A potpourri of generalizations about the irreligious

I went into atheism kicking and screaming, but many atheists found it easy to give up their religion because it never made a lick of sense to them, and because they didn’t think that living forever sounded so great anyway.

Even today, if someone could prove to me that god exists—and that he is good—that person would find me most appreciative, but then I would feel the same way if he convinced me that I had won a billion dollars. Neither prospect appears very likely.

I’m actually glad that no one ever tries to convert me, because it would bore me to rehash the same old tired arguments for god's existence. Yet, for someone to say that I’m going to burn in hell forever if I don’t believe in his particular version of god, and then to spend no time at all trying to show me the error of my ways does seem strange. Maybe such people recognize the paucity of their arguments, or maybe they just don’t like me well enough on earth to put up with me in heaven.

Believers sometimes ask what I’ll say to god after I’m dead if it turns out that I was wrong. Well, if I were standing at the edge of the proverbial fiery pit, I might brown-nose for all I was worth, but if I were honest, I would have to say, “I’m very surprised that you exist, but since you do exist, allow me to point out that you’re sure one sorry-ass excuse for a deity. The main difference between you and Satan is that Satan at least knows he’s evil.”

When I was a child in Mississippi, I often heard white people say that black demonstrators had no reason to criticize the way they were treated. When believers tell me that I have no reason to criticize religion, I remember those white people.

An atheist won’t think you’re more evolved because you claim to be spiritual rather than religious. He’ll just be grateful that you lack organizations through which to oppress him. Likewise, he won’t take it as a compliment if you tell him that he’s “too spiritual to be a real atheist.” Really, he won't.

Likewise, an atheist won’t think you’re “sensitive” because you believe in magic and mysticism; he’ll just think you’re so jaded that you can’t appreciate a real wonder unless you populate it with creatures of fantasy.

I sometimes wonder if most religious people aren’t just pretending to love god because they’re afraid of him. I would even suspect that most religious people secretly hate god because they have books that portray him in one way, yet the world around them—over which he presumably has complete control—is the other way.

Atheists think the same way about god that they think about Bigfoot. They don't categorically deny his existence; they just take the complete lack of evidence as a bad sign.

Most atheists spend zero amount of time fretting over your beliefs about god. What they fret about is that so many of you are determined to force your beliefs about god on society, only to scream that you’re being persecuted if anyone objects.

Most atheists do think that the world would be better off if no one believed in god because religion is a major—if not the major—cause of hatred, alienation, and war. Believers don’t seem to notice the harm caused by religion, or if they do notice it, they blame it on other people’s version of religion rather than the concept of religion.

Few atheists think religious people are more moral. In fact, most of them believe religion to be a hindrance to morality because religious people place their holy book or guru above fairness and compassion.

I think people are religious for psychological reasons. The world is often unjust and capricious, and the universe as a whole places no value upon our lives. Religion claims that the opposite is true, and this makes it attractive.

Scandinavia is known for its low crime rate, its high standard of living, its reluctance to wage war, its environmentally responsible lifestyle, and its irreligion. America is known for its high crime rate, its worsening standard of living, its warmongering, its pollution, and its religiosity. This same pattern is repeated in the parts of America that are the least religious compared to the parts that are the most religious, and it is repeated everywhere else in the world. Does this maybe suggest something to you?

35 comments:

Candy Morrison said...

Very, very well put. May I link and share this with others?

Snowbrush said...

But of course, Candy. Feel free.

The Blog Fodder said...

I think people are religious for psychological reasons. - I agree.

This same pattern is repeated in the parts of America that are the least religious compared to the parts that are the most religious Isn't it ironic that the blue states perform better in all the family values measures than the red states? I would love to see a breakdown by constituency in Canada.
And just so you know, I don't believe in the god(s) of the religions either.

ellen abbott said...

Well, you know, I couldn't agree more though I am not an atheist. Religion is a bad thing. Any god who demands I believe in him or get tossed in the lake of fire is not someone or something I'm interested in getting to know. kinda like the Taliban, right?

The Tusk said...

Dearest Snow,
Suggestion aside, If I ask you to state the suggestion, I'm sure that you would. This of course is known as the Coda of your article. It is the one line insertion that states concept. I'm cautious to state what your plot is as outside of the world of screenwriting because it carries a negative connotation. He's evil, he is plotting against us. That would not be you.

Right now though my concerns for the earth are not its people nor is its environment, the Gore thing. It is the common Bee. Many are stating a flux in the procreation of the Bee, and as I am all for procreation, both in the insect world and the Mammalian world, this has become my main concern.

