Monday, November 9, 2009

A Few Responses

In the real world, I don't advertise my atheism for several reasons. The two biggest reasons involve my family back in my hometown. My mother is in poor health, and I don't want her to spend her last years tortured with the idea that her daughter is going to burn in Hell; and my brother owns a business in my tiny, ultra conservative hometown, and if word got around that N was an evil, godless heathen, that would damage his livelihood considerably. My right to free expression is not important enough to me to cause my family grief.

I live far enough away from my hometown that I could be more public with my atheism here than I currently am. But, a lesser reason that I avoid the topic of atheism in mixed company is that I feel ill equipped to defend my position. Sure, here on my blog I voice a strong opinion, and ramble freely in defense of what I believe; but when writing a blog post, I have plenty of time to think about what I'm going to say. I have access to, where I can look up passages to back up what I'm saying. I have the luxury of the delete button if I re-read something I've said and it turns out to actually be dumber than banana kool-aid. I don't have those advantages in a tête-à-tête with a fundamentalist christian who has plenty of preconceived notions and canned responses in his or her arsenal.

I expect that the day will come when I am willing to be honest about my lack of belief in a public situation. I think about what I will say to the standard questions and comments. Some of the responses I imagine are repetitions of excellent arguments made by brilliant skeptics I've read; some of them are original statements drawn from my personal experience over the years. I'll share some of them here. Please feel free to comment/critique/debate any of them. I'm not afraid of friendly debate and conversation. I only avoid conflict in the land of the living because I fear my response to the flaring tempers that I would be sure to encounter. Cyberspace shields me from that, somewhat. So, fire away.

  1. Why are you angry with God?
    I'm not angry with God. I don't believe in a god. How could I be angry with something in which I don't believe? Why are you angry with the little blue marmoset that lives in my shoe?

  2. Jesus loves you.
    You are wrong. There is no magical dead guy who loves me. The fact that you believe this based on a book of which you frankly know almost nothing regarding its origins and history floors me. My daughter loves me; my mother loves me. My brothers love me. Of this, I have evidence. Show me the evidence of this 2000 year old myth's love, and I will reconsider my position.

  3. You have so many blessings. How do you explain those without God?
    All of my blessings can be explained by chance, probability, hard work, or careful planning. You may argue that those I attribute to chance or probability were bestowed upon me by God; I say to you that I need evidence that God is the source. I am fortunate to have been born into a loving, intelligent, hard working, middle class American family (Yes, I feel fortunate to be American; you folks in other countries should feel fortunate to be from your country, too. It’s a matter of perspective.). That was luck of the draw; I had nothing to do with it. Was it a gift from God? Explain to me then where God is in relation to the baby born to abusive parents in a filthy, overcrowded crack house with no one who cares enough about him to ever teach him how to get out of his situation as he grows. Tell me why there are so many babies born into poverty and famine in underdeveloped countries. Why the polar differences? Wouldn’t it make more sense that a god who loves all of his children would give them all an equal start? At least closer to equal, at least?

    That being said, yes, I am very fortunate, and I reflect on my good fortune often, with a very grateful heart.

  4. How can you look at [that beautiful sunset, those majestic mountains, your daughter, anything natural and beautiful] and not believe in God?
    I read. And I studied science. I know what makes those things. Guess what? It wasn't a god.
  5. Aren't you afraid of going to Hell?
    No. I'm also not afraid of ghosts, Freddie Kreuger, vampires, or zombies. I'm not afraid of anything that I don't believe in. Especially things that make absolutely no logical sense whatsoever.
  6. Why don't you just believe? Isn't that safer than taking the chance that you are wrong?
    Well, how do you know which religion I should believe in order to give me the greatest likelihood of achieving eternal bliss? How do you know that Christianity is right, and not Hinduism? Jainism? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Islam? Satanism? Sikhism? Shinto? Rastafarianism? Scientology? They all have exactly the same amount of evidence supporting them. Which is none.
  7. You are just evil.
    Yes. I know. I work hard to provide for my daughter. I call my mama to check on her several times a week. I do everything in my power to help my friends when they need me. I give to charity. I recycle. For the love of all that is just, WHY HAVE I NOT BEEN LOCKED UP YET?!?


