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Why Don't You Believe?

chicago dyke's picture

I probably won't be able to blog much tomorrow, so this is premature Sunday Atheism blogging. But if you are a non-believer, why is that? What made you decide to shed your faith, or why haven't you ever adopted one? We've done this kind of posting here at Corrente before, but I'm trying to be a viral-slut here, and pick up some of the confessory energy of the IGB project. It's time to Come Out, atheists. Over and over again, if necessary. Just as there are too many gay teens contemplating suicide, there are too many non-believers who are willing to stay closeted for a little comfort, at the expense of great freedom. Tell your story, please.

In my case, it was good parenting. My agnostic folks exposed me to the basics of "world religions," and let my grandparents force me into a church membership, knowing how turned off I would be by that experience. They let me go with my neighbors to their church, which bored me to tears (white people don't sing!) and they made sure I had Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Russian Orthodox and Hindu schoolmates growing up. A friend of mine and fellow Correntian likes to joke about me and my writing, "your kind is so obsessed with religion because to you, it's so kinky. You can't understand why anyone would subject the mind to such weird crap." He's not wrong.

To me, religion has and always will be politics by another name and with better ritual. I've never liked "opiate of the masses" formulation because it's classist and insulting, but then again I'm perfectly willing to insult superstition and those who tell me I have to "respect" it. At the same time, I can totally understand the appeal of mass hypnosis during times of uncertainty and doubt and crisis; hypnosis which can bring a calming certainty in an uncertain world. Still, I'm a snob and if I ever have to turn to that to deal with a problem in my life, well. I might as well start drinking pure grain alcohol at 9am every morning. Of late, I'm mostly fascinated by the intersec(/x)tion of religion and queer identity. Everything that is happening to America (and not the global political scene, but specifically America) has to do with the way they relate right now. If I could take a time machine trip to the future 300 years from now, I know the first book I'd write would be about this. "How religion and closeted queer sexuality destroyed the great experiment in democracy once know as 'The USA: Leader of the Free World(tm)'."

[I hope lambert can forgive me for being such a one trick ass these days, but this is why i don't blog anymore so much. i just can't bring myself to talk about the Kabuki and i'm back in my Theoretical and Analytic mode, because it's a comfort food of the mind for me. the theocrats won't let us talk when we're in the concentration camps, so let's do it now while we still can.]

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vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Religion always seemed pretty odd and retro to me, and even mainstream religious symbols and rituals (with the exception of Santa-style Christmas) struck me as kind of bizarre.

It wasn't a hot topic for me until religion started becoming so prominent in politics in recent years. I'd make the occasional snarky comment about it before that, but I got loud and proud once all the "moral values" = religion = America crap started infesting the country.

Think Liberally's picture
Submitted by Think Liberally on

Brought up in one of the more moderate mainline Protestant churches. Things never seem to quite fit, but everyone was nice and smart and so, it had to be because it was supposed to be ineffable or I just wasn't smart enough to get it yet, right?

In college, I took a course on the Bible as Literature, and one thing the teacher said stood out to me: scholars "get lost" in certain passages. They just can't make any sense out of them at all. I wish I could remember an example, but it was another indication that maybe it just didn't all make sense. Even the smartest people couldn't make sense of it.

But the moment I became an atheist was when I was talking to a guy who at the time was a friend of mine, someone I really respected. And he just baldly stated that he didn't believe in God. Thought God didn't exist. End of story.

It was like a switch was turned on. Just like that. It gave my own brain the permission to imagine what had always seemed like a more sensible (and moral!) was of looking at things.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

.. I was raised in a bible-believers' church (and some white foks DO sing, CD, our pastor had an amazing voice and we all sang, at every opportunity).... my parents were science trained, and there was never any pro-religion/anti-science in my home.
But as the years rolled on, we examined things more... no God worth worshipping would consign his creation to a lake of fire, so that's clearly loving parent would willingly agree to sacrifice his son because a diety asked, so THAT's bunk too.... I got around to this: humans seem intrigued by the search for the divine, for the transcendant---animals, too; we had a cat that sniffed flowers, and I've seen photos of bears sitting and watching sunsets---but humans also love to turn anything into a way to run others' lives and fortunes, so making a religion with RULES out of it was inevitable.