Just a point of fact, not to beleaguer you with Wiki when it's not required.

The Bee and its Honey is so sacred, it is against the law to sell your honey, it must be given as a gift, if you are to give it away at all. If you find a bee on the ground, you must bury it, for it releases a soul that has been taken back onto the earth.

Irony here you might find funny, its usually the soul of a Bull.

Visit me again you bum, I've posted my picture.

rhymeswithplague said...

I'm sorry, were you saying something?

"No one was ever debated into the kingdom of God." --Billy Graham

rhymeswithplague said...

P.S. - I have heard that Scandinavia has the highest suicide rate in the world.

Snowbrush said...

Fodder said: "Isn't it ironic that the blue states perform better in all the family values measures than the red states?"

Yes, it IS ironic. Some might even think hypocritical.

Rhymes said: ""No one was ever debated into the kingdom of God." --Billy Graham"

Sorta tells you something about the rational underpinnings of Christianity when one of its most notable spokesmen admits that rationality isn't a a motivating value.

Rhymes said: "I have heard that Scandinavia has the highest suicide rate in the world."

You don't sound too sure of your data there, Rhymes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

bluzdude said...

"An atheist won’t think you’re more evolved because you claim to be spiritual rather than religious. He’ll just be grateful that you lack organizations through which to oppress him."

Bang-on.

"What they fret about is that so many of you are determined to force your beliefs about god on society, only to scream that you’re being persecuted if anyone objects."

That may as well be my personal Mission Statement, right there.

Religion would be just peachy, if the religious could just go on about their business being religious, and leave the rest of us out of it.

The Tusk said...

Let me apologize for calling you a bum, you are not. After reading my post. I've left off some relevant Data. I meant to say It is against the law in a specific country to sell honey, which that country is is insignificant. But the Bee does go back to Neolithic, Linear A Hieroglyphic and of course the more modern writings from beyond Sanskrit.

I was being sarcastic and enthusiastic when I name called you and again I apologize.

My fathers initials were LT.

Sincerely,
The Tusk

http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg1848.htm

I've left you this tag in my search for the Greek definition of Enthusiasm.

The Elephant's Child said...

Thank you lots. I agreed with you more than I am accustomed to agreeing with anyone (including myself).
Perhaps I am naive but I find organised religions (with the possible exception of Buddhism) scary. I exclude Buddhism because I am not aware of any wars they have waged. The insistence on 'right' far too often teemed with might doesn't seem ethical to me.

Natalie said...

I agree.

The Depressed Reader said...

Hi Snow,
Great post. As I often do, I find myself in furious agreement with you.

Your opening line reminded me a little of some kind of an opposite to CS Lewis, who claimed that he went into Christianity "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England". Given the amount of Christian propaganda he later came to produce, it appears he got over his reluctance..

Strayer said...

I was looking for a cheap gym. The Y has a swimming pool. I considered joining but reconsidered after I talked to several people. I was warned away from the Albany Y, because I was told you may be assailed by religious zealots even when trying to relax in the hot tub. I guess the Albany Y is a hot bed of religiosity.

I just want to exercise somewhere. I don't want religious lectures and/or recruitment attempts. After hearing this about the local Y from three different people I chose against joining the Y. One of the three advised me to join the Eugene Y, stating there I would be left to exercise without religious harrassment. I find all this completely strange. The YMCA of all places.

Gaston Studio said...

Your posts are always interesting Snow, even if I don't agree with many of them.

Snowbrush said...

Gaston Studio said: "Your posts are always interesting Snow, even if I don't agree with many of them."

Hey, Jane, at least you said many instead of any.

Vagabonde said...

I read an article this week that said that the happiest countries in the world had been announced – and they were the least religious. Is that a surprise? I have a document where I copy my favorite quotes and I am going to include one with your name as author, and that is: “An atheist won’t think you’re more evolved because you claim to be spiritual rather than religious. He’ll just be grateful that you lack organizations through which to oppress him.” I think I’ll quote it often. I really like it.

You know, thinking about it, growing up in France and going to school there I only knew one girl who went to church, and she was the one who constantly lied and had problems with everyone, She asked me once to go to church with her but I did not want to as I was afraid I would start to have problems like her. It’s weird now that I think of it, no one spoke about religion when I went to school, that was thought as a “personal” subject but then no one went to church either and we were all a happy bunch of kids. But then here in Georgia during the Iraq war the people who sent me dirty emails about being French and French bashing jokes were the most religious – I wonder why.

