"Nothing worse than a monster who thinks he's right with God." - Capt. Reynolds
I'm an atheist. Not sure if anyone's picked up on that yet. It's taken me quite a while to get comfortable with being comfortable about it. Living in a small, mostly Christian, functionally illiterate and rabidly Republican-conservative-dominionist Texas town is not the most desirable environment to be radically, or even marginally, unusual. In Texas, by the way, it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office (article 1. Sec. 4.)
Before anyone tags me as an intellectual snob or close-minded elitist I would first like to point out that I spent three solid years doing my level best to believe in any kind of supernatural supreme being. I just cannot buy into it. I see absolutely no evidence of any kind of loving and/or personal Higher Power at work in the lives of mankind. Having one day of rain after a record drought doesn't qualify as an answered prayer to me. Sorry. I think it would have happened even if you hadn't been praying for it since March. Fuck, why did it take your god seven months to make it rain anyway? Was he punishing us for something? Did we stop doing it? Or start or whatever? See? That's so, so, so much less likely than a high pressure front crossed the gulf stream or whatever. I'm not good at meteorology. You think it's a miracle, and I don't even see it as a coincidence. It's just rain! Why are you praising Jesus? That's fucking crazy!
I tried is what I'm saying here. I tried to believe in god way harder than any capital B Believer I know tried to not believe in him. And I'm not going to go into why or how I came to this conclusion. You all have the same internet and libraries I do.
The reactions I've received since I first began opening up about this have fallen into four broad categories. The first, and by far the most preferable, has been the clumsy but endearing acceptance and attempted identification I use when a male friend opens up about being gay. "Okay Adam, so I feel about Eve and Mary the way you feel about Steve and Joseph, boobs notwithstanding?" Only Eve and Mary are replaced with God and Church while Steve and Joseph are replaced with cell division and astrophysics. It's cute and clumsy but it works.
The second kind of reaction is the purple elephant one. Entire relationships suddenly have this big awkward silence in the middle of them that we aren't going to talk about. We're not even going to talk about how we're not talking about it. If one of us, God forbid, says something even vaguely religious we'll just clam up and start staring at the ceiling and... Holy shit! I said 'God forbid!' Change the subject!
I understand this. Belief is a huge deal. Even among loved ones it's very easy to get defensive, to feel like something one cherishes is being threatened. People kill, riot and go to war over these things. We're a xenophobic species. Suddenly I'm a member of a different tribe, even if only in this one area. I appreciate that most people are at least willing to make an effort to be inclusive. I only wish they would go a little further with it and see that things like belief in certain religions or god or politics or whatever aren't binary, yes/no, good/evil systems. Saying someone is a Republican doesn't automatically mean they are also a white, Christian capitalist any more than a Democrat is automatically a liberal, chronically dissenting socialist. I am a liberal, a socialist and also a chronic dissenter, for example, but if John Huntsman or Buddy Roemer win the primary (unlikely,) I would probably vote for them over Obama because, from where I'm standing, they're the least bad options available as the others are either irredeemably corrupt, insane, incompetent or all three.
Anders Breivick and Martin Luther King Jr. are/were both Christian. This doesn't mean Breivick is a 'bad Christian' and Dr. King was a 'good Christian.' They're just people. Breivick is, conventionally speaking, a 'bad' person, while King was a 'good' person. I believe either of them would have behaved comparably regardless of personal religious beliefs if, for example, King had been a Muslim or Breivick had been a Buddhist.
Anyway, people feel strongly about their beliefs. Try disagreeing with a Birther or a 9/11 conspiracy theorist for ten minutes and you'll see what I mean. So it often seems easier to ignore this kind of ideological conflict than to get into a debate that could degenerate into a fistfight and a grudge.
The third kind of reaction really bothers me on a deeper level because it's the kind of closeted-bigot, nudge-nudge wink-wink response I grew up around. The kind of mentality that leads people to say things like "Obama did really well in life considering." The implied end of that statement being "his racial handicap," although they would be horrified if someone actually said that. It's a weird breed of arrogant doublethink that seems to occur a lot in Christianity. At least in the Christians I meet.
These people use the Shame and Guilt approach. "Jesus loves you and wants what's best for you and don't you just feel horrible for not believing in him?" No, bitch, I don't. I have zero give-a-shit for what some Jewish holy man that may have existed 2,000 years ago thinks of me. Especially since I've read your Bible more than you have, know what Jesus really taught better than you and know enough history to trace where that went wrong starting with Paul and proceeding through the Holy Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, Puritanism and the current rot of American Dominionism. I don't care how well-dressed, well-spoken or well-off you are because of your invisible father figure. I don't even care if you're objectively a 'good' person. You've aligned yourself with a nonsensical belief system that promotes ignorance, unquestioning obedience and the ostracism and demonization of anyone critical of the herd. That shit doesn't impress me. And even if it did, in my mind it's no different than wishing on a star or writing letters to Santa Claus.
This may work when you're indoctrinating your children, taking emotional advantage of the bereaved or brainwashing simpletons, but to me you look like a predator. Worse, it's a predatory tactic that turns people into more predators.