Worshiping what others say about God has always seemed incurious to me, dumb really. And while I am now firmly agnostic, I just don't think we can know about, say, an afterlife--I'm not spending any time telling my church going friends they are idiots.

I made the mistake several years ago when I still went to church of answering why I wasn't taking communion (don't believe in human sacrifice, or a god that would require that for my salvation)----------well, the pastor agreed with me though he said he couldn't say so, as he was retired and needed his pension, I got that; the worst was a childhood friend who treated me as though I was unclean and didn't speak to me for 5 years.

It's a small town, you can tell when someone walks across the street to avoid speaking to you.

The current "belief" thing that drives me crazy is the "things happen for a reason".
First, why do they only say that about bad things? And second, no, the universe is completely random. I actually find that more comforting than thinking some deity with emotional problems sent me cancer for a lesson, or the universe thinks I deserve more money than someone else.

Submitted by PA_Lady on

I started questioning my faith when our 7th grade Sunday School class had to read the Bible over a year. It started with the whole Abraham and Isaac thing, but the Sodom and Gomorrah story really did it. (I mean HELLO -- it's okay to offer a mob your daughters, but not two angels who ought to be able to protect themselves??) My mom encouraged us to question everything, except religion. I think my questions for nearly two straight years were answered with, "Well, you just have to pray about it."

I went through a 10-year outwardly hyper-religious phase after I got pregnant and married at 17 -- thinking if I put on a good show, eventually I'd feel it inside, and all those questions I had would just go away. The end of my Christianity came when my husband left us and the church I'd attended from age 9, where I'd married and baptized my kids, asked me to leave because my presence made my mother-in-law uncomfortable. (Hard to be reminded your precious son and deacon is a philandering toad, I suppose.)

Letting go of religion was difficult though. I needed something to fill that void, and started exploring other beliefs. Eventually I realized all of it was the same ol' thing: believe in supernatural, irrational explanations. I really liked nature worship aspects of Wicca, but still the idea of "forces" at work, intentionally directing our lives...that just didn't make sense.

It wasn't until about three years ago or so that I "came out" about my atheism. My mom and large swaths of my extended family don't accept it, especially the fundamentalist branches. They try to get my kids to go to church, and push their faith at us with the "God is working in my life" and "Jesus loves you" emails. A handful have cut us out of their lives for fear of contamination. Their loss.

The only things I haven't gotten rid of from my "religious times" are my Triple Goddess jewelry -- which has a different meaning now, one of female empowerment (The idea that the innocent/learner, the mother/warrior, and the wise woman are vital aspects of our selves and each comes to the forefront as needed.) -- and my habit of saying, "oh god!" during intimate encounters. Thankfully, mi amore (also an atheist) just thinks it's funny.

ms_xeno's picture
Submitted by ms_xeno on

...raised by secular humanist parents. But by the time I reached my early Thirties, I'd become unhappy with even minor-league organized religion. Also, I gave up on finding a plausible explanation for why God's "justice" and "mercy" and what-not seems so absurdly random. The attempt was taking up valuable time and valuable brain hard-drive and I decided that it was just time to let go.

I still consider my cultural heritage Jewish, though. I haven't undergone a conversion, only a progression-- at least in my own mind.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I'm from a Jewish home, and still strongly identify as Jewish ethnically, but I've been an atheist since I was 12/13 or so. My family was at first an orthodox Jewish family. Our house, actually a New York City apartment was always kosher, but when I was a young kid we went to schul only infrequently on holidays. After moving out of my Grandmother's apartment, the whole family moved to the Pelham Parkway section.

There I began orthodox Hebrew School during afternoons after public school. A couple of years later, we left the orthodox synagogue and joined a conservative synagogue where men and women could sit together. Eventually, my Hebrew School changed too and I went to the conservative one. During this period, from about age 6 -11, the family went to synagogue mostly on the high holidays, three days per year. We almost never attended on Friday night or Saturday. So, even though the House was always kosher and my grandmother and mother lit candles on Friday night, and we had big seders on passover, and celebrations at Chanukah and Purim, I didn't go to synagogue very much. The experience of going every Sabbath was foreign to me, so all in all I'd say that my upbringing was reasonably secular, in spite of a healthy exposure to Judaism.

