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Why I am an atheist – David Rutten

Having grown up in secular Holland in the 1980’s I don’t need a reason to be an atheist. One’s an atheist by default. Those attending church on a regular basis are either few and far between or tend to live in the heavily segregated villages in the Dutch ‘Bible belt’. The only interesting question that pertains to my situation would be; “why didn’t I become a Christian?”.

Of my four grand-parents, only one retained her faith (the only one left alive incidentally, I wonder if that is significant somehow) and through this channel I’ve been exposed to plenty of Christians over the years. These people are almost uniformly very kind and caring, slightly more so on average than the atheists in my life I dare say.

And yet, and yet. Almost every time I talk with Christians about religious or philosophical or ethical topics, I feel as though soaked in the most bare and acrid hypocrisy. Gone are the compassion and the empathy, replaced by the holier-than-thou unspoken remarks and the patronising “I’ll pray for you” defence, designed to turn the believer from ideological busybody into sacrificial lamb. Gone are the doubt and self-deprecation, replaced by the most wanton sense of faultlessness.

I would get it if they really believed what they say they believe, but they don’t. They are Christians only while religion comes in a neat little predigested package. If these people really believed the Bible is the word of God, why have none of them read it? Why do they not even have a cursory knowledge of what their particular denomination is about? There is only one explanation I know of that covers this; they don’t actually believe. They tell themselves they believe because it allows them to belong to a group that feeds and nurtures the ever-prevalent martyr complex in all of us.

This is why religion does not attract me on an emotional level. This persistent hypocrisy that taints everything in the vicinity of faith.

David Rutten
Slovakia

Comments

  1. says

    Gone are the compassion and the empathy, replaced by the holier-than-thou unspoken remarks and the patronising “I’ll pray for you” defence, designed to turn the believer from ideological busybody into sacrificial lamb.

    I’ll pray for you” are code words Christian assholes use when they really mean “you’re going to the magical hell I believe in and you deserve it“. It’s an insult and they know it’s an insult.

  2. Trebuchet says

    It’s interesting how secular Holland is today, considering how hyper-religious (and conservative, but I repeat myself) Dutch-American communities tend to be.

  3. tomfrog says

    These people are almost uniformly very kind and caring, slightly more so on average than the atheists in my life I dare say.

    Let’s remember that religious people could be the best people in the world and atheists the worst, that doesn’t say anything about whether a god exists.

  4. leonpeyre says

    Almost every time I talk with Christians about religious or philosophical or ethical topics, I feel as though soaked in the most bare and acrid hypocrisy. Gone are the compassion and the empathy, replaced by the holier-than-thou unspoken remarks and the patronising “I’ll pray for you” defence, designed to turn the believer from ideological busybody into sacrificial lamb.

    Yep, that sounds about right. They’re about the same over here, but unfortunately there are a lot more of them, and they control society and politics.

    They tell themselves they believe because it allows them to belong to a group

    That’s exactly it. Religion is, for most believers, mostly about tribalism and belonging to a group. That’s why they react so viscerally (here, anyway) when someone questions Christianity: doing so identifies the speaker as an outsider, someone they’ve been brought up to view with hostility.

  5. Zugswang says

    There is only one explanation I know of that covers this; they don’t actually believe. They tell themselves they believe because it allows them to belong to a group that feeds and nurtures the ever-prevalent martyr complex in all of us.

    Whenever religion comes up in conversation, they’re already up on their cross before anyone else has even thought about looking for nails.

  6. douglaslm says

    There is only one explanation I know of that covers this; they don’t actually believe.

    Yes, they do actually believe. They just do not know, or even want to know, the details of the religion. This is how so many “True Christians” cherry pick which parts of the bible they want to follow. If people actually studied the bible the glaring inconsistencies are readily apparent. Never underestimate the power that people have to lie to themselves and ignore anything that contradicts the lie.

  7. tomforsyth says

    It’s interesting how secular Holland is today, considering how hyper-religious (and conservative, but I repeat myself) Dutch-American communities tend to be.

    Pedantry note – if you mean the “Pennsylvania Dutch” – they’re actually Swiss/German. “Dutch” is a mispronunciation of “Deutsch”.

  8. Random Mutant says

    “I’ll pray for you” are code words Christian assholes use when they really mean “you’re going to the magical hell I believe in and you deserve it“. It’s an insult and they know it’s an insult.

