June 8th, 2007 10:49 EST
What Was The Question?
A bus full of nuns is automatically treated as more significant than non-nuns. Why do we, as a society, tend to inherently trust and respect clergy? Why do we exhibit an automatic deference and reverence towards priests and nuns? Why do we give carte blanche amnesty to Christianity? For the same reason we think we’re supposed to trick or treat on Halloween, celebrate Thanksgiving with family, get married and have kids and a career, and blindly obey the government. Tradition, which is nothing more than thoughtless, ritualized cultural habit. It’s just something we do primarily as a routine, because we have been conditioned to. Because we don’t bother to question whether it makes sense to us, or whether we should do it. We often give gifts not because we really want to, but because it is expected of us. Our collective attitude about religion is no different. We give clergy the same blind faith we do to our gods, simply because they claim and subconsciously seem to be emissaries of God. Many people who aren’t Christian, even those who are atheist or aren’t especially religious, attribute “men of God“ with some sense of special consideration or veneration. As if clergy are somehow exalted or better than the rest of us just because they “serve“ God.
We’ve elevated religion to a point where debating or challenging it is rude and vulgar. Like we’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or incurring their wrath by being honest and saying they look fat. Or perhaps we’re reluctant to be responsible for the discomfort, disillusionment and awkward silences inevitable when exposing the man behind the curtain, or being so crass as to point out the pink elephant in the room.
Admitting you’re an atheist is like confessing you’re a virgin… with imposed trepidation, embarrassment, guilt. As if there were anything wrong with either. As if such individuals are defective, or scurrilous and unfit for public consumption or public service. Declaring yourself an atheist is instant disqualification from being a Presidential candidate. Why should that be so? Why is atheism so maligned and shunned?
Atheists aren’t particularly unpleasant, they aren’t any more predisposed to harming others than Christians are. What is so bad or wrong about not believing in God? Ah, but which God? Whose God? What do you mean by “GOD”? Nevermind that. Best not to ask too many questions, right? Best not to get too specific, to just go along with it like “everyone else“. I don’t wonder why that is.
Atheism is the new “gay”. In America, with a sexually retarded society, the fact that homosexuality has gained general acceptance before atheism is revealing of our subconsciously ingrained fear of godlessness.
But “godless” is not goodless. There is a lot of negative stigma and misconception associated with atheism.
Without really knowing what it is, we denounce atheism as we would Communism or Satanism. Not that there are any correlations among them, besides reactionary fear.
Simply defined, atheism is A-theism… without theism. I don’t believe in God. Agnostic, similarly, is only A-gnostic--- without knowledge.
Nothing ominous or despicable about that. It is not immoral, it is not satanic, it is not anarchist.
Lack of religion does not necessarily mean lack of spirituality, does not mean my life lacks meaning or value. Just because my morals or meaning do not depend on God for validation does not mean I have no morals, nor that my morals are invalid, nor that my existence is meaningless. Indeed, I’ll be so bold as to insist that any belief dependant on an authority-- any belief that cannot stand on its own merit and logic-- is invalid. Belief coerced by fear of punishment is illegitimate. It is the same as getting a confession through torture. You don’t restrain from killing an innocent person because God or the law says not to, but because it is just and rational and necessary.
Believing in the Golden Rule and disbelieving in God is not a contradiction; one point does not rely on the other for legitimacy. I create my own meaning.
A thing is good because it is good for the reasons it is good, not because God said so, or because your mother said so. “Because I said so” is not a valid reasoning. Asserting and holding any beliefs as “not to be questioned” is dangerously ignorant and intellectually lazy. We shouldn’t be afraid to oppose taboos. In a free society, it needs to be acceptable for us to question and examine religion. It needs to be permissible, without recrimination, for us to discard monotheistic deities as we did and do pantheistic ones. It needs to be as ok for us to not believe in gods as it is to believe in them. If not more ok. Atheism, like Christianity or Muslim or Wicca, is only another belief about God. How can we call ourselves a free society if all ideas are not open for consideration and re-evaluation? How can we call ourselves intelligent? How can we call ourselves mature?
Is your faith, your god, so feeble as to be threatened by an opposing human or humanist perspective? What are you really so afraid of? That you might change your mind? Atheists have tolerated-- endured-- the Judeo-Christian for over 2000 years. Have you not the decency to give them the same courtesy?
If atheists have faith in one belief, it may be this: No matter how confident we are in our beliefs, there’s always a chance we could be wrong.