At age 12 as my bar mitzvah approached my family got me a tutor to help with Hebrew and French. At first my tutoring was pretty much restricted to language, religion, and Jewish History. My tutor was a man studying for the Rabbinate, and after a short time he left to become a Rabbi in Lincoln Nebraska, and he left me with a friend of his who was the son of a Rabbi. After about half year he left two, and his brother took over my tutoring. This tutor was also studying for the Rabbinate, but he stayed with me for about three years, through my bar mitzvah and afterwards when he continued to tutor me in Languages, Jewish History, and Biology.

We became friends, of course, and after awhile our sessions began to drift into religious philosophy. In junior high school, when I was 12, I received a copy of Thomas Paine's Age of Reason. Of course, it was a revelation to me, and really got me questioning religion and the existence of God. And really brought home to me all the religious hypocrisy I'd already experienced in my life. After reading it, I began long discussions with my last tutor on God's existence, ethics, and related matters. These discussions took place from time to time over two years.

When I was 14, I began high school in 10th grade at the Bronx High School of Science. There I met a Biology teacher who regaled his students with stories of Galileo and his treatment by the Catholic Church, and also frequently informed us about his atheism. He made a great impression on me, and while my discussions with my tutor continued until I was 15, they only resulted in strengthening my atheism, which at that time became very militant, and was also accompanied by a fair knowledge of Jewish Holy Books, studies in Jewish History and in the Mishnah and Talmud.

My fairly deep education in Judaism, it turns out, armed me very well against religious people who, I invariably found, knew less about many biblical matters than I did. When I encountered people I thought were religious fanatics in College and Graduate School who tried to convert me, I used that knowledge mercilessly and, more than once, literally drove missionaries to run away from my apartment door

After school and for the 45 years since, religion has meant very little to my daily life. I live pretty much without it, though I go to ceremonies when I ought to be there for family reasons. Also, I don't know if I'm really an atheist anymore. I got pretty deeply into philosophy of science in graduate school, and have returned to that field from time to time. I'm pretty clear now that the proposition asserting that an abstract God does not exist isn't testable. So, I can't say that such a proposition is false, which is what atheism requires. Right now, I'd say I'm probably somewhere between an atheist and an agnostic.

I resent very much the treatment of atheists in this country. My experience is that atheists and agnostics are more frequently open-minded, than religious people are, and that we need much more of that in Government, Politics, and the Presidency. Today, no atheist could be a serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States, unless they pretend to be religious. That is a great shame I think.

Stephanie's picture
Submitted by Stephanie on not apoligize for that phrase, CD, because it is designed to be classist and insulting, because that is BASIS for religion, because religion IS classist and insulting.

I was raised catholic, then raised my son catholic because at the time that was all that I really knew, and thought it better to teach him something that he can reject later. But I wasn't much of a believer at the time, and hoped that he would just make up his own mind when he grew up, which he did. I am now an atheist, my adult son says he is agnostic. I don't know there's much of a difference.

I went to catholic h.s. One of the early things that turned me off, made me question, was a statement the religion teacher (a nun) made one day in h.s.. She was talking about people converting from one religion to another. She stated this: If a person converts from some other religion to catholicism, that person would be the best kind of catholic. On the other hand, if a person converts from catholicism to any other religion, that person will be no better at their new religion than they were at being catholic, implying not very faithful, believing, good.

Made Absolutely No Sense At All. At least to me. Which makes me wonder today: how come people can't be discriminated against on the basis of their religion? It's not like your sex/gender, race, ethnic origin, which can't be changed. Since people convert, transfer over to other religions easily, and people frequently do, why is it an issue of discrimination, if religion is something people CHOOSE?

As for opiate of the masses, this is what the catholic church, if not all religions, want for us little people, along with our Sunday donations. What would happen if any of the major religions, with all their power, influence and money (at least the money of the catholic church, the vatican), actually helped the people fight for economic, human rights of us people, as some religious leaders have in the past, I think it's called liberation theology -- Aristide in Haiti was such a religious leader, before and after he was elected.