Don't approach me like I'm some idiot child throwing a tantrum, and don't try to put words in my mouth. I didn't mean "I'm agnostic," I didn't mean "I believe in God, just not the Bible," I didn't mean "I'm angry at God, and that's why I'm doing this." I meant "I've examined the evidence with an open mind, I've heard many different arguments for and against and have decided that I don't believe in god, gods, goddesses, demi-gods, ghosts, draculas, mummies, demons or any other supernatural explanations for natural phenomena." And please, please, for fuck's sake please don't Testify at me. Do you know how many times I've heard the "I was a hopeless, violent drug addict until Jay-zus saved me and washed my sins away!" story? I'll give you a hint: Lots. And you know what? Of those lots, lots minus a couple relapse and either die or go to prison. All that shows me is that either A) religious belief hinders recovery in drug addicts by attempting to bypass the work necessary to bring about the desired internal personality change required to keep from returning to active addiction or B) your god is a capricious asshat with terrible PR.
Look, I know I'm a self-righteous blowhard. I know I have shitty, hateful opinions about, like, everything. And I know how that alienates people, and that I would probably have a richer, more fulfilling life if I didn't loudly proclaim things like "95% of the music on the radio is shit, and that's being generous," or "most parents are shitty parents because reproduction isn't regulated." But, and this is important: I can admit when I'm wrong, on the very rare occasions when I am. Religious people don't. Or can't. Or won't. "I'm always right," is built into religion. If you succeed you get to be a saint, if you fail you get to be a martyr. Either way you get to feel superior to the non-religious or to members of different religions without having to do anything to justify the feeling of superiority.
As bad as the Holier Than Thou Brigade is, they're nothing compared to the, thankfully, smallest group of reactionaries: Unreasonable Lunatic Fundamentalists.
These people are the reason for separation of church and state. They're the reason we had the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Fox News and the Salem Witch Trials. They're the reason Galileo was imprisoned for heresy and Darwin is held, at least in some circles, at the same level as Hitler and Castro.
Here, try to watch this dumbass:
Since you probably didn't finish that whatever-that-was, I'll sum up: the most punchable kid in the world thinks evolution (EVILution!) isn't real because the spork is the missing link for horses+Jesus. I think. I'm not even certain it isn't just Poe's Law in action, but it's not any more insane than any other fundamentalist bullshit out there.
Point is, he doesn't know anything about evolution. Natural selection is not blind chance. Since he thinks it is, then he's basing his 'thesis' on something he heard from the preacher that molests him in the broom closet.
Science deniers shouldn't be allowed to have the benefits of science. Such as computers. They do shit like this with them. If you buy a computer designed by (probably,) evolutionists and make a video using a webcam and video editing software (probably,) designed by evolutionists to put on the internet to hopefully convince anyone bored enough to watch it that the book of Genesis is a factual, step by step account of the origin of the universe then you're not just a failure, but, I don't know, some kind of demi-human super-failure prototype designed by the government to wreck emergent civilizations as some kind of almost-sentient anchor baby dropped off to destroy any progress they've made like some kind of creepy, bipedal Dark Age.
And, like all creationists, he cherry picks his own sacred storybook and ignores anything that disagrees with his own theory. Like how, in Genesis, God creates plants before the sun. Wouldn't they instantly die? Or how, in Genesis, Cain, after murdering his brother, went to the land of Nod, where there were also people, that presumably weren't created by God. Or how, in Genesis, the Sons of God took human women for their brides, meaning Jesus isn't an only child (he does claim that the 'sons of God' in the story are really demons and fallen angels, but again, why would a loving and magnanimous deity allow that?) Or how, in Genesis, God destroys almost all life on Earth, which would mean God is fallible, since God created it in the first place. Was God displeased with his own work? Then he makes mistakes. Did he not know what man would do with free will? Then he's not all-knowing. Why did God destroy the animals for Man's wrongdoing? Because he's a vengeful asshole that overreacts to everything or because he was invented by vengeful assholes that overreacted to everything? Or, in Genesis, when Noah gathers two of every species of animal life onto a boat. There are over 2 million known species on the planet, and scientists think the total number could be between 5 and 10 million total. So, four million different animals on one boat being cared for by one family for six months? Evolution isn't a thing, so it had to be every species that's around today plus every species that has gone extinct since. And how did Noah get the penguins back to Antarctica and the lions back to Africa and the bears back to America and the lemurs back to Madagascar and the kangaroos back to Australia? Don't even get me started on dinosaurs or early mammals like the sabretooth tiger or mastodon.
I could of course go on, but I'm not here to point out that a 3,000 year old book is made almost entirely out of plot holes. I'm here to point out that there are people like Boy Wonder up there that think the God of that book wants them to kill people like me for questioning it. And they wouldn't even feel bad about it, because it's what God wants. I feel bad when I run over a cat that's already been ran over. I cry during Humane Society commercials. I volunteer at a homeless shelter. And they claim that I'm going to be on fire for eternity because I don't believe their crackers and cheap wine are really the body of someone that died 2,000 years ago? I know how fermentation works so I'm going to Hell?
I know this may be painful, but imagine that weird kid up there again. Now, imagine he's a 250 pound meth-addled construction worker. Or a police officer. Or a judge. Or a governor. Or, well, anyone, really. He's not insane, if he didn't talk he wouldn't appear abnormal enough to shun. He'll probably grow up and be one of those things. And I have no doubt in my mind that he would be totally okay with me dieing a slow, painful death and then being thrown into a lake of fire for eternity. In his mind that's what I deserve. That's why I don't talk about it to most people, because some people may not be content to just tell me about Hell.
Fuck, I'm not trying to turn anyone's kids into whatever it is people like that think atheists are trying to do to other people's children. Believe me, I'm far more polite and respectful of others religious beliefs than they tend to be about mine in my day to day life. I'm only venting here because I have almost no one to talk to about this in the real world.