I’m getting so tired of the local yokels calling the Bob Golick show (a very simplistic man, ex-football star who answers everything with the majority of the people) on WNIR and making uneducated, asinine statements about atheists. These people fear atheists–or the absence of religion–so much that they are overeager to sling whatever insult upon them their weak, feeble minds can comprehend. Today, I listened to a numb-nuts call up and make the broad, factless statement, “I could interview a whole buncha atheists and they will tell you they believe in the Devil and demons. Why can’t they make the leap to believe in something as positive as God and Jesus?”
HELLO, out there, Mr. Akron-Idiot, let me enlighten you with the definition of atheist, per our friends at wikipedia.org, so that we’re all clear here: Atheism is the absence of belief in deities. This entry goes onto say, “Many self-described atheists are skeptical of all supernatural beings and cite a lack of empirical evidence for the existence of deities.”
As a former atheist (who still isn’t quite a “believer” either), I can say with confidence that most people who define themselves as atheists do not believe in God, including all the mythos surrounding God, such as Jesus, the Devil (in his multitude of names not listed here), demons, angels, Adam and Eve, the Bible — NOTHING. The closest an atheist comes to faith is their steady confidence in all that is discovered through science and the ferocity with which they will cling to believing in nothing, even if a counter-argument is brought up to which science does not provide an adequate answer. (Often the answers to these questions no one, not even a religious person, is quite sure of and faith takes over… I mean questions like, “What came before the Big Bang?” and “What happens to us when we die?” No one really knows the answers to these questions — both sides are left to speculate in their respective faiths.)
I personally have never met a Satanic atheist. There may be some out there — I haven’t seen everything in the world, I’ll admit — but I doubt someone who believed in Satan and/or demons would define themselves as an atheist. Someone who is Satanic, actually, could be called religious because you can’t believe in Satan, the evil, without believing in the flipside, the good. If you believe in ultimate evil, you believe in ultimate good. There’s no two ways around that one… or else, who are you rebelling against?
Not that I really want an actual Satanist to respond. I think anyone that would chose to worship the evil part of a religion has some serious, twisted issues and I just don’t need to deal with these kinds of people. That’s why I get so frakking hot under the collar when ignorant Akronites call up local radio shows that I listen to and make basely false statements about a group of people with which I identified myself for years. Many of my closest friends are atheists. Heck, my own mom is an atheist. None of them have committed any Satanic acts that I’m aware of (other than, I guess, turning “away from God” as one of the religious sort might suggest, but that doesn’t put you in league with Satan).
Atheists believe there is nothing more to life than what we see and experience here on Earth in the physical form. They don’t believe in God and they don’t believe in the Devil either. You can’t believe in one without believing in the other. They believe in neither. (Thus, threatening them with eternal damnation rarely works. As I stated in my high school poem, “Don’t Pray for Me”: Since I don’t believe in the image of paradise you tell, / what makes you think I’m threatened by Hell?)
The dispute that brought up this argument on WNIR was, yet again, another round of the eternal “remove ‘In God We Trust'” from the dollar bills debate that’s been going on forever now. I’ve become so ambivalent about this debate. Keep it on, take it off — I just don’t care anymore! However, I do have to ask a few valid questions of the religious majority in our country:
1) Isn’t it kind of an oxymoron to have language referring to your God written on money? How many times does it say in the Bible that money and material things are not to be idolized? These are things of the earth. They don’t matter. And, quite often, they lead to the type of moral degradation that God wants you to avoid.
As far as that goes, I back God all the way! Money does seem to get into people’s brains when they have too much of it, and then they just seem to loose all sense of their spiritual center. Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, Lindsey Lohan. Need I say more? These people have totally lost the magnet in their internal compasses, and they are running around in an endless night of alcohol and hedonism that just makes me sad. I don’t think any of them will ever know the kind of love I had with my husband… I’m not saying this in a superior, “I’m better than you” sort of way. It just hurts me to see any human being running around lost, using other things to try to fill their empty lives as these girls show us with their desperate acts. It seems to me that a lot of famous people with lots of money lead empty existences and they try to fill the holes in their souls with material pleasures, which we all know are fleeting. And not one of them seems capable of maintaining a single romantic relationship.
2) Is your faith so feeble that it needs constant reassurances in the form of religious writings everywhere, such as on government buildings and on your money? Do you honestly believe that if God’s name is not painted on every material person, place, thing that God will truly forsake you? What about those things you do to worship him in your own home? At your churches? In your thoughts? Why do you need to plaster his name like graffiti over everything unholy?
In talking to people from various backgrounds, I’ve come to learn that religious people often view the liberal’s struggle to remove religious words and symbols from public buildings as “shoving our liberal beliefs” down their throats. I never thought of it that way, so it kind of shocked me the first time I heard someone accuse me of that. I always thought I was leaving the public arena clear of any particular religious leaning so that all who live in this country could worship as they please without being offended. I mean, let’s face it: Christians are the majority in the US, but they aren’t the only ones here. The same reason Christians came to the US is the reason many people of other faiths seek refuge here: to escape religious persecution, to be allowed to worship (or not worship, as I always try to remind people) as they chose. Isn’t that what this country was founded on? I don’t see anywhere in the Declaration of Independence where it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Christians were created equal, and everyone else be damned.” The United States was formed as a place for people seeking freedom. It’s not God’s country. It’s not Allah’s country. It’s not L. Ron Hubbard’s country. It’s our country — those of us who have chosen to live here or whose ancestors chose to live here.
