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: 441

Comment by Cody Staub on March 31, 2012 at 3:54pm

I agree, so many people pass judgements without ever knowing who you truly are. One of the most common things I hear when people learn of my atheism is, "Oh, but I thought you were such a good person". It really offends me that people think the two are mutually exclusive.

Also wanted to say, I think the points you bring up from your uncle's sermon could just as easily be "believer" instead of "unbelief". It's a straight hypocrisy.

Comment by Wesley on April 1, 2012 at 12:53pm

Cara, you need to print this out and let her read it.. and some of the responces too.   My father was a minister for over 40 years and a great person too by the way.

I came to where I am today by following the 'truth'.  The truth demands answers.   Meister Eckhardt wrote.. "only the hand that erases can write the truth".. he may have been wacky in other areas but he was correct on this point.  Science has confirmed this over and over again.

Surely Truth can stand up to the most intense scrutiny and if it can't then it must not be truth.  Why settle for a truth that can't stand up to examination?   The sun and planets don't revolve around the earth... yet for centuries the church, supported by scipture, DEMANDED that they did.  Examination and evidence has proven that the church was wrong about that truth... which in turn begs the question.. what other 'truths' could it be wrong about?

 

Comment by Cara Coleen on April 1, 2012 at 1:32pm

Eh, I don't think her reading this would make any difference. I've come at this from all angles with her, just trying to get her to at least understand my reasons for not believing. I don't expect her to agree, just have the ability to take off her Christian goggles and think abstractly. She either can't or won't. As disrespectful as this may be to say, she's just not that smart... that or she's insulated herself against opposing information for so long that she's lost the ability to process new arguments.

But ya know what really grinds my gears? I just got into a mini-debate on Facebook (oh Facebook, how we love thee O_o) with someone who was presumably atheist, or at least agnostic. He posted an article from the Huffington Post where Dawkins said he didn't know for sure there was not a god. Of course, people latch onto that and totally (purposefully) misunderstand his statement. So the article was making-out like Dawkins had just admitted there might really be a god after all. If anyone has ever read or listened to Dawkins speak, there is no way they could imagine he's conceding the point... he's just a good scientist.

So I tried to point that out, and then he kept quoting Sagan, Hawking, Darwin, Einstein (etc) with out-of-context insinuations there might be a god, or that they believed there was one if by "god" someone meant "the Laws of Nature". I actually get really irritated when people can't refrain from using the word "god" to wax poetic about the universe. The word has become meaningless, mindless filler. People are like, "well, to ME God is [fill in the blank]!!" I don't like when people decide to alter definitions to match their feelings. I think it undermines the purpose of language.

The Laws of Nature are not "God", nor are they even god-like. The Laws of Nature are not conscious. If calling the Laws of Nature "God" comforts you, grow up already... because Nature doesn't care about you... because it can't care about you... because it's not a living, thinking being. It's not even an "it"! The Laws of Nature are processes, sometimes acting independently and separately. I was totally getting into semantics, which I happen to think are very important with this particular topic. Calling something "god" does not add to our understanding but takes away from it.

Then he turned around and called me an unintelligent, narrow-minded, militant atheist. Wha'?! Jeez, I expect way too much from atheists I guess. Because I don't agree with all his ridiculous assertions, he feels the need to go all ad-hom on my ass. Like, nothing I said was remotely "militant", whatever the hell that even means. I'm a militant atheist because I think definitions are important? Because I think the universe was not fine-tuned for our existence? I mean... he was arguing that gravity is proof of... god?... because if it was any weaker or stronger, there would be no universe. "What does the balance mean?! Surely it means we're all being held together by a magical force!" Or it means that we happen to exist at a time where all these things happen to be in balance, but billions of years ago they weren't in balance and there was no universe... and billions of years from now there will, again, be no universe (we are expanding outward, after all, and our sun will die, and we will collide with Andromeda).

Ack. So many assumptions about me that guy jumped to. It didn't hurt my feelings for someone like him to tell me I'm not very intelligent, but it did momentarily depress me over the plight of humanity. Even atheists have prejudgments formed about other atheists!

Wow. I wrote a lot...

Comment by Wesley on April 1, 2012 at 2:19pm

I agree. .. if you can't come up with an agreed upon definition then why use the term?  It carries so much baggage with it that it confuses more than it helps anything.

I came up with a hypothetical on another thread as an alternative to an intentional creator god....and that was a non-sentient 'something' from another dimension thats byproduct were big bangs. 

The atheist says that there's certainly not enough evidence to support any of humanity's god proposals.. and even if it turns out that there is some kind of sentience behind this universe's existence that in no way means that it would bear the least bit of resemblance to one of our proposals...much less be the target of that specific proposal.  

 

Comment by Wesley on April 1, 2012 at 10:06pm

Facebook.....  So far my 'discussions' on Facebook have been in the realm of sweet respectfulness of political debate.. LOL  I can't imagine having the energy for a religious one.  I've already been accused of attacking religion and to lay off my relentless war on it..   I can only shake my head..for If I wanted to really make a war on it, I would.  What I have posted is nothing.

Comment by Cara Coleen on April 1, 2012 at 10:24pm

lol I recently created an entirely separate FB for friends and family that I know don't appreciate or cannot be swayed by my political/religious posts. It's the PC version. I thought my original FB would now be free of the sensitive types. You know what they say... a cynic is only a disappointed idealist. I expected too much it seems!

Comment by Rob Klaers on April 1, 2012 at 11:37pm

I have two FB accts myself. Ones for gaming and the other..well, if my theist friends can't deal my periodic atheist postings when they're posting Jesus-this, prayer-that stuff all the time.. Then they're just not living the Biblical life they're supposed to be. :) 

Comment by Kevin Barton on April 3, 2012 at 2:10am
One of the problems you'll have is that you will never convince those who are as deluded as they sound in your post, that they are wrong, by telling them that everything they bases their whole life on is false.

Each person has to find this for themselves, and by hearing quotes from their books of faith and by the people they look up to sound like a better option. Sam Harris, rather than Richard Dawkins does this as well as anyone by offering an alternative moral path. We are in danger of sounding and acting like a cult ourselves when we dismiss the religious ideology without providing a reasonable alternative I think, to allow good people to think for themselves rather than have to follow someone or something else.

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