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On Atheism, Queerness, Fundamentalist Totalitarianism, Organizational Fear, and Common Sense 
6th-May-2006 08:51 am
In a post I wrote a couple of years ago I expound on why I am an atheist. There are always more reasons than the ones given there, which is in part what motivated this. I think it is a given (unless you subscribe to the opinions of the religious Reich) that being Godless makes you a worldwide minority. Common sense dictates that there are always going to be more religious adherents in every flavor imaginable than there will ever be atheists, agnostics, and/or nonspecific deity oriented religious philosophies combined, so given this obvious fact, we really aren't capable in numbers, resources, and general power to be any real kind of threat to the devout, their belief systems, and their general lives. The problem is in the religious person's rejection (of God's own teaching in any religious text, no less) of the notion that we all have free will. Part of the problem is the slim margin for error in fundamentalist circles which does not allow for religious moderates, let alone heathen infidels and the otherwise wicked and wayward. What never fails to amaze me is the ways in which fundamentalist Christians in this country look with derision at fundamentalist Muslims, never once seeing the startling parallels echoed in their collective methodologies. A suicide bomber is driven by a force they truly believe is a calling from God, and their reward is martyrdom in heaven - it makes no difference in reality if the target of choice is a mosque in Tikrit or an abortion clinic in Topeka, it's the same thing when you distill off the bullshit - yet explaining this to fundies is rather like pissing up a rope. Pay close enough attention and you will find little difference between the core rhetoric of Osama Bin Laden and that of Pat Robertson in televised news clips shown around the world, if anything they are frighteningly similar. This should be a red flag to most people, yet sadly the sheep continue to sleep soundly.

In her piece on atheist extremism, self avowed Jewess Melinda Barton makes a good case for illuminating the fears and concerns of the devout, however ridiculous and based in nonsense they may be. It is precisely this sort of dramatic posturing that breeds fundamentalism and makes pariahs of the faithless, all of whom really just want to live a good life on their own terms without it having to affect the status quo. Fundamentalists are stunningly hypocritical, blissfully ignorant (if not outright stupid), and wholly baseless on every issue imaginable in deference to anything that isn't a carbon copy of themselves. Fundamentalism is an insidious form of sickness, not unlike Alzheimer's disease, attacking and destroying logic and converting an otherwise reasonable person into an automaton nourished on completely hysterical paranoia. Laid bare another way, not all assholes are fundamentalists, but certainly it can be argued that all fundamentalists are assholes.

I have personally spent countless hours musing over religious subtext, dogmatic law, theological teachings, scripture, and essays/articles/books that are at times scathingly critical of it all. Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Smith, J. Krishnamurti, Aleister Crowley, Anton Lavey, even Camille Paglia and Simone De Beauvoir - both of whom have made observational criticisms of the how and why people believe. As with all critics, philosophers, academics, even mystics and outright con men - there are elements in their assertions where the whole of it comes off as something close to religious fervor, some ascension towards higher belief, a light on a path for us to walk. I personally cannot find the total of anything I've read to be wholly digestible, but that's my nature as a skeptic. I glean from this stuff the things that resonate with me and that I can accept, the rest is inconsequential. That is not to say it is without merit on some level, just that if it doesn't wash then it doesn't wash.

AND YET STILL, this is not why I don't believe in God. It does reinforce my non belief, and it is absolutely what drives my dislike of all self righteous, sanctimonious sheeple - and especially my incendiary hatred of fundamentalist preachers. I don't believe in God quite simply because I think that even the mere idea of God is ridiculous, intangible, and incapable of being proven real by evidentiary support and/or fact. This notion that a truly omnipotent deity that loves humanity but allows for such suffering, conveniently (and also weakly) relegated to "His Plan", and I think that it is anything but divine. Put simply, I have no reason to believe.

I began reading up on Positive Atheism in my late teens. I flew between different philosophies and read as much as I could find in the way of defending my thoughts, as I grew up in the bible belt and trying to achieve intelligent conversations with the general populace was challenging. The thing that most intrigues me about faith is what propels people to believe or not believe.

