Faith

My Soap Box

I firmly believe that atheists should have a bigger voice in this world. We should not allow ourselves to remain sequestered for fear of what others (namely employers, family, friends, potential constituents, etc) will think of us if we don’t. Personally, I’m done with hiding my non-belief. I’m over just answering with a “No” when asked if I go to church. It’s time to start answering, “No, I do not because I am an Atheist” instead because I want them to inquire about it. I want people to start thinking differently about atheism and what it means. I want Americans to begin accepting openly atheist people into their government and local positions of power. We are not evil. We are not immoral. We are not devoid of meaning in our lives.

To me, religion as it stands today is a disease. It is a disease that is spreading through the weak and the weary spreading ignorance and turning us on each other. It has created a culture in which one is not allowed to be happy with themselves or with anyone else if what makes them happy is outside of their religious doctrine. Religion suppresses people. It suppresses progress and tolerance and it suppresses growth and personal responsibility.

If it were up to me, people would practice or not practice any religion they choose if it makes them happy and fulfills their life but also understand that each person is different and will have different views of what that fulfillment looks like. Unfortunately, religious people can’t seem to recognize that those outside of their religion are just like them — they have dreams and goals and families. Instead, they view someone else’s happiness in another religion as dangerous and ignorant. They kill people who are different than they are because they are viewed as a threat. Ok, death is on the extreme end of this spectrum but, you get the point.

What I want to know is this: Why can’t people just be happy for people who are happy? Why do we have to be right all the time? Why do we have to be in everyone else’s business and personal life? If people are not pursuing personal happiness at the expense of others (i.e. murder, rape, burglary, etc.) then why do so many feel so inclined to stop them? Let them be gay. Let them be nerdy. Let them be Muslim or Jewish or atheist. And you should expect the same respect in return.

There is a huge movement happening in this country to put an end to bullying. While it’s great to teach your kids not to bully others, we should consider leading by example first. Adults in this country are bullying each other every day. There are idiots at all ends of the spectrum looking down on those opposite them while belittling, hurting, offending and essentially shitting on everything they believe to be real and true. How could that not make people mad? How could they not react?

I myself am guilty of this. I make jokes about Christianity almost daily. A big part of me even enjoys doing it. I think the difference is that I would never suggest to a Christian that they need to stop being a Christian. I would only suggest that they need to stop chastising me for not being one. So, Christians (or, anyone really) bring on the jokes right back at me. We should all care about what others have to say but we should also be respectful of their thoughts when they say it. Making jokes and/or expressing yourself is one thing, hurting people intentionally is quite another. We are all different and differences make people uncomfortable, I get that. But, instead of falling victim to discomfort by never exploring others, why not engage each other and learn something. By opening our minds to the different and unusual we can become more accepting of what others say and do.

I think, for the most part, atheists get this. We all tend to agree on the premise of, ‘To Each His Own’. Unfortunately, some of us tend to lash out when others cannot accept that premise and 9 times out of 10, those unwilling or unable to accept are the religious ones. This change in human perspective has to start in the religious world. Muslims have to stop killing westerners, Christians have to become more tolerant of other beliefs/lifestyles, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have to stop knocking on my door!

The burden is on religion and those that practice it to make our world a better, more peaceful place. As an atheist, that makes me extremely uncomfortable (to be honest) however, if I have faith in anything, I have faith in people. I have faith that people are capable of great love and tolerance. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing; we just have to agree to disagree on the details.

Faith or Expectations?

Faith. It is at the heart of every theist’s last-ditch argument. When you have questioned the historical discrepancies in their Bible, when you have pointed out all the nasty things their religion has been responsible for, and when you finally work your way down to the core of their beliefs, the answer is always, faith. The phrase goes something like this:

“Well, either way, it doesn’t matter what you think. I believe god exists because I have faith that he does and having faith is a lot harder than not having faith.”

Usually that about ends the argument for me — there is no arguing with crazy, after all. And really, what can I say at that point? “OK, fine, be stupid then!” typically doesn’t fly with my grandmother.

I was confronted with this argument recently and when I was replaying the argument over in my head thinking of all the things I should have said, it dawned on me. I have faith, too. I mean, I think I do. I would go so far as to say that everyone has some sort of faith inside of them. The difference is that my common sense tells me to have faith in things for which I have seen.

For example, I have faith that my car will start in the morning to drive to work. Do I know that it will? No. But, I have kept up with the maintenance and it worked fine the day before, so I have faith that it will turn on. I also have faith that my husband won’t cheat on me. Do I know that for sure? Absolutely not. How could I? But, I have faith that he won’t because he has never done so before and our marriage is good and strong. All of us have faith that tomorrow will come. We schedule appointments, put things off at work and plan vacations all under the assumption that when today ends, the sun will come up and tomorrow will begin. Do we know that it will for certain? No, but we have no reason to believe otherwise. The sun has always come up and tomorrow has always come — whether we like it or not.

The problem with the faith argument though, lies in the very definition of faith itself:

“Faith: firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Merriam-Webster

My common sense tells me that my faith should be based on proof. My logical, reasonable mind tells me so as well. “I believe that ‘X’ will happen because it has happened before or there is evidence that it will.” However, theists and believers of any god(s) believe that faith in something “for which there is no proof” is a perfectly acceptable way to live and it satisfies their minds to be with religion. “I believe that ‘X’ will happen because I have faith that it will.”

This sort of thinking has never satisfied me, so maybe I don’t have faith then; maybe I have something more like expectations:

“Expect: to consider probable or certain; to consider reasonable, due, or necessary.” Merriam-Webster

I expect that my car will turn on, that my husband won’t cheat and the sun will rise again tomorrow. I still know none of these things for certain, but it is probable that my expectations are correct based on the current evidence.

So, maybe that is the biggest difference between atheists and theists: Theists are perfectly satisfied with having faith and can live with the fact that there will never be any proof to show them that their beliefs are correct or accurate. Atheists tend to let their ability to reason overcome their ability to have faith — It is more reasonable to believe in something because there is proof and, on the flip side, it is more reasonable to not believe in something because there is no proof. This, however, does not mean that having faith is any harder or any easier than not having faith. I think that if your mind is capable of accepting the idea of faith, then it shouldn’t be very hard for you at all. But, if you are struggling with the idea of faith and the blind acceptance of it, then sure, I imagine it would be pretty difficult.

The bottom line is that the common sense of an atheist tells them that if there is no evidence, then it must be bullshit or, at the very least, it should be something that they question. The common sense of a theist (and the Bible, oddly enough) tells them that as long as they have faith, anything is possible. “With God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27

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