Tag Archive: Atheism

An Open Letter to the DNC

dnc

Cartoon by A.F. Branco

Dear Democratic National Committee,

I write to express my outrage over recent revelations detailing how DNC officials attempted to derail Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign. It is evident, based on released internal emails, that Deborah Wasserman Schultz and operatives within the DNC were working behind the scenes to marginalize Bernie Sanders, paving the way for Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic candidate for President. Earlier this year Bernie Sanders complained about attempts by Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to keep him from becoming the nominee. The DNC dismissed Sanders’ claims, categorically stating that both candidates were being treated fairly and equally. Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know better.

I am a diehard Bernie Sanders supporter. As a liberal, democratic socialist, I found Sanders’ policy positions to be the closest to my own. Sanders is the voice of progressivism; Hillary Clinton is the voice of centrist Democratic politics. Sanders is a man of principle; Hillary Clinton is a political opportunist. Bernie Sanders didn’t take a dime from Wall Street; Hillary Clinton made millions off of private Wall Street-sponsored speeches. Bernie Sanders opposes  war in the Middle East; Hillary Clinton will continue the blood-spilling policies of the Barack Obama. It is for these reasons (and others) that I support Bernie Sanders.

I am also an atheist. Offensive revelations that Wasserman Schultz and the DNC considered tarring Bernie Sanders with the atheist label suggests to me that the DNC doesn’t realize that most atheists are political liberals who most often vote Democrat. It is also clear that the DNC doesn’t understand that scores of millennials are non-religious. These millennials generally skew to the left — good news for Democrats. Good news, that is, if the DNC stops treating non-religious people as if they have some sort of communicable disease.

I am pleased that Wasserman Schultz has been removed as the head of the DNC. But that action is not enough. Every DNC operative who thought labeling Bernie Sanders an atheist was a good idea should immediately be fired. A failure to take such action shows that Democratic leaders don’t value fairness. The DNC should also publicly apologize to the atheist community for their shameful use of the word “atheist” as some sort of pejorative term. A full-page apology in the New York Times and personal letters to the major atheists groups will suffice.

I plan to vote for Hillary Clinton come November. I will do so for one reason and one reason alone — Donald Trump. I cannot in good conscience do anything that will increase the likelihood of a Trump presidency. These are perilous times, and I must do what is best for my country. Quite frankly, if a centrist Republican was running for President I would likely cast my vote for Jill Stein. In doing so, I would be telling the Democratic Party that until they value me as a voter, they have lost my vote. I want to do this now, but I can’t. I know that if Donald Trump is elected he will fundamentally and permanently harm our Republic. It’s Hillary Clinton’s lucky day. She will get my vote, not because I think she best represents my views, but because Donald Trump is a real threat to national security and social progress. If Clinton wins the election, the DNC might want to consider how to keep my vote come 2020. If liberal, democratic-socialist atheists aren’t welcome in the Democratic Party, then perhaps it is time to start seriously considering  third-parties that value people such as myself.

Sincerely,

Bruce Gerencser
A Former Right-Wing Evangelical Republican Turned Liberal, Democratic-Socialist Atheist

Mr. Robot: Elliot Alderson Attacks Organized Religion — Fu*k God

mr robot elliot alderson

Mr. Robot is a USA Network drama starring Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, a “cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression.” (Wikipedia)  Now in its second season, Mr. Robot focuses on Alderson’s interaction with the hacktivist community as it attempts to battle global corporate influence and control. I am an avid fan of the program. I love its dark, complex storylines. I have been a Rami Malek fan since 2010 when I first saw him in the HBO miniseries The Pacific. If you are a fan of dark/sci-fi/dystopian psychological thrillers, I think you will really like Mr. Robot. And if you are an atheist, you will certainly love Mr. Robot’s negative — dare I say hostile — portrayal of organized religion. I am surprised that One Millions Moms — the outrage wing of the American Family Association — have not called on their followers to write letters to Mr. Robot advertisers, threatening to stop buying their products unless they immediately pull their ads.

