There is a new (to me, anyway) Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie prompt called Sunday Confessionals. I suppose, like confessions, it’s meant to be an opportunity for us to get something off our chests. For this week, we’ve been asked to share something that we have felt like yelling into a hole; a secret, an unpopular opinion.
I am an atheist. That’s not a secret. But being an atheist makes me misunderstood by many and reviled by some. So consider this VERY LONG POST (for me) to be me yelling into a hole about my unpopular opinion. If you don’t feel like reading my atheist rant or will take offense at my rejection of your religious beliefs, you may want to stop here.
So let’s do this.
You were a natural-born atheist. You did not come out of the womb believing in God. Religion is something you were taught. Your religious instruction was dictated by your parents. You learned about religion and about God from your parents and from the pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam at the church or temple you and your parents attended. Your religious beliefs as a child were your parents’ religious beliefs. As with just about everything else, you did what your parents told you. You followed their lead.
But like all children, you were naturally curious. You were always asking the “why” questions. So much so, that sometimes your parents, tired of hearing you ask why over and over, would say, out of frustration, “Because I’m your father [or mother] and I said so.”
An unanswered question is better than an unquestioned answer
When you asked the really tough questions, the ones even your parents didn’t know how to answer, it was just so much easier for them to say to you, “Because it says so in the Bible,” or “Because God made it that way.”
As you began to grow a little older and to think for yourself, you discovered that Santa Claus was not real. The Easter Bunny was not real. The Tooth Fairy was not real. Monsters hiding under your bed or in your closet were not real.
But God? Yes, God is real. Of course God is real.
And then you got to high school and took some science, math, biology, chemistry, and physics classes. You thought about all of the things your parents taught you about your religion, about God. You thought about the Bible stories you were taught. And then you thought about what your science teachers were teaching you. And it dawned on you that something wasn’t right.
How can the earth be less than 10,000 years old when geologists, archaeologists, and paleontologists have uncovered rocks and fossils and bones that are millions of years old? Was Eve really created as a full-grown woman out of one of Adam’s ribs? Did she really succumb to the evil will of a talking snake?
Did God really instruct a 480 year old Noah to build an ark that took him 120 years to construct? Did Noah really collect one pair of every living animal on Earth while God flooded the entire planet and destroyed every other living creature besides those on Noah’s ark?
Did Jonah really live for three days and three nights inside the belly of a big fish? Did Moses really climb a mountain and come down from that mountain carrying two stone tablets with ten commandments etched by the hand of God? Was Jesus really born of a virgin mother? Could Jesus really walk on water?
Did all those things in the Bible really happen, or are they fairy tales and fables? Why do we give any more credence to our one God and to the Bible stories than we do the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman gods and their stories? Why is the God my parents believed in and the religion they practiced any better or more “right” than the gods and religions of others around the globe? Talk about a serious case of cognitive dissonance.
Pity the Poor Atheist
A lot of people believe that atheism is borne out of suffering or some traumatic event — some tragic, horrific experience — that caused these poor souls to lose faith in God. There must have had an abusive parent or relative who emotionally or physically tortured or sexually abused them.
These poor atheists must have thought that God can’t exist because, if he did exist, he wouldn’t have allowed them to suffer that way. “How can I believe in a God who would let this happen to me, who would abandon me?”
But I’ve found that not to be the case when it comes to any of the atheists I know. We ask questions and seek evidence. Answers like, “Because it says so in the Bible,” or “You just have to have faith, you just have to believe,” don’t cut it with us.
We weigh all of the available evidence and, having done so, choose to not believe in any supernatural deity or supreme being. We tend to be pragmatists who think deeply, rationally, and logically. Most of us were raised in the religion of our parents, but became skeptical by the inconsistencies, and in some cases, the outright hypocrisies, of our religions.
Many Christians seem to believe that atheists are a bad, sad, miserable, immoral, lost lot. They feel sorry for or pity us because we have lost our way; we have strayed from the path of righteousness. They can’t understand how we can be moral individuals if we don’t believe in God or an afterlife. It’s so sad that we can’t or won’t allow ourselves to bask in the glory that is God, or to accept Jesus as our savior. Which is why they want to “save” us. How magnanimous of them.
Or if they don’t feel sorry for us, they are angry at us. How dare we question their beliefs? How do we have the audacity to suggest that the Bible isn’t “The Truth,” and that God didn’t create us in his image, or that we evolved from monkeys?
We, as atheists, are, therefore, condemned to eternal damnation unless we change our evil, secular ways and embrace God and Jesus. Only then will we be saved. Only then will the light of God’s truth reveal itself to us.
We are not people you should feel sorry for or be angry at. We just don’t live our lives built around your myths.