Snowbrush said...

Vagabonde, it's also--generally speaking--religious people who are okay with us torturing prisoners, taking Constitutional rights away from our own citizens, and even going to war in the first place. There's an incredible gap between what their "Savior" said and how they themselves behave, and they're not even apologetic about it.

The Elephant's Child said...

I have today awarded you with a stylish blogger award in recognition of your airing of a difficult topic. Thank you. And for your encouragment of my baby steps in the blogosphere. You can check out the award at http://myjustsostory.blogspot.com/2011/03/stylish-blogger-award.html

rhymeswithplague said...

On behalf of all those religious people who are okay with us torturing prisoners, taking Constitutional rights away from our own citizens, and even going to war in the first place (I am not one of them), I apologize. I do this because they will never do it themselves.

Cliche time: Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven.

Phoenix said...

Fantastic post. I have my own personal reasons for my beliefs, but I have never thought that these particular religious/spiritual beliefs made me a better or more moral person, determined where I go after I die, or caused me to be "saved" or "forgiven" any more than anyone else.

I have quite a few atheist friends who deal with generalizations like this on a frequent basis and it is frustrating and disheartening for them to experience these types of interactions who those who claim to be following a religion based on the teachings of a very loving man.

I'll point them towards this post, if you don't mind.

And you're right - most people are religious for psychological reasons, a few of which are the need for community, the need for a morally black and white world in which to operate, the need to feel purpose, and the need to have a belief system that will help them cope with the bad things that happen in this world.

None of those above reasons are necessarily bad, mind you, but extremely religious people (fundamentalists) pay the price in trade; they trade in their community for exclusion of others; they trade in a morally black and white world for judgment and de-humanizing others who do not share their morals; the need for purpose is traded for a self-centric view of self that cuts off empathy towards others; and a belief system that believes that God is good yet bad things happen leaves most believers confused and more than willing to close off their minds to debate than face hard questions.

Again - excellent post, Snow.

Snowbrush said...

Rhymes said: "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."

Rhymes, my friend, given that the "Good Lord" has, as you believe, created billions of people, yet not one of them has ever satisfied him (excluding Jesus, of course, who was fully human, yet also fully god, yet also one-third god--aka the Trinity), do you ever ponder the thought that it's not our fault that we are no more and no less than what we were made to be? If god had wanted perfection, he could have had perfection, but instead he made us, and has been bummed about it ever since, so for him to turn around and say that we are deserving of eternal hell because we are imperfect IS a little strange, is it not?

As for Christians being imperfect despite being forgiven, Christ DID command them to be perfect, after all, and they WERE promised the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and they WERE told that they WOULD perform miracles greater than those of Christ himself. So, I ask you, where are the walkers on water, the blind people who are being healed by having mud dabbed on their eyes, and the dead who are being called forth from their tombs?

And finally, doesn't the notion that some of the worst people who ever lived--Hitler, for example--might very well now be in heaven if they had a few moments to accept Jesus as their savior before they died; whereas some of the best people who ever lived--Bertrand Russell, for example--are most assuredly in hell--and will be forever--based upon their inability to accept the truth of a 2,000 year old book that was written at unknown times by unknown authors, and contained fantastic stories about demon-possessed pigs and first-come/first-serve healing pools of water, strike you as just tad unfair?

rhymeswithplague said...

You are on a roll today, Snow, a regular West Coast Christopher Hitchens!

If it is your intention to crush me like a bug, go ahead...I still have one cheek left. Sorry for the mixed metaphor.

I correct my earlier statement by including a few qualifications: certain Scandinavian countries have some of the highest suicide rates in the world.

And the point I was trying to make by quoting Billy Graham is that debating never works, but love always wins.

Snowbrush said...

Depressed Reader, like you, apparently, I was never impressed with C.S. Lewis. In fact, the word facile comes to mind when I think of him.

Phoenix said: "I have my own personal reasons for my beliefs, but I have never thought that these particular religious/spiritual beliefs made me a better or more moral person"

If you consider yourself a Christian, then you are most unusual in this. Indeed, most theists, in my experience, hold that a belief in god is essential to morality. Like their theism itself, this is a faith-based position rather than something for which they can offer evidence.

Rhymes said: "debating never works, but love always wins"

Oh contraire! When it comes to determining the truth of a given proposition, love is worthless. If you say that there is a cat in the closet, and I say that there is not a cat in the closet, of what benefit is love in determining which of us is correct?

rhymeswithplague said...