In a post titled Every Atheist Needs: Mr. Robot, blogger Godless Mom featured Elliot Alderson’s season two rant about organized religion. Alderson, answering the statement “God can help you, said what most atheists would love to shout from the mountaintops:

“Is that what God does? He helps? Tell me, why didn’t God help my innocent friend who died for no reason while the guilty ran free? Okay. Fine. Forget the one-offs. How about the countless wars declared in his name? Okay. Fine. Let’s skip the random, meaningless murder for a second, shall we? How about the racist, sexist, phobia soup we’ve all been drowning in because of him? And I’m not just talking about Jesus. I’m talking about all organized religion. Exclusive groups created to manage control. A dealer getting people hooked on the drug of hope. His followers, nothing but addicts who want their hit of bullshit to keep their dopamine of ignorance. Addicts. Afraid to believe the truth. That there’s no order. There’s no power. That all religions are just metastasizing mind worms, meant to divide us so it’s easier to rule us by the charlatans that wanna run us. All we are to them are paying fanboys of their poorly-written sci-fi franchise. If I don’t listen to my imaginary friend, why the fuck should I listen to yours? People think their worship’s some key to happiness. That’s just how he owns you. Even I’m not crazy enough to believe that distortion of reality. So fuck God. He’s not a good enough scapegoat for me.”

Here’s a video clip of Anderson’s rant. I hope you will watch the video. Anderson’s passionate oration against organized religion is must-see TV.

Video Link

Are you a fan of Mr. Robot? What do you think of Elliot Alderson’s rant against organized religion? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Because I Can

because I can

Evangelicals are primarily known for the things they are against: abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, socialism, atheism, humanism, liberalism, and Barack Hussein Obama. The farther you move to the right, the longer the lists become. Growing up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, I heard countless sermons about this or that “sin.” Years ago, I heard a preacher deliver a sermon based on the text, neither give place to the devil. After reading the text the preacher spent the next 40 or so minutes listing all the things he was against. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List) Most of the preachers of my youth believed the following were sins: women wearing pants/shorts, men having long hair, dating couples have physical contact before marriage, listening to rock music or contemporary Christian music, going to the movie theater, using non-King James version translations, cursing. As a teenager, I believed that my pastors were against e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I am sure the teens of the churches I pastored said the same about me.

One of the first challenges I faced after leaving Christianity was determining a moral/ethical framework by which to govern my life. Let’s face it, having an inspired, inerrant Bible as the moral arbitrator makes life easy. No need to think about or ponder certain behaviors. God said ____________________, end of discussion. Lost on people who think this way is that it is not God speaking. If sermons are anything, they are preachers giving their personal opinions about what this or that Bible verse means. Opinions vary wildly, leading to one group of preachers saying particular behaviors are sinful and other group of preachers saying they aren’t. They fight among themselves, certain that their interpretation of an ancient religious text is infallible.

When I first deconverted, I was blessed to have for a friend a charismatic pastor who had also told Jesus to take a hike. He and I spent countless hours together, talking about Christianity, the Bible, and the ministry. We both laugh at how we acted and reacted back then. My friend got his ear pierced. He also got a tattoo. One day we were out and about and we saw a sign that said Parking Reserved for Pastor. A photograph was taken of middle fingers extended as we stood in front of the sign. I know, quite juvenile. But remember, Evangelicalism robbed us of much of our lives. We came of age in the late 1960s and 70s. While our non-Evangelical peers were enjoying love, peace, and rock and roll, we were in church praising Jesus. So in many ways, we are now living our teenage and young adult years now. We are experiencing things that our contemporaries experienced 40 years ago.

because I can

Now that Jesus, the Bible, and the screaming voices of preachers no longer guide us, we are free to do what we want. Several months ago, a Fundamentalist family member asked me why I was growing my hair so long. My response? Because I can. And when they see me again and notice that I am now sporting a bald head again, I am sure they will ask me why I shaved my head. The answer is the same. Because I can.  The answer to every behavioral question is the same. Because I can.

