Why I’m an atheist

I enjoy talking about religion in general but a few specific events are prompting this blog post. First, my wife has recently been getting more involved with her church and we’ve been hanging out with her church friends, so church and religion and God has been a topic of conversation around here. Second, my daughter’s boyfriend asked her why I didn’t believe. Finally, one of my friends recently asked me why do I care about religion if I don’t believe it.

My atheism has always been my default mode. I wasn’t raised in a religious family but neither was I purposefully influenced to not believe in a god. The topic of religion was never a topic of conversation in my house. I only knew my dad was an atheist because I overheard him tell the door to door church people so. My dad passed away when I was 11 years old and I moved up to TN to live with my mom but the topic of religion still never really seemed to come up. I remember going to a vacation bible study thing once but that was pretty much it.

There was never some sort of event that caused me to get mad and reject the idea of God. My dad passing away was terrible at 11 years old but I wasn’t sobbing in the rain, shaking my first towards the heavens, angrily telling God that I reject him.

As an adult, my reasoning is pretty standard atheistic fare. AFAIK, there is zero evidence for the existence of gods of any sort. Science, using the powers of observation, logic and reason does a great job of explaining how things work and where they come from. We know from science that the world is 4+ billion years old and life evolved over a long period of time from less complex organism to more complex organisms. Those two things automatically put most people’s standard interpretation of their religion directly at odds with observable and provable facts. It’s true, I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist but neither can anybody prove that the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the celestial tea pot doesn’t exist. I do wonder how religious people know they have the right god. Of the thousands that have come before, how do they know they have the right one?

If I may quote Stephen Roberts:

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours

On the question of why I care about religion, I care because it’s so pervasive in our society. CJ Werleman says it better than I can so I’ll just quote him:

Specifically, where I care more than an emotionally needy Care Bear is when the religious step outside of their own abodes and thrust their lunacy into social and political discourse. Particularly, it’s the sneaky circumvention of the separation between church and state. Here are some examples of why religious belief grabs my goat:

  • Tax exemption for churches. This increases the overall tax burden for everybody else. Let’s be honest, churches are generally the last institutions that need financial support from the government.
  • Religious ideology blocks critical advances in scientific breakthrough. For instance, George W. Bush’s veto of stem cell research has set back one of the most critical medical advancements against diseases such as Parkinsons’, cancer, and more.
  • The perversion of school curriculum with the sneaky and disingenuous rebranding of Creationism as Intelligent Design.
  • Some states prohibit non-believers from holding positions of elected office.
  • Some organizations prohibit homosexuals and atheists from membership due to religious ideology i.e. the Boy Scouts.
  • Religious belief often influences public policy. One such example is Republican John Shimkus (R-ILL), member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, stated in 2009 that there was no need to concern ourselves with climate change because God promised in the Bible not to destroy the world again.
  • Faith-based initiatives consume  tax dollars that could be otherwise used for more effective or better deserving projects.
  • Religious groups have a great deal of political power.
  • Faith based programs provide false information and individual harm i.e. ‘Abstinence Only’, and Christian Scientists, who deny their children medicine.

That’s why I care too.

 

 

My response to Melissa Ellis’s sex post

My friend Melissa Ellis recently wrote a blog post about her experiences navigating the sex issue as she was growing up (The Virgin… Missy?). It’s a pretty funny read so go check it out. Consider this a non-religious, sex positive response.

I was raised to “wait until after marriage”–mainly because it was a sin not to. My own fault for not digging deeper into that at a younger age. But as I covered in a previous blog post, A Father’s Protection, I have finally realized that it’s so much more than that. He has asked us to remain pure to protect our hearts, not because He’s a tyrant and just wants to set up a bunch of needless rules. I am so glad I’ve moved passed that original theory! How imprisoning to feel that way!

If a couple waits until marriage before they have sex, I feel that they’re gambling on the happiness and satisfaction of their relationship. Sex isn’t everything but it’s a pretty big part of a healthy, happy relationship. If you’re not going on a test drive, how do you know it’s going to work for you? What if you and your new partner are not compatible sexually? What if your partner is into BDSM or swinging or cuckolding but you only like missionary, vanilla sex? What if you love oral sex but your partner can’t/won’t go there?

When you’re under the spell of new love, it’s easy to think that anything is possible and that nothing could get in the way of that new love. As that new/crazy/awesome love turns into the long term, lasting love, it’s going to become harder to overlook and work around those differences. When people are unsatisfied, the temptation to step outside the relationship to get that satisfaction is greater.

We don’t buy cars without taking them for a test drive and we only keep them for a few years. Please don’t make a life long commitment without going on the equivalent of a test drive. In fact, don’t just have sex, live together and have a long engagement!

I wish it were just that simple. And maybe it could be if I could figure out some crazy way to close off my fleshy desires.

Few things can induce guilt and shame like religion can. As I said in the comments of her original post, sex is part of the human condition. It makes me a little sad that people feel ashamed of desires that are part of what makes humans human. Be safe, protect yourself, use multiple forms of birth control but have sex and don’t feel guilty about! Protecting yourself also means protecting your emotional self so FFS, try not to fall in love every time you have sex.

Yes, there are risks with sex but there’s risk in lots of things we do. Driving, cycling, bungee jumping, sky diving, hiking, camping, hunting etc. Yet, nobody is suggesting that we abstain from driving because you might get into an accident and DIE. We protect ourselves and mitigate the risk but we still take the risk every time we get behind the wheel and driving doesn’t feel nearly as good. Oops, fleshly desires!

We were having a brief back and forth in the comments of her post.

I also believe that if I hold to His word to remain pure till my next marriage, then my next marriage will be abundantly blessed to withstand many of life’s obstacles. This does not mean that I expect God to “just take care of it”. This means that with my faith in Him, I have become stronger and wise enough to battle through them. I believe He will send me someone who is not only compatible with me on a spiritual and personal level, but also a sexual level.

But then she said:

I am aware that some non-believers have wonderful marriages as well. Maybe even non-believers who had premarital sex. What do I say to that? Luck. Divine intervention. How about “way to go!”…And yes, even Christian couples have divorces too. Does this mean that God didn’t show them favor? No. I think it means he has something better in store for them in the future.

I hope everybody can see the problem with the logic. On one hand, if  she remains pure until her next marriage, then she will be abundantly blessed. On the other hand, if a Christian couple gets divorced, it just means God has a different plan for them. If a secular couple have long fruitful and fulfilling marriage then it’s luck or divine intervention!

So to summarize, if you live good and pure, God sends you good stuff. If you’re not sent good stuff then it’s luck or God has other plans for you. This cognitive disconnect is very interesting to me… I just don’t understand how perfectly intelligent and smart people think this makes sense. God gets all the credit but none of the blame. Non sequitur.

She tried to explain it to me but it just went further and further into religion and the “logic” became fuzzier and fuzzier to my secular brain. Hey, that’s fine… variety is the spice of life so we agree to disagree and we’re still good friends.

In conclusion, sex isn’t this bad terrible thing, just manage the risk. Women shouldn’t allow men to make them feel bad for their sexual desires and religion should be avoided; keys to happiness. 😉

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Hi, my name is Michael Harley and I love the Internet. I’ve created this blog so I can have a place to write about topics that don’t easily fit into 140 characters or are not appropriate for Facebook (family).

I’m interested in the Internet, technology, science, skepticism, atheism, religion, feminism, politics and music so expect to see posts related mostly to those topics plus some other random shit.