My mother learns about my thoughts and motives by reading books and watching shows produced by Christians. Instead of asking me, or believing what I tell her, she looks to people who don't know me. I borderline hate her for this. I don't hate her (just resent), but I do hate that she lets strangers inform her about who I am when she's known me my whole life. It's so invalidating.

In general, Christians seem to have a habit of speaking for others and assuming they know the inner life and thoughts of strangers, based solely on knowledge of one thing: they don't believe the same things that Christians do. It is impossible for them, perhaps even heretical, to understand there is another perspective to consider. It seems my mother cannot accept my reasons for not believing there is a god because my reasons are a direct contradiction to the reasons the Bible gives for my unbelief.

So, instead of believing her own flesh-and-blood daughter, and realizing the Bible isn't always true, she tells me, "Well, I think that atheists only say they don't believe in God because they don't want to do what He tells them to do." After making that statement she assures me that I'm not included in that judgment; just those atheists "out there". Right. Not me, just those "other" atheists. Maybe she thinks I'm simply not aware of my own motives and am just a victim of... myself?

My uncle is a Calvinist preacher in Missouri. He has lived 30+ years in the same house and has only changed churches once. Neither church has/had a very diversified group of people; they're all mainly old and white, and most have lived in the same state, or even city, their whole life. As you can imagine, their life experiences are limited to that tiny, insulated bubble. The television is their window into the world at large. I have little, if any, respect for whatever opinions they've formed inside this vacuum... including my uncle's.

Two yeas ago my grandfather passed away, and I spent two weeks in the company of these quaint Missourians. For three Sundays in a row I attended my uncle's services. One of his messages was on Unbelief. Here were the "Points of Unbelief":

  • Unbelief always wants more proof
    They fight and refuse the proof in front of them
  • Unbelief bullies to win their point
    They strong-arm and don't care about truth just winning
  • Unbelief rejects the facts without thought
    "I know what you are saying but I won't believe it."
  • Unbelief is an ego trip
    Self is above everything even a real God
  • Unbelief uses the oldest play in the world
    They slander and attack their opponent

There are so many things wrong with these bullet points. First of all, if he had used the word "unbeliever" rather than "unbelief", these bullets might've made more sense, and been grammatically correct. As it stands, he ascribes all these characteristics to "unbelief" that simply don't belong to it... and there's a bit of hypocrisy at play if you apply these characteristics to a lack of belief in unicorns, leprechauns, fairies, etc.

I am quite sure my uncle is guilty of unbelief in such things. Because of his unbelief, is he also guilty of wanting more proof (oh no, not more proof!!!) that fairy tale creatures are real, bullying people to win his point (that they don't exist I presume), rejecting fairy tale creatures without thought, his ego he rejecting fairy tale creatures, and using the old "play" of slandering those who believe fairy tales? Well, probably on some counts, yes. I'm quite sure he rejects fairy tales without thoughts and likely makes fun of people who believe in fairies (I actually know a woman who really does believe in fairies, and it astounds me there are really people who could be victims of this specific slandering). But is it his ego that rejects fairy tales? Does he bully people that believe fairy tales? ~shrugs~

By the way, point one (unbelief always wants more proof) contradicts point three (unbelief rejects the facts without thought). How can someone thoughtlessly demand more proof? Wanting more proof is generally a sign that someone is thinking, and deeply, about something.

But, either way, it is fallacious to apply all these characteristics to unbelief. Unbelief is passive: in and of itself, it does not demand proof, does not bully to win a point (assuming "it" is even engaged in a debate), is not an ego trip (couldn't it also be the result of laziness or lack of self-respect?), and certainly does not use any "play" whatsoever. It just is what it is: unbelief. It does nothing. It is not an action, nor is it even a personality trait. Everyone disbelieves something without exception, even the most gullible and the most meek.

