While growing up, I shared almost no similarities with all the other children in Kansas. I was never what one might call a religious child. I never went to church, I never prayed, I never read the Bible, and I never really cared about Heaven or Hell. Back when I was a child, the only things I cared about were watching cartoons and playing video games. I was in pursuit of fun, and I saw church as the most boring thing in existence. To sit for hours on end listening to an old man speak about the works of people who died long ago was like torture to me. Another reason I never went to church is because my parents were too busy to care about going to church. They worked long and hard, and time spent in church is time spent not doing something productive, or in my case, not playing video games or watching TV. Also, why give a tenth of your paycheck to the church when you could use it to purchase something that has tangible value?
I didn’t seriously think about religion until I turned 14, which was also when I discovered the infinite depths of the internet. I can’t really remember how it happened, but I think it happened while I was searching for the lyrics to several death metal songs I was listening to at the time. I was just clicking on links at random when I stumbled upon a website called No Beliefs. As a person of great inquiry who always wanted to learn more, I decided to read every inch of it. It was there that I learned the true history of the Old Testament, that its stories were cobbled together from several separate myths in the region; it was there that I learned the history of the New Testament, and of how it was written long after Jesus’ supposed death; and it was there that I learned of the Bible’s dark and disgusting nature, a side of the Bible many Christians refuse to address.
After several hours of reading, I learned of not just the absurdities – light being created before any source of light, snakes that can talk, ten billion species of lands animals being packed into a tiny boat, bats classified as birds, whales classified as fish, pi classified as a round number – but the atrocities as well. I learned of the verses that depict God either committing or condoning countless atrocities, including burning his creations alive (Numbers 16:32-35), slaughtering the firstborn (Exodus 12:29-30), sending down pestilence (I Chronicles 21), slaughtering those with black skin (II Chronicles 14), murdering tens of thousands of men without a single shred of shame or remorse (I Samuel 6:19), and the wholesale extermination of the innocent (throughout the Bible really, but specifically in verses Deuteronomy 2:34, Ezekiel 9:5-6, Joshua 6:21, and countless others).
It became quite evident to me that the Bible is not the supreme, flawless, absolute word of an all-loving God as many people in Kansas claim it is. Instead, it is the blood-stained parchment of angry, ignorant, hateful men from ancient times who used the religious stories and appeals to divine authority for political expediency. However, it was not just Christianity that was alone in this fraud. After learning of the unholy nature of their supposedly holy books, I saw all religions in a contemptible light. It was clear to me that religion is nothing more than a tool crafted by the powerful that is used primarily for social control. It fetters the mind, cripples critical thought, and silences the voice of freedom. It teaches you to submit, obey, conform. It turns ignorance and blind obedience into divine virtues and it demonizes dissent and free thought. Religion aims to keep man in perpetual darkness. Like a concrete wall, it hinders all progress, be it social, technological, or scientific. Indeed, without religion, the world would be a more advanced place than it is today.
I will never let my mind be imprisoned. I will never surrender myself to the contemptible entity that is religion. I will never be a member of an institution that gleefully contributes to mankind’s self-destruction. I stand for reason. I stand for progress. I stand for enlightenment. I stand for that which will lift the veil of lies from mankind’s blinded eyes. After observing all the evidence, I came to the realization that there was only one position that made any logical sense: atheism. With that, I declared to myself, “I am an atheist.”
I knew I was an atheist, but I had to keep it a secret from everyone. After all, atheists are the most hated minority in America, and if people were aware of my atheism, I would be ostracized, beaten up, or worse. And so, throughout most of high school, I kept my lips sealed. Luckily for me, matters of religion rarely came up for discussion. Near the end of senior year, I casually made the comment that I didn’t believe in god. One girl simply asked me, “What will happen to you when you die?” To this I gleefully responded, “I’ll be buried in the ground and be eaten by worms.” That was it. No one ever asked me religious questions ever again, but they still got along well with me.
Such wasn’t the case with my gifted class. Gifted class is basically a special class where the school’s smartest kids do special activities and high-level assignments, and although many of the students in this class were the best and brightest of the school, they still haven’t rejected the ridiculous idea that the earth is only six thousand years old. When I told them that I am an atheist, they were genuinely shocked. They could not comprehend the notion that a kind young man such as myself did not believe in god. Even my gifted teacher seemed to believe that my atheism was nothing more than a phase, and that I would grow out of it as soon as I graduated from high school. The only gifted student who didn’t seem to care that I was an atheist was a prospective comedian from Canada.
