Quantcast

«

»

Feb 15 2012

Why I am an atheist – Kathy M

I was raised by atheists. They let my grandparents take us to church when we were very young, but it made no sense. I think my parents wanted, out of some sense of fairness, to expose us to religion to form our own opinions. I even attended Catholic mass with family friends a few times, but from my 7-year-old perspective it was just crazy, all that stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, and the mystery of the adults lined up to be fed by hand.

What hit home the strongest and earliest for me was when my father asked, “What kind of god would send you to hell forever just for not believing in him, no matter how good a person you are?” He and my born-again grandfather were forever arguing over religion, and my grandfather’s constant nagging about church pushed my parents away. It was probably my grandfather’s pushing as much as my parents’ atheism that influenced my views. I have never believed in a god.

In my teens, it was my turn to debate him. When I’d visit, he’d start witnessing, and so I’d tell him why I thought it was nonsense. It was lighthearted – he was a doting grandfather – but there was something sad about it. Why couldn’t he see how beautiful the universe is, having blossomed all by itself without some invisible prejudiced, jealous, capricious, demanding, tamtrum-throwing deity getting the credit? I tried to make him understand that all I asked was for him to respect my right to my own beliefs, as I respected his right to his. I suppose he thought of it as trying to save someone he loves, but how much can you love someone who you don’t respect?

Every time I saw him, the first thing he’d ask (as though he didn’t know the answer) was, “Did you go to church last Sunday?” One day in my 20s, just plain tired of it, I answered “Yes, and we sacrificed a goat and danced around the fire!” He never asked again. Last Christmas he griped about a gay marching band – predictably, he’s homophobic and blames his religion. I said, “If I were going to believe in a god, he or she wouldn’t hate anyone.” He said, incredulously,”IF you were going to believe in god?” “Yes, if I were going to believe in one, it wouldn’t hate anyone just for being who they are.” It amazes me that after all these years of making it explicitly clear, he still can’t wrap his head around the idea that I’m an atheist. It’s sad that our relationship suffered from his obsession. But on the positive side, I learned from it, and I haven’t imposed all that control and guilt and judgement on my own child.

So, I guess the moral of the story is: religion is also evil for elevating itself above everyone and everything else in your life – tainting and diluting and polluting what could otherwise be something joyful.

Kathy M
United States

17 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    ivarhusa

    Thank you for sharing! I particularly like the line “Why couldn’t he see how beautiful the universe is, having blossomed all by itself without some invisible prejudiced, jealous, capricious, demanding, tamtrum-throwing deity getting the credit?” How blind the ‘faithful’ are.

  2. 2
    Thomas Lawson

    Superb entry.

    .

    I’ve wondered why Jesus would require his disciples to “hate their family.” It hit me after reading this. The “saving” part reminded me that Christians, so arrogantly happy with the idea of absolutes and “gotcha” statements, tend to ignore the paradox of an atheist family member roasting in hell – the paradox being that eternal happiness is impossible if a Christian is aware that a loved one is suffering for eternity. Luckily, Jesus added that bit about hating your family. This paradox avoidance is also prevalent in the ostracizing and shunning that are so popular in religious circles.

  3. 3
    dogsareandwillbe

    I am an atheist. there is no god, no him, no her,no it. There
    should not even be a word for disbelieving. Atheism should be
    a word from another time, another place. Dawkins etc. have no place beyond a figment. Never been happier in my whole life.

  4. 4
    Dhorvath, OM

    Kathy,
    Thanks for sharing. I particularly liked your closing paragraph.

  5. 5
    rickeymiller

    Good. I’ll never totally be recovered from my brain damage. It’s nice to know some have always lived free.

  6. 6
    Icaarus

    “but how much can you love someone who you don’t respect?”

    Kathy, thank you for sharing. I have an uncle, who I refuse to talk about religion with for fear of loosing his respect. I know, silly, but he is the only person I respect and I need in my life that believes. He gets a pass because I just don’t want to have the fights you are having.

    You must be a very strong person to put yourself in this position. There must be something wonderful about your family to keep a “born again” and your atheist parents talking together. On other levels than belief there must be a lot of respect.

  7. 7
    wilsim

    Your sentence, from the first paragraph, kinda bothers me. “I think my parents wanted, out of some sense of fairness, to expose us to religion to form our own opinions.” I see this quite a bit from non-religious and atheist people.

    I disagree completely with this sentiment. I’m sure people are going to have their own opinions about this, but personally, i want my children to be inoculated against this mind virus, from a VERY early age. I am teaching my children to be suspicious of all religions, and to recognize fairy tales for what they are – make believe.

    I want my children to be loving, free, inquisitive, and skeptical. I just do not see how exposing them, or letting them be exposed to, any religion or belief system at a young age is beneficial. At all. At the least until they are able to make informed decisions of their own.

  8. 8
    'Tis Himself

    I answered “Yes, and we sacrificed a goat and danced around the fire!”

    Sheer luxury. When I were young, we only had gerbils to sacrifice. And we didn’t have a fire, just a candle to dance around.

