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The Secret, But Not So Angry, Atheist

October 18, 2010

One way that my story seems to differ from many of those who have “deconverted” from Christianity, especially the evangelical sort, is that I don’t feel this bitter hatred towards my former life and those who still hold to those beliefs that so many seem to. This isn’t the kind of hatred that Dawkins or Harris have toward religion in general, which comes from their stance of religion generally having a negative impact on our society. (This is a point on which I am still not ready to make a statement.) I think many of those who have become agnostic or atheists feel that they were lied to for most of their life and have a lot of anger because it.

Indeed, I realize that most of what churches teach is not true, much of it is outright lies. However, I don’t believe that the leadership of the churches I have been involved in set out to feed me a bunch of lies. They believe the things they teach. My father believes the things the teaches to his church, and my mother believes the things she teaches.

The problem is that so many people do not think critically about the things they are taught — especially the things they are taught at a young age — and are quite happy to go on believing them whether or not they are truly believable. They are quite happy to accept what is told them as truth without checking it out for themselves. Many find so much comfort in the lies that they will cling to them and avoid thinking otherwise.

I also am not bitter towards my parents. They have always done what they felt was best for me. If you believe that people are going to be eternally tormented in Hell if they do not follow God then what is best for them is to teach them to follow God. I kind of agree with Penn Jillette on this one. (I am not saying that I wish to be accosted by every Christian that comes in my path…)

(Here’s something that always bothered me: Those Christians who seem to find joy in the fact that some people will burn in Hell for all eternity. How can you rationalize the desire for someone to suffer forever with the compassion and love you are supposed to have? Now I realize that they simply are bending their beliefs to fit their views. They are not seeking any sort of truth.)

Not only that, but my parents never tried to turn me into an unthinking drone. This is a huge credit to them. They have always encouraged us to question what is taught to us and study on our own. I doubt they ever imagined it would lead me to atheism, but they are in part responsible for my views on religion! Now, I am sure that if I had read whatever 1996’s equivalent to Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” they would have questioned it, and had I questioned the authority of the Bible they would have said something. But simply studying the scripture and studying theology with an open mind they encouraged. There was a time when I believed in Calvinist theology and they still held to Arminianism.

I have no animosity towards any of my past. The things I was taught in the past have brought me to where I am today. Those who still cling to those beliefs are simply still deluded. The people who taught me the things that I now believe to be lies were only doing so because they believed them to be true and that the future of my soul rested upon my learning them.

Perhaps I should feel anger that people continue to spread the falsehoods of religion, perhaps I should speak out against the things that are taught and urge people to think for themselves. But then, I was never one to proselytize even when I was a Christian. I tend to sit back, observe, and think through things. That is, probably, one reason I’ve been able to think for myself rather than simply go along with what everyone else thinks.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 18, 2010 6:11 pm

    You’re right in that there are a lot of ex-christian atheists who resent their past and how messed up they were by what people did with good intentions. I don’t happen to be one of them because I took to fundamentalism of my own accord and then came out of it by myself. I know the pastor of my church wasn’t maliciously telling me lies, and I know that the vast majority of believers today do what they do with the best of intentions.

    There is, however, something I think you missed. Yes, a lot of atheists get angry because they see religion as detrimental to society and human well-being, and another, equally important source of anger is how atheists are treated and characterized. Nothing gets me angrier quicker than being told I’m not a citizen, that I’m not a moral person, or that I’m somehow deficient when compared to believers. You might have heard of an often quoted University of Minnesota study done in 2006 that found that, among all social groups including gays and Muslims, atheists were the least trusted group in America.

    We’re one of the last groups that it’s socially acceptable for everybody to bash. I may think religion is really negative to society, but it’s routinely being demonized that really pisses me off. Their are several states that have a prohibition against atheists running for office written into their constitutions. Many conservatives don’t think we even count as citizens. If I wanted to get a little closer to home, WISTV-10 just last month covered a story about a gas station in West Columbia that had the following message programmed into their pump displays: “It’s one nation under GOD! Don’t like it? Then get out!” As if that wasn’t offensive enough, the people they interviewed were all in favor of the message! (Hell, it’s even on our license plates). Another example: the University of South Carolina’s constitution forbids an atheist from being president of the university. (And they’re a publicly funded school!)

    I could go on, but my main point is that while some atheists might just be angry about what they went through in the past, there are plenty of reasons for them to be angry now, how society views and treats them, being chiefly among them.

