Hello, my name is Erin and I am an atheist.
I live in the atheist part of town. I drive an atheist car. I speak with an atheist accent. I wear atheist clothes.
Being an atheist wasn’t a decision I made; I was born this way, and if you can’t accept that, well, I feel sorry for you. I know who I am…most of the time. There was that incident a few months ago where I got pretty intoxicated and thought I was Chuck Norris and started roundhouse kicking people in the head, but other than that, I am aware of who and what I am.
I was raised Christian and attended church, Sunday school and spent my kindergarten through eighth grade years in a parochial school. I was taught the Word of the Lord five days a week for nine years.
I remember my first time doubting that what I was being taught wasn’t what I wanted to learn. It was in the fifth grade and in our daily religion class, we were posed this question:
“If someone where to come into the classroom and ask you if you believed in God or be shot, how would you answer?”
I was eleven years old and had the realization that being shot over one’s religious beliefs was insane. I, of course, answered “confirm my belief in God,” but who the hell wouldn’t answer that, especially an impressionable fifth grader? At that point on, I began to doubt, but because I was child and didn’t yet realize I could have my own thoughts and opinions, I continued doing what I was told. Church was an absolute bore; spending an hour and a half in uncomfortable church clothes, listening to the elderly pastor drone on and on about scripture. I would count all the old women in the congregation who had short, curly, white hair. There were a lot. I would draw on the bulletin and when I got old enough to carry a purse, I would stuff it full of things to entertain myself. My only reprieve came in the fifteen minutes between the end of the service to the beginning of Sunday school.
When I started high school, my parents became more lenient on attending church, simply for the fact I began to have a social life and fighting with a teenager to get up early on a Sunday was a fruitless attempt they soon grew weary of and they would just let me sleep in. Oh, glorious day when that happened!
I stopped attending church after I moved out of the house and lived on my own. Fuck that crap! I was free! I would get dragged to church on the prerequisite holidays like Easter and Christmas. I remember how awkward that was to hear members of the church come up to me and make off-handed comments about my lack of attendance, and could see their eyes judging me.
When I got married and moved away, the church would still send me the monthly newsletter. I finally got tired of them and the paper they were wasting on me and wrote a letter to the board members asking to be released from the church. They wrote back, of course, and urged me to “find another church family in your town.” Yeah…okay. I’ll get on that.
During this time, I didn’t consider myself an atheist, though. I was just a “lost child of God” as one of the board members so eloquently put it. I wish I had kept that letter, because as I recall, it was eye-roll inducing.
I didn’t start thinking of myself as an atheist until I met my then-husband and his family. Similar to me, he had been raised Catholic (the poor darling) and as I did, drifted away. His older sister was the only confirmed atheist of the family, with my ex-husband and his little sister slowly edging towards atheism, and their mother tagging along behind them.
I became enlighted whenever I heard my sister-in-law talk about the scientific aspect of the earth. As a child, I was taught straight out of Genesis: on the first day, God created Heaven and Earth and it was good, so on and so forth until he had made land, sea, fish and mammals, plants and trees, the moon and stars, and then finally, his greatest creation–Adam. In his own image, no less! Made from the dirt that God himself just whipped together in his cosmic Easy Bake Oven. God saw Adam was a lonely guy, so he stole a rib from him and made him a mate. The Barbie to Adam’s Ken, if you will.
The Earth, according to Christians is only a few thousand years old, not the millions of years old that we wacky atheists believe. There were no dinosaurs, and don’t even think about bringing up the Big Bang Theory. Just don’t. There’s no way the earth just…happened. No way. Evolution is a theory for madmen and those that believe in it should be stoned to death for their blasphemy.
I became more aware scientifically that you know, the Earth probably isn’t as young as Christians claim. And what about the dinosaurs? And I fully believe in the evolutionary process. I’ve seen it in action. Scientists have done a hell of a job proving religion is…well, wrong.