    I carry a card in my wallet for just such an occasion- it quotes Mark 3:29, that blasphemers will never be pardoned and allowed into heaven. I follow this up with some pithy blasphemy, to show them how little I care for their prayers, and to ensure they realise that their prayers will never work.

  9. procrastinator will get an avatar real soon now says

    @tomforsyth

    For an example of conservative/religious American Dutch google Bob Vander Plaats from NW Iowa.

  10. petrander says

    It’s interesting how secular Holland is today, considering how hyper-religious (and conservative, but I repeat myself) Dutch-American communities tend to be.

    It’s because these groups missed out on the post-war transformation of Dutch society to its present secular state. Most of them migrated to the US/Canada/Australia before that.

    As a side note, I must say I am a bit disappointed to see once again how the Dutch themselves perpetuate the inaccurate pars pro toto of “Holland”. The country is called the Netherlands.

    I am Dutchman myself living in Denmark and not even in the news media do they bother to use anything else but “Holland” here.

  11. concernedjoe says

    As to “if they really believed”:

    Where did I put my soapbox?… oh there it is … [clears throat and lifts megaphone to lips]…

    Few modern (by environment and education), cognizant and halfway intelligent, sane, free people really believe in a personal omnipotent omnipresent omniscient god nor do they really believe all the fantastic things churches spew out like magic underwear, transubstantiation, etc.; nor the do they really believe all the doctrine and dogma and rules and regulations are from some god – no they know it is just people shit.

    Why do I say this — because few so-called modern believers of that sort act like they do when the rubber meets the road of life. Nope, rather they act JUST LIKE MY ATHEIST SELF WOULD.

    To say it simply – they make their own decisions mostly according to criteria as I might (even if different decision it is more about circumstance differences than supernatural shit), and they profess their belief in reality (e.g., science) as I might when let’s say I choose a great surgeon over just the prayers of some god’s highest of high minions.

    No they do not really intellectually believe. They believe they believe because they want all the warm and fuzzy stuff to be true so much, but more importantly they want the the benefits (and there are benefits in the USA for sure) of pledging allegiance to the prevailing philosophical meme in power (in the USA the judeo-christian meme).

    Also one cannot neglect that churches seem to provide a community for support and comfort to its members. Where otherwise in this USA sometimes it seems you are on your own when you are suffering, or need companionship.

    Membership in a god club – at least at its face – has considerable value. While there is not societal value in being declared and “practicing” atheist.

    So people internally reason that best to go with the flow. Indeed I believe (having read such here and elsewhere) that even practicing high priests know how false it is.

    What we have here is lots of people who like warm and fuzzy things and that get enough positive feedback from the tribe to not be too intellectually honest about what they know is the truth of it all.

  12. tomfrog says

    Would it be impolite, after hearing someone say “I’ll pray for you,” to then reply “Thank you for your condescension”?

    Does anybody know which strident Gnu atheist said that:

    When someone says to me “I’ll pray for you”, I like [or "I'd like"] to answer:
    – And I’ll think for you

  13. Trebuchet says

    @tomforsyth:

    Pedantry note – if you mean the “Pennsylvania Dutch” – they’re actually Swiss/German. “Dutch” is a mispronunciation of “Deutsch”.

    No, I mean Dutch as in originating from Holland The Netherlands. When I went to college there was a small Dutch community (Amsterdam, MT) nearby. There were two huge Reformed churches in town, and no others. They voted overwhelmingly for George Wallace in the 1968 presidential election.

    Another such community is Lynden, WA. A few years ago, IIRC, the school board tried to outlaw dancing at the local high school.

  14. petrander says

    When I went to college there was a small Dutch community (Amsterdam, MT) nearby. There were two huge Reformed churches in town, and no others. They voted overwhelmingly for George Wallace in the 1968 presidential election.

    Another such community is Lynden, WA. A few years ago, IIRC, the school board tried to outlaw dancing at the local high school.

    Whereas Dutch society is dominated by the highly urbanized and secularized west of the country, comprised of the provinces of North and South Holland (hence the perpetuation of “Holland” as pars pro toto, cf. “England”), we do also have our own little Bible Belt. It is likely that a lot of these migrants came from here.

  15. theophontes 777 says

    @ petrander

    As a side note, I must say I am a bit disappointed to see once again how the Dutch themselves perpetuate the inaccurate pars pro toto of “Holland”. The country is called the Netherlands.

    Au contraire,Kikkerland“!