    • October 18, 2010 10:02 pm

      Yeah, actually a comment Three Ninjas made on my Dan Barker post was in the same vein as your comment. I had written this post but it was still in draft when he sent in that comment. He was talking about Christians who think he made the conversion from Christianity to atheism in order to justify a sinful lifestyle (not that he has any evidence of a sinful lifestyle). I can see how it could get irritating after a while. It bothers me to see other people saying those kinds of things.

      I guess that since I was never one of those Christians I don’t see it as much. While I would never have called myself an atheist in high school, and would have been shocked if any of my Christian friends had made the change, I wouldn’t have treated an atheist (or Muslim or Hindu or agnostic, etc.) like a lesser person. I would probably have prayed for them, I *might* have shared the gospel with them, but I wouldn’t have thought they were terrible examples of humanity. I guess I’ve always just been too rational of a person! :D

      Do you know what gas station it was? I work in West Columbia and I need to make sure I stay out since they don’t want any of us horrible atheists going there. One of my friends who I’ve told about this site lives in West Columbia, I’ll tell her to avoid it as well!

      <sarcasm>I doubt that an atheist boycott of a gas station in West Columbia would have anywhere near the impact of the Southern Baptist Conventions boycott on the Walt Disney Company back in the mid-to-late 90s </sarcasm>

      • October 18, 2010 10:03 pm

        (It’s funny because I’m pretty sure that after the first week or so the majority of people in the SBC didn’t follow the boycott and I’m pretty sure that even if they had it wouldn’t have had a huge effect on the Walt Disney Company. The boycott lasted from 1996-2005, officially.)

  2. extro1 permalink
    October 18, 2010 11:44 pm

    Good piece, very positive too. I wasn’t bitter when I first became atheist but I remember the shock and disbelief. I had never even considered that religion and spirtuality may not neccessarily good or true at all. I like your attittude, I am going to visit often :)


    • October 19, 2010 12:47 am

      Thanks, Ex! I’m glad you stopped by and I’ll look forward to your thoughts on my writing in the future!

  3. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 19, 2010 1:01 am

    It looks like it might be a gas station that’s not affiliated with any of the larger companies. I can’t really tell.

    • October 19, 2010 1:06 am

      Ah, Big Lots is between 26 and 20 on Hwy 1, I’m never out that far anyway. I’ll have to start reading pump messages and not buy from anyone with some silly thing like that!

  4. October 19, 2010 9:50 am

    I am glad (and thankful) that you don’t identify yourself as angry. It’s a little funny to realize that atheists consider believers ‘deluded’ – but I have always said that I know and fully accept that faith is completely illogical. Those who try to make it logical to believe make me tired and annoyed, especially using the Bible. It’s a circular argument at best.

    As for taking satisfaction that there are those in Hell, I really don’t – the only people I ever have a feeling of satisfaction over is Hitler, child molesters, even false prophets like Jim Jones that killed children – but I am also slowly edging over to the school of thought which hypothesizes that there is no real Hell like we’ve imagined, or a Hell that is finite and all are reconciled to God in the end. I am uncomfortable even damning Hitler forever, it seems.

    I hope your other commenters don’t mind there’s a deluded believer here! :) The author invited me, I’m cool, I promise!

    And what I’d like to hear more about, if you can pinpoint this, are specific instances where you felt you were shedding your beliefs. I know you say it was a process, so I wonder if there are moments you can remember where you felt the door closed on a certain belief.

    • October 19, 2010 2:10 pm

      There are at least two other Christians following me, Sam! (One is studying to be a pastor, if you see comments by Jennifer Harris Dault that is her. Whether the other commenters mind is regardless, you are welcome here!

      I’m not sure if I can pinpoint much, but I’ll try to elaborate soon in a post.

      As for your first comment–It sounds like you may be an agnostic theist (You know you can’t prove there is a God but you believe in him). Most of the Christians we see and hear from (especially most of the evangelicals and fundamentalists) tend to claim to know there is a god and that their God is the only one of the many unlikely gods to be the true one.

      These are the people that most atheists can’t stand, and they are the people who tend to think we are generally evil and eat babies and drink goats blood and contact Hitler from the dead to get instructions from Satan.

      There are, however, some atheists who feel that religion in general hurts our society’s progress in this modern age (Sam Harris is one of these). I’ve not gotten to that point, not sure if I will.

      As to hell, I find it interesting that the modern idea of hell is barely (if at all) mentioned in the bible, not at all in the Old Testament, and only in a couple of spots outside of Revelation is any mention made to it. Revelation was one of the first books that I thought was a load of hooey when translated literally.