    Lord Runolfr said...

    Why are you angry with God?
    I'm not angry at God; I'm angry at intrusive fundamentalists

    Jesus loves you.
    Typical of imaginary friends.

    You have so many blessings. How do you explain those without God?
    What makes my good fortune a blessing? What about the people with far less good fortune than me? God hates them, I guess.

    How can you look at [that beautiful sunset, those majestic mountains, your daughter, anything natural and beautiful] and not believe in God?
    Do you feel the same looking at vultures, brain-eating parasites, and cholera victims?

    Aren't you afraid of going to Hell?
    Aren't you afraid of freezing in Nifleheim for not dying a glorious death in battle in service to Odin?

    Why don't you just believe? Isn't that safer than taking the chance that you are wrong?
    Why don't you believe in Brahma? Why don't you trust the word of Mohammed (he's got a book, too, you know)? Wouldn't that be safer for you?

    You are just evil.
    The various animals that I've eaten over the years agree.

    Anonymous said...

    "Why are you angry with God?"
    1-Who says I am angry with God?
    2-Why are you angry with Zeus?

    "Jesus loves you"
    1-Why do you say that?
    2-And your point is . . .?
    2a-Great. Now when's he buying me lunch?

    "[How do you explain your blessings without God?]"
    1-How do you explain yours without invoking the entire Greek pantheon?
    2-Also, I've never seen a paycheck signed, GOD, and doubt one could cash it.
    2a-Credit cards.

    "How can you look at that [sunset] and not believe in God?"
    1-How can you look at that sunset and not believe in Horus or Apollo, who both drag the Sun across the sky each day?
    2-Have you ever watched a nature program on TV and seen a pack of wolves start eating an elk before it's completely dead? "God made that."

    "Aren't you afraid of going to Hell?"
    1-Uh, which one?
    2-No, but I do find the thought of being re-incarnated forever and ever unsettling. Don't you?

    "Why don't you just believe [in my god]?"
    1-Why don't you just believe in your neighbor's god? It would be safer.
    2-Why don't you just believe in Santa Claus? It's a safer bet [you won't get any coal in your stocking that way].

    "You are just evil."
    1-How do you know that?
    2-What, specifically, are the actions of a "just evil" person that I have done?
    3-What metric are you using to measure "just evil"?

    Aidan said...

    Why do so many people who say they don't believe in God, spend so much time trying to prove that belief is correct? My father has been an atheist my entire life - though not his entire life. He has never sought to prove to anybody why they should or should not believe what he does, however. It's irrelevant. Who wastes time trying to argue the existence of something in which they themselves don't believe? Aren't there better things to do with your time? Like poke sticks at ants in an anthill?

    I don't go around trying to disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Judeo-Christian concepts of God - there is no point.

    N said...

    Aidan, I spend effort and time defending my lack of belief in a god for several reasons. First, I was a believer for so many years, that talking through my reasons for disbelief and my thought process helps me to process this major change of worldview. It's something I do for me. I've just happily stumbled upon some cyberfriends who are talking through it with me; this blog isn't about proselytizing or conversion.

    Also, I feel the need to learn how to defend my position because I am in such an extreme minority in the South. You can't hock a phlegmball without hitting a church here; so, I need a line of defense.

    I enjoy my ponderings. I don't consider them a waste of time. It's more fun than poking ants with a stick. Not as much fun as watching my cat try to escape from a paper bag, though.

    AphroditeRising said...

    N, you make me laugh all the time. I love your sense of humor.

    Phlegmball. Excellent word.

    Poking at ants. Cat in a bag.

    Once I put tape on my kitty's paws to see what he'd do. It was comical, but because I'm a nice person I'll never do it again.

    Hmmm. What does that say about me. Not sure. but really, the cat is treated like a king, escorted to the sink, lifted to the faucet, helped down. two 600 dollar knee surgeries, plenty of carpet ruined by him.

    So I'm not sick. I swear. But it was funny.

    Lord, the chianti is talking.