Now, lest Evangelical zealots say I am preaching nihilism or licentiousness, I want to be clear: just because I can, doesn’t mean I will. What I am saying is that I don’t need a deity, a religious text, or self-righteous Evangelicals to tell me how to live. Using reason and common sense, I weigh each and every choice and decide accordingly.  Well, most of the time, anyway. I can, at times, be impetuous, making decisions without taking time to weigh consequences. Most of the time, I survive my impetuous behavior with nary a scratch. There are those times when making rash decisions have had poor outcomes. When this happens, hopefully I learn from it. If my poor judgment harmed someone else, I do my best to make things right.

I think I will end this post here. Why? Because I can. 

Does your Evangelical family and friends “question” some of your post-Jesus decisions? Have you ever said, because I can? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Evangelical Pastor Says I am Sick Because God is Judging Me

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

Another day, another email from one of God’s chosen ones informing me that they have plumbed the depths of life and determined that I am either saved, but backslidden, never saved, or once saved, and now lost. Today’s email comes from Grant Hodges, retired pastor of Grace Baptist Church (now Grace Church) in Lebanon, Indiana. Hodges pastored Grace for 30 years. According to Hodges, I am still a Christian, and because of my wayward ways I am under the judgment of God.

Here’s his email:

email from grant hodges

Text of Email:

Name: Grant Hodges

Email:

Comment: Sorry you’re sick.

I’ve known at least one other evangelical pastor who denied the faith. He really surprised me (a colleague). I’m a retired Baptist pastor and so know the challenges of the pastorate.

I also know as do you, that once a person accepts Christ, they belong to Christ. I figure you accepted Christ.

So you also know that lapsed Christians are promised a tough row to hoe in this life, although NOT in the next. 🙂 This explains your present status.

This question in your life is not one that concerns me. We will see who is right. And when I see you in heaven I will be changed, and won’t feel the slightest bit snarky about it. We will both rejoice.

God’s Best to you,
Grant Hodges

Time: July 14, 2016 at 10:45 pm
IP Address: 199.168.78.71
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

I always love it when people assume that I am sick because I am in some sort of backslidden state or in rebellion to God. Never mind the fact that my health problems started almost 20 years before I left the ministry and Christianity, As is often the case with Fundamentalists, Hodges spent very little time attempting to understand my story.

Your God is Not Here

barbara ehrenreich god quote

Last night I watched the movie Dark Places. Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel with the same name, Dark Places tells the story of girl who survived the murder of her mother and sisters. After the killings, the murderer scrawled a message in blood on the bedroom wall. The message said: YOUR GOD IS NOT HERE

Your God is not here….five little words, yet they succinctly summarize one of the reasons many people walk away from Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals believe that God hears and answers prayers and is intimately involved with the day-to-day machinations of life. This God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. For Evangelicals, they “see” God everywhere, even going so far as to say that God lives inside of them. He walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own, Evangelicals sing, rarely considering how often in their lives God is nowhere to be found.

Evangelicals are taught that God is everywhere, yet it seems, oh so often, that the everywhere-God is AWOL. In 1 Kings 18, we find the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah challenged the prophets to an Old Testament Cook-off.  Verses 20-24 states:

So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.

The prophets of Baal went first. As expected, their God was silent and no fire fell from heaven. Then it was Elijah’s turn, and sure enough God heard the prophet’s prayer and sent fire to burn up the sacrifice. Not only did God burn up the sacrifice, he also totally consumed the stone altar (imagine how hot the fire must have been to melt rock). Afterward, Elijah had the prophets of Baal restrained and taken to a nearby brook so he could murder them. All told, Elijah slaughtered 450 men.

I want to focus on one specific element of this story; Elijah’s mockery of the prophets of Baal. As these prophets called out to their God, Elijah began to mock them:

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

The Living Bible puts it this way:

“You’ll have to shout louder than that,” he scoffed, “to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

barbara ehrenreich god quote 2

Every time I read these words I think about the Evangelical God, a deity who is supposedly on the job 24/7. If this God is so intimately involved with his creation, why does it seems that he is nowhere to be found?  This God is supposedly the Great Physician, yet Christians and atheists alike suffer and die. Where, oh where, is the God who heals? This God supposedly controls the weather, yet tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, avalanches and mudslides maim and kill countless people, leaving those who survive without homes, food, and potable water. This God supposedly causes plants to grow, yet countless children will starve due to droughts and crop failures. This God is supposedly the God of Peace, yet hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children are maimed and slaughtered in wars and terrorist attacks. This God is supposedly the giver of life, yet everywhere people look they see death — both human and animal.