That was my first poke in the atheist direction. The second came when things in my life took a headfirst dive into shit fan. Everything was changing, and not for the better. Tragedy seemed everywhere…that’s when I began to examine this whole religion thing even more closely. How could a God that claimed to love us unconditionally and wants us to be happy and treat others the way we want to be treated, to not commit adultery, murder, theft, covet our neighbor or his belongings, etc let so many wicked, vile, disgusting things happen to us? There’s war, drought, starving people, crime galore! What the fuck, God? The 1980’s musical group “XTC” perfectly sums up my thoughts on God in their song “Dear God.” Here are the lyrics:
“Dear god, hope you get the letter and…
I pray you can make it better down here
I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image
See them starving in the street
‘Cause they don’t get enough to eat from god
I can’t believe in you
Dear god, sorry to disturb you but…
I feel that I should be heard loud and clear
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image
See them fighting in the street
‘Cause they can’t make opinions meet about god
I can’t believe in you
Did you make disease and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too!
Dear god don’t know if you noticed but…
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
And us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look
And all the people that you made in your image
still believing that junk is true
Well I know it ain’t, and so do you
I can’t believe in
I don’t believe
I won’t believe in heaven or hell
No saints, no sinners, no devil as well
No pearly gates, no thorny crown
You’re always letting us humans down
The wars you bring, the babes you drown
Those lost at sea and never found
And it’s the same the whole world ’round
The hurt I see helps to compound
That father, son and holy ghost
Is just somebody’s unholy hoax
And if you’re up there you’ll perceive
That my heart’s here upon my sleeve
If there’s one thing I don’t believe in
My thoughts exactly. Yes, the religious among you might be saying, “Erin, you’re just angry at God.” Yes. I am. He is supposed to be this benevolent being, but in fact, he demonstrates utter malevolence and I simply cannot believe in anything that promotes that. The Bible is full of “love thy neighbor” mumbo jumbo yet God willingly inflicts all these terrible things upon his people. “God never gives us more than we can handle; everything happens for a reason.” No, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle because there is no God, so be quiet, Junior. You’re right–everything does happen for a reason. I cut my hand on a knife, I’m going to bleed. Cause and effect. We learned this concept in grade school. Very good recollection skills.
The third strike for religion in my book comes from the bigotry displayed by every religion. I’m not singling out one specific group because all are guilty of it. Christians shun Buddhists because they don’t believe in God, but a different deity. Everyone hates the Jews. Catholics think their papal shit doesn’t stink, all while molesting children. No one religion is wrong, but all of them are in the same breath.
And it’s not just the religious pissing match that I detest. It’s religion itself. I’m supposed to give tithings to the church: 1/10th of my income, to be exact. All of this goes directly to God. Can I get a receipt for that, please? I want to make sure God got it and is going to use it for something worthy, and not blow it on a poker match between him, Peter, Paul and Elvis. No hookers and blow either, God. Remember what happened last time? Yeah.
I recall with disgust when a church here in town expanded. It was a fairly large church to begin with, but we’re talking a metroplex of a church now. It looms large in the horizon and I wonder if these Christians recall the story from Genesis, chapter 11: The Tower of Babel. “Hey guys, let’s build this sweet tower thing! It’s going to be awesome sauce!” “Hi, I’m God and I don’t like this shit, so KABLEWIE!! I’M GOD, BITCHES!” Now, I know that’s not exactly verbatim, but it’s pretty damn close. Lost in translation, if you will, because that’s how the bible rolls. It’s a giant documentation of the game of telephone. “No, you idiots! I said I wanted to listen to ‘Tears For Fears,’ not ‘wander the desert for forty years’!”
My point is this: the church uses the hard-earned money of its congregation to fund projects like these. It’s a contradiction in terms! We’re going to use this money and make the biggest, most bestest church EVAH and God will love us forevers! No, you ding dongs. God gets pissed off when you do shit like this.
So, tithing is bullcrap. This breaches a whole “We are the 99%” topic I don’t want to discuss, but I’ll do it briefly for the sake of making a point: most church-goers are middle to lower class citizens who realistically cannot afford to part with 1/10 of their annual income. There are mouths to feed, bills to pay, etc. “But God will provide.” Okay, fine. You give God $3000 and watch as he returns the favor by what’s this? He didn’t provide for you after all? Really? Well, slap my ass and call me a biscuit. That’s shocking, really. I can’t believe God did that to you. Bad God! No cookie for God. That was a naughty God. Again, not the most useful analogy, but I hope you get the picture.
