Coming Out (or just venting)
This is a letter I’d send to my mom, if I had the nerve and if I thought it would open the door to something better. But I’m not
sure about either.
I know I don’t write to you often. I worry about this because I
don’t want you to think it’s because I don’t love you. Quite the opposite. But it seems I have fallen far from the tree. Many
of the things I care about, the hopes and worries I have for my kids, how to fix some problems I see in this country, my love of
science and reason, even my hopes for where humanity will go in the decades and centuries to come and how I might in some small
way contribute to that – I worry that my true feelings on all these things I care deeply about would be offensive to you. And so
I censor myself to safe topics. But I am a passionate person, so it is hard.
If, in response, she
expressed interest in knowing who I really am, and what I care about, and what really concerns me and bothers me and downright
makes me sad and angry at times… what would I say? I suspect that day won’t come, and even if it did this list will probably be
too raw and direct, but let’s get it out there:
- I am an atheist. I do not believe in the Judeo-Christian god,
or any other supernatural being.
- I believe in reason.
- I don’t believe in heaven, hell, demons, angels, or gods.
This life is it. Be in the present. Value it.
- It’s hard for me when you pick on Mormonism for being so strange, and you
seem to want me to join in. Sure, it’s crazy! And yet your beliefs are just as crazy – a virgin birth? Creationism? People
living to be 900 years old? Talking to invisible beings? Worshiping a god who kills and has temper tantrums? That a blood
sacrifice is good and has some sort of eternal meaning?
- Currently in Nepal, the festival of Dashain is underway. Mass animal slaughters occurred just two
days ago, to appease the god Durga. Wow. Animal sacrifice is alive and well in the 21st century. Can’t we leave all this
- The Judeo-Christian bible is a nasty thing. I will not let my kids read it until they are old enough to read it
from a literary and historical standpoint. The god in it kills huge numbers of people, and requires animal sacrifices. The bible
teaches intolerance and exclusivity, and blind faith that this is all well and good (because god does, after all, work in
mysterious ways). It is, to borrow a quote, a Grimm fairy tale.
- The bible even specifically tells you to stone me, your
son, to death. (See Dt 13:6-10.) I don’t believe in that god, but I
believe in the application of reason, so I am serving another “god”. Kill me. The letters to the Corinthians are much kinder;
according to them I should merely be shunned (2 Cor 6:14-17). You
cannot avoid these awkward versus, because the old testament is still relevant (see Matt. 5:18).
- The Koran is even more direct that I should be
- Why do you think 9⁄11 happened? There are many reasons and nuances, but at the end of the day, if those people
hadn’t believed, truly believed, that they would be rewarded in heaven for killing the infidels, it would not have happened.
Faith is dangerous.
- Read the news headlines sometime, and consider how much of the strife in the world is fueled by
religion. “Ethnic” strife is almost always religion. Terrorism. AIDS (because condoms and education are bad). Inequality and
lack of opportunity (women, homosexuals, anyone different.) Stem cell research being stalled. Show me a killing of a homosexual
and I’ll show you a religious tie. The Mormons just had their conference, and made the headlines because of intolerant teachings.
Education tax dollars being wasted on creationism, when we should be teaching our kids critical thinking and science.
Lennon had it right with “Imagine”.
- I am a patriot, in the old sense of the word, not in the 9⁄11 sense. I believe in the
Constitution. I support the first amendment, and the separation of church and state. James Dobson (whom I know you respect) is
not a patriot. He worked to get the National Day of Prayer passed in 1952. (Note that this falls squarely in the McCarthyism
era.) This is in direct violation of the first amendment.
- I contribute money to the Freedom From Religion Foundation
- The FFRF challenged this law, and recently got it overturned, and will be fighting an appeal. Why in the world is
our own government fighting against our own Constitution? Because they want votes, and 70% of the population believes in Sky
Fairies. But the Constitution was written to protect the rights of the minority against the majority. The majority doesn’t need
- Even with as bad as the present times are, I’m glad I didn’t live a mere two centuries ago. Have you ever
read detailed accounts of what occurred during the Christian Inquisition? I have, and reading slowly enough to let the words sink
in and to truly appreciate what occurred almost made me physically sick. What would drive people to such cruelty? Faith. If you
truly believe your holy book and take it on faith that every word is inspired by god, then the Inquisition was
- The Catholic church did not condemn torture until 1816. The last killing associated with the Spanish
Inquisition occurred in Mexico in 1850. A person was burned to death (although that is a gross simplification of what the
burnings actually were like, but I won’t go into that). It’s scary to me such things are so recent of a memory. It could have
- Believing only in Jesus and love, and claiming it is not “religion”, does not wipe all this away. It’s still
faith, which means it is still arbitrary and dangerous. A good moral code can be derived without faith. In fact, reason is a
- I value the truth. This comes in many contexts, whether it is in the application of the scientific
method, or honesty with oneself, or with interpreting the facts in an unbiased manner. I bristle at how much of history is
currently being rewritten by the religious right in this country. This country was NOT founded on Christianity. Most of the
signers of the Constitution were atheists, agnostic, or at most deists. Research this (but not from a Christian website or book)
and convince yourself. Nor was “In God We Trust” always on our money or in our pledge. (Once again, look to the McCarthy era.)
But Christians want to rewrite history.
- I cannot, with good conscience, teach my kids conflicting ideas. (Such as:
history is simple; Muslims are mean but Christians are loving. Killing is wrong, but the bible is true and god is good. Math and
science is good, but the Creationists are right. Lying is wrong, but the Christians are good to try to rewrite history. The list
could go on.) I will be honest with my kids, to the degree appropriate for their ages.
- I have been fighting this mental
battle for nearly 20 years. I have managed to shake the beast off my back, completely and for good, just over one year
- Other than my occasional mental anguish (such as I am getting out right here), I have found life to be much more
meaningful and precious since I gave up god and became a rationalist. This life is it. Get all from it that you can. Find
truth. Love hard. Advance knowledge. Be kind. We are all humans.
Probably a better, less confrontational
approach is to recommend the book “Letter to a Christian Nation
Sam Harris. But that’s not as therapeutic for me.