Why I am an atheist – Tom Hail

This is a letter I wrote my aunt in 2007 after she asked why I wanted to take her faith away from her.

Why I am godless.

I don’t understand how perfectly rational, intelligent, kind, and responsible people can believe in a God. It baffles me totally. And I think about it a lot, not like I feel like I am missing anything myself but in wonder at how this belief can be corrected. You know, I wouldn’t trade our family for any other family, I enjoy and love them all and the fact that most have faith saddens me somewhat.

I do not see any god anywhere I look. From the maelstrom of quantum mechanics in particle physics, to the busy chemistry of each living cell, to the beautiful physics of aerodynamics, to the majestic geology of our earth, to the titanic forces in our solar system, to the stupendous forces driving our galaxy and universe… it is all so awesome and beautiful that to attribute any of it to God’s creation is, to me, insufficient. That there are questions and problems with what we understand only makes discovery all that more meaningful. It is all so hugely complex in total, but it all builds upon many simpler things. Evolution is perfect simplicity which builds very slowly into the complex beauty of life we have today. I feel that beauty in my heart much better than I can express in words. Even without the controversies of life and evolution, the complexities of the universe are so much beyond a god, needs no explanation with a god. God is so unnecessary.

I have a saying that has gelled in my mind over the last year or so… Atheism: Natural Morals, Real Meaning, Credible Truth.

Our morals come naturally, someone writing them down and calling them the word of God seems like plagiarism to me. And I think they added in the rules to help control the masses better, or at least to control the women better. It looks to me that our natural morals come from our need to survive, we can’t survive if we are killing each other, we are wired for survival and propagation of the population. Stoning women for adultery seems wrong and it is, it isn’t a natural moral, but the writers of the “messiah’s” words seem to have another motive, valid at the time maybe, probably to help control the population to their benefit. The need to survive and procreate is very simple but a lot of things derive naturally from it. Helping others, kindness to your children, education, it just builds and builds on it. To me it boils down to “relieve and prevent suffering, give pleasure.” If I am doing that in any way, I am being true to my morals.

Real meaning in life also comes from the need to survive and procreate, to do so means we must discover how our world works, adapt, learn, overcome problems, coexist with the individuals of our species, coexist with our world. This is real meaning to me. To worship a deity hoping for a good result when I die doesn’t provide any meaning. The discovery of our world may be the most important and leads us into our future. If we stop, we will stagnate and suffer. I think our species made a mistake creating religions, it is a dead end that we have to back out of to progress on, but maybe it was a lesson we had to learn.

Credible truth, the biggest being that this is it. This is heaven, hell, whatever you make of it. This is your one life. You are only borrowing the atoms you consist of for your sort life time and then they are recycled into the universe to be used again. I am ok with that. It doesn’t scare me. I wish it weren’t so but that is the way of the universe. We are such a small mote in just our galaxy which is a small object in an immense universe. But the meaning of life is to be all that you can be to your family and friends, community, and world. That is a real truth that I can believe in.

Why is this important to me? I see thousands dying monthly, sometimes daily in fighting to the death over what are to me fairy tales. Fighting over essentially worthless land, fighting for what boils down to power. Much of it in the name of their religion. It makes me angry. The war in Iraq has many religious overtones that disturb me. The trillions of dollars this is going to cost us is going to hurt.

I didn’t mean to write this on a Sunday, it just turned out that way, I’ve been busy and I had to compose it some in my mind first. I had a great day yesterday with flying passengers for the 99’s scholarship fundraiser. Allena came over and helped out the ladies. It was one of those things I do that gives real meaning to my life, showing 10 people their world from above.

Tom Hail
United States

What they call “salt of the earth” in Georgia is something we wipe off our shoes in Minnesota

State Representative Terry England of Georgia was defending a bill that would completely outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks — even those in which the fetus was already dead, or was so congenitally deformed that it had no hope of living after birth. I can’t quite imagine the logic behind forcing someone you love to go through labor to deliver a corpse, but England tries — and mainly convinces me that dumbass uneducated farmers ought to be barred from positions of responsibility in government.

His argument is this: he’s worked on a farm, and cows and pigs don’t get the benefit of a medical procedure to remove dead calves and piglets — the mares and sows just have to buck up and deliver it. It’s a life experience, don’t you know. And what is a human woman but a breeder sow, hey?

To top it off, he tells a charming little story about a man who indulges in cock-fighting — “salt of the earth”, he says — who offers to give up his flock of fighting birds if only those women could be compelled to have babies.

Think of the sacrifice that man is making, ladies! Think of the chickens! Surely you’ll let such a noble gentleman fill up your bellies with babies, living and dead, and you’ll gladly bear them for him, won’t you?

This is not the church of FTB

Ian calls his post “The church of FTB“, but he goes beyond that to point out that this isn’t a church, it doesn’t aim to be a church, and what we do is explore alternative methods of building community. And it’s effective — I think that what humanity needs to do to get its collective head out of its humongous ass is to repurpose all that wasted effort spent on the frills and nonsense and trappings of religion on more human needs. At my talk here in South Dakota last night, one of the things I said in the Q&A was we’d do a greater service to humanity if we all spent Sunday trying to write poetry*, rather than praying in a church.

So I go a little further than Ian, but I don’t disagree with him. I just resent that part of the movement that wants to regress and build a church of humanism, with all the same titles and geegaws and practices. Humanity deserves and needs something new and better and greater, that breaks the old shackles and doesn’t try to dress us up in shinier shackles with a different manufacturer’s label on them.

We need communities. We need a non-religious ecumene that wraps around the whole world and includes diverse points of view…but we don’t need churches and temples and hierarchies and priests and chaplains. Can we please all grow up and be free?

