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Atheist-Why? Somervell County Texas resident story


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imaginary-god-1965912068.jpg.c9a7b85ef62a01a5a4c54f1881c87df5.jpgI wrote about why I'm an atheist on my old blog, Salon, in 3 parts, going to copy the information to put it all here. I wrote this in 2010 so that was 12 years ago.

 

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 Several years ago I was coming back from Stephenville on Hwy 67 and listening to NPR. Some show, I can't recall which one, had an interview with Richard Dawkins, who I had nominally heard of before. It may have been about the time that he was coming out with his book "The God Delusion". I realized at that point that I had never actually heard an atheist speak at any length. Oh, I recalled Madelyn Murry O Hair as a strident and offensive woman in some sound clips on the teevee, but her manner turned me away from listening. So, on that long drive back from Stephenville, hearing Dawkins was sort of like examining a bug that wanders into your living room-you wonder what it is, whether it's a beneficial bug and how long it will take you to squash it or take it via the dustpan outside. What I'm trying to describe is that I was a little bit frightened of listening to him, felt like I was in the presence of aliens, because I had never heard an atheist speak at length before. It wasn't as if hearing some words transmitted into my ear Turned Me Atheist as if by magic. But I did wonder about what the contents of the book "The God Delusion" were.

I've spoken here before about my religious background. I was raised as a Southern Baptist, with what used to be, before a takeover of Southern Baptists in the 80's, a rich tradition of separation of church and state.  I remember as a child asking my pastor about whether the days of creation were literally 7 days, and how it could be that Noah took every animal on earth into an ark of finite size; my pastor told me that I shouldn't be concerned about such questions, merely to have faith. At some point when I was a teenager, while I still believed in Jesus myself, I no longer believed that faith in Jesus was the only way to salvation. It didn't seem reasonable to me that a loving God would save those based on such arbitrary factors as where they were born, what their parents religion was, and whether they believed something different. Moreover, with Southern Baptists, God would consign you to everlasting torment in hellfire if you didn't worship only him. If God were a human, he would have been the worst kind of abuser, someone demanding obedience no matter what or else physically punishing those who challenged im, and I would have shunned such type of person. So while I still believed in Jesus, was baptized, "once saved always saved", my idea of the type of God he was morphed into one who would not insist that all who didn't blindly confess his name would roast forever.

That did leave a problem about social religion. I loved singing songs out of the Baptist Hymnal and probably can sing most if not all of them from memory without a hymnal in my hand. When my father passed away last year, my mother and I sang "Love Lifted Me" in his hospice room. My wrestling about church was whether it would be appropriate for me to attend only becuase I wanted to sing songs and be social. Could I, in other words, attend a church and disagree with what was taught, simply in order to sing? I never could get past that, because it seemed hypocritical in the worst degree. I'm sure there are plenty of hypocrites in the audience at a church, who attend for a variety of reasons that aren't pure, but I never could bring myself to be one of them.

I also saw plenty of examples of religious leaders who were laughing stocks. Take the guy who had the church in Carrollton that had people send prayer requests in, along with money; those prayer requests were found in bags in the dumpster. Or Billy Weber, who was pastor of a megachurch and was screwing the women who worked for him as administrative assistants. Or Oral Roberts, who told people that he saw a 900 foot tlal Jesus and that God was going to kill him if he didn't get X amount of money. Oh, I know there are apologists who will say "Men are sinners, blah blah blah". But all that points out to me is that a religion, any religion, has no special lock on being more pure, ethical or moral than the rest of us.

I got the book "The God Delusion" and read it. I remember being hesitant about reading it, and had I come across vile or pornographic language, I would have stopped reading immediately. But I have always believed that a questioning mind is a good thing that leads to education and an informed and well rounded mind. I already knew from history that the doctrines of early Christianity, including the trinity, were not settled until the time of Constantine. I also knew that the Bible had plenty of contradictions. I spent the next two years reading a wide variety of books about the Bible and about Jesus. I wanted to know two basic things, to begin with. Could one have faith in the Bible as THE Holy Book, and second, what evidence is out there that Jesus actually existed. Not going to go through the list of all the books I read, although I kept the local library pretty busy through interlibrary loans, but one of the first and best was "Misquoting Jesus", which showed definitively that the Bible has mistakes and thus is not error free or infallible. I also came to believe that the apostle Paul took the christian religion to a turn, essentially hijacked it, that the gospels had not intended.