Well/But -- if us little people had economic justice and our human rights while we were ALIVE, then the major religions would no longer be able to promise us a reward in heaven after we were DEAD, after a miserable life on earth. Life on earth could be meaningful, satisfying, far less miserable -- more than just living hand to mouth -- having time to think about the arts and the direction the government taking, getting involved in politics. We wouldn't have to be promised a more meaningful life after death, we would have a meaningful life in the here and now.

Therefore, the masses must be opiated by religion, so we will worship and hope and pray for a better life after death, the better life we don't have time or energy on earth to think about, or to act on, because we are so busy just trying to say alive.

So may injustices the powers that be visit on us. If people were empowered to fight against them, who would come to church on Sunday?

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

I remember being forced to attend mass at the boarding school when I was eight years old - and a separate half hour religious service called Lof (a Dutch word for a brief afternoon or evening service that consists of praying and singing hymns) on Sundays. I also remember how often my mind would float on clouds during these services. I, essentially, turned the act of ‘daydreaming’ into an art form. I used to open my eyes once in a while to look at what was going on at the altar so I could determine how much longer the charade would last.

While my parents, although Catholic, never made religion an issue in our household, they did pay for 4 seats in the eighth row of our local church in order to keep up with the Jones’.

When my siblings and I were teenagers the times that we were supposed to be in church would be spent at a cool bar in the woods of my hometown where we met other folks our age. Bicycles and light motorcycles were the preferred form of transportation. Neither drugs nor alcohol were very popular in those days. We just drank coffee and had a jolly good time chatting and ogling one another.

I’ve always felt very comfortable with my atheism. Still, I was aware of society’s fear of atheists. That’s why I was usually careful about revealing my spiritual orientation to anyone until later in life when I was strong enough to not give a shit about what people thought. But then I had children and the mother instinct kicked in. I wished to protect my children from the ostracizing nature of being an atheist in a religious world.

When they were little, I used to take my two daughters to the Sunday program for children at the Unitarian Church, mainly because I wanted them to have a ‘normal’ upbringing (normal meaning fitting in with their peers). While they were downstairs in the playgroup, I would sit upstairs and listen to the sermon. Three things made this bearable. Firstly, there was a large floor-to-ceiling window behind the altar that exposed some beautiful trees. In addition, the pulpit was flanked by many tall plants. As I’m a visual person I found this scenery extremely peaceful. Two, since this church did not adhere rigidly to a particular Christian sect, the sermons were far from dogmatic and could almost be considered humanitarian in nature. Lastly, and most importantly, the pastor giving the sermon was extremely good-looking.

Nevertheless, getting up early on Sunday mornings and having to dress my girls in ‘nice’ clothes for church was a time-consuming task (don’t forget that this includes having to think about what they should wear not to mention the extra costs of providing appropriate clothes for church). So one day, I woke up and said “To hell with this”. I decided to be selfish and sleep in on Sunday mornings. My eldest daughter had expressed an interest in horseback riding. So off we were on Sundays, driving along a beautiful winding road along a river in Quebec to a farm where she took riding lessons. I watched her riding in the distance from my car. At the same time, with the windows rolled down, I listened to the sensual voice of the now deceased Mr Gibson (I’ve forgotten his first name) who introduced each classical piece in the program as if one were about to experience an orgasm. Absorbing classical music in the midst of nature can be profoundly spiritual as well.