So, all my uncle's points about Unbelief are fallacious, contradictory, and untrue. YET... my mother beside me grunted in approval as my uncle made his case to the congregation. The others in the room nodded their heads in agreement. Yes, Unbelief is a bully! Yes, Unbelief is an ego-trip! Does it occur to anyone listening that they are also guilty of unbelief? Nope. Will any of them ever ask, instead of assume, the reasons someone may not believe? No way. They already know! Sinners. Egotistical bullies!

And what lesson shall we take away from these things? Hell if I know. I just know that I am misrepresented... and I'm going to fight against that. It's just not in me to lay back and accept that the story of "Unbelievers" has already been written. No way. I am not the sum of Unbelief, but of critical thinking, inquiry, curiosity, passion, intelligence, champion of justice, supporter of human and animal rights, compassion, imperfection, and pride.

I reject the story being told about me by those who've never met me.

Views: 507

Comment by C. Sosa on March 30, 2012 at 2:40pm

Love the ending very nicely put. 

Comment by CJoe on March 30, 2012 at 2:49pm

Thanks :)

Comment by SteveInCO on March 30, 2012 at 3:10pm

Alas this is not the first example of Xians telling you what your unbelief is about.

"You're only an atheist because you are mad at God!" has got to be the most common of the bunch.

(Now where is that banging-your-head-against-the-wall emoticon when you really need it!?)

Comment by CJoe on March 30, 2012 at 3:39pm

Yes. Sometimes I wish I could write down a whole list of incorrect assumptions Christians make, and counter each one with what's actually true. Sadly, I know this is futile... and people have already tried. It doesn't matter in how simple of terms I present my argument to my mom, she doesn't get it. If ever she understands a point, it's forgotten almost instantly.

I mean, I even admitted that she's right in one sense: if I discovered Yahweh were real, I wouldn't want to obey or worship him... because he's a giant, evil asshole. But I don't not believe Yahweh is real because I think he's evil. I stopped believing long before I realized what a douche this character was, and it had nothing to do with obedience. But she can't keep up with all these nuances.

Comment by Emperor Milos on March 30, 2012 at 4:12pm

My mother-in-law reminds me of your mom.

I've had to go to church with her and my wife a few times, and heard similar speeches from the pastor there. And yeah, the grunts of agreement, and the one old guy who yells "AMEN!" every 10 seconds. Some of the speeches about non-believers are so hateful, that my wife (who is religious) was offended for me and wanted to leave.

And it's true that no even though they know you personally, and know that you are a good person, if you are an unbeliever, you are somehow viewed as a lesser being. I can relate. My wife's religious zealot of a brother, refuses to help his own mother unless she repays him. Example: She moved recently, and since she is retired, and not getting a lot of money, he agreed to help her to pay a part of her rent, but only if she takes care of his kid whenever he and his wife want, watch their house whenever they go somewhere, do whatever they tell her to. Keep in mind that they live across town, and she is 70 years old and doesn't drive. She would have to bus there and back every time.

On the other side are my wife and evil ol' me. We are paying the other half of her rent, and asking absolutely nothing in return. Not even asking for a thank you. We are helping because it is the right thing to do.

But, when they are at church, she happily agrees with how atheists and non-believers are evil, even though one of those Satan possessed monsters is married to her daughter, and is doing everything in his power to help her live a comfortable life, whereas her son is a living saint, no matter how horrible he behaves towards her.

Your story is sadly very common Cara. I hope your mom gets it one day. I'm sure it's long overdue, and from reading your posts on this website, you definitely are a good person and deserve respect.

Comment by Morgan Matthew on March 30, 2012 at 4:29pm

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on March 30, 2012 at 5:23pm

Hi Cara – Great post. Christians are great at making assumptions about Atheists which are totally incorrect. I am sure you have heard lines like “At least Muslims believe in something”. They consider “unbelief” as if it is a state of mind or a condition Atheists suffer from. We are however “non-believers” which of course is not a condition – lol.