Perhaps it is the Evangelical God that is — to quote the Living Bible — ” talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” Taking a big picture view of life leads many of us to conclude that either the Evangelical God is a heartless, indifferent son of a bitch or he doesn’t exist. For atheists such as myself, our honest, rational observations makes one thing clear — there is no God. Perhaps — throwing a bone to deists and universalists — there is a hand-off God, but is he worthy of worship? This God created the universe, yet he chooses, in the midst of our suffering, to do nothing. What good is such a God as this? Warm “feelings”  will not suffice when there is so much pain, suffering, and death.

Imagine how different the world would be if the Evangelical God fed the hungry, gave water to thirsty, healed the sick, brought an end to violence and war,  and made sure all people had a roof over their head, clothes on their back, shoes in their feet, and an iPhone in their pockets. Imagine if this God tore the pages of the book of Revelation from the Bible and said, my perfect, eternal kingdom is now!

Christians have been promising for centuries that someday their God will make all things new. Evangelicals warn sinners that the second coming of Christ is nigh, after which God will make a new heaven and a new earth. In Revelation 21:3-5 we find these words:

I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look, the home of God is now among men, and he will live with them and they will be his people; yes, God himself will be among them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new!”

Yet, despite the promises of better days ahead, the world remains just as it always has been, an admixture of love, joy, and kindness and hatred, heartache, and loss. I ask, where is God? As I type this I am watching ESPN. They are running clips of notable athletes, coaches, and reporters whose lives have been touched by cancer. I cry every time I hear cancer-stricken Jim Valvano’s  ESPY speech:

Video Link

Cancer-ridden Stuart Scott’s ESPY speech elicits the same emotional response:

Video Link

Today, I heard the story of a sports reporter who lost his daughter and son-in-law to cancer — both in their 30s. I wept as I pondered this man’s heart-wrenching pain. And then I said, where is God?

I think the murderer was right when he scrawled on the  bedroom wall, YOUR GOD IS NOT HERE. Surely, the cold reality and honesty of atheism is preferred to begging and pleading with a God who never answers. I spend each and every day of my life battling chronic illness and disease. My health problems started 15 years before I walked away from Christianity. Countless prayers were uttered on my behalf. I pleaded with God, Help me, Lord. Heal my broken body, take away my pain. God uttered not a word, nor did he lift a finger to help. As a pastor, I prayed for numerous dying Christians. I asked the churches I pastored to pray for the sick and the dying. Yet, despite our earnest petitions, all those we prayed for died.

The absence of God from the human narrative of life is but one of the reasons I no longer believe in the existence of God. I think Jimmy Stewart summed up my view best with his prayer on the movie Shenandoah:

Video Link

There is no God that coming to deliver us from pain, suffering, and loss. We are on our own, so it is up to us to ease the suffering of humans and animals alike. Knowing that death always wins shouldn’t keep us from attempting to alleviate the misfortunes of others. We shouldn’t need promises of homes in heaven to motivate us to help others.

Do We Need to Believe in the Christian God to Have a Meaningful Life?

jesus all about life

Do we need to believe in the Christian (Evangelical) God for our lives to have meaning? Larry Dixon, professor of theology at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina thinks so. In a post titled Man’s Significance, Dixon stated:

Why does man consider himself such a “big screaming deal”? Is there no basis for our thinking we are unique in the universe, that there is something about man that shouts “You have value! You have worth!”

Evolutionary theory essentially argues that man makes up his own significance. The Bible teaches that we are made in the image and likeness of GOD — and we, therefore, have meaning.

How sad to miss that fundamental truth of our creation, and to simply sit back in despair and entertain ourselves to death with our machines!