If you believe in God, why do you believe? If you don't believe in God, why not? Comments welcomed by anyone and everyone.
6th-May-2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
My Uncle James told a story at my grandfather's funeral: When he (Uncle James, now a follower of Meher Baba) was about fourteen, he was entirely of the opinion that he was too cool to believe in God. That summer, they were up in the Yukon with a old man named Scout, who was, by James' admission, the only man he knew tougher than his father/my grandfather. So one day James and Scout were hanging out, and James asked Scout if he believed in God, expecting to hear his own beliefs mirrored from someone he presumed certainly to be too cool to believe in God. And Scout thought on it a long time, and finally said, "Son, sometimes there's nothing else."

However, just to be a pain in the butt: Since deconstructing and running away (I'll be away from the computer most of today) is gauche, I'll leave off discussion of the (mis-)use of the word 'fundamentalist' by the large chunk of modern society (way too short version: we're all fundmantalists, because there's always something we need to be fundamentally true, whether that be the inerrancy of the Bible or the dignity of all human persons), and instead remark that though I have spent a great deal of time with persons spanning the galaxy from fanatical to casual to neither, those I have found to be the most dedicated prosletysers, the most adamant that their way of looking at the world is the only correct way, and the least respectful of persons who hold other beliefs do, in fact, tend to be the atheists.

Now, you should know me well enough to know that I am not making a blanket statement about atheism, nor am I suggesting that all persons who claim membership to religious traditions are 100% sunshine and inclusive bunnies. I am simply stating an observation. (And by the way? The religious person does not by definition reject the idea that humans have free will, and certainly 'any religious text' from any tradition that you pick up will not support that assertion.)
6th-May-2006 01:34 pm (UTC)
I do agree with you on the proselytizing by atheists, I know far too many who use it as a club to beat others with and it's just sad.

The rejection of free will I wrote about is in my own experience, I did not intend for it to be so blanketed. I grew up in a stew of Southern Baptists, Jews (Observant, Reformed, you name it), Roman Catholics, rabid Evangelicals and assorted heathens of all persuasions - in my experience, they all lacked the capacity to accept that I could believe as I saw fit and do so free of their judgement, which is also not in keeping with the things that they all professed. The people in my mind rarely could ever manage anything close to "That is your choice and that is fine with me" wthout adding "...even though you're completely wrong and you really need to get right with God."

Early experiences in Assembly of God churches in rural Alabama also had a significant impact on shaping my thoughts and feelings, particularly my feelings on Evangelicals, but I grew to become more comfortable and tone down my younger habit of generalizing all with the few that left marked impressions on me.

When you get the time, I'd love to know why you believe. I know your faith is strong and I celebrate it as I celebrate you, it is one of the most endearing things about you, I'm really interested to know the roots is all.

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6th-May-2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
If one does not believe in elves, does that mean that they should take up a neutral position on the existence of elves? If we're to accept that God is possible, then we have to accept that anything, no matter how lacking probability, is also just as likely to exist as to not exist. That's inane.

To me, the lack of free will inherent in religion is one of fearmongering, programming and good, old-fashioned brainwashing. Conditioning someone from early childhood to believe in these things, obey these rules and act in a way completely contrary to your instincts...that's child abuse, in my view. *shrug* I think that the majority of people have been so saturated by the vats of religious effluvium that they can't see past the fact that their culture has programmed in them a need to believe in something that simply isn't there.
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6th-May-2006 01:54 pm (UTC)
I don't believe in God for the same reason that I don't believe in the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Ghosts, el Chupacabra, or an invisible 100-foot-tall polka dot-strewn hippo that only the faithful can see.

Like you, I've read volumes of material on all things God. The history of the world is brimming with stories like the Bible, many of them older and most of them better written. Humanity is a very creative species and that is to our credit, but why people believe in one set of stories and not all of them, I'll never understand. Talking snakes, parting seas, whales used as transportation, every species on earth fitting into one boat...This stuff is ludicrous. If that isn't blatantly obvious to someone, well, he or she is an idiot. Religious people are Trekkies, only one step more malfunctional and obsessive.

Sorry, folks, but we Atheists spend our days in a world filled with crazy people and very few sane people. That can be tiring.
6th-May-2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
*whispers* ...your recruitment numbers are geting low again, don't make me get the blowtorch...
6th-May-2006 02:00 pm (UTC)
You, sir, use a lot of big words in your posts.

This comment was completely non-productive, but I've been lax in the commenting department lately so thought I'd make up some. ;)
6th-May-2006 02:40 pm (UTC)
Nuh uh!!!
6th-May-2006 02:21 pm (UTC)
You realize, of course, that you're going to burn in hell, right?
6th-May-2006 02:47 pm (UTC)
YAY!! I'll smoke guilt free of health anxieties once again!
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6th-May-2006 03:55 pm (UTC)
What about unicorns?
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6th-May-2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
I believe in god. I like to think that there is something greater out there than what I've seen from my fellow man though I don't particularly believe in the god of the Judeo-christian religions. Over all I tend to follow the 10 commandments (though ok I'm poly so the adultery one yeah...) not because god or Moses told me to, or out of fear of repercussions in the afterlife, but because many of them seem to be the way I think people should behave, like not killing people, not wasteing time coveting your neighbors stuff. My view on the bible? It has some interesting stuff, but I don't think it was meant to be taken quite as literally as some people choose, its too contradictory for that. Even if you want to say that the bible came from the mouth of god, Humans wrote it down, so it will be colored by the perspective of the person who wrote it, their ideals, their culture, their views of how the world should be. Lets not forget that unless you have taken the time to learn some ancient languages, you are also reading a translation, which means another human has had their hands in it and has interpreted it.
6th-May-2006 03:59 pm (UTC)
I quite honestly don't believe in God, though I came from a fairly strong religious background. And my lack of belief are for the exact same reasons you state here. I'm "just" too scientific, and it "just" doesn't add up/make sense/answer my questions.

I believe that in darker times, leaders/emporers/dictators invented the story to both explain forces of nature that frightened them and to occupy (and control) the minds of the masses. And it continues (with great success) today, sadly.

That said, I think the human race has wasted MUCH time & energy of the years attributing anything unexplainable to God as opposed to hunkering down and studying/researching. Perhaps this is out of fear of disproving his/her/its existence--I dunno.

To end on a more positive note, I do believe in "positive" energy, in living well and treating others kindly and all the shite the bible lays out. Although I do it because it does my heart good NOW, and the people around me--not because I want to live in a lily-white palace with harps and fluffy clouds when I'm dead.
6th-May-2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
To me, I know God exists because of the things I see and experience.

I was raised in a household that taught me the Christian faith, however... since I was old enough to question it, I did. Scripture does nothing because it is simply words. That would be like me telling you there is God, and you using that as proof. It's simply hearsay. And it is written by men who are never perfect. Some say that you should believe that God would protect this book from ever being tainted... but if that was the case, then why does a fundementalist church only preach using the King James version? The version we KNOW to have been edited to specify the needs of the current catholic church? It makes no sense to me.

I do not claim to be better than anyone. I do not claim to be right. All I can do is share what I think to be my truth... what I need to apply to MY life.

Why do I believe in God?

I see the veins that stretch across leaves... I see the ripples of my fingerprints... I see spiders create the most intricate traps. I see the work of an artist before me. THIS is the basis of my faith. Simple, I know.
6th-May-2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
I dont believe in god because

1) In the absence of compelling evidence, I think the burden of the proof is on the people who believe in the existence of a thing, not the non-existence of a thing. It would be terribly wasteful if scientists went around making hypotheses based on the non-testable and non-observable. No, I dont see any compelling evidence for postitive energy. Or the force. Or a physical incarnation of love.

2) God and the afterlife distract us from the now. We wage wars over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or whether jesus was a man or a messiah, and the quality of life for people on this earth is reduced to shit. Constantly living the life of an ascetic on some hedged bet, on the off chance you might be rewarded is fine for you man, but ive got concerts to go to and alchohol to drink and people to fuck.

That being said, I dont think its very nice to be a proselytizing atheist. Its not nice to attack the beliefs of people that help them sleep at nights :)
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6th-May-2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
Your partner has clearly stated that he doesn't share this lack of belief - in fact, it was his reaction to a discussion on belief that led to an LJ falling out with me and my partner.

