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 http://www.biblegateway.com/, 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?!?