It doesn't help us determine which of us is correct, but it does allow us to remain friends. And I was thinking of one particular proposition, you know, that has nothing to do with cats in closets!

Phoenix said...

Snow - I do consider myself Christian, although I usually hesitate in admitting it since it seems that people use Christianity as a title to brag about and I find that pretty sickening. I've been told before that I am sadly most unusual in that I don't equate religion with morality, I don't think a loving God would create people just so they'd go to hell, and it doesn't offend me in the least what others believe or don't believe. I think true love of others can be expressed through acceptance of others, just as they are, without any agenda to convert or a pedantic attitude stemming from self-righteousness. I've thought long and hard about why I believe in a Christian God and I'm sure you've thought long and hard about why you choose not to. I think both ideas and opinions deserve respect and I'm never going to tell someone else that I know for sure what is truth and what is not. I simply know that my current belief system helps me be a better person and be more tolerant of others, and the rest I'll figure out as I go. :)

Phoenix said...

Also - if a belief in God is essential to morality, then we wouldn't see time and time again that theocracies (a lack of separation between church and state) lead to chaos, dictatorships, and fundamentalism. I disagree completely that belief in a God is essential to morality. That seems a very childlike point of view.

Snowbrush said...

Rhymes said: "I was thinking of one particular proposition, you know, that has nothing to do with cats in closets!"

No, I'm sorry to report that I don't know, although I suppose you're referring to religious faith. But as I see it, faith can be grounded in knowledge (as with one's faith in another person's skill or integrity) or it can be based upon wishful thinking, with religious faith falling into the latter category. As for your quote by Billy Graham, I read a book by a fellow seminarian of his (and recommended it to you) who also made a start at a promising career in the ministry, but he ended up an atheist, and his description of Billy Graham was that of a man who simply decided to believe, and ever afterwards squelched his unbelief, not through the pursuit of insight or knowledge but through determination. I truly don't understand how, or even why, anyone would want to do such a thing. So, not only does Billy Graham NOT debate, he doesn't know enough TO debate.

Phoenix said: "I do consider myself Christian, although I usually hesitate in admitting it..."

I can understand that, and I sometimes think about how embarrassing it must also be to be a Moslem because--as with Christians only moreso--you have a whale of a lot of people who are using that religion as an inspiration to bring repression and terror into the world. Whatever the intent of Christ or Mohammed, I suspect that the state of their religions today isn't really what they envisioned. In fact, I know as much of Christ because, whatever else he was, he was a rebel against the status quo with all its smugness and hypocrisy, yet Christianity today--in America anyway--IS the status quo.

All Consuming said...

You know where I stand on this, right next to you. Good post as ever, I particularly liked - 'If you say that there is a cat in the closet, and I say that there is not a cat in the closet, of what benefit is love in determining which of us is correct?' I wish you could be published so a wider audience could have access to your writing. X

Snowbrush said...

All Consuming said: "I wish you could be published so a wider audience could have access to your writing. X"

I do too, but I don't seem to have the wherewithal to take on that battle. If YOU wanted to be my agent though...

River said...

Does this suggest something to me?
Yes. Yes it does. People's differing views on religion leads to conflict, which evolves into unrest and escalates into wars. Religion has a lot to answer for. Give me atheism and peace any day.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I was done with religion as a teen. While I have always felt that there is a God and I have a relationship with Him... I've had too many odd / other worldly experiences to not believe (and yes, I know you would call them mere coincidence).

But after a tragic event at 16, I knew religion had no place in my life. I agree fully that too many wars have been waged in the name of religion. Too many people are hateful to one another in God's name. I'm certain there is an extra warm place in hell for those.

Actually... I don't believe in hell per se. I think we're IN hell now, in this life.

Selina Kingston said...

Gosh, this was a really interesting read. I don't really know how I feel about religion. I was insistent that I married in a Church and had both my children christened and we go to Church every Christmas but all of that I think has been part of fitting in with society. I don't actively disbelieve and in fact, often feel envious when I hear people talking about a strong faith but I just go through life not really thinking about it all. I guess that makes me more ignorant than anything else. I'm fascinated by the fact that you say that you went into atheism kicking and screaming. It's set me thinking hard .....

The Bipolar Diva said...

How can I love you and disagree with you all at once? Sorry I haven't been around much. The descent into darkness was all consuming this time around. My thoughts are never far from you even in my absence.

C Woods said...

Another great post!