  5. Big Al permalink
    October 19, 2010 10:04 am

    It’s amusing that people of faith can be called deluded or not free thinkers. How anyone can look at our world and doubt there is a God escapes me. But to claim to be a free thinker when you join a religion where the basic tenet is that someone else’s God doesn’t exist suggests folks who are a bit bored. I don’t believe in flying pink pigs, but I see no need to start a religion over it.

    • October 19, 2010 2:16 pm

      Your second point is the cause of the thing you refute in your first point, Big Al! The reason atheists find people of faith to be deluded and not free thinkers is because so many of them claim to have found proof positive that their god is the One True God and is to be worshiped above all others, but they will not share said proof.

      But even your second sentence causes issue for many, just as strongly as you feel that the world around us proves the existence of a God many people feel that there is just as much in that world to prove there is no God. If it escapes you that someone can see the world and doubt there is a God then you must, on some level, feel they are deluded. (That or you were being hyperbolic when you said that it escapes you.)

      I’m not saying that your belief in God is any less real to you, just that there are those who feel just as strongly that there is no god–particularly not the Judeo-Christian God.

      • Big Al permalink
        October 19, 2010 3:51 pm

        My point was, why do you need a religion set up to disprove someone else’s. If you believe there is no God, that’s your business. But a religion whose basic tenet is that someone else’s is flawed makes no sense.

      • godlesspaladin permalink
        October 19, 2010 4:25 pm

        I find it really interesting, and sad, that some people (like Big Al) can’t fathom that people might not subscribe to a religion. In his view, atheists can’t just not be part of a religion, instead they have to found one based on the belief that we all know there is not a god and that Dawkins is the anti-pope.

      • October 19, 2010 5:13 pm

        @godlesspaladin: I can’t really presume to speak for Big Al, but I suspect that it isn’t that that he can’t imagine that people can not believe in his God, just that he can’t imagine how someone can not believe in his God. I think he knows there are people who have no belief in his God, he just doesn’t understand it. At least, that is what I would imagine, I could be terribly wrong.

        @Big Al: That is, unfortunately, the predominant view in religion. Be they Christian or be they Muslim, their beliefs are based on the fact that theirs is the only way. Not everyone who calls themselves by these names subscribes to this belief but this is how these religions are set up and how, I think, the majority of those who follow them believe.

        • Big Al permalink
          October 19, 2010 5:26 pm

          I am apparently not making myself clear. I am not confused by the fact that some people don’t believe in God (mine or any other). I am confused by the concept of a religion based on the fact that something doesn’t exist. Why do you need a religion to refute what others believe? If there is no God what’s the point?. I can understand someone saying there is no God. But to organize a whole religion on the basis that something doesn’t exist makes no sense.

        • October 19, 2010 6:16 pm

          1580s, from Fr. athéisme (16c.), from Gk. atheos “without god” (see atheist).

          1570s, from Fr. athéiste (16c.), from Gk. atheos “to deny the gods, godless,” from a- “without” + theos “a god” (see Thea). A slightly earlier form is represented by atheonism (1530s) which is perhaps from It. atheo “atheist.”

          The existence of a world without God seems to me less absurd than the presence of a God, existing in all his perfection, creating an imperfect man in order to make him run the risk of Hell. [Armand Salacrou, “Certitudes et incertitudes,” 1943]

          Related: Atheistic (1630s).

          (taken from The Online Etymology Dictionary)

          Atheism is not a religion. Atheism is simply the belief that there is no god. Theism itself isn’t a religion, either, it is simply a belief that there is a god. Christianity is a theistic religion, but it is not the only theistic religion.

        • October 19, 2010 6:26 pm

          Also here is the definition/origin of the word “Religion.”

          By definition atheism cannot be a religion, religion requires a belief in a divine power, or a system of faith.

    • October 19, 2010 6:34 pm

      Say there were a Greek word for flying pink pigs, “choíros” (apparently the Greek word for “pig” transliterated) then those with a belief in flying pink pigs would be “choírists” and those without belief in flying pink pigs (presumably yourself) would be “achoírists”. (this being a very rough approximation of the linguistics since I do not know Greek, but it is just an example) Choírism and achoírism would not be religions, just beliefs.

      If a group of people came along and worshiped flying pink pigs then they would have a choíristic religion.

    • October 19, 2010 8:19 pm

      Also, Big Al, there is this: If you find that you have believed all your life in a lie, and that those around you have been believing in and perpetuating that lie, I should hope that you would feel the need to refute said lie.