Actually, my ideal community is The Culture. Spaceships optional.

*I’m well aware that most of that poetry would be mind-gnawingly awful. The virtue lies in the effort, the attempt to do something novel and think in different ways. (So, obviously, the Cuttlefish has to sit at home on Sundays and force himself to think in prose.)

Christians teach me to despise Christianity

Waaaaaah — some poor Christian is whining, Atheists, please don’t hate us! Unfortunately for his desperately pathetic persecution complex, I don’t hate Christians at all: I just hold their beliefs in deep contempt. And then what what does little KevinKing do? He confirms exactly why I despise them! Look at his argument:

Most Christians, including myself, live according to a set of rules. This set of rules is called “The Ten Commandments”. These commandments include:

“1. Honour your father and mother;
2. You shall not murder;
3. You shall not commit adultery;
4. You shall not steal;
5. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour;
6. You shall not covert your neighbour’s house, wife and assets”

Now atheists, ask yourselves, is this a bad thing? I’m really struggling to find a reason why we wouldn’t want more of these people around… And yes, I know that some of you will say “but Christians break these rules all the time!”

Actually, no, that wasn’t the comment I was thinking of at all.

Here’s a good reason to despise Christianity: because it inspires people to think that their religion invented these basic rules for social cooperation, and that they have some unique appreciation of their importance. Seriously, if you think the best reason people ought to like you is your cheery affirmation, “I don’t kill people!” — best said with a little smiley emoticon — then there is something goddamned wrong with you. Outside of death row in a federal penitentiary, there aren’t many communities of people who think mutual plunder, murder, and rapine are ordinary, and that it marks you as special to reassure me that you won’t try to fuck my wife.

But apparently, in Christian communities, it’s noteworthy and wins you a merit badge.

But you know what makes dumb Christians particularly annoying? It’s not just that they think they’re special because they have rules that say they shouldn’t steal my television set; it’s that they’re so patronizingly condescending about it, and go one further and tell us that they know we lack that morality. Really. KevinKing goes on to sanctimoniously smear all atheists for their moral deficiencies…in an article in which he supposedly trying to persuade us to like him.

Yes Christians break the rules (sin) but I can assure you that they are trying a damn lot harder not to break the rules than the average Atheist because for Christians, there is the Almighty, and there is Hell. Atheists have no Almight to hold them accountable and there is not eternal damnation. There is no reason for atheists not to murder, rape and steal other than because the government says so, which is very scary since we are living in a crime ridden country where literally only 10% of violent criminals are caught and convicted. What is then stopping an Atheist from committing these acts?

Oh, you’re trying a damn lot harder than me not to break the rules? OK, that says a lot about you, not me. I’ve never been tempted to murder anyone, or break into their house and steal their stuff. It’s not because I fantasize about it and then think, “Oh, no, I might get in trouble with the government.” It’s because I like my neighbors, like the people in my community, and wish them well — and because I value peaceful, cooperative co-existence. It’s because I have empathy, and can appreciate that other people value their lives as much as I value my own, and could not deprive them of that life without feeling the pain and loss myself.

I don’t need a threat of hell in an afterlife to keep me in line, because I recognize the worth of life in this one.

That’s why Christian stupidity is despised, too: that they think everyone else is plotting to commit crimes, and that there aren’t enough people in jail — in a country with the highest rates of incarceration in the world.

I would ask KevinKing who he thinks is in prison: is it the domain of godless atheists? Or is it full of Christians and Muslims? If we’re living in a crime-ridden country, and as I’m sure he believes, it is a “Christian nation”, how does he reconcile his fantasies of Christians living lives of obedience out of fear to the actual facts on the ground of god-belief flourishing in prisons?

I would also ask KevinKing why he committed the sin of omission. Notice that he listed six of the ten commandments, and that he left out the first four. Why? Is he ashamed of them?

1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

He should be. Those are stupid. For some reason, his god gave them priority: he thinks the most important rules people should follow, before the rules against murder, theft, adultery, and lying, are that they should serve his vanity, worshiping him exclusively, and dedicate one day in seven to obeisance to this petty cosmic tyrant.

So yes, I also despise Christianity for its fucked-up priorities, in addition to its sanctimony and ignorance and primitive, fear-based morality. Thanks, KevinKing, for representing those faults so effectively.

Why I am an atheist – Emily

There was a point in my life that one could label me a Christian; that ended when I was around fifteen. I was always the questioning type, and after enough years of my inquiries being stifled, I swallowed the religion of my parents. Rebellious youth kicked in after a while, and no longer was it necessary to be silent with my questions. I found support in none other than my preacher, who had advised me that I should question everything, even my faith; little did he know what personal journey this mentoring would take me on.

From years fifteen to twenty, I must have tried every religion, cult, et cetera on for size. I read the Christian bible cover to cover, 1/3 of the Koran, large chunks of the Torah, multiple ‘sacred’ texts from obscure religions and cults, practiced witchcraft, and played with so many other ideas. After this flood of exposure to the faiths on Earth, it started to all become meaningless, so I headed to the library to steep myself in the philosophy of the ages. Thus, came a list so long of books over three years, it would blind you and break your back if taken in at once. By age twenty three, I considered myself an agnostic. My level of disbelief only strode so far across the bridge and paused from absolute fear; fear driven in since I was old enough to understand the English language. For nearly a year after these studies, I tried to think about nothing related to religion, and then simply couldn’t any more; I just couldn’t push away everything I’d learned from those books and from my own examinations of life, it was all very clear- and I announced to myself, that I am an atheist. For seven years, I withheld this information from close friends and family, and ‘came out’ October 10th, 2011. Why am I an atheist? I examined every detail about my life, existence, and read until the brainwashing washed away.

Emily