poor and the hungry in the streets as they beg in front of grand churches lined with expensive art. I won’t ignore thousands of years of recorded history that explain in great detail the atrocities done in the name of a higher power. I won’t unlearn what I have already learned. And I certainly won’t look to the skies for answers when there’s none to find.
We’re all born atheists, and I plan on dying one. All I ask is that you not only understand it, but respect it – no more and no less than I, and the rest of the atheists out there, give the rest of the world. Atheism works, and I’m living proof.