Tag Archives: faith
My friend Gary has tagged me to answer a few questions regarding my atheism. Sorry it’s taken me so long, Gary. I’ve been a little preoccupied with U.S. politics, as I’m sure you can understand.
Anyway, here goes:
Can you remember the day that you officially became an atheist?
It was actually quite a process, so I couldn’t say exactly when I no longer believed. I do recall the first time I ever used the word to describe myself. It was strange but liberating.
Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?
Given that agnosticism is a statement or position of knowledge that can apply to atheists as well as theists, I’d say I was always agnostic. Well, maybe not always, but probably from around the same time I figured out there was no Santa, which was around age six.
I’ve always known and accepted the difference between belief and knowledge and, therefore, have always been agnostic.
How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?
I guess about eight years ago. Although I still believed that someone might be listening, I admit that I was beginning to feel a bit silly.
Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?
This is the question I was looking forward to, in a way. I’ve avoided discussing this for years because I know how easily my answer can and will be misconstrued. I will begin by saying that, despite claims and accusations made by theists, no atheist is angry with any god. Anyone who is angry with a deity is not an atheist by definition. You cannot be angry with someone you don’t believe exists.
But, yes, I would say that anger with God played a part in my becoming atheist. Allow me to explain:
Throughout my life as a Christian, I often had questions and doubts about things. When that happened, I sought guidance from fellow Christians who reminded me that faith is the substance of things not seen, etc. I was discouraged from “thinking too much” — literally what I was told on more than one occasion. My doubts were just Satan trying to draw me away from God, and giving any time or consideration to the questions in my mind was dangerous to my faith and my “walk with the Lord”.
Being Christian and believing in God was all I had ever known. My mother was a preacher’s kid, my father a deacon in the church. I didn’t know how to be any other way, didn’t really see a need to; so I did what I had to do to preserve my faith: ignore the questions, pray and ask God to remove the doubt from my mind, order Satan to flee from me in Jesus’ name, etc. I did anything and everything, with the exception of being honest with myself and giving myself enough credit to accept that I was an intelligent person with legitimate questions and that I deserved better than excuses and fairy tales.
After a long battle with cancer, my younger sister died in agony at the age of thirty. And you bet your ass I was pissed off at God! This time I was angry enough, for long enough, to begin critically examining my belief system. I no longer accepted what I was being told. I was not “speaking” to God, so I couldn’t distract myself from rational thought by praying. I allowed myself to think and refused to feel guilty. I figured that if God couldn’t stand up to scrutiny, he wasn’t much of a god; if my faith couldn’t endure examination, it wasn’t worth having.
It was a process, but one by one, I was able to peel away the irrational beliefs I had held for more than thirty years. I did it with reason and good old common sense, by letting myself think. Eventually, I realized that I was no longer angry with God, but only because I no longer believed there was a god to be angry with. I was free to grieve my sister’s death without the added burden of a loving god who let her die and betrayed me in the process. It was cancer. It was dreadful, but it was no longer personal.
So, yes, anger played a big role, in that it lead to the process of critically examining what I believed and finally realizing that there was no reasonable foundation for believing any of it.
Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?
I guess as agnostic as I am about anything else for which there is no evidence, one way or another.
Do you want to be wrong?
I wouldn’t say I want to be wrong, but I wouldn’t mind being wrong. To echo Gary (who echoed Christopher Hitchens) knowing God exists and choosing to worship God are two entirely different kettle of fish. And I would not choose the latter.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
EVERY national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike.
Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.
As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some observations on the word ‘revelation.’ Revelation when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.
No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it.
It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hand of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so, the commandments carrying no internal evidence of divinity with them. They contain some good moral precepts such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver or a legislator could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.
When I am told that the Koran was written in Heaven, and brought to Mahomet by an angel, the account comes to near the same kind of hearsay evidence and second hand authority as the former. I did not see the angel myself, and therefore I have a right not to believe it.
When also I am told that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not: such a circumstance required a much stronger evidence than their bare word for it: but we have not even this; for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves. It is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not chose to rest my belief upon such evidence.
It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new thing at that time to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with hundreds; the story therefore had nothing in it either new, wonderful, or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among the people called Gentiles, or mythologists, and it was those people only that believed it. The Jews, who had kept strictly to the belief of one God, and no more, and who had always rejected the heathen mythology, never credited the story.
It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian Church, sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand. The statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus. The deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints. The Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian Mythologists had saints for everything. The church became as crowded with the one, as the pantheon had been with the other; and Rome was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.
Is Christianity a natural state of being? Most Christians I have ever known would answer with a hearty yes! I’ve heard it preached from the pulpit, discussed amongst Christians in Bible study groups or over pie and coffee. It’s also been the topic of many lively debates I’ve taken part in on internet discussion forums.
