Saturday, May 10, 2008

Why I Am An Atheist.

I was raised in a fairly secular home, going to church on Easter and Christmas, when I was about 8 me and my sister, liking Christmas and Easter a lot, and in fact, liking the church atmosphere, convinced my parents to take us to church weekly (in retrospect, not the best idea). After about a year and a half to two years of church, my parents separated, one of the many catalysts was my father falling in love with my stepmother to be, the choir director and organist. After my parents separated, I still continued going to church with my father, my mother changed churches and went every Sunday and when I was about 13 or so, felt the call to ministry.

My Father, on the other hand, has always been what he calls a "High Church Atheist", and with my stepmother being the choir director, we ended up going to church a lot. I am not sure if I ever believed in god, but I know that I certainly thought I believed, I never really prayed for things, but I had some sort of deist feelings about the world.

In High school, I, Being the dork that I am, found out about Buddhist philosophy and read about it a lot; it made, in my mind, some sort of sense. I didn't classify myself as Buddhist, I was still, at least in my own mind, an Episcopalian, but the philosophy really said something to me, in my second semester at college I took a course on the philosophy of religion, by far the least informative and worthwhile course of my college career (well at least tied with the bowling course that I forgot to attend (funny story for a different time perhaps)). The complete lack of substance of the philosophy of religion class who's main idea is that "God" or "Spirit" or whatever, that there is something that is above and separate from the phenomenological world, that there is some sort of numenon that you just couldn't question was unsettling, I became, for all intents and purposes an agnostic.

During this time, a New youth group director took over at my church, my church was a liberal moderate church that didn't really push the whole Christianity thing very far, we were there for community, wine and crackers and we knew it, or at least that was my feeling, the church was pro-gay, pro-life, accepting and open. The new youth group leader decided to set us up on a Christian work-camp thing. Now if you don't know what work camps are, they are where a bunch of evangelical youth gets together to praise the lord and fix the houses of poor people. The first two years I went were fairly tame, I mean the leaders of these things were clearly insane, but the people my age were cool (for the most part) and the work was fun and rewarding (the music however, was god-awful). The Third year, however, that year marked the moment I became, like Douglas Adams, a Radical Atheist.

The Third year I was pegged with two other people to lead a much larger group of kids from our parish to this work-camp, so this time I actually had to pay attention to the daily services/propaganda. What I saw was disgusting. The underlying message of these theatrical abortions was not to question authority and that anyone who disagrees with the literal interpretation of the bible is a sinner and is going to hell. After these services we are supposed to take our kids aside and reinforce the lesson, I however, along with making my kids laugh by making an ass out of myself (its a gift), condemned the message and subtext in the strongest possible terms (not to mention my rails against the quality of the music (Christian Rock is by far the worst thing in the world. and prompts my favored disproof of the Christian god, a loving god would never inspire these abortions that are put out as rock. QED) But this was just the beginning.

On the last day, after a week of roofing (possibly the worst job ever, I respect anyone who does it for a living), up on the roof I was drawn into a theological debate where I admitted that I was agnostic. Upon hearing this, two of the other people both evangelicals urged me to read the book "The Case for Christ", I agreed on the supposition that they read "Living Buddha, Living Christ" by Vietnamese Zen Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. At this suggestion they were flabbergasted, claiming that there is only one true way and that way is through Christ. My response was, straight out of my religious philosophy class, that everything is partially true and partially false, religions are shades of grey and it matters most on what you do to be a good person. They would not concede this point, one of them saying: "Things are either right or they are wrong. When you flip a coin it comes up heads or it comes up tails, it is never both!" Now before I respond, I want you the reader to understand, I'm an asshole. I wasn't going to let that line stand, not with my very very small understanding of quantum physics behind me. I mean I have read popular science books about the subject! So with that said, I made what I consider to be one of my hallmark remarks of all time saying: "Well, that’s not technically true, according to quantum physics, when you flip a coin it comes up both heads and tails and you only observe one outcome" (I know not technically true for coins, but you get my gist) their response to this latest hurdle to their philosophy marks the exact minute I became a atheist.

I really cannot give this remark enough fanfare; it is in my mind the height of ignorance, wrongheadedness and villainy that I have ever encountered. And i assure you that it is a 100% direct quote, it has been engraved on my brain ever since word for word. I know you are thinking with all this buildup the actual remark will never live up to my claims but I assure you that it does. So, without further ado, here is their response "You see, Galen, that’s your problem, you read all these science and math books, and science leads to the Devil. You need to take all of your science and math books and burn them."

Now I pride myself on having a remark for any situation. And in my entire life I cannot recall ever being so completely speechless as I was at that moment. My brain just couldn’t comprehend the fact that anyone could ever say this. Who would even think such a thing, much less think that it might convince me of anything. The only thought I had was "So this is where blind faith leads." I felt like the gauntlet had been thrown, no longer could I even pretend faith, much less respect it unconditionally. The line in the sand has been drawn and the choice is clear, either put yourself behind faith and superstition and view the idea that science is from the devil is an acceptable thought in the modern era, or you must renounce all forms of superstition and faith. You must be willing at all times to change your ideas in the face of new evidence. That idea to me, perfectly encapsulates why religion is a problem.

Well, thank you all for reading this post. Feel free to leave any comments.