The Last Road

Living every day like it's the last… because one day, it will be.

Archive for the ‘atheism’ Category

Why I am an Atheist (and you should be, too)

Posted by Rystefn on October 10, 2012

So there are about ten times as many of these essays out there as there are atheists in the world, so I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this, but it seems like the thing to do. I guess partly because there are a hundred times as many instances of religious people telling each other made-up bullshit about why people are atheists (or pretend to be atheists, but really, truly believe deep down).

My story is pretty straightforward, actually; no sudden realization, no slow acceptance that I’d been taught wrongly. I wasn’t raised a nonbeliever, either. Not deliberately, anyway. The indoctrination just didn’t take. My father was a lapsed Catholic turned deist and my mother was a Southern Baptist. Their solution was to raise the kids in a weakly religious household with the idea that we’d come to our own decision. We’d do the occasional Easter Mass or Vacation Bible School in the summer, and growing up in Texas, we were surrounded by Jeebus-talk pretty much all the time. Staying over at a friend’s house Saturday turned into church with their family on Sunday almost without exception, even well into my teenage years.

None of it stuck, though. You know how, when you’re a kid, you figure out Santa isn’t real, but you keep on playing along for a while because it’s fun or you want the presents, or your parents can’t handle that you’re growing up? As far back as I remember, that’s what I was doing. To the best of my knowledge, it was always a game of make-believe. Same thing with the Easter Bunny and Satan and Jesus and God. It wasn’t until I was old enough that none of the kids my age even pretended to believe in Santa anymore that I started to get that the grown-ups really actually thought some of that stuff was real.

At some point in your life, usually in early adolescence, you start to suspect that you’re smarter than all the so-called adults in your life. By around fifteen or sixteen, most people are completely convinced of it. Imagine that at fifteen, you were the only person you knew that didn’t still believe in Santa Claus. All your “peers,” all the adults in your life, parents, teachers… they all put out cookies and milk and wrote letters to the North Pole saying how good they’d been this year. Then, when the presents didn’t show up, said they just hadn’t been good enough, nevermind that they didn’t get lumps of coal, that doesn’t matter. Occasionally, someone would leave the tag off a present, and that one must have come from Santa, right? That’s what the world looked like to me.

Long story short, I am an atheist because they failed to indoctrinate me as a child.

Now, if someone wants to convert me to their faith, they have to convince someone, not just that their religion is right, but that religion in general isn’t a patently ridiculous concept. That’s a much harder sell. To convert someone from one religion to another takes some work, but the hard part is already done for you. They already buy in to the idea that gods are real things and that faith is a useful trait for a person to have. Now you just slap on some emotional appeals about your god(s) being nicer or stronger or whatever, and you’re golden. To get me, you’ll have first convince me that’s there’s such a thing as gods in the first place.

So far, no one has even come close. I’ve heard a lot of people attempt to justify their faith in lots of different ways. I find none of them convincing, and neither would anyone else who didn’t already believe them. Here’s a quick rundown of a few of the more popular ones I’ve heard over the years. I’m sure many of them will sound familiar.

-The Bible says it’s true and we know the Bible is true because God said so, it says so right in the Bible. No, really, people literally argue that with no intermediary steps.
-A painting implies a painter, a building implies a builder, so creation implies a creator. Also a rock implies a rocker, so you’ve proven the existence of Ozzy Osbourne, I guess, but you skipped the step where you demonstrate the universe is a creation.
-Existence is greater than nonexistence, so the most powerful being imaginable must exist. They pretend there’s a few more steps in it to confuse people, but that’s really what they’re saying.
-“I feel it in my heart.” To which the only response is “I don’t.”
-Everyone really knows God is real deep inside, they just pretend because they don’t want to follow God’s law. A more laughable idea, I’ve rarely heard.

There are more, of course. An endless stream of nonsense and non-sequiturs. Most often, though, they skip right over trying to demonstrate that their god is real and go into why their god is more believable than others or why religion is a force for good in the world or the like.

Lots of people talk about the evil that religion in general and various religions do (and they’re often right). Lots of people talk about whether or not they’d want to live in a world with gods, or a million other nitpicks. Those people are making a mistake. They’re conceding off the bat that the entire concept of religion isn’t patently ridiculous on the face of it. Until you can convince me that Santa is real, I’ve got no interest in discussing what counts as naughty or nice, nor in whether he’ll leave a bundle of switches with the lump of coal.

