I stumbled upon (without using StumbleUpon) a blog recently that caught my attention. It was pointed out to me by a colleague while we were debating the whole Mayan Calendar, end of the world thing. Debating might be a strong word - more like, discussing in agreement about the whole thing being completely hokey.
As I read through this blog, I came across the blogger's thoughts on religion. From his own perspective, how he was raised and how as he grew up he moved away from the Christian based religion he was raised with and on to more Agnostic-Theist and Atheist belief systems. The blog is here if you care to read it.
Reading his thoughts got me pondering my own, and brought up in my mind some of the theological debates I've had in the past. As a Recovering Catholic (yes, I went through the 12-step program - got the chip) I've made some tough decisions in my life to move away from a corrupted belief system and more importantly, the organization that promotes it as a life-solution for their own profit. I decided to travel my own path. For a while I did the whole waffling, Agnostic-Theist, Agnostic, don't know-don't care but wonder thing. But as I studied more about the world around me and observed the actions of people, I can honestly say there is no belief or faith in a higher, intelligent being left within me. This isn't to say I don't have any spirituality in my life - I do. But that spirituality revolves around my life; who I am, how I connect with my environment and what I want for the world I live in. Specifically what I want for my children and eventually, if they so choose, their children.
This entry isn't meant to be a debate of religion, but just something I need to state. Most of my family is Christian in one derivation or another. Which is cool; it is your right to believe what you want. I choose not to believe in the same things. Not because holding an Atheist view is easier or less cumbersome. Not because I feel like I can do anything I want as long as I don't have to answer to god. A lot more goes into it than that, and ask anyone that is Atheist in our American society, it is not an easy path to travel. Seriously. I don't get the cop-out of redemption by accepting Jesus as my savior and confessing everything I did wrong at the last minute to be "saved." I actually need to live my life in constant vigilance to my own morals and values, which believe me, is a higher standard than I see from most Christians. There is no act of accepting Jesus and everything will be alright. I actually need to act on my own to ensure I make the world a better place and leave a lasting legacy for my children. That takes daily effort. Repenting a life of not following your own beliefs does not.
I find that those that profess to follow the teachings of Jesus the most, tend to be the least Christ-like in their behaviors.
The political right which is highly influenced by the money religion puts into their pockets (more on that later) likes to make the argument we need MORE religion. Specifically, more Christianity, since they like to paint the picture that members of other religions and faiths are out to get us and/or are barbarians. They claim America is lacking in moral fiber and stronger religious (Christian) values will correct that. However, their idea of morals are the morals they want everyone to adhere to, but exclude themselves from. Conservative podium pounders like Newt Gingrich attack the moral decisions of others as a rally call while having an extramarital affair of his own. Rush Limbaugh can talk at length about morality as a function of legality, and brings up the "sanctity of marriage" like it is an endangered Dodo bird that needs the government to save it from the immorality of same sex relationships - yet is on his 4th marriage. I guess the first three lacked the proper sanctity for him, or maybe they simply couldn't tolerate his drug addictions.
I'll stop there, lest I turn this into a political rant as well.
Back to my own inner dialogue - I simply couldn't continue following a dogma so steeped in hypocrisy. If you subscribe to a Christian-based religion and you can't see this for yourself, nothing I write here will convince you. But that is your choice. The bottom line is: I've made my choices too. I have my own belief system and I haven't tried to convert anyone to it, rather simply defend it in the face of the indignant "but you have to be close to god" responses and speeches that surround me. The normal religion based discussion concerning the horrible immorality that exists in our nation for the most part boils down to people's individual sex lives, doesn't it? What happens behind their closed bedroom door. Who you are fucking and how are you doing it becomes the biggest issue. If it doesn't jive with the Republican/Conservative/Christian view on morality, it makes baby Jesus cry. And Jesus apparently cares a lot more about what you and I do with other consenting adults than, say, the muffled cries of an Altar boy... but that goes back the notion that morality is for everyone except those that want to enforce it.
Oh, yeah, and don't use words they perceive as too obscene because four letters in a specific combination also makes baby Jesus cry.
However, centuries of torture, executions, assassinations, oppression, slavery... all good. Unless you're doing it. Then there are laws/commandments against it and it is illegal or immoral. But the Church used to be the law. In many parts of the world, organized religion is still the ruling government. And, laws are made for everyone except those that make them. See above .
"We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."
-- Richard Dawkins
So, if you're one of those that still doesn't grasp what Atheism is about, let's clear a few things up. Like the show Seinfeld, Atheism is about nothing. It isn't an organization. It isn't a religion. Atheists don't worship a different god than you do. Atheists simply have the confidence to say, "I don't believe your god, or any gods exist or ever have." We look for scientific truths in life instead of looking at something that has yet to be explained, throwing our hands up in forfeit and saying, "That's god's work." We live life without the misguided notion that something else better, or worse, exists after this mortal life. Those that do believe in religion live with the notion that there is something to look forward to after life, and that religion gives people a purpose to do good so their loving, caring, benevolent god doesn't cast them into the firey pits of hell, but instead accepts them into heaven if they've been good and obedient, or at least repented before dying. The religious then tend to stereotype those without religion (Atheists) for the most part as heathens bent on living an immoral life, interested only in their own well being and self-absorbed desires.
And I would suggest that it is quite the opposite. With logic and reason, I look upon the life I have as the only one I will ever get to live - and the lives of my children as the only ones they will have to live - and I live with the never ceasing desire to leave this world as a better place for them, and their children, and their children, and to do everything I can to help the human race achieve the next level of our evolution of consciousness where we focus more on the betterment of life, co-existence, equality, peace and love for one and all. My only driving force is the recognition of the limits of my own time and mortality. Never in my life have I ever been so driven to do what is best for the world around me.
