Why I am not an agnostic



The short answer is that I consider the possibility of the existence of a supernatural deity to be zilch. I could be wrong about this, but I could also be wrong about Bigfoot, although I very much doubt it. This leads me to ask what percentage of certainty a person needs to call himself a theist, an agnostic or an atheist. Would 51% do? 

I don't recall spending any time as an agnostic on my way to atheism. Until age 11, I was a believer, and I remained a believer even after I came to hold the God of the Bible in contempt. I proceeded to atheism in my mid-twenties because I found it harder to envision God as a weakling or an asshole (all supernatural versions of God paint him as one or the other) than to renounce his existence.

Emotionally, I would still like to believe that I am immortal, protected, guided, and that my life has an ordained purpose, but intellectually, I no longer try because I’ve examined all the supposed evidence and found it fanciful. Only a personal experience would touch my unbelief in the least, although I wouldn’t necessarily accept that as valid. After all, I’m capable of hallucinating, so if I were to hear or see an entity that my investigations had determined to be imaginary, my impulse would be to doubt the experience rather than to doubt my investigations.

In some countries, the hands of God-worshippers are dripping in blood. In the U.S., the Christian community generally stops at insults, threats, and social, economic, and legal discrimination, but vandalism and physical violence also occur (I was rapped on the head for not standing for prayer while on jury duty). Given Christianity’s bloody past and its widespread meanness even today, I believe that the only difference between the dominant face of Christianity in America and that of Islam in the Middle East is that America’s laws provide significant protection for a diversity of believers and nonbelievers. Unfortunately, this protection must be endlessly safeguarded by lawsuits against those who would make America a theocracy. As I see it, there are three kinds of Christians: those who are clueness regarding religious oppression, those who carry out the oppression, and those whose silence implies that they consent to the oppression. Because it would be a small step from making Christianity our state religion to enacting restrictive laws against unpopular forms of Christianity, I’m at a loss to understand the certainty on the part of believers that a Christianized America would only present a problem for non-Christians.

The sign in the photo (from the Freedom from Religion Foundation website) was one of four erected at taxpayer expense by the city officials of Sylvania, Alabama. Government-sponsored, Christian-specific displays and observances are commonplace in America despite the fact that they violate the law. If any Christians object to them, they do a good job of letting nonbelievers take the heat for speaking out.

16 comments:

The Elephant's Child said...

'And so say all of us.' We seem to be a little better at separated state and religion, but wobble from time to time.
I know that you said that your Christian Community generally stops at violence, but I think that there have been sufficient bloody (literally and metaphorically) attacks on abortion clinics for it to be a notable exception.
On an unrelated note, have you set the print size to titchy on this post or are my eyes at fault? I v almost had my nose on the screen.

Kerry said...

Please tell me that it wasn't in Eugene OR, where you were rapped on the head during jury duty. I served multiple times on jury duty in Alabama, and don't remember having to honor prayers. But my memory could be faulty. I probably just daydreamed during the public Bible-belt prayers.

lotta joy said...

I would be more inclined to believe in an all powerful god if people didn't have to make excuses for him. Ask a question in church and you're told "it's not for us to know". Why did mommy die when I asked that she be healed? "Sometimes god answers 'no'."
Why am I in pain? "To make sure you truly have faith."

Faith in what? "That if you are obeying and continue to love god with all your heart, you will be healed...uh...if it's in his plans."

Why wouldn't it be his plan...if he loves me?

"Child...you'll never get any prayers answered unless you stop questioning his ways and have faith that he knows what he's doing....let us pray."

lotta joy said...

Snow,Did my first comment post? I've had to re-do it three times.

I've never had more problems than when trying to leave a comment on this post. I've been kicked off. Kicked out. Am I here?

Could it be......SATAN???

Marion said...

Dear Snow: I own a magnifying glass, but I can't find it to read your post. Up that font a notch or four for us older folks. LOL!!! It looks like newborn pissants parked on my 'puter screen. xox

Snowbrush said...

Is everyone having trouble with my font size? I use what Blogger calls "normal," and it looks fine on my computer, so I'm at a loss.

The jury I was rapped on the head while serving on was a Mississippi grand jury, and the prayer I objected to was led by the district attorney. I was also challenged (i.e. dismissed from the jury) by a lawyer in Minneapolis when I refused to say the "so help me God" part of the swearing in. I later learned that lawyers don't tend to like atheists because they too often represent a wild card. I've served on a grand jury in Oregon also and had no problem.

PhilipH said...

Ooohch Snowy: "Yew'll never git to Heaven noo..."

Nor shall I of course. I second your comments 101%.

Is Alabama known as "The Bible Belt"? - or what? That county has one of the worst for racism, prejudice and sheer "Good ol' boy crap" from what I've read and heard over the years.

Charles Gramlich said...

I started out as a really strong believer and at one time wanted to be a priest. Then I swung all the way over to the Atheist side. Finally I returned to the middle range and generally consider myself an agnostic with a strong fondness for many of the "teachings" of Christianity. Although much evil has been done in the names of various gods, it's not that religion is a source of evil, or that politics is a source of evil, or sports, or anything else. Humans are the source of evil. Humans take good ideas and good inventions and turn them into instruments of violence.

lotta joy said...