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Posted in atheism, Living every day like it's the last | Tagged: , , | 12 Comments »

The Continuing Drama

Posted by Rystefn on July 8, 2011

A new voice of reason has entered the fray… Paula Kirby relates the following:

I see a parallel here with one of the arguments we often have with the religious. Many of the religious don’t want to abandon belief in God because they find the thought of having to stand on their own two feet too daunting: they are afraid of having to take responsibility for themselves. And generally speaking, we atheists might have some sympathy with the fear, but we don’t accept it as a good reason for giving in to it: ‘Tough’, we say: ‘That’s just the way it is’. And that’s sort of what I’m saying here too. All of us have to take responsibility for ourselves, make things happen for ourselves, learn from our mistakes, brush up our skills, and stop waiting for other people to make things easy for us.

You should go read that now if you want to see what reason looks like. If you prefer to see more drivel about privilege and failure to grasp that disagreement might be more than a failure to understand what you’re saying, then you should go here instead. Is there a feminine of “mansplaining”? Nah, that’s not right. It would be wrong to imply that only women get all condescending and talk to people about privilege as though that’s the only reason a person could hold a different opinion…

Also, check out the new TAM schedule.

Posted in atheism, Emo | Leave a Comment »

Of Elevators and Keynotes and Other Fancy Things

Posted by Rystefn on July 7, 2011

So apparently people have been following my comments back here. Given that my last post was a year and a half ago, I don’t imagine it’s serving much purpose. Now, I can’t imagine a reason why anyone would follow one of my comments back here unless they cared to some degree or another about what I’ve been saying, I guess I should go ahead and spell it out neatly, in plain English, all in one place. Yes, this is going to offend some people. No, I don’t give a shit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in atheism, Hope, Outrage | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

You Are the Oppressor

Posted by Rystefn on August 8, 2009

This relates to the discussion here and here.

I know I haven’t exactly made a big deal about around here, but this blog was created for a different reason. Since it doesn’t really serve that purpose anymore, I may as well start putting it here as well. So far, I think the only real indication I’ve put up that I’m an atheist is the Dawkins scarlet A in the sidebar over there. If that lead some of my readers to think I’m one of those quiet, polite atheists who don’t stir up trouble, the you don’t know me very well. I’m one of the loud, angry, strident atheists who make a scene in public if I hear someone make an offhand comment that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t that big of a deal, or that America was founded a “Christian Nation™”.

You may not know this (it’s easy to wear blinders when it’s someone else’s problem), but there is a concerted effort in this country to oppress the nonbelievers. Atheists are among the least trusted groups is America, despite being among the least violent and least likely to commit crimes of any kind. People toss around phrases like “militant atheist” to make themselves feel better about claiming people demanding equal rights need to be quiet about it. We live in a world of real militants. Militant Islam is not Muslims standing up and demanding fair treatment, it’s Muslims picking up weapons and killing people. A separatist is someone who wants to separate. A militant separatist is someone who is killing people about it. We use the same definition of “militant” for every religion and philosophy it’s ever been applied to… except atheism.

If you’re one of the people who use the phrase “militant atheist,” then you’re one of the oppressors. If you’re one of the people who say atheists shouldn’t be so loud/angry/strident/impolite/irreverent/willing to disrespect a cracker, then you’re one of the oppressors. If you hear about a civil rights rights struggle, and don’t get involved, then you are the oppressor.

Every day, I hear some asshole say we’re alienating potential allies by being so vocal. Really? There are people out there whose willingness to see us get the freedoms that are our right hinges on how polite we are? You know what I say to that? Fuck those people! I’m not interested in trading angry oppressors for kinder, gentler oppressors. I will not allow my rights to hang on the whim of another, whether that other wants to deny them as a matter of course, or simply because I said the word “fuck.”

You do not have the right to not be offended. Whether you’re offended by my language, my disrespect, or the fact that I reject your belief system doesn’t matter. You do not have the right not be offended by me, and you do not have the right to deny me mine because you are offended. If you think you do, the you are the oppressor. If you think to yourself that you’re a nice person, not like those raging, angry fundamentalist types, so you shouldn’t have to hear us shouting about being oppressed, guess what? You’re oppressing us, too. At least the openly anti-atheist crowd are honest about it. “The world would be a better place without atheists in it” is oppressive, but guess what? So is “the world wold be a better place if I never had to hear about the atheists.” If you wish we would just shut up or calm down or get over the little things or any variation on the theme, you’re not just enabling the oppressors. You are the oppressor.

I know someone is going to come along and say something against me for having an “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality. That’s not accurate. There is a third group: the group that doesn’t realize anything is happening. You know what’s a good way to get someone’s attention? Shouting. If you’re telling us to stop shouting, you’re telling us to stop trying to tell the people who don’t know that there’s a problem. Whether you’re doing it intentionally or not, you’re trying to stop our fight for civil rights before it even really gets started. That puts you squarely against us, doesn’t it? If you wonder why people are mad at you even though you’re polite and soft-spoken and don’t want to take away our right to vote or hold office or not have our children indoctrinated into your delusions, that might be why.

It’s because you are the oppressor.

Posted in atheism | 4 Comments »