Anyway, to make a long story short, when my children were older they listened to and understood my message: “If you want to believe in God, go right ahead, it will make your life easier. However, if you do, don’t ever try to convert me.” Today, both my children are proud atheists. While neither of us has any hesitation expressing our joy about being atheists, we nevertheless understand that we are as alone with our universe as believers are with their God.

jeer9's picture
Submitted by jeer9 on

I was raised Catholic but haven't attended church since the age of eighteen or so. I dislike the term atheist, though, and prefer to consider myself a non-believer. Atheism seems a concept that's meant to reject a picture of God as some old, white-haired man in the clouds with the personality traits of a cruel parent. That He could be some sort of "gaseous invertebrate", as Mencken snidely described the idea, seems silly as well. Or it's tied up with some naive notion that logic and reason are what separate humans from the beasts, and thus these faculties remain the essence of our nature, to be neglected at our own risk. However, I read once a rabbi's view that God was a "force" for good in the universe, and that when we act with courage, support justice, and display compassion, we are behaving in a way that "God" would approve of - putting aside for the moment the irony that many of the noblest virtues often clash and undermine each other. (The notion of tragedy is in fact a recognition that one ideal cannot contain all these attributes.) Still, I like this model, if only because it reinforces some of the best things that I learned in my Catholic education (concern for social justice, care for the poor, tolerance and a certain reservation about judgment) and I hate to think those years were completely wasted.
Though others who know my views often consider me as an atheist, I continue to think this description rather simple-minded. While I mostly side with atheists on political matters, I just as often wish their stridency was not as unmeasured as the religious zealots, though I suppose to compete and be heard in the public domain one must match the other side's hysterical shrieking. In any case, if one's spiritual questions have not hardened into complacent certainty and the universe remains a mysterious, deeply ironic place, I suggest for your reading pleasure a bit of Thomas Merton, some Walker Percy, and for real equivalence between the faithful and the doubtful, Richard Rorty.

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

"Still, I like this model, if only because it reinforces some of the best things that I learned in my Catholic education (concern for social justice, care for the poor, tolerance and a certain reservation about judgment) and I hate to think those years were completely wasted".

I'm afraid those years were wasted. The Catholic church is a poor example of the virtues you elucidate. As for social justice, the church continues to treat women as second-class citizens. Concerning care for the poor, the church cares as long as it doesn't have to dip into its own financial coffers. See The Hidden Wealth of the Catholic Church. Regarding tolerance, the church considers homosexuality to be unnatural. As for a certain reservation about judgment, ahem, see all of the above. And I haven't even mentioned the pedophilia file. The facts speak for themselves.

Editor: Since perfect grammar is highly valued on this site feel free to erase my grammatical travesties any time.

Submitted by Lex on

But there have been strong movements for equality, peace, social justice, etc. from within the Catholic Church. Both the American Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement at the time of Vietnam benefited greatly from committed priests, monks and nuns. Further, a careful reading of the texts the Church professes to hold sacred will almost inevitably lead a person in these directions...which suggests that not a lot of Catholics read carefully but the ones who do not only "get it" but do so with, er, religious conviction.

Granted, a lot of those members of the Church have ended up leaving the Church as officials - if not believers - to pursue those goals from outside the Church bureaucracy.

I'm not defending the Church. Not. A. Fan. But it's not worth tossing the baby to be rid of the bathwater.

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

I believe that the harm inflicted on society by the Catholic Church greatly outweighs any good it might have done. So I’d say, “Toss this baby and the bath water”.

jeer9's picture
Submitted by jeer9 on

When I wrote about my Catholic education, I should have made explicit the influence that a certain interpretation of Jesus had upon a youthful mind. Of course, the Church's social and political positions are for the most part exercises in hypocrisy - and a major reason that any thoughtful person might look elsewhere for spiritual insight.

MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

I like your pic, CD--such a smile!

We've talked a little bit about this subject in the past, but here's a brief summary for anyone who cares: I was not a believer as a child--I did pray once for my Little League team to win a particular game--well, we didn't win the game and for me the usefulness of belief was tenuous at best--and though it was a childish approach to belief it was at least honest.

As the years passed I was curious about religion and comparative mythology, and continue to be. I am not searching for the meaning of searching for meaning (a path that I would suggest for those who are true believers--what's the point of belief?). The idea of god is poetic, yet it is sold as prose, and what was free and elusive is packaged and sold like everything else. A pity, that. If you arrive at an externalized version of the mystery of the ineffable and accept that as some sort of universal truth, well go with god--all I can say is that doesn't work for me. We are already in the garden, but don't know it--or so I assert.

My favorite quote of late:

"Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies."