Snow and Marion: I use 'normal' font too. Fonts show up differently on every computer. THE TRICK IS:

click 'ctrl' (bottom left of keyboard) and the 'plus' (+) sign (top right of keyboard) at the same time. You can make any page as large as you want.

Snowbrush said...

"Although much evil has been done in the names of various gods, it's not that religion is a source of evil, or that politics is a source of evil, or sports, or anything else."

Do you mean to suggest that all those Moslems would blow themselves up even without Islam and that all those Germans would have systematically murdered millions of people even without Nazism? Religions (and political philosophies) often endorse evil, so when followers of those religions go out and do evil, it won't do to say that their religion is blameless.

Lotta, after getting Marion's comment, I just make the last several pages larger so people wouldn't have to enlarge the font. Is it now too big?

"Is Alabama known as "The Bible Belt"?

The entire Southeastern US is known as the Bible Belt, and it roughly corresponds to the slave-holding states of the old Confederacy. Along with being the most religious part of the country, it's also the fattest, poorest, least educated, shortest lived, and most intolerant. I'm not going to run down statistics regarding divorce, crime, and other social ills, but I suspect that it's a leader in pretty much every area of depravity and misery. I spent over half of my life there, and many readers of this blog live there. My point isn't to knock the South but to say that when people claim that religion is essential for morality, I want to ask them why, if this is true, places that that are notable for religiosity are also notable for measurable social problems.

I should give a cancer update. After the additional test, my odds of having cancer are now set 24%, and my odds of having an aggressive cancer are 10% of that. I don't want a biopsy, so I'm going to have the test repeated in three months, and if it's still not looking good, I'll probably submit to a biopsy.

rhymeswithplague said...

Note to lotta joy: There is also a 'ctrl' key at the bottom right of the keyboard. It doesn't matter which 'ctrl' key you push as long as you also push either 'plus' (+) or 'minus' (-) at the same time, depending on whether you want to make things 'larger' or 'smaller' and I do hope I am making myself 'perfectly clear'....

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, I would like you to undertake an intensive study of your own personality, quirks, "hot" buttons, diet, recreational activities, circadian rhythms, etc., with an eye to telling us what it is that often sets you off in such a way, usually without warning of any kind, that you suddenly feel the need to attack not only religion but religious people when as far as I can see you haven't been provoked, at least recently. Do external factors such as weather changes affect you adversely? Increased physical pain? Running low on drugs? Most of the time you seem like such a nice person, then, POW!, right in the kisser. At least let us know if and when your time of the month is approaching.

I'm only half kidding.

It might be hormonal.

One of your loyal Southern (that is, fattest, poorest, least educated, shortest lived, and most intolerant) readers.

Snowbrush said...

"One of your loyal Southern (that is, fattest, poorest, least educated, shortest lived, and most intolerant) readers."

As you surely realize, I never meant to say that every person in the South is ignorant, etc. What I did mean to say was that since religion is considered a prerequisite--by most Americans and not just Southerners--for being moral, happy, and so forth, one might reasonably expect that the most religious nations, as well as the most religious parts of this nation, would be renowned for virtue and contentment, yet the opposite is invariably true with the least religious nations and parts of nations leading the way in terms of salutary behavior. By the way, of the six of you who have commented on this post thus far, four live in the Bible Belt: Lotta Joy in Florida, Marion in Louisiana, you in Georgia, and Charles in Louisiana. Two of you are quite religious, one is an atheist, and one appears marginally religious. I also identify more as a Southerner than as an Oregonian because I spent most of my life there.

"Snow, I would like you to undertake an intensive study of your own personality, quirks, "hot" buttons, diet, recreational activities, circadian rhythms, etc., with an eye to telling us what it is that often sets you off in such a way...that you suddenly feel the need to attack not only religion but religious people..."

I suppose that this post was inspired by the following video as much as anything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWm6uHg9tuk. When you have this kind of blatant viciousness going on, even those Christians who are not actively involved in it remain as quiet as little church mice, no less, while it's happening, and I can only conclude from this that they are either too cowardly to speak up, or they tacitly support the cruelty. Either way, why should any atheist imagine that the Christian community as a whole wouldn't remain just as quiet while he was being boiled in oil or burned at the stake? There is no heart to Christianity. It's just another ugly form of tribalism.

Helen said...

'There is no heart to Christianity. It's just another ugly form of tribalism.' Yep!

Myrna R. said...

Good post Snow. Your criticism is well founded and I concur with it. I understand better why you're atheist. I do recognize some good at the core of most religions. But people distort things, however and institutions, well, they just want to self-perpetuate. Wish the things that are supposed to unite us, didn't divide us.

kylie said...

i gotta say, snow, you stopped me short here. i know about religious persecution, am not party to it, do not support it but only speak out against it within my immediate family

nice to see the cancer thing is ...um....at least not too urgent