Listen carefully to what Dixon is saying: Those who deny that meaning is derived from belief in God, live lives of despair, spending their brief sojourn on this earth entertaining themselves. Dixon, an Evangelical, shows that he is clueless about how secularists, atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-Christians find meaning and purpose. One can reject a created by God anthropocentric view of life and still find great satisfaction in living life to its fullest. In fact, it is unbelievers who often value and cherish life the most because they only get one opportunity to walk the path of life. If you have taken the time to read my ABOUT page, you likely read my answer to the question If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?  Here is what I said:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Another explanation of how non-believers view life can be found in the Humanist Manifesto:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

That Evangelicals can’t wrap their minds around this fact is their problem, not ours. Perhaps Evangelicals are unable to comprehend a meaningful, purposeful life without God is because life before death is viewed — in theory — as little more than:

I say in theory because — as observers of Evangelicalism know — God’s chosen ones love THIS life as much as atheists do. Christians profess to be ready to go home (Heaven), but few of them are lining up to board the next bus to the pearly gates. Blissful, pain-free eternal life might await Christians once they cross to the other side, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to experience the pleasures of Club Heaven®.  Simply put, Evangelicals say one thing and do another.

life all about jesusBelievers and unbelievers should alike admit that this life matters, and how each of us finds meaning and purpose is no one’s business but ours. My wife’s parents are 80 years old. Their world revolves around Jesus, the Bible, and their church — the Newark Baptist Temple. Nine months ago, Polly’s father had his hip replaced. The surgery proved to be a disaster and he is now in a nursing home. My in-laws were forced to sell their home — a place they have lived for 38 years. Knowing that they had to move, Polly suggested to her Mom that they move near our home so we could take care of them (We live 3 hours Northwest of their home in Newark, Ohio). Polly’s Mom replied, I can’t. My church is here. I have known Polly Shope Gerencser for 40 years and I have NEVER seen her so devastated as she was by her Mom’s words.

Polly’s sister was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005. (Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It is Worth it All)  Polly is her parents’ only living child. Both Polly and I thought that they would not only want to be closer to their daughter (we see them 5-6 times a year), but also near our children, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. When Polly’s Mom said I can’t. My Church is here, Polly heard, My Church is more important than you! My “real” family is my church.

And Polly’s parents have the right to choose what matters most to them. When Polly and I returned to rural NW Ohio, we did so because we made a conscious choice to be near our children and grandchildren — all of whom live less than 20 minutes from our home. Family matters to us. For me personally, I know that chronic illness and pain have likely shortened my life expectancy. Knowing this, I want to spend as much time as I can going to races with my sons, watching my grandchildren’s school and sporting events, and doing all I can to leave those I love with a lasting memory of a husband, father, and grandfather who lived life to its fullest. Some days, all I can do is sit quietly by and watch my grandchildren play. Other days, infused with a false sense of energy and vitality, I play hard, laugh, argue and debate, and remind my children that I am still the intellectual king of the hill (I can hear them snickering). Regardless of how I feel, it is my family that gives my life meaning and purpose. It saddens me that my in-laws have chosen a contrived family — one that will dump them if they ever fail to bow in obeisance to Jesus — over a flesh-and-blood family that loves them. It is, however, their choice, so I must live with it. Their decision is yet another reminder of the fact that Christians often forsake the earthly for what they think will improve their room size in God’s mansion in the sky.

Now, let me get back to aimlessly living a life of despair.

Why Do Atheists Care So Much About Religion?

atheists hate god

Atheist Hemant Mehta posted an article today answering the question, why do atheists care so much about religion? Specifically, Hemant responded to a video by Evangelical intellectual giant (I know that’s an oxymoron.) Mitch Stokes. Here’s the video:

Video Link

Hemant wrote:

Atheists don’t really care that you believe in what we consider bullshit.

We care about the effect your beliefs have on the world, because faith-based ideas have caused a lot of damage. They’ve been responsible for stalling LGBT rights, wrecking science education, opposing women’s autonomy, obstructing proper sex education, ignoring environmental damage, blocking scientific progress, murdering abortion providers and so-called blasphemers, and breaking apart families.