— Joseph Campbell (Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor)

I do not sit on some abstract fence and refuse to commit to one side or the other--I contend that the sides are themselves illusory choices. We are the universe--what more do you need to know?


p.s. Chauncy tore a ligament on his right rear leg--three years ago he tore the one on his left rear leg. Surgery this coming Friday.


adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

Non-believers, aka atheists, resent the forceful imposition of the viewpoint of believers. They just wish to be left alone to ponder the universe which, as you say, is what we are.

Submitted by Lex on

By the time i was born, my mother (especially) had become a recovering Catholic. She was raised as an old-fashioned, Bavarian Catholic. But one-by-one in the turbulent 60's, she and her siblings gave it all up. Once they all quit my grandparents quit too, which i gather was quite a relief for my atheist, socialist grandfather (he might have been more relieved if he hadn't had to plump for Catholic school for eight kids). Rumor has it that it created some waves in my grandmother's family but she's never gone back to Church.

So i just never had any of it.

In fact, my mom tells a story that happened when i was 9 or so. My best friend and i were in the back seat of her car; his grandfather had just committed suicide and my ma was being her "talk about" self. That's when i piped up with, "My grandfather died too. He died on the cross."

When i was 4.5ish, my great-grandfather died. The Catholic funeral was my first church experience and the first time i confronted death. All i remember is my mom, aunt and grandmother crying; me asking why; and them saying that they were crying because they were happy that Grampa Phil was in a better place. So i guess i figured out that he was dead and then reasoned that the guy hanging from the cross in the church was clearly dead, ergo, that must be Grampa Phil. I must have heard the phrase "died on the cross" somewhere.

Needless to say, after nearly killing us all in a car accident, my mother decided it was time for me to get my first theology lesson. But we still don't know how many times i told people that Jesus was my grandfather. I've had a nasty divinity complex my whole life.

At ten i went to Palm Sunday with my great-grandmother (other side). I was intrigued by making a cross out of palm fronds, but when it came time to get ready for church on Easter i put my foot down and refused.

Oddly enough, i eventually went on to take a degree in Comparative Religion and have read most of the world's holy texts. I'm still not a believer in anything, per se, but i don't know that i can call myself an atheist. I don't believe in a bearded cracker on a throne...that's just silly. But i can't say that i don't believe in a greater force.

I like Taoism and Buddhist philosophy. Their marriage in Zen is beautiful. I guess that i believe in Life: "Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Life around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes." (Yoda with "Life" for "Force".)

"Being is transient. Life itself is immortal."
~author i just read, can't remember and don't feel like getting the book out of the truck at this hour

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

but this is one topic in which i really, really enjoy being militant. i used to wonder why my advisor (another militant atheist) worked in a Divinity School and not an anthro department, but now i get it. it's a war, and people like me are on the front lines because we choose to be. Oooh-rah, Devil Dogs and all that.

i'm also militant because that's how i get when people are trying to kill me. i'm spoiled as a queer person; every place i've ever lived has had at least a significant, if not politically empowered, queer community. but i read about people who live in bible-constipated areas of the US and my heart overflows with pity. religion can't exist without the (at least sometimes) hatred of the other- or non-believer. we're the boogeyman, the motivator, the scapegoat and "reason why" "heaven on earth" doesn't happen. sooner or later, we're always targets of their religious violence.

and while i appreciate the elegance of Zen, i still have issues with it and the rest of the eastern traditions. mainly because of the underlying sexism and homophobia. i was taught about Buddhism by one of the more serious (and feminist) scholars of the field of her generation, and she taught me how those negative qualities of those traditions are frequently overlooked in the West. i was once invited to speak on a panel at GOSfest one year about religion, but backed out after a nasty email fight with another panelist over this point. westerners are so ready to believe that just because it comes from India or China or whatever, it's "better" (speaking of religion, of course). mostly, that's crap. if you study any religious tradition closely, eventually you'll find some completely unsupportable claim or something that you really can't defend with intellectual and moral honesty.

i grok why the Wicca stuff feels good, as a gardener. that's the closest i'll get to being religious these days. but i figure, why burden those moments with theology? can't i just feel the vibe from my plants without trying to mess that up with a superstition, and a superstition created in the modern era at that? Wiccans get on my nerves, big time, with the way they pretend what they do has anything to do with ancient pagan worship beyond superficial similarities. newsflash, neopagans: the religions you like to think you're continuing were often extremely sexist, violent, and xenophobic. and the "triple goddess" construct is total bunk, archaeologically speaking. and there never was a "matriarchy." gosh i wish i didn't know that, but the evidence for such is utterly lacking. we can't know what preliterate people believed, or how they ordered society, but Jean M Auel writes fiction, yo.