Even then, i still considered myself a Christian who didn't believe in the authenticity of the Bible as a special book. The next rung of my research, however, convinced me that, while Jesus might have existed, there is zero evidence that isn't self-supporting using the Bible as reference, that he did. As you might imagine, that led to a raft of other questions that challenged assumptions I had had since a very young age. It was like removing scales from my eyes. 

I'm still the same person I was before. I have a strong ethical sense of what is right and wrong. My personality is the same. I simply no longer believe that there was a man or god, Jesus, who died and rose from the dead as a sacrifice for all mankind. This has not caused a fear of death in me, but quite the opposite. If this life is all we have, then we need to make extra efforts NOW to be living good lives and do good things to others NOW instead of waiting for some future reward or penalty.  As Ecclesiastes 9:5 says.

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

At the same time, I believe that others can have the faith they choose. The Southern Baptists are a strongly evangelical organization, meaning that they beileve that one shoudl actively turn others to Christ. They can believe that, just as I can choose to speak out about what I believe. Sometimes I think people are reluctant to want to have their religion spoken of, and I agree wth that if it's a private affair-but once someone brings their beliefs into the public sphere, anyone can challenge, discuss, argue with and dissect those beliefs. Religion that seeks to convert others cannot, be definition, be a hands-off affair. That includes any religion of any stripe, not just one of the many sects and divisions of christianity.

 

Why I'm Now an Atheist- Part 2- Feminism and Women in Religion

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I've always believed I am a competent female (not perfect by any means but competent). Also that I am not in second place compared to a man, nor should I be subservient or in submission. When I last worked, I was one of only two females that worked in a mostly male environment, and when I found that another guy who had the same qualifications as I did, but I had better stats, I spoke up and got a raise, too. It isn't that I think I am better or smarter than men, just different but should have the same opportunities to succeed or fail, be paid the same for the same job, and not be treated differently in a professional environment simply because I'm female. Oh, it's not that I don't think people aren't aware of sex in the marketplace, but a professional seeks to put business dealings on a different plane.

I'm married and I believe that marriage is an equal partnership, with agreed upon division of duties. I've heard the example about "You can't have two people steering the car" with which I agree but that doesn't preclude taking turns driving.

Does this make me a feminist? Yes, it does. And I'm quite proud to have that as a description. I don't think every feminist is the same, but what all who want to use that term have in common is that we believe women should have the same social, political and economic rights as men. If I have the same job and qualifications and stats as a man, I should be paid the same. And if there were not people in the past who fought for women's rights, including the right to own property or the right to vote, wouldn't there be feminists now who would do so? Of course.  If there are some that want to denigrate the idea of feminism with pejorative language, the question needs to be asked of them, especially in America, "why?".

I saw this video about a Wife Swap episode where the christian woman said that, due to Eve's actions in the Garden of Eden, women are *under the heel of men". What! First off, that is based on a fable. Second, belief in that fable reinforces for those who buy into it that they are second class underlings. Or worse.

No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman…..Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die” (Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24).

Um. Thanks. :)

I also do not believe that being a woman physically is a curse, that being able to have children, or feel pain during childbearing, is a curse, or that women should be blamed, like Pandora opening the box, for all the world's evils.

 

I've read a number of stories where women have been in abusive relationships and have been told by religious *authorities* to basically put up with it, and wait on god. That's absurd. If a woman genuinely feels that she is being abused, she can make her own decision about whether to get out or not. Again, her OWN decision, because she is an adult, not a child that needs to be told what to do. And I don't want to hear "If people would actually follow the example of God's love...". Belief that one should treat each other kindly and with love is an ethical position that anyone can have; conversely there are plenty who profess to be moral that don't follow loving precepts.  From Alternet

There are more blatant examples of excusing abusive male authority among stricter proponents of complementarianism and submission theology. In June 2007, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Bruce Ware told a Texas church that women often bring abuse on themselves by refusing to submit. And Debi Pearl, half of a husband-and-wife fundamentalist child-training ministry as well as author of the bestselling submission manual, Created to Be His Help Meet, writes that submission is so essential to God’s plan that it must be followed even to the point of allowing abuse. “When God puts you in subjection to a man whom he knows is going to cause you to suffer,” she writes, “it is with the understanding that you are obeying God by enduring the wrongful suffering.”