All in the name of God’s love, of course [love the snark].

If you care about critical thinking, science education, and evidence-based public policies, then you better be speaking out against religion.

Hemant gets right to the point: most atheists don’t care about religion from a theological or personal piety perspective. What they DO care about is the EFFECTS of religion. And for atheists in the United States, our focus is on Evangelicalism, Mormonism, and conservative Catholicism — religions with dangerous theological tendencies.

In April 2015, I wrote a post titled, If Christianity Doesn’t Matter, Why Bother With It? This post generated the more traffic than any other post saved two — Why I Hate Jesus and The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it.  Here’s part of what I had to say:

I do care about the influence Christianity has on our culture and government. I do care about the damage done to society in the name of the Christian God. I do care when people are hurt, maimed, and killed in the name of the Christian God.

When Christians want to turn the United States into a theocracy…It matters.

When Christians want their religion to have preference over any and all others…It matters.

When Christians demand atheists and agnostics be treated as the spawn of Satan…It matters.

When Christians attempt to teach religious dogma as scientific fact in our public schools…It matters.

When Christians attempt to force their religious moral code on everyone…It matters.

When Christians attempt to stand in the way of my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness…It matters.

When Christians abuse and molest children in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians wage wars thousands of miles away in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians mentally and emotionally abuse people…It matters.

When Christian expect preferential treatment because of who they worship…It matters.

As long as Christians continue to force themselves on others, and as long as they attack and demean anyone who is not a Christian…It matters.

As long as pastors and churches get preferential tax code treatment…It matters.

That said…

As to who you worship and where? It doesn’t matter.

As to what sacred text you use? It doesn’t matter.

I want all Christians to have the absolute freedom to worship their God.

And…

I want that same freedom to NOT worship any God or another God…

And as long as that courtesy is not extended to me and to every human being on the earth…

It matters.

I write the way I do because I think Evangelicalism — an inherently Fundamentalist religion (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) — causes untold heartache and harm. In its wake are countless lives and families that have been ruined by Evangelical beliefs, practices, and political views. If Evangelicals were like the Amish, I doubt I would have much to write about. But, they are not. They are an exclusionary political and cultural force that considers much of the human race to be enemies of their God and religion — sinners in need of salvation. Using fear and promises of forgiven sin and eternal life to fill its pews and offering plates, Evangelical churches trample under foot all those who reject their beliefs.

Granted, many atheists don’t care about religion. The same could be said for many Christians. These people just want to live and let live. I wish I could do the same, but I can’t. There is too much at stake to ignore religion. Left to their own devices, American Christians would quickly colonize North America for Jesus, becoming a Christian equivalent of the Taliban. While Evangelicals strenuously object to such a caricature, their actions speak louder than their words.

The Unbearable Lightness of Not Believing

obey

A guest post by Brian

God so loved the world that he gave his only son to die… This idea is foundational in Christian belief and something that has troubled me from childhood. I did not understand it and was told in my Fellowship Baptist upbringing that I did not need to understand the deeper matters of God’s Love, only obey without question, only serve the Lord.

Before I could muster two digits in my birthdays, I was taken into the depths of Hell in my dreams and witnessed what was going to happen to me because I was a human and not saved… Oh don’t get me wrong, I believed and I was terrified of what I believed but I had not walked to the front of the church during an altar-call and formally asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior. There is a very specific protocol involved in becoming the right kind of believer and there is no choice of styles or colors. At such a young age, there is only the pressing demand of family and church and of course, nightmares. For me, the nightmares finally tipped the balance and I decided it was time to brave the walk.