Submitted by Lex on

I'm not a fan of militancy when it comes to religion, be it by believers or non-believers. It's not the non-believers who are the big problem for believers; it's the other-believers. And there's unlikely to be a shortage of them any time soon.

Which is not to say that i think non-believers should be meek, but it is to say that i think that believers should be - for the most part - much meeker. Militancy in religion is, imo, the root problem...not religion. (and like i said, i have no religion now nor have i ever had any religion)

I suffer no illusions about Eastern religions. Like all religions they intersect messily with the material world, even if most Westerners can easily ignore that and/or less than beautiful parts of those traditions. But i disagree that Buddhism is anti-feminine...especially in the way that modern Christianity and Islam are. For that matter, the anti-feminine aspects of Christianity appear to only have arisen when the Church wedded itself to the Roman state.

Non-believers would do well to figure out how to separate religion from church, because they're not the same...even if most believers have them hopelessly confused.

cripes's picture
Submitted by cripes on

Even as a child, I was strangely bemused by the illiterate babbling of the average believer. Nor did the pseudo-intellectual ramblings of learned theology types make much of an impression om me, as it also reduced itself to a vague belief in the existence of a thing they couldn't actually provide a scintilla of evidence for.

It probably helped that I was raised by marxist humanist parents. They rarely talked much about god or religion, but quietly taught their children history, science and ethics. I actually did attend services at jewish, catholic, protestant and islamic houses of worship. I think if I had decided to join nearly any religion, they would have accepted my right to make my own decisions. I never tested their tolerance with Pentecostalism or Scientology.

To this day, I have a keen ear for the zealotry of any crazed fanatic's irrational faith, and for the damage they can cause. This includes the insane beliefs of free market fundamentalists, self-help sockpuppets, loony libertarians and evangelical cranks, as well as garden variety believers.

I learned to ignore the manipulative logic pretzels of phony god promoters, challenging me to prove there isn't a god. Absurd. Imagine a justice system that requires you to prove you didn't commit a crime. Oh yeah, there's the inquisition.

To be honest, I don't know if there isn't or is a god, whatever that means, and neither does anyone else. What's more; I don't have to prove it. If I'm not asserting any thing at all, I don't have to.

I am content to live with respect and compassion for other living things and the universe as I experience it.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

i don't feel like breaking out my notes, but trust me: the sexism is there. you're right: it's not "like" what is found in the western monotheisms. it's its own thing, as it were; sexism takes many forms including the asian kind.

you're probably right, and militancy is "bad." but then again, war is always bad, yet some still have to fight in them. that's me. you all can be nice, civil, polite agnostics and atheists who don't get into it with believers. that's why i'm here, so you don't have to be mean and nasty. i suppose some of it stems from my naivete, in the earlier days, when i tried so very hard to find something, anything of a faith in which i could completely put my trust. but my intellect always rebelled, and i harbor some degree of anger towards the people in my life i grew up respecting, but who made the intellectual compromises in order to sustain belief. i loved my grandfather above all things, but to this day i'm not quite sure why it was so important to him that i had to be baptized in a church. he was smarter than that, dammit.

but in the end, i see this as the Slow War. so very much stems from people clinging to religion, so very much that we here mostly agree shouldn't happen, is bad, hurts people, delays progress, etc. i accept that there are plenty of examples of evil non-believers, but in the overall, i perceive religion as a negative and more dangerous than science. philosophy is different, and i embrace that and agree we'll always need thinkers who help us advance a system of morals and ethics. but theology is not philosophy, no matter how hard it pretends. i'm very motivated to continue saying that, most especially when it makes some people uncomfortable.