Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Stigmatized Minority

Let’s just face the facts; it’s really a tough road to walk down if you’re an atheist living in the Bible belt. Telling people that you’re an atheist in the south is equivalent to telling your fellow KKK members that you have a newfound desire to turn black. An intriguing 2008 survey by the Atheist Nexus website, which highly correlates with research done in the same area, suggests that there are significant repercussions for those who proclaim their atheism in ominous states like Oklahoma, Arkansas or Tennessee. Survey respondents stated that there would likely be major work, community and family related repercussions for claiming that they were atheistic in these states. Coincedentally, the fear of repercussions in the northeast was far less dramatic.

Many people will experience ostracism and disapproval from the people who once loved them. The psychological effects could be detrimental. I don’t really care myself because I think that my argument against religion is iron clad. I’m convinced that god is not worthy of worship for the simple reason that he demands the death of children. This is where the wheels of doubt really started turning for me. Admittedly, it’s not some obscure observation I found hidden in some primitive text that only a fortunate few have access to. It’s found in the text of the O.T. in multiple passages. This is kind of embarrassing in retrospect because I used to simply reach for my nearest apologetic resource to douse the flames of doubt running around ubiquitously in my head. The resource would generally assure me that there was nothing wrong with killing babies if god said so. Stories such as Abraham and Isaac were examples of heroic levels of faith displayed when someone loves god more than his own family. How does that work exactly? This god that you can’t see, hear or talk to is more worthy of love than your own child. On a side note, some Biblical scholars argue that the story of Abraham and Isaac was grossly tampered with at one point or another. In the original, Abraham goes through with the sacrifice and no ram was offered as a substitute. A precocious scribe, who possibly saw that this would go against humankinds sense of decency, edited parts out as often happened in many areas of the Bible for political or religious reasons.

Other absurdities related to this god abound, he would cut married people off—in Hebrew also means destroy—for having sex while the woman was menstruating. Pardon me, but who in the hell is he to tell me when and when not to have sex? Oh I get it; they were living in a period that didn’t understand cleanliness from filth. They had all sorts of bizarre rituals for things ranging from skin conditions to mildew that had little to do with actually healing someone from an ailment. Pasteur’s Germ Theory was beyond Yahweh’s and the Israelites understanding. But I digress.

There’s really nothing my family can say once I lay down the gambit. They have to concede that it is immoral to kill an infant, who poses no threat, just because god said so. Otherwise, they are very immoral and dangerous people themselves. Nobody would be willing to admit this with a straight face unless they were diluted beyond the point of no return. All practically speaking, the person who would refuse to kill the innocent for god takes the higher moral ground. Therefore, I’m unashamed to say that I don’t believe in god or, at the very least, not a moral Christian god.

In a recent discussion with my mom, it was very clear that she sides with the notorious and presumptuous belief that atheists are not only amoral but immoral. She asked me if I was “going to start killing Christians now”. Also, I made the mistake of asking for a knife for my birthday and she immediately assumed that I was going to use it to cut myself a la Marilyn Manson style. I’ve apparently taken the side of science and satan instead of the word of God. How could I do that? God’s word should obviously come before mans. She went on to discuss a documentary she recently viewed on TV of a man who went through with euthanasia. More or less, she made an emotional appeal trumpeting the idea that life surely loses its meaning when we don't have anything to look forward to in the end. You can believe that there is something on the other side all you want but I'm more concerned with what's true.

Thankfully, I may be a minority but atheist numbers are growing rapidly. For instance, people considered nonbelievers (humanists, agnostics, and secularists) gained nearly as many members as the Catholics and Protestants combined between 1990 and 2008. The 2009 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) estimated that there were nearly 20 million more nonreligious people in the U.S. in 2008 than in 1990. Combined, the Catholics and Protestants increased by about 22 million in the same period. No doubt, the new atheist movement and the invention of the internet have made great strides for getting the formidable message across.

What is this message? In a very broad brush stroke, it simply means that believing in something solely through faith is not a defensive stance. There are basically four types of truth: Rhetorica (opinions, persuasion), Mystica (faith based beliefs), Logica (reasoning and logic) and Empirica (scientifically researched natural phenomenon). Of the four, I would say that Mystica is the most indefensible because it relies solely on faith while trying to haphazardly grab from other forms of truth like Logica and Empirica. For example, we’ve seen Creationists try to discard evolution while proselytizing Intelligent Design. They make scientifically sounding claims but are really just throwing out baseless rhetoric and religious ideology in the political arena.

Guess what, I don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny either. How is the theistic claim of believing in Jesus and god any better? And, how do they have the audacity to patronize people who don’t buy into superstitions like this at "faith value"? They are worried about the wrong things if they think that the world will go to pot if people aren’t worshipping Jesus. Countries with a predominance of atheism are less likely to have the homicide rate of places like the United States. I’m a loving and law abiding citizen. I haven’t turned into a hideous monster with a tenacious desire to kill everyone in front of me. There are plenty of reasons not to turn into a monster. I love my family and don’t want to lose them. I don’t really like the idea of sitting in jail for the rest of my life. I’m not a violent person to begin with and this has no relationship to my religious, or lack of religious, convictions.

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