So, I’ve heard enough pre-suppositions lately about Atheists that I chose, on one of the days most significant to Christians – the day that Christ was crucified – to write about the misconceptions that I’ve observed religious people assert about being an Atheist.
The purpose here is not to chide Christians or other religious people, to put them down, or say that all Christians don’t understand. I’m writing with the intent to share my thoughts with those who are interested in this one atheist’s perspective.
Misconception #1: I need to wage an assault on Christianity.
While there are definitely some angry Atheists out there who are fighting for an agenda, I’m not one of them. I believe more along the lines of what Neil deGrasse Tyson said:
I don’t associate with movements. I’m not an “ism.” I just – I think for myself. The moment when someone attaches to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you, and when you want to have a conversation they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association… Atheists I know who proudly wear the badge are active atheists. They’re like in your face atheist and they want to change policies and they’re having debates.
So while I am writing this musing, and I will have a casual discussion, etc. I don’t consider myself a “militant” atheist.
However, I can definitely understand why those who are atheists are alarmed by organized religion’s impacts on things such as politics and our legal system. I wholeheartedly agree – especially in America where the separation of church and state is so entrenched in the foundation of our country. The strength of organized religion is alarming. It commits heinous, egregious acts, such as hiding child molesters from justice so that they can molest more children.
There’s a very important distinction though – Do I hold the wrongdoings of organized religion against individual Christians? No. Which leads me to my next point…
Misconception #2: I think Christians are stupid for having their beliefs.
A Christian friend of mine asked me if I think that “all religious people are stupid?” My answer was that when I was a teenager I used to, but I now realize that there are some very intelligent people who are devoutly religious, including that friend who asked me the question. In fact, it fascinates me and makes me want to understand more when an educated, logical, intelligent person is passionately religious.
Even if that person isn’t someone who impresses me as well-informed or intelligent, their religion works for them for whatever reason, and I wish them well. Many religious people are brought up with great principles, and I like them, respect them, and call them my friends.
Misconception #3: I don’t want to have Faith.
Actually, I would prefer to believe in God. I think life would be a lot easier that way. To have continual Faith that things will be alright in times of hardship would be fantastic.
I don’t have this Faith. I can’t know that it will be taken care of. When something bad happens, there’s a a good amount of anxiety and fear that could probably be mitigated by Faith. Instead, I put my “faith” in something else – the continual constant chaos that is this world. I can’t control it. Ironically enough, I think of the “Serenity Prayer”:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
So what is this atheist doing looking at a “prayer”? It’s pretty simple. I can’t control almost everything – in fact, I can only change a little bit. Omitting the word “God” doesn’t change the principle, and I happen to like it.
Misconception #4: I don’t want to be a Christian.
Being an atheist is not generally accepted either. In fact, to a lesser extent than being gay, you have to “come out” to people.
Sometimes, right in the middle of a simple conversation, I’m pressed with a hard choice. I’m forced to choose between outright telling this person I don’t necessarily agree with their fundamental beliefs or choose to stay “in the closet.” For example, at work, a new acquaintance and I were having lunch. We were talking, and I told him about a frustrating situation with the girl I was dating at the time. His response was “Don’t worry, Jesus will work it out.” It’s my coworker. Do I tell him? This time, I choose to smile and nod, withholding my disappointment that this person doesn’t know or understand me.
Another reason to want to be Christian is that the benefits in American society for being Christian are great. Being a Christian affords you the ability to go to church – any church – for a support group. Anywhere, anytime, some organized non-profit with a whole bunch of money who will help you because you believe. A community of built-in friends if you move to an area. A life-counselor on-demand who can give you wise advice because of his years dedicated to helping people.
I’ve also had my beliefs (or lack thereof) held against me when dating. A couple girls I dated suddenly didn’t return my calls when they learned I was an atheist. I’m thankful now that they made their exit, but at the time, that sucked.
So, I don’t really desire to be an atheist. It’s not all that easy. However, I’m not about to change my belief system because something is easy or not.
Misconception #5: I don’t want be a good person.
Sure, there are some people who refuse to be Christians because they are evil. Granted. But to dismiss a whole bunch of people as evil because they refuse to accept Jesus is backwards.
I believe in a lot of the tenets espoused in the Bible. I’m just not buying into a number of portions – especially the ending. And contrary to what Bill O’Reilly believes, Christianity isn’t a philosophy, it’s a religion. As Jon Stewart said, “…you have to believe Jesus is God to be a Christian. For instance, I like a lot of Jesus’s philosophy. Love your neighbor, little cheek turning, stone not casting… but while I can get an A in his Philosophy class, I don’t get to go to the after-party.”
So, I admire a lot of what is taught in the Bible, but I don’t believe in God. Not the Old Testament or New Testament one. So I’m straight out.
Misconception #6: I can be saved.
This one might upset those who care and think I may be going to Hell. However, according to the Bible, if you’re right and I’m wrong, I can’t be “saved” by repenting, even if I chose to. Here’s why: I question the Holy Spirit. And according to the bible:
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come,” Matthew 12:32 (NASB)
I’ve said it aloud too, in case there’s a technicality about these things.
And I’ve come to accept this theoretical fate, which is much easier if you don’t actually believe it. If such a God exists that I can be a good person all of my life but be damned to Hell because the only sin I committed was questioning his existence, then so be it. Not that I haven’t sinned, but this premise is ridiculous to me. So, there you have it.
I suppose then, the only hope I have is that I’m right.