Do you just not talk about it?
6th-May-2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
So, this is where I discuss my beliefs, something I rarely do anymore, because my life has been such a maelstrom of psychotic believers, cruel churchpeople, and thousands and thousands of hours spent in church or prosyltizing myself. My church involvement, however, was always voluntary, because my father is an atheist, and if I didn't want to go to church, he'd shrug and say "So don't. Wanna play tennis?" (Much to Corinne's *tc* chagrin).

So. After studying theatre history, and seeing how the church constantly retards human progress, how can I believe? How can I be someone with brains and passion and still believe? How the hell can I defend this seemingly Peter Pan-like belief in an omnipotent Maker? How dare I believe in the face of being gay? How do I defend all this?

Basically, I don't. All I've got is personal experience and my particular outlook. I can't point to anything outside myself as proof, because God, to me, by definition, works outside of logic. I wouldn't WANT God to be "provable", I think. I used to, but that would be easy. And I am wary of anything easy when it comes to faith.

Ugh, that word. The antithesis of logic. Faith, utterly misused by jerks and morons and zealots. Just by using it, I group myself with all those idiots. But it's the word to use, a word I want to redeem in my own little covish way. There are other factors, and logic can't explain them away. We employ belief in order for ANYTHING good to happen. We go into a relationship on trust. More than half of the time, this proves to be folly. But we do it anyway. We wake up in the morning expecting and hoping for good things, when sometimes horrendous things happen, and more often than not, the day is uneventful. It's not logical to believe that waking up in the morning, especially in the world we live in, is A) a good idea or B) will make a damn bit of difference to the world at large. But I have beliefs to the contrary. And this makes me a better person. I've SEEN people who try to eradicate that built-in faith and boy, do they hate everything.

The point I'm trying to make is that we do employ illogical belief--faith--and it makes our lives better. Is it merely self-delusion? No, not all the time, because that faith--the trust that we extend--makes friendship and romances and other relationships possible when it-reciprocated. I think faith makes us larger-than-ourselves, in a way. Or, at least, it does to me.

My belief in God--despite the church, despite the cruel, simple minded people it spawns--keeps happening, because I refuse to allow my beliefs to be impacted by the loser-church-people one way or the other. I can't base my belief system on a reaction to them. My belief has always been independent of the church structures. There may be no logical reason, but I don't know how to not believe, just as, perhaps, you don't know how to believe.

I have nothing but respect for all people who take the searching seriously, no matter how they come down on the issue. It's when people STOP searching that the rest of us should all take cover.
6th-May-2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
I have rather odd views that aren't easy to put down on paper, but I guess the basic point is I believe in a higher power and a higher purpose for humans. I can't say why this is... I just have a quiet reassurance that I can turn to when I need it. Is it God? Maybe. Maybe it's just that I've figured out what my purpose of living is. Whatever it is, it makes me happy.
6th-May-2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
I'll preface this by saying that I don't believe in the Christian God, but I do believe in a higher power, etc.

Why is harder to answer. When I hit my early teens, I really started to explore religion as I found that my family's religion simply didn't have the answers to the questions I asked (or I didn't like their answers at all). I always believed that there was Something out there. It was always something that I felt and thought.
6th-May-2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
I have the problem of not knowing what I believe. I've been trying to figure it out for basically my entire life (although I went to Catholic/Christian schools, my parents never practiced any religions (besides holiday celebrations) since they got married). I know that I certainly don't take any religion's book literally.

I've found that I do have some pagan beliefs, but it's nothing structured and I don't think I could ever comfortably say "I belong to X religion". I also have some agnostic beliefs, and my feelings on whether a higher being exists or not change depending on my mood and circumstances.

I think I tend to lean towards the side of there being a higher being and/or force, though I'm not sure whether it's something outside of living things or not. I do believe that all living things do have a "soul"--though I think it's more of an energy of being than an actual spirit/ghost/whatever.

It's hard to give a "why" when I'm not sure what it is I believe. I guess I can say why I'm so unsure though. I studied biology in college, and have always been interested in the sciences. There are a lot of things in science that I believe (evolution, for example). But then, I also believe that science is in no way the answer to everything, and there will always be things we cannot (or will not) prove. There is just the feeling that I have that life, nature, and the world are not so easy to quantify. There will always be things we don't understand.

This is pretty rambly and as you can see, I really have no idea what I believe. :) I hope that someday things will be clearer for me.
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