We’ve got bigotry, frivolous spending, what else? Oh, yes…
Let’s now discuss the atheist versus theists argument.
I, by nature, hate confrontation. I loathe it. It makes me uncomfortable and want to crawl inside a hole until the whole thing blows over. I just want people to get along. A simple dream, but I am also a realist and know that this is never going to happen. The old adage “agree to disagree” seems lost in this ongoing debate between those that believe and those that don’t. I am of the thought that while I don’t share your beliefs, I’m not going to call you an idiot or stupid or uneducated for your thoughts. I will urge you to look at both sides of the equation instead of your own single-minded processes. I know people who poke theists with their atheist sticks and that just annoys and frustrates me, but it goes both ways. There are theists out there that mock and ridicule us atheists for our lack of believing in their god.
As Penn and Teller say, “and then there’s this asshole…”
Ladies and gentlemen, I know him only as @GodsWordIsLaw on Twitter, and he embodies everything of what I dislike about religion. I should have known this guy was going to hash my browns when I saw his profile picture: it’s the gay flag with the international symbol for “no” or “do not.” The first time I saw it, my blood instantly began to boil.
As you can see, he’s a real nice guy and I hope we can be friends. And by “friends,” I mean I want to kick him in the head with a pair of steel-toed boots made out of nails and porcupine quills. This is the kind of crap that I cannot tolerate. I especially love the top tweet. From what I gather, this chucklefuck believes he can speak with God and we’re in for another rapture on New Years Eve. When asked about what Gee Oh Dee said to him, the second from the bottom tweet cracks me up: “God spoke to the faithful tonight and gave us details. I am not at liberty to divulge.” Uh…okay? You’re going to withhold pertinent information from your fellow godoholics? Did God swear you to secrecy? Make you pinkie swear? Cross your heart and hope to die or stick a needle in your eye? I can’t help but laugh at people like this. The psychology community has a word for them, as well: paranoid schizophrenia. Hearing voices? Delusions of grandeur? Thoughts that everyone is out to get them? Interesting indeed.
But wait! There’s more! Meet the guy that probably wants to do things to my buddy Keith here that would make the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah blush. Friends, may I introduce to you @LoveGod50:
I know, I know…I’m doing it myself. Being hateful, not fondling Keith’s nuts, I mean. But it’s people like these two that make it so freaking easy to do! I mean, COME ON. I find it ironic though, and I’ll tell you why: these two fine gentlemen claim to be bathing in God’s love and are the ultimate Christian soldiers of the Lord. If these two dorks are such God-fearing Christians and claim to follow the Bible to the t, they should not be so hateful towards us lowly atheists. Here me out–instead of firing back with bullshit like Keith has when someone challenges his beliefs, he should practice what he preaches: forgiveness. My absolute favorite retort when I do get into a religious debate is “forgive me.” Your God says to forgive people like us, so…do it. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, baby.
Religion, man…religion. I really could go on and on about this, but I’m going to end up repeating myself and getting angry and then I’ll start emotional eating and I’ve already eaten like, two cookies and some beef jerky and a thing of Triscuits tonight, so I’ll stop before my waistline expands any further.
I hope I’ve maybe shed some light on this for you, at least my own personal reason for being an atheist. Don’t you dare pity me or offer me prayers because that is insulting to me and an empty gesture. “I’ll pray for you” translates to “I don’t understand what you’re going through and can’t help you so I’ll just pray for you instead.”
I am an atheist. I can’t believe something like this is even an issue between people, but if we are still hung up on skin color and you not speaking English as your first language, I’m afraid it always will be one, and if that isn’t heartbreaking, I don’t know what is. Your god says to practice tolerance and love, yet you are the least willing to prove that, and this is why I feel sorry for you. Have a nice life because if you can’t accept me for who I am, I don’t want you in mine.