Friday, February 18, 2011

Story Of An Atheist

I would like to clear up some misconceptions about what an atheist is, and is not.

First, an atheist is not someone that disbelieves in God. Disbelief is defined as "the unpreparedness, unwillingness, or inability to believe that something is the case." This obviously requires someone to believe something, then deny that belief. It also has the implication that the something to be believed, or disbelieved, is actually true.

An atheist is actually an unbeliever. Unbelief is defined as "failure to believe; lack of religion." This does not require any previous, present or future belief. It also does not imply the truth of what is not believed.

I will use myself as an example.

I grew up not even thinking about God. When God was mentioned in our house it was an abstract word that had no true meaning. "God damn it." "God bless you." These phrases were used, along with others. This is abstract use, it does not describe or define God. It was just a word.

When we visited my grandparents we were obligated to attend church. This taught me nothing about God. It was a time to have fun. Go to Sunday school where I got to color in the coloring books, all religious stuff but I didn't care -- they were coloring books, that's the only meaning I saw. What the Sunday school teachers were teaching was meaningless to me, I just wanted to color.

When we were in the church proper the only thing that was fun was putting money in the collection plate, the rest was boring, adult stuff.

I didn't actually think about God until I was an adult. Then it was mostly reactions to the religion dealers -- like drug dealers, only trying to get me addicted to religion, instead of drugs. Like drugs there were many different kinds. The difference was they wanted me to use theirs exclusively, where drug dealers will sell you whatever, and however many, they can.

The way so many of the religiosos also interfered with my life by inflicting their beliefs on me by way of rules, regulations and laws that were based on nothing more than their religion also caused some reactions.

My father was career Navy and I joined the Navy just a few months after he retired and made the Navy my career. Even though the stereotype of the typical sailor is not true there was still not a lot of religious influence on my life in the service. It seems that very few evangelical types joined the military back then (don't know about now, I retired from the Navy in 1991). When I joined the Navy the forms ask what my religion was, I had to ask my dad. He said Protestant, so that's what I put. I didn't even know what it meant.

So, since religion had very little, infrequent impact on my life, I simply did not think about it.

Then I retired from the military.

In civilian life I found religion has a bigger impact on my life. More people praising God, more people talking about God, more people pushing God (each with their own form of the God drug).

It started to affect me. I thought I might be missing something. I bought a Holy Bible. I researched some churches to see just what they believed, what they taught, what they required of their attendees.

I was disappointed in all the churches I checked on. They all had rules, requirements and beliefs that I just couldn't abide by. They seemed not only unnecessarily restrictive but they were also counterproductive, ridiculous and mentally constrictive.

To the bible I went. Read it, I thought, see what it's all about. Don't let the churches decide, make up your own mind. After years of repeated attempts I still had not managed to read the thing, it was just to boring and unbelievable.

Talking to my father one day the subject came up and I told him how I couldn't read it and the reasons why. Knowing I love science fiction books, he told me it was the greatest science fiction book ever written and to read it as science fiction, not fact, then think about it and decide. It worked. As fiction it is interesting. I managed to read it.

Of course, the result of that was that I simply couldn't believe it was anything other than fiction because it was just to ridiculous and contradictory to be true.

There were others around me that believed it, though, so I started thinking a little more like them. I started wanting to believe it (peer pressure, I guess, you're never too old for it). I started trying to uncontradict the contradictions. I ask questions of the "experts". Some of the contradictions were uncontradicted. Some by my original misunderstanding, most through judicious use of circular reasoning and twisted pseudo-logic. Most of the contradictions remained contradictions.

A few years of that and I finally came to the conclusion that my original reaction to what the Bible said was correct. It is fiction. It was written to support the bloodthirsty rule of the nomadic Hebrew leaders, then the settled Hebrew leaders. The new testament was written as a tool to start a revolution that didn't happen.

If people wanted to believe it was true, that was okay with me.

But I got tired of being a  persecuted minority when it comes to religion. If I said I was an atheist the reaction was disbelief (there's that word again), if I said nothing I had to listen to all the God talk. If it was known that I was atheist I got all kinds of preaching (attempting to convert me), pity (why?), lack of understanding of why I seemed to be a nice, law-abiding person, etc. If I allowed the assumption that I believed in God I got all kinds of preaching (attempting to convert me to their version), pity (because I wasn't in their religious camp), lack of understanding of why I could believe any denomination (sect) other than theirs, etc.

Then I started paying more attention to politics and discovered we have religious fundamentalists (christian, islam, jew) trying to turn the whole world into a global theocracy of their particular version of religion.

In the U.S. religion and government are not supposed to mix (supposedly to prevent the country from becoming a theocracy). However, the Christian fundamentalists are trying to change that.

The same thing is happening in the middle east with Islamic fundamentalists.

And what do most of the Chistians and Mulsims that are not fundamentalist do? They rage about what the others are doing in other countries. What about the fundamentalists of their own religion (not sect or denomination) in their own countries? Don't they know they will push their version on all others, not just atheists? Are atheists the only ones that seem to realize this?

This is just the story of one atheist. I wrote this to clear up some misconceptions about atheists and to demonstrate why we are so outspoken. We are simply reacting to the religious. We really don't care what you believe, or don't believe. We just want you to stop caring what we believe (or don't), stop forcing your religious viewpoints on us. Stop telling others how to live when it is something that doesn't affect you. And we will gladly revert to letting you believe without comment. Well, most of us will, anyway.

If I got a little sidetracked and off subject here, sorry about that.

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