And I have opening my mind and eyes to a life without the blinders of religion to thank for it.
Far different than the goals of religious oriented organizations and our current "striving for morality" government that is more interested in their own betterment and maintaining the status-quo, while telling us we all need to be better people to fix the problems they've created.
Atheists don't hate god, or you for believing in god. Atheists are not trying to take your religion away from you - we just don't want your religion constantly thrown in our faces. And we certainly don't want the decisions of our government, or the legislation they enact to reflect a religion based agenda. Religion based lobbyist groups account for nearly $400M in lobbying in Washington DC. What this means is there is no freedom of religion or from it, for anyone. Religion is creating laws based on the wants of religious leaders to further their agendas that I (and every other Atheist, most likely) don't want anything to do with. The entire process flies in the face of the basic rights guaranteed to EACH and EVERY citizen of this nation under our Constitution. Organized religion's wealth and power, and their ability to shape the decisions of government by using their wealth and power is as unconstitutional of an act that there is. But it's ok. It has nothing to do with protecting freedom which is far lesser of a priority these days than appeasing the powerful and lining the pockets of lawyers, judges and politicians.
Even if Atheism was an organized religion, it would never be able to compete financially with the religious lobby. There will be no stopping religion from having their way with your life, whether you believe in god or not.
The fundamentals I believe in are the same ones religion preaches and government speaks of, but neither have ever delivered: peace, equality and the guarantee of our personal freedoms. The only threat to our moral fiber is the threat that our current government seems dedicated to removing our personal freedoms based on what the religion lobby states are their issues, which only serves to distract us from the real problems we face.
But again, I've digressed. However, it all plays into the path I have chosen. It is more of the same from a government and/or church that we've seen for centuries and it is simply a hypocrisy I cannot follow.
"God is an ever decreasing pocket of scientific ignorance that's getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller as time moves on."
Even before I chose my path I questioned the Roman Catholic teachings I received. I can remember in Sunday school, a church Deacon teaching the class asked us to put our thoughts about religion on a piece of paper so if we had any questions, they could be anonymously asked and he would answer them. Most kids wrote what they liked about church, and god, and Jesus - what have you. I wrote, "If God created everything in 7 days why were there dinosaurs for over 200 million years?" The Deacon called me out on it in front of the class. So much for anonymity. And his answer was that the Bible addresses dinosaurs in the book of Genesis. Well, yeah, not really the answer I was hoping for since I read Genesis and never saw a mention of any humongous lizards that roamed the Earth prior to him making Adam a week later.
I had my doubts on the whole religion thing pretty much from the beginning.
As I got older and learned more I just noticed a lot of the things that didn't jive. I had one teacher explain to me that Adam and Eve lived well past 900 years, and Moses somewhere around 500. "Well, there were special people that god needed for a special purpose," was the explanation. There was always an explanation that you had to take on "faith" as being the truth, and so little that could actually be proven as true. I was becoming very scientific minded and I wanted proofs. I wanted to see, touch and hear something more tangible than, "You have to have faith that it is true." Then things as simple as learning about astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo, and the persecution they faced from the church state for discovering things that we came to know as truths, but the truths didn't match-up with the Biblical "gotta have faith" explanations. My faith in these teachings crumbled more and more.
After all, what is the unknown? Our species is really in its infancy regarding science and what we've learned of the Universe, but every day we discover more and more. Religion tries to brush it away with a "That is god's will" reasoning without seeking to discover the truth behind it, but we've made recent discoveries that the Bible couldn't even begin to account for. I want to learn more. I know some things will never be explained in my lifetime - but that isn't god's will, it is simply the limits of our technology, our perception and our ability to discover the forces behind what we don't know. We've come a long way in our understanding, but it is only a fraction of a fraction of what there is to learn.
It isn't difficult to put two and two together and come up with four. You don't need to have faith to get that answer. It was easy to look back on the actions and decisions of the church through history and realize that it wasn't all about faith in god, making the world a better place and being good people so we can all go to heaven. What was in the past the word of god and the law of the land became negotiable through interpretation of the scripture as time went on. The church changed many of its traditional practices as they became unpopular and participation - thus donations - waned. It became more and more obvious to me that "faith" was being sold as a false promise and the church was just a for-profit business getting a tax exemption.
And as our scientific knowledge grew and showed all those things we were told to have "faith" in because they were god's will were actually inaccurate or completely untrue, what was left of my faith vanished.
I realize there are a lot of religious organizations and esteemed members of the church that do their best to uphold the good values espoused by the church, but to me the history of religion is one of maintaining a social and financial hierarchy. Massive and ornate houses of worship have been built throughout history while people starved and suffered around them. A history of spreading fear as a means to control exists throughout religious history. Enslavement of non-believers. Those that professed their faith in the word of god and teachings of Jesus, trading and using people like property. A destruction of true learning, science, medicine and knowledge in an effort to keep people subjugated, ignorant and obedient.
That sounds a lot more like the work of man than anything devine.
I know the religion answer to that is, "Because god gave man free will." But the church is supposed to be the word and message of god, right? If this was the message your messenger was putting out, would you not intervine to change the message? The message hasn't changed for centuries and honestly, it never will.
You shouldn't have to wade through volumes of racism, sexism, enslaving, killing, molestation, oppression, exploitation and destruction of learning throughout the centuries to get to the positive message.
I decided I would find my own positive message and do good things on my own terms, and I'm a better person for it.