Christians often argue that humans are naturally inclined toward Christianity; that we have an innate desire to worship God. It’s what we were made for. It is the sole purpose of our existence. Just as naturally as our bodies need oxygen and thirst for water, so do our souls crave God.
Even when we don’t know it, we are drawn to and seek out God. The compassion you feel for others is really God. Your conscience is really God. The love you feel for your spouse and even your children is only possible because of God. Every decent thing about you, every good quality you possess, every good deed or act of kindness you perform is not even you, but God working through you.
I’ve heard it said from the pulpit that God has no grandchildren. That is, people are not Christians because they are born to Christian parents, they are Christians because they are born and God is their father. It is only later in life that people lose their “natural” way and begin following a different (false) god or no god at all.
The usual and most reasonable rebuttal to this is to point out that Christianity isn’t practiced all over the world. What about places where the majority of people are Muslim or Hindu, for example? What about cultures that embrace Buddhism or Islam? One need only glance casually at the many cultures of the world to see that Christianity clearly is not natural to all humans. Christianity is as cultural and learned as the language you speak or the food you eat, just like every other religion in the world.
The assertion that Christianity is natural to humans also calls into question the need for missionaries. According to the Bible, Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel. But why is this necessary if humans are natural-born Christians? And why do missionaries still travel the world to teach people this inborn trait?
As an atheist who was once a Christian, I am often told that I couldn’t possibly have been a “real” Christian. A true Christian would never abandon Christianity, after all. I’m often told that I just didn’t try hard enough, I didn’t pray enough or read the Bible enough. That’s why it stopped making sense; that’s why I stopped believing.
Bottom line: I was just doin’ it wrong.
But how can that be? If Christianity is inherent in humans, why does it require so much work to get right? If a newborn baby can latch onto its mother’s breast and drink her milk within minutes of being born, surely a grown person who has spent more than half her life rooting around in the bosom of Christianity could find some source of nourishment to keep her faith alive.
Perhaps Christianity doesn’t come as naturally as some claim.
I don’t have to work at being 5’4′. I don’t have to try to keep my eyes green. I don’t have to practice having brown hair. I don’t struggle to maintain my shoe size of 8 1/2. These are natural characteristics. There is no way I can get any of that wrong. And if Christianity were a natural characteristic, no-one would get that wrong either.
Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On
This month, Archie challenged us to write approximately 500 words on the “joy of losing” . This was the most difficult for me so far, and I have to admit I’m terribly nervous about posting it. But I’ll take a deep breath and publish it, just as soon as I finish this introduction.
This purely fictional piece was inspired by Truthwalker, a fellow blogger who evacuated his home yesterday morning to avoid Hurricane Gustav.
Truthwalker is a former Christian who shares quite candidly on his blog his progress, thoughts and feelings as he discovers a new way to live . I can personally relate to many of the changes he is experiencing, and I appreciate his being so open about it all in the face of how difficult that can be, and for the opportunity to follow along on his personal journey.
I am thankful for the inspiration, and I’ll be looking forward to his safe return.
Here is my story:
Dswerling, author of One Christian’s Journey, wrote a post back in May entitled What Atheists Really Want. When I saw that title, I thought, “Oh great! Another Christian who thinks s/he knows my mind better than I do”. They’re not exactly in short supply.
But this one actually nailed it:
What they want is one thing: good old fashioned proof. […] They want academic, reasoned, logical study with as much empirical proof as possible […]
Bingo! What more can I say?
Of course, Dswerling goes on to admit that we’ll never likely get that kind of proof because, well, Christians simply don’t have it. It’s a matter of faith or trust, if you will, which brings me to the reason I felt the need to write this post:
Faith is a form of trust; trust in God or Jesus or Allah or Zeus or Ra or any other deity you pick, but at its heart all faith is trust that somehow things are going to work out just fine in the end, in one way or another. I think even a lot of Atheists certainly have this trust, they just can’t reconcile it to trust in something greater, a reality above the reality that we observe in the physical world. However, this is a personal issue for everyone. After all, how would you ever find scientific proof that say, your mother or girlfriend or wife or father or boyfriend or husband loved you? How would you ever truly know another person was trustworthy? You simply cannot know, you are left with an act of faith on some level, and no one ever talks of finding scientific reasoning for these trust issues. So if we aren’t trying to scientifically prove why we can trust our mother or father or any other humble human, why would we bother trying to scientifically prove why we can trust the infinite creator of the universe?
What Atheists Really Want
I would like to begin by addressing the last sentence there.
I would have posted a comment on Dr. Zhivago’s blog, but for some reason comments have been disabled for the post I most wanted to comment on. People who deny existence of God is the title of the post, and it struck a chord with me because Dr. Zhivago paints a grossly inaccurate picture of atheists and atheism – the same strawman frequently presented by Christians. And it irritates me tremendously.
So, it is with great pleasure that I share with you the disassembling of Dr. Zhivago’s strawman atheist: