I get the strangest things showing up on my computer to read. Most recently, a Rhode Island bishop wrote a piece entitled “the sterile life of the everyday atheist”. Because it’s not enough that celibate men know all about women’s reproductive rights, these highly religious, didn’t-just-drink-the-Kool-Aid-but-mixed-the-batch-up believers know all about what it must be like to be an atheist. I think the position of authority has gone to his fevered noggin; he actually thinks he has an opinion worth reading. I’ve already answered him, in the links; turns out there is a Cuttleverse for nearly every occasion!
The life of the everyday atheist must indeed be a very sad, sterile and hopeless experience.
If you don’t believe in God, how do you explain the reason for your existence? After all, you can’t refer to a Creator, or a divine plan. If you’re not created in the image and likeness of God, as the Bible tells us, from what source do you derive your human dignity? Or are you nothing more than an accident of arbitrary biological forces? Does your life have any more value or meaning than other living creatures – even the simplest life forms that crawl in the mud or swim in the seas?
If you don’t believe in God, how do you approach the question of your ultimate destiny? Is it simply a question of living a few years and then returning to the dust? Are you no more than an insignificant cipher in the long history of the universe, here today and gone tomorrow? Is there no final judge, no accountability for the way you lived on earth? Is there no spark of immortality, no heaven, no eternal life where the human soul is released from its earthly shackles? And when you die, are the precious bonds of love you forged with family and friends erased forever, never to be enjoyed again?
Our ultimate destiny? Lemme compare yours and mine.
If you don’t believe in God, how do you integrate the ups and downs of everyday life into some meaningful pattern? How do you make sense of the suffering and pain that inevitably comes your way? What is there that keeps you from getting depressed? Unlike people of faith, you can’t ask anyone to pray for you, nor can you depend on the intercession of the beloved saints. And when a loved one dies, you can’t pray for them, for their eternal happiness and peace, can you?
I lost my brother less than 2 years ago. Half of us in the room were atheists, the other half quite devout believers. None of us found comfort in prayer; when your brother dies, there is no comfort to be found, not even by lying to yourself about an afterlife. Here, read a bit more on it.
If you don’t believe in God, what is there to celebrate in life, beyond those things that are merely superficial and passing? Don’t you occasionally envy the joy that religion brings to families of faith – in moments of Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, and religious weddings when God blesses the commitment of lovers? What do you celebrate on Christmas and Easter, or do you just withdraw to the silent, darkened solitude of your home? And what about Thanksgiving Day? Someone wrote that, “An atheist’s most embarrassing moment is when he feels profoundly thankful for something, but can’t think of anyone to thank for it.”
Really? Seriously? You think religion adds something to the real world? I prefer the real world. I celebrate family–on christmas and at other times. And as for Thanksgiving, I do give thanks. But to the people who deserve it.
If you don’t believe in God, how do you navigate the secular world that is, nonetheless, infused with references to the God whose existence you deny? How do you manage to use, without a compromised conscience, our currency that proclaims our trust in God? Aren’t you offended every time you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or sing God Bless America, or America the Beautiful? Do you leave the room when public events are bookended between invocations and benedictions? Do you avoid cities and towns named after things religious – like Providence, for example? Do you close your eyes every time you pass a Church with a religious name? Your daily existence must be really miserable.
It’s funny; the SCOTUS ruled that these are instances of ceremonial deism, and that the phrases are not religious. Perhaps you should alert them that bishops consider these things to be sacred, and that their ruling must be revisited. If these things celebrate your god, they are unconstitutional. If you want them to remain, you have to agree that the god they mention is a trivial one. Bishop, you should be the one demanding your god be removed from my money.
My question is this: If you don’t believe that God exists, why do references to Him bother you so much? Can’t you just shrug it off as you would other fables or fairy tales? Why does God bother you – unless of course – way down, deep inside, at some subliminal level, you’re still wrestling with the possibility that God really does exist?
Your god does not bother me. You can keep him. Your flock, however, using their banner to separate the acceptable christians from the unacceptable others, they bother me. Your flock flouting the first amendment, that bothers me. We live by a social contract, and you and your flock have violated that contract; your god had nothing to do with it. And the old saw of “why should it bother you? Follow the link, and try it on yourself for size.
As Christians, we don’t persecute atheists or belittle them. We will, however, defend our core beliefs and values whenever they’re attacked. We should be patient with atheists and try to understand the difficulties that arise from their limited worldview. And most of all, we should pray for atheists and conduct ourselves in a way that convinces them of the goodness of our faith. In that way, perhaps, they too will come to know the “Unknown God” in whom they “live and move and have their being.” (Acts 17: 22-28)
Yeah, this article was no attempt to belittle atheists. And yeah, the reeling in of privilege is exactly the same thing as an attack. The wall of separation is there to protect you, bishop. Don’t tear it down.
And you go ahead and pray for us, if it keeps you busy. Won’t bother us a bit. Just stay out of the way while you do so. And you might want to meditate a bit on the concept of “bearing false witness”. And get to know an atheist before you deign to describe us. You might learn something.
Cuttlecap tip to Steel City Skeptics (against every instinct of this Cleveland Browns fan).