I've wondered before it was all simply a desire for power. That is, one who wants power must have others to be powerful over. If you can convince half the world that you have a right, simply because of your sex, to have the power and they cannot, because god says so, why wouldn't you do it? But why does any woman buy into this?

“They called out to Lot and said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so we can have sex with them! Lot went out to them at the entrance and shut the door behind him. He said, “Don’t do this evil, my brothers. Look, I’ve got two daughters who haven’t had sexual relations with a man. I’ll bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want to them. However, don’t do anything to these men, because they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19:5-8)

When I started really considering whether a book had the right to dictate how I should be perceived, only because I happen to have been born female, I decided it could not. That goes for any so-called holy book or any religion or philosophy. To me, a book only has power over you to change how you perceive yourself if you allow it to.

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. --Susan B. Anthony

If there are women that want to be submissive to the men in their lives, they can be. But because America is a nation of laws, others that do not want to live this way do not have to and can, in good stead, reject that choice of life. I prefer relationships that are based on love, respect and equality.

That gets me to the heart of my philosophical argument I had with myself regarding a just god. I don't believe that if god exists, he or she would make a distinction based on a flawed book between male and female, that he would punish a woman just for eating an apple that represented knowledge, or create physical problems and pain. If that were 1, then god would be no better than an abusive husband. I do not see any evidence among religions that claim to speak for god that women are treated consistently better. Is there any reason to have male dominance over women aside from claims for it, or justification based on a book? No.

If god existed, and god were good, he or she or it would have made sure that everyone, male or female, was treated fairly and that if there were those that sought to lord it over others were stepping out of bounds, they would be snapped back. Instead there are a host of evils that are done to woman in the name of religion.

The birth of a daughter is a loss” (Ecclesiasticus 22:3).

Therefore, I reject religion as an artifice of humans designed for various earthly ends.

 

Why I'm Now An Atheist- Part 3- Why Even Say Anything Publicly?

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In the last few years as I have been doing extensive reading and thinking about the premises for the existence of god, I've written here with some examples that illustrated my growing disaffection.

Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
–Thomas Jefferson

I'm the same person I was before, didn't suddenly grow hooves, or change my basic moral and ethical beliefs. The only thing that changed is that I no longer believe in god. This is not a bad thing. In fact, there's a real mental freedom that comes with this. I don't believe in a vindictive god that would condemn me to an eternity of torment because of jealousy.  I do believe in treating people well during their lives and having the best, happiest, most appreciative, and ethical life one can, because this is when it counts to show love to others. Not later. Now. I don't believe that a god would want me to lie about worshipping him or her IN CASE I'm wrong. As Bertrand Russell said "But sir, you didn't give us enough evidence."

People will then often say, "But surely it's better to remain an Agnostic just in case?" This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I've been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.) Douglas Adams

Everyone is an atheist in his or her own way. If one doesn't believe in the god/gods of another religion, that one is atheist in that regard.

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
~ Stephen Roberts

I really didn't talk directly much on this site about what I was thinking, but instead about other issues that illustrated issues I was grappling with. Like, why, since the pledge of allegiance was altered in only 1954, should anyone stand and say it in its new religious guise? It's a marriage of obeisance to a piece of cloth and god (graven idol anyone?) It also doesn't seem fair that since we are a country that has freedom of religion, which includes freedom from religion, that secular government should include a marriage of church and state. (I may feel extra strongly that way because I was raised as a baptist, which STILL has in its belief statements that church and state should be separate.) I don't see anyone being forbidden to do private religious activities in taxpayer spheres as long as they aren't imposed on the public. (Like children praying in school-who stops them unless they try to stand up and lead the class?)  If there are those that want to be religious and worship one god over another, I am not trying to stop them.  Again, we have freedom of religion in this country and that includes, for example, Islam.

I began recently, though, to feel that I wanted to express myself on this. I"m not ashamed of calling myself an atheist. I am a moral, ethical person. I starting feeling like anyone that thought maybe I was would consider that I was trying to hide it. In this country, though, why would anyone with a difference in beliefs or opinion feel compelled to not treat beliefs as normal and part of life? I know a lot of people who start their meals with a prayer, don't have any problem with telling me how they feel about their god, and, in fact, as in the case of evangelists, consider it their mission in life to do so. I want to express my opinion as well. I'm an American and proud to live in this country where I can speak up, even when I am not sure that my views are popular.

 

 

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