I told you so.
Look, I’m a flat out Atheist and I never try to hide it. I also never shove it in people’s faces in part because, frankly, it makes me a member of the most despised minority in the United States.
Yup, folks would rather vote for and live in a neighborhood with a Muslim/Jew/Catholic/Black/Brown/Asian/Hispanic/LBGT/Satanist than they would an Atheist (I realize all those qualities are seldom found in a single individual).
In social interaction I often elide my Atheism with Buddhism which some people consider a religion but is really more a personal philosophy of ethical action. In fact you’ll find that most people who are actual Atheists are more concerned about living an ethical life than many who profess a religion are interested in conforming to its precepts.
In many ways this is because Atheists don’t believe in an “after-life”. Dead is dead. A permanent state of unconsciousness from which you never recover. You’ll be pushing up daisies unless they nail you to the perch and in any case you won’t care because you are a past parrot, no matter how beautiful the plumage.
Because of this we try to make the best of the one life we have and instead of being greedy narcissists the vast majority work to make this world a better place. I won’t claim altruism, it’s better for us too.
On the other hand (and seriously, I don’t mean to denigrate your profound personal belief) those who believe in heavenly rewards for faithful service and good works are a little more… mercenary. I expect nothing except my enemies (of whom I have more than a few) poking me with a stick to make sure I’m really dead.
Then there is the question of forgiveness. A God of “Justice” will forgive a life of sin provided your dying breath contains sincere repentance? If I believed that I’d be the biggest asshole the world has ever seen and I’d sincerely repent that I was dead.
Bingo. Pearly Gate City. Hand me my Harp.
And that introduces one of my biggest disputes with what most consider religion. Without some invisible force passing judgement on you, the assumption is that you are free to act with abandon and without constraint.
The Invisible Thief
Many attribute this tale to Socrates, as do I. I certainly don’t claim originality.
So suppose you were an invisible thief and no barrier could stop you. Your thefts make you incredibly rich and powerful to the extent that you can invisibly murder your King, marry his widow, and become King yourself. No one can prove it. No judgemental God will punish it. No paranoid fantasies of someone doing the same to you.
What is the down side?
Well, it is this- you become the kind of person who would do these things and while no one can definitely say you did them everybody knows (because you can’t hide your true personality) that you might have and reacts to you with-
Hello Devil. Welcome to Hell.
Another Big Deal
I also don’t try to hide the fact that I’ve been an Atheist since I was about 12, even from my church choir where I was active until I was 14 or 15 (I was raised a Methodist like
W and Hillary and anyone who claims it’s not a fundamentalist religion is deluding themselves with the social equality message that comes from evangelising Black African Slaves in the early 19th Century). I went to Sunday School too until I graduated to the class that met in the Bowling Alley. My teachers hated me but that was typical of most of my teachers.
At that age my primary question was why, if God is omniscient, omnipotent, and beneficent Evil exists?
Now a fully informed and aware Christian (or Muslim or Mormon) would contend it is a test of faith to separate those worthy of eternal life in the presence of God from the riff-raff (He didn’t like me! He NEVER liked me!). What I got was primarily, “Hummena Hummena, how about that Sermon on the Mount and those Loafs and Fishes.”
Well, what is faith?
It’s a belief in something that can not be proven rationally (or as Spock would say- logically, since it’s not internally consistent and contradicts itself) or empirically (a fancy word for Science!) so you just have to take my word for it.
Another thing about Atheists is that we tend to know a little more about religion than actual adherents since most of us have been on a spiritual search (not the same thing as belief in God at all) to justify our instinctive cynicism. My particular crisis was that I could not reconcile Omniscient and Omnipotent with Free Will and Personal Accountability. Deterministic Calvinist Pre-Destination seemed the inevitable outcome and I was and am not willing to accept that. My disbelief was of course reinforced as I gained a deeper knowledge of the history behind the church (that includes all of them, Scientology to Hindu).
Of the religions I studied the one that most attracted me was Judaism (well, after Buddhism) because it wasn’t so much a religion as a tribe. If you are born to a Jewish mother, you’re a Jew. Now a lot of Jews I know don’t practice Judaism, some are Agnostic or Atheist, some are simply non-observant except for Holidays and family milestones, others do unconventional things like Wicca. They’re still Jewish. They can’t help it anymore than I can help being Methodist (in my case it’s 8 years of brainwashing).
And within Judaism you have a wide range of practice from Hasidim to Ultra-Orthodox to Orthodox to Conservative to Reform (pretty much the Unitarian Universalism of Judaism, the refuge of those who want to say they have a religion if anyone asks).
Now as I say I don’t make much pretense. When I’ve been sick they’ve sent the Chaplin in and the first thing I do after they introduce themselves is explain, in a gentle way, that I think it’s all a load of hooey. I do it gently because, of course, they actually believe this stuff and they have a tough job dealing with people who are basically dying (which I am too stubborn and unrepentant to do). After that I invite them to have a chat and we talk about Sports or the Weather. I never argue if they want to make a pitch, I take it and shake their hand when they’re ready to move on. Likewise when I’m forced by ceremony to attend a service I sit and stand when everybody else does. I don’t sing much, but I don’t play games on my Cell either. And I also get why people associate themselves with a church. Less so now but back in the day it was your social life. Not much else to do.
But I’m not running for office. Poll after poll shows that U.S. citizens would rather vote for a baby sacrificing Satanist (or a Muslim, to some people they’re about the same) than an Athiest which is why stories like this are so hurtful-
New Leak: Top DNC Official Wanted to Use Bernie Sanders’s Religious Beliefs Against Him
by Sam Biddle, The Intercept
July 22 2016, 12:38 p.m.
Among the nearly 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee, released Friday by Wikileaks and presumably provided by the hacker “Guccifer 2.0,” is a May 2016 message from DNC CFO Brad Marshall. In it, he suggested that the party should “get someone to ask” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders about his religious beliefs.
To: MirandaL@dnc.org, PaustenbachM@dnc.org, DaceyA@dnc.org
Date: 2016-05-05 03:31
Subject: No shit
It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.
The email was sent to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda and Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach. It’s unclear who the “someone” in this message could be — though a member of the press seems like a safe bet.
Marshall emails to say “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.” We have asked him who that surrogate could possibly be.
And although Sanders is not mentioned by name, he was the only Jewish candidate from either party — an apparent weakness that Marshall believed the party could exploit in favor of Hillary Clinton.
It is also unclear why the Democratic National Committee, which isn’t supposed to favor one Democratic candidate over another until they receive a nomination, would have attempted to subvert the Sanders campaign on the grounds that “he is an atheist.”
A reply to Marshall’s email from DNC CEO Amy Dacey read only “AMEN.”
Well, it’s really not about anti-Semitism, it’s about anti-Atheism which it seems pretty clear that some people in positions of power at the Democratic National Committee think they can exploit to damage a candidate, a fellow Democrat.
While I’ve seen some coverage of this story that suggests the potential damage would have been marginal (1 or 2%) and Bernie would simply have repeated that he was Jewish and his religious practices were nobody’s damn business but his (indeed might have turned the story around by claiming anti-Semitism, but he’s probably too principled for that), it’s disturbing that in 2016 higher ups at the DNC think it’s AOk to discriminate against Irish or Italian Catholics as long as they happen to be Atheists (“Let them into the Club? Of course not. They’re not our sort.” And if you think this didn’t happen a lot to Catholics you’re far more ignorant of history than I expect.).
And it’s not a religion, it’s a pretty reality based theory that there is no God and never was.
Sorry if that offends you.