As it turned out, on that particular day, my preacher dad decided to focus on the urgency of the call to salvation and that this could very well be the last day of the offer. Tonight could be that night or even within minutes, seconds. God loves us so much that he puts off what we rightly deserve and waits for us to come freely. If you have any memory of what sheer terror was as a child, you are in the right ballpark here. When I look back, this was how freedom was defined in my life. I was free to choose alright. Either I do the walk and talk the talk and reallllly believe it or I am truly fucked. I knew this before I was ten and I chose. This is a poem I wrote about it half a life ago:

Just as I Am

Ten-year-olds

a dozen of us lined up

at the front of the church

because the world

just might end today

and we have all sinned

Romans 3, verse 23

our fisted, hounded hearts

and the preacher

offering one last chance.

Streets paved with gold

stream liquid

through amber

stained-glass windows.

Some of us softly weep

awful doubt in ourselves

our Baptist Jesus

and the preacher walking

our line and shaking hands

as if we were grownup

and big enough to deal

with being caught

between heaven and hell

on a Sunday morning

and our walking right

into the arms of it

idiot-faced

crying along with the music.

It is not easy for people to understand how devastating it is to a child to know that you have been the cause of the torture and death of the best man to ever be alive and to know that you are the one who is really guilty and will have to burn in a special place of forever-torture because God is great and will not be mocked.

I realized late, in my twenties, that I was truly brainwashed from the womb, that I was trained up and put through the routines just as soldier is and for the same reason: To create a one-track mind that obeys orders unto death. Onward Christian Soldiers marching on to war…

In my twenties, I began to ask ‘why’ a lot and look at issues that plagued me, the father God giving his son, and the example of Abraham and his great legacy blessed by God.

I lived in contradiction; unable to understand why I could not simply let go of doubt and why I began to feel angry with God for Jesus, dying and angry for Isaac; feeling a undercurrent of rage against a father who would give his own son…

I was not close to my father and he was not a man who had friends. He was an island, a preacher who spoke much when in a pulpit but very little any other time. He had no personal life to pass on or share with his children, only the way of Christ a la the Baptist church.

When I began to realize I was truly an unbeliever, I could not bear it and began a fruitless search to find the right church. Later I realized that I could create a Christianity that was my own and agreed with me and that it could be enough.

All the while I was slowly taking myself further from Christianity without ever rejecting Christ, to me the foundation and salvation of the person and the faith.

Before I had children of my own, I left formal belief in Christianity and was able to give myself permission to be full of feelings of all kinds, up and down and all around. I raged against the God of my youth. I told him he was a real prick for what he did to Jesus and that his nonsense with Abraham was just plain child abuse and showed what an asshole he was…. I talked to God for a long time after I was quite convinced that he was never real…. I still talked to him as I always had, as I was taught from early on…  I’m in my sixties now and have stopped talking to God but still chatter away at myself. I wonder what I might have been free to be or do had I been loved and supported instead of trained up.  I watch my brilliant kids, now almost on their own and both brilliant artists and human beings I admire with full, giving hearts and thoughtful directions. Neither have chosen to believe. I think that perhaps they are what I managed to do, that they are my only way to reach beyond the harm of my childhood and be allowed to be free, to play and freely speak.  I trust that I have not let them down because of the harm I have had to carry with me because of religion. I glory in their mortal company.

One thing very clear to me since being a dad, a real dad to my kids, a primary caregiver in some of their earliest years and a dad who learned to let his children lead him. I think Abraham was a sick man and that he responded to voices allowing him to abuse his son. I think the story of God giving his only begotten is long, long mental illness that bipeds are still struggling with since the caves. I rejoice in living and am so thankful for my life and family, for my few dear friends. I do not want to talk of eternal life or death but to live this Saturday till a new dawn. I  feel so sad for children who must face what so many of us had to face, the punishment, the loss  of innocence, the whole failure of the punishment paradigm.

Each day, I get up and ready myself for work and often I hear old Eliot whispering in my ear, “Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky…” Let us live. There is no greater purpose, nothing beyond a life lived fully. I can allow my own joy. Really. It was always there with me even in Hell at ten years old, but it took me half my life to say, okay, I choose life… I’m going to feel all of it.

My believing family still pray for me. I asked them to please stop, repeatedly, but they won’t. They do it for my own good, like parents who spank children rather than listen to them, like all of us perhaps who decide what is best for others by listening to our ‘voices.’