I recently heard a good definition of atheism:
The person defining it this way expanded it to include another idea:
Atheists do not insist that they know God does not exist. More precisely, atheists have no reason to believe in God.
Evidence has not been presented in an amount sufficient to convince atheists of the existence of a higher power. It is not necessarily true that atheists are closed-minded to any or all offers of such evidence. After evaluating the evidence offered thus far, the atheist simply remains unconvinced. Not rebelliously unable to be convinced, and not stubbornly unwilling to be convinced. No. Rather, the atheist is sincerely choosing to remain faithful to what he or she knows to be true, often against great social pressure to give in and profess belief in a supreme being.
What more could anyone ask of their fellow human beings? Why should believers feel comfortable demanding that we atheists ignore evidence which anyone can easily see and trust, and which requires the least amount of faith to comprehend? What makes faith inherently more trustworthy than sensory data and scientific measurement?
This demand that Christianity makes upon the believer, to actively deny facts in evidence against the faith, to me is the final nail in the coffin of the “Christian phase” of my life. That demand is unforgivable.
That demand is the greatest weakness of that belief system (and, perhaps, of many or all other religious beliefs). It becomes a great weakness in the reasoning abilities of the believer. This suspension of disbelief spreads beyond the boundaries of their religious thoughts, creating great gullibility. This Christian intellectual paralysis opens up the true believer to conspiracy theories, financial scams, illogical political ideologies, irrationally intense patriotism and military-worship, and the terrible tendency to be suspicious of all science-based knowledge.
At one time or another during my quarter-century profession of Christianity I embraced each of these vulnerabilities as if they were wisdom, not the foolishness they are.
The New Testament goes to the extreme of making its own form of foolishness immune from claims to be thus identified, and counters it with the Orwellian doublespeak label of wisdom:
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom… For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (1 Corinthians 1:25; 3:19, NIV)
The believer can thus blithely walk away from all contrary evidence exposing the foolishness of his beliefs, confident that his foolishness is seen by God as wisdom, and celebrated by his fellow believers as great faith.
I am glad that I no longer consider Bible foolishness to be a good replacement for actual wisdom, such as facts, morality, humane values, and evidence-based reasoning. But many of my friends, family, and former students and fellow church members remain locked inside the prison of this delusion called biblical belief or Christianity. I cannot help but feel sorry for them.
I well remember how powerful my old religion was, and how much it required of me. All the money in offerings and tuition which should have gone to securing a better financial future for my children. All the mental and emotional roller-coaster rides in and out of guilt, depression, and frustration. The many humiliations of succumbing to the manipulation of man-made standards and cultural customs paraded around as if handed down on divinely-carved tablets. Watching countless fellow Christians pushed to ridiculous extremes, like glossolalia (speaking in tongues), isolationist commune living, hours wasted in utterly meaningless arguments, debates, committee meetings, and prayer vigils. The constant, withering judgmental attacks, in which I participated both as attacker and victim. I’m brought to tears thinking of how wasteful it all is, wasteful of our emotional, intellectual, and creative energies.
I feel that ‘hate’ is a strong word, and usually used hyperbolically. With that said, I HATE that I EVER allowed myself to become that gullible. I am ashamed of myself for falling for it, and I take full responsibility for my lapse into irrational beliefs. Greater is my guilt since just prior to my fall around age twenty I had achieved a very healthy level of skepticism about all things religious. I had every reason and resource necessary to reject the claims which I instead chose to accept. It’s nobody’s fault but mine that I did accept an invitation to believe the gospel, and soon after that was baptized into a Christian denomination. I was twenty years old. Twenty-five years later, I came back to my senses, literally. Now, once again, I trust my senses and scientific evidence instead of faith claims and religion assertions.
An example of an irrational Christian doctrine which I used to believe but now happily reject: If you hear the gospel presentation several times and yet consistently reject its invitation to accept Jesus as your savior, you deserve to be punished.
Huh? Why would this be true? How can this be construed as ‘good’ news? Surely ‘good’ here is used euphemistically. This news is horrible, not good. This is tantamount to being given an ‘offer you can’t refuse.’ This gospel invitation is usually issued with earnest emotional appeals connected with additional requirements to invite your loved ones to accept the invitation, or else you will never see them again.
Is God a mafia godfather? How is his use of coercion compatible with his claim to be just, fair, loving, and compassionate? The truly twisted part of it all is how everyone who falls for this ‘good news invitation’ immediately succumbs to the Stockholm Syndrome (Christian edition), praising God for his supposed mercy and kindness and gushing to each other about his goodness and literally singing his praises. Along with all that praise goes the shutting down of the critical reasoning faculties, and the deadening of normal, healthy skepticism and natural suspicion. And with the ability to recognize foolishness sufficiently strangled, the new converts are sent out as apostles of the good news to bring back a harvest of more converts.
The tragedy is how many vulnerable minds they find, and deliver back into the delusion that caught them up into the foolishness of religion.