... and why I am.
I am not an atheist because:
- I hate God
- I prayed to God and my prayers weren't answered
- Militant/fundamentalist atheists converted me away from God
- I worship science and the works of man instead of God
- I'm rebelling against God like I rebelled against my parents & teachers in high school
- I think I'm better than God
- I had a bad experience with a priest or church or religious person
- I can't decide which religion to subscribe to
- atheism is my religion
- I think religious people are idiots
- I worship Batman
- I worship Satan
- I'm immoral/amoral and would rather do what I want
- I want to destroy religion
I distrust and criticise certain organised religions because:
- they are human inventions and many seem to be more preoccupied with obsessively controlling aspects of peoples' private lives than improving them
- many Christian churches (e.g. millionaire televangelists) seem primarily concerned with attracting money and then keeping it rather than using it charitably
- many holy books get descriptions of the world & nature completely wrong which you would not expect had they been dictated by the omnipotent creator of the universe
- many holy books contain descriptions of human events that are highly implausible, cannot be historically verified and in all likelihood never happened (eg. Exodus, Ascension)
- many holy books contain numerous laws, acts & stories of morality that modern, free societies find repugnant; these societies have passed many of their own laws criminalising such acts and international legal bodies would call some of them "crimes against humanity"
- there are so many separate & often violently opposed sects of each religion that it is more likely that none of them are correct than just one of them being so
- that there is more than one sect of any faith calls into question the faith as a whole; there is, tellingly, also no reliable method for discerning which sect if any is "true"
- many religious groups demand special treatment such as the right not to be offended by statements, artworks, songs or anything else that may criticise or disagree with their dogma and go to great lengths to ban books, films, games and even to have billboards taken down
- religious groups frequently try to have laws passed which unfairly impose their narrow standards of behaviour, based on interpretations of specific holy commands, onto the rest of society
- many religious groups insist that people who don't share their faith should nonetheless be subject to the same religious restrictions on behaviour and thought
- religious people often tend to pick & choose from, or "interpret" their holy texts, discarding what does not conform to modern standards of morality, law & political freedom; they then imply that modern morality, law and political freedom rests on the foundations of their particular religion
- there is such a wide spectrum of religious belief & adherence to dogma, ranging from light, barely-existent deism to the kind of rigid fundamentalism that oppresses and kills many, many people in its name, that it leads me to conclude that either God wasn't clear enough with his message, didn't spread it to enough people or that humans have basically made their religions and associated rules up as they went along
- many religious people & groups wilfully mischaracterise atheists as immoral, empty beings with no appreciation for beauty or mystery simply because we prefer natural explanations for the universe's phenomena rather than defaulting to "God did it"; they believe that any explanation, even a non-explanatory or flat wrong one, is better than "we just don't know yet so we'll keep looking"
- many religious groups continue to deny long-accepted scientific facts such as the divergence of species through evolution and the verified age of the Earth; some wish their particular mythology taught as fact in science classes and go to extraordinary lengths to accomplish it; some even insist there's a huge, dark Scientist conspiracy quashing "academic freedom"; it appears that for some believers homes, Bible study, youth groups, private religious schools, homeschooling, churches and religious TV programs & stations don't provide enough opportunity to proselytise
- some religious people & groups attempt to cherry-pick science (as they do their scriptures) for those parts which conform to their belief system while actively denying others, e.g. agreeing with "microevolution" while denying "macroevolution" (which is akin to agreeing with "matches" but not with "bonfires") or attempting to debunk evolution using tenuously-related scientific discoveries like the Second Law of Thermodynamics
- some religious groups deny the efficacy of modern medicine in favour of treating an ill person with prayer, a practice which has led to many preventable deaths, often children
- they all make extraordinary claims based on their scriptures, provide no evidence beyond referring to their self-confirming scriptures and then insist that the onus is on atheists to disprove those claims or prove the non-existence of their gods
- many religions have become inextricably intertwined with the laws of the patriarchal cultures which spawned or adopted them, leading to divine justifications for such horrors as female circumcision and "honour killings", which more often than not punish women, already under the thumbs of domineering males, for seemingly minute transgressions of law or for simply being victimised
- when it comes to the hot-button issue of sexual abuse by priests, religious hierarchies seem more concerned with good public relations, shielding themselves & their members from culpability and keeping numbers in churches than with compensating victims and being active about preventing further abuse
- certain religious hierarchies are dogmatically and unreasonably opposed to any form of birth control or contraception among their flocks (except for abstinence), more or less insisting that women either bear young relentlessly or not have sex at all. They do this while simultaneously denying their priests any form of sexual contact with anyone at all and placing enormous guilt on any believer who experiences intimacy in any non-approved fashion and demanding confessions of same; this creates an unhealthy & sordid atmosphere of shame & repression among the entire faith
I am an atheist because:
- any & all claims of and explanations for the existence of God or any other gods have fallen far short of my standards of evidence (or, for that matter, of any reasonable standard of evidence)
- my understanding of the universe is that it functions in such a way that neither requires or indicates the presence of any supernatural entity intervening in either the laws of nature or selected peoples' lives; each new scientific discovery reinforces this understanding
That's it. They are the only two things that I can say I have in common with any other atheist. In matters of sex, politics, architecture, gaming, interior design, bicycles, music, clothing, hobbies, language, philosophy, education, sports, typing speed, preferred drugs, affinity with beagles and any number of other categories I may be diametrically opposite to any other atheist in the world. To label one atheist with the same attributes you label another atheist is ignorant at best, flat-out dishonest at worst (unless of course you're calling them both atheists, in which case you're stating the obvious and adding nothing to the discussion anyway).
But what could steer me in the opposite direction? Probably the same things that could steer any atheist...
I could be converted to theism if:
- God, or a god, showed himself or performed an act that unambiguously proved his existence as an immortal, omnipotent being. As to what that proof would constitute: that god himself would be the perfect arbiter of what would conclusively prove to seven billion people that he existed.
- The above act(s) or performances were carried out in such a way that I could be certain I wasn't hallucinating or being deceived
Such things as tortillas depicting blurred silhouettes of Jesus do not count (how do I know that's not a blurred silhouette of Frank Zappa?) and should frankly embarrass anyone who thinks such parlour tricks are the work of the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Universe. If you're there, God, you're on notice! Any time is fine. No tricks - and come alone (if indeed there's only one of you, otherwise, bring the whole parthenon).
1. This was originally posted here in 2008.
2. Slight edits were made for clarity, vanity and because ampersands always seem to suffer unfortunate mutations when transplanted.
3. No sightings of God have been made in the intervening time.
4. I think I may actually worship Batman.