      There are many atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity, and theistic religion in general, and many upon many more that were carried out in the past under that banner. There are people who feel (I know from personal experience) deep guilt over things that they do or think, guilt that follows them for many years (some have not escaped from it as I have) over things like doubting the things they were taught about a religion. If you have learned that these things are lies, and that your guilt was for no reason, wouldn’t you want to help other people feel free from that weight of guilt?

      I should hope you would, and I should hope you would stand up in the name of truth. If people hadn’t stood up in the name of truth then we would still believe the Earth is flat, that slaves are not human, and that women don’t have the same rights as men.

  6. October 19, 2010 4:01 pm

    I completely understand how you feel about Revelation. As a child/preteen, I ended up being dreadfully afraid of the Second Coming. Mostly because my parents were ‘in rebellion’ (their terms) against God and I knew I believed in God. I was so afraid I would be swept away without them, or that I would end up staying and the world would end in some spectacular horrible fashion. One thing I found a huge relief in when I came to the United Methodist Church is that they don’t focus much energy on the Rapture. I am not even sure most believe in it, and they certainly don’t talk much about it. This is what happens when you have people who have spent years in seminary getting some education about the Scriptures. They tend to be less hysterical about well, everything.

    Absolutely I cannot prove there is a God, but I do have experiential evidence of my own. :)

    • October 19, 2010 5:22 pm

      This is what happens when you have people who have spent years in seminary getting some education about the Scriptures. They tend to be less hysterical about well, everything.

      Well, one would assume that to be true… However, my father spent many years in seminary and is a believer in the rapture, young earth creation, and hell. I know many others who have done the same.

  7. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 19, 2010 6:23 pm

    I did a write up about that worn out “Atheism is a religion” argument:

  8. Big Al permalink
    October 19, 2010 11:01 pm

    Religion, organization, whatever you want to call it. It just seems pathetic to congregate over an issue of the non-existence of something. I don’t believe in the Loch Ness monster. I don’t need to form an organization to help me feel better about my belief that it doesn’t exist. It just seems to me that Atheists somehow feel threatened by folks believing in God. If he doesn’t exist, why do you care?

    • October 19, 2010 11:30 pm

      If you lived in a world where everyone around you believed in the Loch Ness monster, worshiped the Loch Ness monster, tried to convince you to believe in the Loch Ness monster and told you that if you didn’t believe you were a horrible person and doomed to suffer for all eternity then you might feel differently about not opposing the belief in the Loch Ness monster. What if those people started killing anyone who doesn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster? Or what if the people who worship the Loch Ness monster started to push to have laws enacted that favor their morality, set forth by a non-existent lake-dwelling monster?

      It isn’t the non-existent deity that bothers people, it is the things that people do in the name of whatever non-existent deity that they worship that frightens people.

      That said, to be an atheist one doesn’t need to be a part of an atheist organization. The label “atheist” simply means that one does not believe in the existence of a deity. I have joined no organization or club to fight against religion.

  9. Big Al permalink
    October 20, 2010 10:27 am

    “If you lived in a world where everyone around you believed in the Loch Ness monster, worshiped the Loch Ness monster”

    If that happened, I would question my judgment regarding the Loch Ness monster. And I too am appalled at the things people have done in the name of religion. But religion also gives us the foundation that holds society together. Look at what is happening to our country today because there is no morality. Free speech is dead. The left is more appalled at what comes out of someones mouth than they are at women killing their babies, or sexual deviants adopting children. How do you think such a twisted mindset was created? Bullshit words like tolerance and diversity. Mandatory sensitivity training. We have become a nation of greedy, lazy self-centered losers because we have no sense of morality as a nation anymore. Which, by the way, has been the downfall of nearly every major empire in history.

    • October 20, 2010 11:33 pm

      However, if I were living in that society where everyone worshiped the Loch Ness monster I’d think they were all loony and I’d still be an atheist.

      Atheism does not equal amorality. In fact, many of the least moral people in history have been theists, and many of those have been Christian theists.

    • godlesspaladin permalink
      October 21, 2010 12:03 am

      Big Al, take one look at the Human Development Index that ranks countries by quality of life and you’ll quickly see that the more religious a country is, the shittier it is. Society would collapse without religious morality? Pick up an actual history book and see that that is not the case. Might I remind you, the Roman empire turned Christian and then started to collapse. The Spanish Empire collapsed at the height of religious fever. Empires collapse for many reasons. “Immorality” as defined by you is not one of them.

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