I often debate Theists and I find it frustrating that they cannot grasp this concept. I was recently accused of having a superiority complex and that I lacked humility (ego). I asked how could not believing in the existence of their god without proof make me superior to anyone ? I told them all I wanted was any tiny shred of objective evidence. This ended up in the usual place - where I discover that my lack of faith is down to my over reliance on “Science” – which I have not brought into the debate – another assumption they make. So I explained that whatever opinions I have formed about the world that are based on my (scientific) observations of it have absolutely nothing to do with my “unbelief” in their god anymore that my “unbelief” in the tooth fairy. Both concepts get the same consideration from me – that is none whatsoever.

Then it went something like “Well we are all equally entitled to our opinions” as if this attempt at wisdom levels the debate. I then agree with them but continue that while everyone is entitled to an opinion, some of us actually make the effort to have an informed opinion that will develop if we make the effort to challenge what we claim to believe.

It made them all smug and I waited for the line that all they can do is pray for me. They then told me that they felt sorry for me and asked how, in my heart, could I deny the existence of god and the love of Jesus. I was by then wondering why I even bothered until I realised I can do this all day.

So I asked “Why do you keep making assumptions about me?” All I said was I did not believe it. You are the ones telling me that my views or opinions are wrong and that yours are not only opinions but are the complete Truth that happens to be revealed knowledge giving to you by the creator of the universe. You offer no proof, not a shred of evidence and tell me I could burn for eternity because I do not believe this and that my “unbelief” is down to a problem with my ego. You need to become better Christians.

Silence. The debate is over. Pray for me if you want to and I will think for you. It’s “Unbeliefable” lol.

The problem is that what we consider to be an assumption is deemed to be a considered opinion by the average Theist. These assumptions are drummed into them as much as their religion is. They hear about immoral, godless Atheists in sermons and read articles published as factual in their periodicals. Be vigilant against the rise of “New Atheism” as it spreads its “unbelief”.

Theists just can’t grasp that Atheists are not in “a state of unbelief”.
I was at the World Atheist Conference last year where there was a good discussion on how to communicate Atheism to people to remove misunderstandings and false assumptions from mainstream thought. Was the topic covered at the Reason Rally?

Comment by Mo Trauen on March 30, 2012 at 5:28pm

Oh, boy, do I hear you.  This is all so true.  I think I can add a little insight.  You have to remember that religious people have had their sense of morality twisted.  They think that morality consists primarily of obedience to authority.  They are pathologically anal retentive.

Like you, I stopped believing because it made no logical sense; morality was an afterthought.  I was only 13 at the time.  How many immoral temptations could I have had?  Besides, except for atheism, I am--and was--almost as straight an arrow as you will find anywhere.  In fact, I stopped believing because I was too honest to lie to myself about what reason told me.

Comment by Dale Headley on March 30, 2012 at 5:32pm

   My Mormon friend asked me if I thought his religion was a "cult," as many Christians believe.  I told him that ALL religions have exactly the same validity with me - NONE.  And as to being a cult, I told him "Sure it is, just like Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and all other forms of belief in preposterous mythology."


Comment by CJoe on March 30, 2012 at 6:57pm

@Reg We didn't stay for all the speakers. At one point (after listening to James Randi) we decided to listen to the debates happening on the fringes with those picketing us (there were like six of them). As you can imagine, that was an exercise in futility (on the part of the atheists engaging the theists). In short, I don't know if what you mentioned was covered, but I sort of doubt it. Each speaker only had about ten minutes... and mainly they were talking about "coming out" and how important students are to the movement. Mainly, it seemed to be about encouraging each other... which is nice.

@Mo Yes, I really think I ended up atheist because I was too honest and had too much faith. I was not at all afraid of what the answers to my questions would reveal, mainly because I felt so confident I already knew the answer. Ironic, really. I was super intellectually honest, yet full of faith. I guess it was inevitable one or the other would give lol.


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