I wonder, too, if it has ever occurred to the religious right how it feels to a non-Christian or a non-believer to be affronted daily by religious quotations and symbols in public arenas. Would you not say that that is like getting an idea shoved down your throat? What if the dollar bill had a quote of Buddhist wisdom? Or praised a god from a Native American faith? What if a judge of another faith posted his religion’s rules to a sanctified, godly life on the wall of your local municipal building? Would you feel that your rights, as a Christian, were being infringed upon? I can tell you that I would argue just as hard against this public infusion of faith as I do against those exhibited by Christian faith.
I’m not talking about anything as ludicrous as, say, passing a church and getting offended. I certainly do not get offended by simply passing a decorated church and none of my sane atheist friends do either. Heck, I’m always reading the little statements written on the church billboards as I pass (sometimes they are amusing, such as the one that baffled me all summer that read “If God is your co-pilot, you better switch seats!”).
I have no problem with people hosting a religious event in public or professing their faith in public. I would even argue that it’s okay for the JWs and Mormons to come a-knocking at my door, as annoying as it is, to attempt to convert me because that is their way. My beef is with government and public-run organizations, which are supposed to be secular in structure, advocating and professing a specific religious leaning. Let’s say this again more simply: I’m not taking away your rights to profess your religious beliefs, I’m just advocating removing them from events that are secular in nature that involve the participation of a group of mixed affiliations. (Okay, that wasn’t very simply put.)
One of the biggest arguments from the religious right on this issue is always, “Well, ‘god’ is a generic term. It could mean your Allah or the Jewish god, or whatever you want.”
Let’s be frank. “God”–though a generally generic name for a supernatural deity–is largely a Christian term. And when the name of God is invoked, we all know which god is being referred to. So it’s really a flimsy argument. Or else we just would leave a blank for people to insert the name of their god into.
Another argument I’ve heard about the Ten Commandments being posted in that municipal building (I can’t remember what state that was in — somewhere southern) is, “Well, those are good rules for everyone to follow.”
Yeah, okay, but still, they come from the Christian dogma. And when you have a government building bearing language from a specific holy book, aren’t you kind of implying that said government is promoting one religion over another? Also, there are quite a few of the Ten Commandments that are actually kind of Christian-specific (such as “Do not take God’s name in vane”).
I don’t mean to stir the pot here and cause an onslaught of religious debate. I see both sides of the issue more clearly than I ever have. I myself may have found religion. I may have found myself a god (the God?) that I can — or really just want to — believe in. But I’m still liberal. I can’t help it. My leanings religious-wise may be Christian in nature simply because that is the religion in which I was raised, the one I’m most comfortable with, the one that surrounds all of my yearly holiday participation. I can say that no matter what religion I am, I feel no compulsion to shove my beliefs down anyone’s throat (except for what I write on my blog, but hey, that’s my First Amendment right… and you don’t have to read this blog!). I guess I just wish other people would extend that courtesy back to me.
On the same token, I’m not going to get mad if someone says “God bless you” to me or offers to say a prayer for me because some stressful thing is going on in my life. These are words of kindness meant to be helpful and supportive, I would never turn them away. I myself have prayed for myself and other people; or, as some of my New Agey and/or pagan friends desire, I’ve sent “positive energy” towards others (any positive thought is positive energy to me). It’s the thought that counts, right?
As much as I feel lately that I’d like to shout my religion off the rooftops to let the world know the joy it has brought me to have faith, I know that my beliefs are personal. They are between me and my deity, my god — however it is that I see him/her/it. I don’t have the right to push my beliefs onto other people. Nor would I want to. I know this is not how every religion sees it; in fact, it seems that most religions require of its practicers to go out into the world and spread the good news. The best way to spread the word, though, is to show by example. Didn’t Jesus himself say that acts were better than preaching?
I don’t feel threatened by other people’s beliefs or lack thereof. The thing about faith is that you’re supposed to feel it despite outside influences. If you need God’s name written on your money or emblazoned across your flag in order to feel safe from those forces or people that wish to bring you harm, then I think your faith is not as strong as you would profess it to be. If a simple prayer makes you feel safer, or gives you some other comfort I don’t understand, then by all means, say a prayer when you feel it is necessary. However, if your means of safety includes forcing an entire stadium of people (of possibly mixed faith) to participate, then you need to check yourself. Prayer alone is not going to save the world from harm. It’s the hard work of caring individuals (even religiously inspired and motivated good people) who can change this world. If you believe, perhaps God will help; however, it ultimately comes down to us. The
Humanism movement of North America is an example of a group — comprised mostly of atheists and agnostics — who also care for humanity as a whole. If these people are Satan-worshipers, there’s a whole lot about my earthly existence I still don’t understand!