I eventually graduated from high school and contrary to what my gifted teacher seemed to believe, I did not stop being an atheist, and I am still an atheist today. Unlike most people in Kansas, I don’t base my views of the world on absurd fantasies and wishful thinking. My views are based on logic and scientific evidence. I am not a puppet controlled by invisible hands. I am the master of my own destiny. Most people are still shocked when I tell them I’m an atheist. When they ask me why I don’t believe in god, I simply reply, “For the same reason you don’t believe in Allah.” When the people of Kansas understand why they reject all the other gods – from Abaangui to Zywie – they will understand why I reject their god.
Glen Davidson says
To be able to hang onto pre-scientific mythology long after it has been scientifically eviscerated is a kind of gift.
Not one that I would value, however.
The GOD, in whom I used to devoutly believe in, has devolved into the excuse and icon of the ignorant, the superstitious, the gullible, the power hungry (Newt), the deceivers (televangelists) the abusive (Limbaugh), the just plain F****g stupid, the rodomontades, the fulsome, the Republicans, and Oh I almost forgot the very F****G violent (hate groups)
Thomas Lawson says
Great entry, Ethan. It’s uncanny how similar these new letters are to the old ones.
And don’t forget about Numbers 31:15-18!
(15) “And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?”
(16) “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.”
(17) “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.”
(18) “But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”
…Moses said with a sly grin and a wink.
Very good reading. I’m glad you were strong enough to resist religious indoctrination. I was not, and it took 46 years to escape.
But there is one small statement that I take issue with:
You are still subject to the randomness of nature. You could be struck by a meteorite in the next 5 minutes, or a mutating cancer cell. I’d say we are somewhat less in control of our destiny than we think we are.
Thanks for sending this in Ethan.
When you say that, “I never went to church, I never prayed, I never read the Bible, and I never really cared about Heaven or Hell” and, “I saw church as the most boring thing in existence,” you’re describing a young me as well.
What a relief that when I did decide to seriously look at Christianity, that it was no more true than the mythological Gods of Olympus.
Thanks for mentioning No Belief dot com. I hadn’t seen it before.
'Tis Himself, OM. says
I really wonder if Constantine was converted to Christianity by seeing a cross in the sky or for more pragmatic reasons: These Christians believe that their lives can be miserable here on Earth but after they die there’ll be pie in the sky. Why were we persecuting these idiots? We can shit on them all day every day but promise them Heaven after death. They suck it up. It’s a gold mine.
I am a Kansan who was in a gifted class where at least half the students, as well as the teacher, were all nonbelievers. The other half were liberal, presumably old-earth, Christians. The rest of the school, not so much.
John Morales says
Ironically, the very word ‘gifted’ is an example of the goddism embedded in language.
Markita Lynda, happy Winter Solstice, everyone! says
Wonderfully clear and strong! Good for you.
Ah, growing up as a self-made atheist in Kansas. Fun times. I didn’t keep my atheism secret, but most of my tormentors grew out of annoying me once the living hell of middle school passed. High school wasn’t terrible, but I discovered several of my fellow advanced students fell prey to Pascal’s Wager as an argument for their belief.
Thanks for writing!
/secret Kansan-atheist handshake
@ #3 Thomas Lawson
My favourite passage to quote to doorstep bible bashers. I must now add:
Peter Heather, who I cited earlier (The Fall of the Roman Empire, 2005) argues that Christianity and imperial ideology made a very good fit: only the identity of the deity and its exact relationship to the Emperor needed changing. By adopting Christianity, the State gained an effective propaganda and intelligence arm: the Church had its own Empire-wide systems of communication and discipline, and these were already based on the administrative divisions of the late Empire. Paganism never had any comparable organisation. One possibility Heather doesn’t mention is that the official adoption of Christiantity was also a move in the struggle with Persia, where the new Sassanid dynasty had made Mazdaism, a revamped version of Zoroastrianism, the state religion in the 3rd century.
How Christianity reached a position where adopting it made political sense is also an interesting quesrtion. We know from that scholarly work Monty Python’s Life of Brian that you could hardly heave a brick in a Judean marketplace without braining a Messiah, but was it just luck that Christianity survived when most of the rest disappeared altogether (there is still a religion, Mandaeism, regarding John the Baptist as the number 1 prophet, and Jesus as a false Messiah)? The epistle of Paul (even those that aren’t actually by him) suggest that Christians were, for whatever reason, quick off the mark in setting up a widespread network of communities, which could from quite early on been advantageous to belong to for anyone who had to travel – so once established, such a network might tend to grow. Locally, the communities probably provided welfare services which the state didn’t.
Anyhow, you have to hand it to Constantine: he picked two huge historical winners in Christianity and Constantinople/Istanbul. The latter (with the walls built in the reign of Theodosius II) preserved vast numbers of ancient manuscripts until the Crusaders sacked it in 1204 and most of them burned.