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“So what prompted the change to atheism?” [Mar. 4th, 2010|08:17 pm]
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An old friend recently asked me a question that got me started on this long-winded response. I thought I would post it here. I’ll write more about my Christian childhood later to give this some context.

“So what prompted the change to atheism?” Well, a Christian hurt me, and now I’m mad at God. ….. No, totally just kidding, but that seems to be the most often assumed “cause” that I hear from religious people who haven’t taken the time to listen to a de-conversion story. My mom used to ask who it was that hurt me and what happened to me. I really have no serious issue directly with any individual Christian that I’ve met personally. I think Christians are simply overwhelmed by systematic religious fear. “Love God or else!” It’s not really their fault. This is a tangent to answering the question directly, but I just want to be clear that my decisions on faith and the supernatural are not out of rebellion or a vendetta or as a reaction to some non-related personal offense.

Why the change? The short answer is that I see no rational reason to choose to believe in a faith-based worldview. Below is a somewhat disjointed summary of my views on both Christianity and religion in general. Consider it a draft from a non-writer. ; )

The usual reasons offered for being religious can be summarized as either the promise of eternal life / punishment or religious life is happier / more moral / good for humanity. I don’t include the statement “I just know in my heart that X is true.” as a reason, because that is only a statement about how strongly the belief is held and not actually any kind of argument.

In response to the promise of eternal life or death, historical records show that the various afterlife stories have been continually made up or modernized to fit ongoing changes in culture. They are just stories from human imagination which are used to influence people. They are pretty entertaining to listen to, especially in succession.

In response to statements that suggest that religion improves our everyday life, consider religious wars, hindrances to science, and countless inhumane actions perpetrated by religious institutions. Humanity is, overall, worse off for being religious. Of course, most any religious person would respond to that with, “Yes, all those religions other than my own cause great harm to the world.” … but you can see the inherent problem in that kind of thinking. If you’re not convinced, take a look at some religious perspectives other than the ones with which you are most familiar. It is natural to think only of the positive effects of one’s own religious affiliation and to disbelieve the negative.

The concept of morality across cultures and time has been pretty much standard. Some religions claim to be the source of morality (a moral compass), but then why do the basics of common morality, ideas like be nice, don’t murder or steal, care for children, make sense to a rational person in the absence of religion? Those ideas are common among humans simply because they make good sense for the health and continuance of humans. An individual who acts for his own benefit at the expense of others in his community (i.e. raping children) has to then deal with the consequences directly from the community. It works itself out even without divinely inspired fear or love. Good and bad have been defined over time through natural human development.

I guess there is another pro-religion reason I have heard somewhat often. “We are here in a universe, therefore something must have created it.” That doesn’t make sense to me. What we do know is that we are here and that the universe exists, but that is all we really can observe. That a “god” entity created us in order to have pets or to be loved is simply an imaginative idea to consider, not at all an observation.

I have found it important to make a distinction between truth and opinion when considering religion. There are methodical, empirical ways to test the truth of an idea, but simply saying “The belief of a certain idea makes one happier” gives no weight to the authenticity of that idea. Some people say they are happier with a relationship with Jesus than without. I am sure they feel that and honestly believe that to be true. I believed it honestly as well. Since then, my own experience has been that the occasional feelings of religious ecstasy are self-induced. I can have similar experiences from many other sources. My happiness now is more genuine than I previously knew it could be. I don’t have to put aside those annoying questions anymore. Doubt is good. Faith is merely choosing to reject reason and go along with some other person’s ideas.

What about the in-errancy of the Bible (or other religious book)? Listen to a less-biased historical perspective. Those that claim Biblical in-errancy will blindy defend it. The chaotic formation of that collection of writings is well documented from reputable and verifiable research. It is not the singular or profound “Word of God” its followers claim it to be. It was gathered with many revisions over time, mostly due to political motivations.

“Why not just be like Jesus who taught love and forgiveness?” Apart from the absence of that character in historical record, why get your morality from a social mentor who supported slavery? Why would he slaughter a bunch of pigs for no reason? Why tell his disciples to steal a donkey? If it is wrong now, it was wrong then. Defenders of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, are defending moral relativism according to cultural norms of the time. If God actually frequently commanded genocide including children and animals, as well as rape and child sacrifice, then the God of today would still be responsible for that hateful behavior. The statement “God is love” requires that “love” be severely redefined. It is comforting to me that there isn’t actually anything I have seen that indicates that such a terrible, jealous, genocidal, emotionally irrational entity exists.

One more point, due to the supposed “unchanging nature of God”, a Christian is often prevented from admitting to being wrong, even in the face of new information. Christian ideas are often in conflict with reality as clearly seen when creationists try to debate with science. Science is a method that definitively requires ongoing correction through cycles of theory and testing. It also uses the process of expert peer review to confirm or deny new research. “Creation Science” is truly an oxymoron since its defenders will not and cannot change their views when the continual flood of evidence supports an ancient universe and Darwinian evolution.

So, why am I becoming more vocal and active about religion? Brad Pitt says it succinctly here. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/15/brad-pitt-religion-doesnt_n_260398.html I don’t want to block anyone in their own search for truth, but I do speak out when a concept of faith begins to interfere with public policy or causes the mis-education of our future generations.

So… that’s enough for the summary. These are the views that I have found through a very honest, personal search. I don’t think there is much chance of there being a supernatural being like we humans have imagined in the past, but… I am quite willing to be open to rational discussion and new observations. Please let me know what you think or if you have a question.


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