  9. 9
    Koshka

    wilsim,

    I agree you should teach your children to be suspicious about religion, but I think to do this best you need to expose them to religion.

    My daughter’s school has Religious Education once a week. I allowed her to decide to do it or not. Last year in Grade 1 she decided to do it. They sang songs and played games and she enjoyed going.

    At home I would ask her what she did. She would tell me about Noah’s ark. She loves animal stories. I then pointed out that the story is about God killing (almost) everyone. They told her that God loves her more than her parents. I asked her to think about this and she thought it didn’t make sense. She came back with some story about a woman who wanted a child, God gave her one and then took it back. I don’t know why you would tell this story to a 6 year old but when I discussed it with her we both agreed that was a mean thing to do..

    This year in Grade 2 she doesn’t want to do it.

    I have allowed her to become exposed to religion and very quickly, with help, she has rejected it.

  10. 10
    Koshka

    And Kathy,

    I liked your story. Your 7-year-old perspective on church made me smile. I always am amazed when people look at (say) African tribal customs and point out how weird it all is. This coming from people who eat and drink their god.

  11. 11
    chrisdevries

    wilsim,

    Let it not be forgotten that vaccines work by exposing people to a weak or dead strain of a deadly virus. Similarly, innoculating the mind against religion is best achieved (in my opinion) by exposure to it: in the case of Christianity, allowing a child to experience different types of church services, to pray, to read the Bible, etc., while ensuring that they apply their nascent critical thinking skills to the whole package may not guarantee the outcome of atheism, but it will strongly favour it.

    I would strongly suggest that once your kids gain some critical thinking skills (when they’re 12-14), if they show an interest, let them explore religion. And trust me, you want them to show an interest (i.e. don’t opine against religion in their presence as it may prejudice them against it) because evidence shows that the strongest beliefs are the ones a person forms on their own, through life experience. Experiencing a religion without being part of a faith-based culture (I assume evidence and rationality will be highly valued in a non-believer’s household) allows a child the opportunity to determine for themselves that religion is untrue. So exploring the sketchy history of the Christian religion, the definitely human-authored Bible, the arbitrary nature of what books ended up in the Bible, the lack of historical evidence for most of the important parts of the Bible, the vast number of textual contradiction, and the weird beliefs Christians have that are based on the Bible (not to mention just how bizarre some parts of the Bible are) will force any person who is not accustomed to self-delusion that the whole thing is made up.

  12. 12
    John Morales

    [OT]

    chrisdevries:

    Let it not be forgotten that vaccines work by exposing people to a weak or dead strain of a deadly virus.

    Only some vaccines work that way.

  13. 13
    TimKO,,.,,

    Kathy, ask grandpa if men told him to be homophobic or if his god did. Ask for proof of source. Sounds like he follows a religion of recent invention; which is easy to point out.

  14. 14
    Tim57online

    Nothing against Kathy M., just wondering, can’t we just forgive the old guy on the basis of being less bright and/or educated than the rest of us? I know it’s not nice to call people stupid, but it can be helpful in NOT WASTING TIME ON USELESS GOSSIP if we remember that some people are indeed,, unfortunately, stupid to one degree or another.

    It’s a sobering thought, albeit obvious upon reflection, but 50% of all HUMANITY is of below average intelligence, and we are absolutely STUCK with this scenario forever! (Kindly do note, however, PLEASE, that killing off [culling] the dumb half does not actually help – you’d still have the original problem. This is important.)

  15. 15
    treefrog

    I’ve been posted! I really appreciate all the kind and thought-provoking comments on this.

    Thomas Lawson #2, your point about this paradox focuses it even more for me, thank you. To be honest, before he was born again, he wasn’t very devout…and I hear he was a total bastard, so I think the judgmental attitude was a natural extension of his personality.

    TimKO #13, agreed!

    Kathy M

  16. 16
    treefrog

    Icaarus #6, thank you for your kind words. What an eye-opener to read other people’s perspectives on something familiar.

    I’m betting that I’m not the only one to recognize your situation with your uncle – holding back on talking about it for fear of losing (or losing the respect of) someone dear. I’ve done it too. I wish I could say it always works out better to be honest – isn’t that what we’re taught? My idealism is at odds with my skepticism.

    BTW, I loved your Why I Am An Atheist – I’m a geeky Star Trek fan too :) I’ve just been a bit behind for comments recently…

    Kathy M

  17. 17
    treefrog

    Tim57online #14, when I was younger it was simply a sporting debate between 2 people who didn’t mind a good playful argument (sad implications aside). But of course, as he’s become older and seems more vulnerable to me, I’ve begun to wonder if I should simply avoid the topic and let the man finish his life peacefully with his illusions unchallenged (I do love him, after all). It doesn’t usually come up any more, but the homophobic comment pissed me off.

    But as much as I’d like to think that all people who believe are simply stupid, I can’t and don’t…and he isn’t a stupid man. I guess like any other human being, he’s complicated and has his own set of dependencies, defense mechanisms, needs, fantasies, or whatever that cause his faith.

Comments have been disabled.