Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why Am I An Atheist? An Attempt At A Non-Confrontational Explanation

I feel the need to clarify what atheism is and why I am an atheist. It is not to eat your babies or sacrifice kittens on your kitchen counter. I simply am not religious because my personal belief system cannot reconcile belief in a higher being, because most things can be explained one way or another. I feel that while there are piles of videos and blogs out there trying to make the point I'm about to try to make, they usually devolve into babyish confrontation and dismissal of Christianity in its entirety as some kind of ridiculous cult, which is not the case.

Now, before you rip my head off and poop in my eyeballs and give me pink eye, I will say that it isn't that I don't believe in anything. I believe in science, logic and reason. Not to say that logic and reason can't apply to other belief systems, because they can. But at some point, religion asks you to stop questioning it.

I am simply not okay with that. Life is too complex to be governed by a single set of rules.

I question things. I ask stupid questions sometimes because I want to know everything. I want to experience things that religions tell me not to so that I can know why I'm not supposed to experience them.

I'm not saying that someone is weak or inferior for being a religious person. Life is difficult. Life is alternately the most beautiful and the most vile thing ever known to man. You have to believe in something. That's a basic human truth.

I believe in science, because even though I don't understand so many things in life, no one tells me to stop trying to understand it and trust that everything will be okay. No one tells me not to try to understand this world and all of the amazing things in it and accept one single, unchanging explanation: that it was all created a long time ago by a being higher than myself. That is merely one of many  explanations, none of which will ever be proven. Sometimes, faith is all you need. There are other times when you also have to consider your options when nothing you know seems to fit.

The biggest argument people have for me as to why I ought not to trust science is that it always changes. It contradicts itself from decade to decade. Who would trust that?

Change is the driving force of this life, and change is frightening. Change takes one from point A to point B, but sometimes religion tells one to stop asking what point we're at, or it still behaves as though one is at Point A when Point B is clearly where one is. Science changes in response to evidence being discovered. Science is sometimes a series of educated guesses, which are then adjusted as evidence comes to light. This is the most beautiful thing about being an atheist. I am free to change as new evidence comes to light.

Religion does not change the way it works because society changes. Religion stays the same and denies change. Religion has a vague way sometimes of even suggesting that people who present new evidence are bad people for questioning anything.

Perhaps it's not supposed to be that way. Maybe it's just the people who have hijacked organized religion that have made it so rigid and unchanging and opposed to change. After all, change means rewriting the text. Rewriting the text means that the old text was wrong. In religion, this is not allowed.

Christianity, for example, is actually a very beautiful collection of beliefs about loving one another and suspending judgement for others. Because the Bible was written and rewritten by different people through the ages, it evolved like a game of telephone, and at some point, the book of Leviticus became a tool to hate people. It's odd, though, that only certain parts of it are still considered relevant. My father is a pastor, and I have read the bible. All of it. Especially that book. It says a lot of things are wrong, and if we were to consider it all to be relevant, most of us would have been stoned to death. I'm not kidding. You should read it before you quote it. Yes, it says being gay is wrong, but it says a LOT of things. I would love to see a translation of the original texts so I could see what was added by monarchs in the middle ages and so on. We are living in a time that is not compatible with the Leviticus as it is written, but religion does not change. It does not evolve.

I have several Christian friends, and they are actually lovely people. I feel bad that so many crazy people have hijacked their belief system and used it to do so many terrible things to innocent people. I feel bad that terrible people have translated their text as a get-out-of-jail-free card for people to make each other feel bad for being gay or loving people outside of their own race. I feel bad that people have distorted the true meaning of Christianity and, indeed, the words of Jesus to such a degree that he has become the biggest emblem for greed and hatred in a country fueled by greed and hatred. I am sorry that Christianity was taken in such violent and brutally wrong directions as the Spanish Inquisition. I am sorry that it was used as an excuse to drive people to suicide by misinterpretation of “love the sinner, hate the sin” as “hate the sin and constantly tell the sinner they’re going to hell unless they conform to a system that hates them.”

However, it should be noted that atheists are just as guilty as anyone else of being terrible people. This world is full of assholes that go around trying to disprove the beliefs of others because they are so filled with hate that they can’t contain it. Why is this how we’re perceived? Because it’s the most visible people in atheism doing it. You have to understand a philosophical argument to disprove anything like Christianity. You also have to understand it to prove it. You can’t prove it wrong by saying that a unicorn exists because you say it does. We don’t know unicorns don’t exist in another reality. Modern philosophy is full of golden tickets for things like that. You cannot simply slam the door of your mind shut every time someone says something you don’t agree with. You also can’t prove it’s true simply by pointing at a very vague, easily mistranslated religious text that has been written and rewritten so many times it sometimes defies understanding. The bible is no further proof of its contents than an owner’s manual is proof that a product exists. The product may never have exist in the first place. However, is there proof? Probably not. There may never be. It’s up to the individual to decide if a lack of proof is more tolerable with or without the idea of a master creator.

Now, it is inevitable that someone will rage comment this. I get that. I’m not expecting to write something like this and not be questioned. All I ask is that if we must discuss it further, I ask that we both be open to learning something and going out of our respective comfort zones. I shall not respond to openly hostile comments. This is a serious topic, and I expect serious conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment