Monday, 30 July 2007

I'm Out!

You may have noticed there is a huge red letter 'A' on my side-bar. It stands for Atheist. I never really thought about announcing my atheism before, and I suppose it may attract a few pissed off God squaddies, but currently re-reading Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion and realised that we atheists never actually stand up for atheism. Hmm. Why is that I wonder?

What has brought all this on? I hear you ask. Well, yet another person has fallen into the pit of religious despair. I don't even particularly like this person, and don't care much for his soul, BUT, I'd rather some pant swinging, hand clapping, bus driving brigade left it alone all the same! He emailed his ex-wife to tell her he'd found God. Oh Christ. And another one bites the dust. They have special envoys who visit mental hospitals, disturbed war veterans, the homeless, the terminally ill, the divorced (although you'd think they'd be too busy celebrating their new found freedom?), and most worryingly of all, schools. So that's all those folks who are thinking nice and clearly then, eh. Aargh! Leave our kids alone!

I used to be a theist, in the form of a Roman Catholic child who went to mass once a week, and wanted to be a nun. It was my mother's fault. She made me! I made my first holy communion, and attended confession, although I must admit to making up sins for the latter because I was frightened of the priest. No sins meant LIAR and LIAR meant lots and lots of shouting and Our Fathers. But when I went to the Priest and I asked about the slight anomalies in the opening chapter of the bible and was sent packing with a rather loud, How dare you question the Lord your God?!, I thought to myself, "You have no answers, do you?" So when it came to being 'confirmed' in my convent run secondary school, I told the nuns to take a running jump, and got into all sorts of trouble. But I didn't care.

I later discovered Buddhism and Science. I became a Pantheist. Something was there. Nature, notions of Gaia, spirituality, all that. I learned not to discuss religion, because like politics, it started rows. Although it is good for comedy. Take The Now Show on Radio 4 last week, for example, asking for the religious to kindly stop blowing up our planet in the name of a God who does not exist. "And when the letters come," said Marcus Brigstocke, "And they will come..." I dread to think how many letters they got for pointing out that drawing silly cartoons is not a direct assault on your religion, and that just because you were persecuted (okay, very badly true) does not give you the right to become offensive little tits en masse. They attacked all the religions equally, which is good. No favourites.

A joke for you.

A man dies and arrives in heaven. The bloke at the gate shows him around. He points to various crowds of people. "That's the Hindus over there," he says, "and the Protestants there. The Muslims are that group there and the Jews are just to the left a bit." Eventually they reach a massive brick wall. "What's that?" asks the man. "Oh, the *Catholics are behind there. They think they're the only ones here."

* replace with any/every/all religious faiths and it still works.

You see there is a whole new movement that talks about Intelligent Design. This movement is very dangerous. It tries to undo centuries of learning and scientific investigation, argues with Darwin, makes ridiculous claims that sound quite clever on the surface. It frightens me that there are places in this world where one human being will kill another human being over a theological dispute that has no physical evidence or scientific proof. That one human being will murder another human being in the name of a God who is supposed to preach love. Love?! Are they taking the piss?!

In some schools in this world you cannot talk about Big Bang Theory, or Evolution. I have upset students in the past with my discussion of the evolution of the vocal tract from primates through to early hominids. I've had massive rows with people in chat rooms because they cannot cope with the idea that we are undoubtedly descended from apes (let alone the fact that we go back far enough and we're all bacteria... but then, hey, some people still are).

I am sorry if this offends the religious of you out there. If you are so convinced of your faith, and you need it, because hey, accepting mortality and all that, accepting we only get one shot at it, is a bit scary, well I apologise. But read the Dawkins' book and at least see the other side of the argument. As Penn (of Penn and Teller) says, "If this book doesn't change the world, we're all screwed!" At least have a look at Chapter one.

So there you go. I don't believe in God. I'm not even gonna hedge my bets 'just in case'. I am an atheist. Now go pray for my soul if you must, but I'd really rather you didn't bother!


Jon M said...

I used to be a pantheist but my community persecuted me for worshipping kitchen utensils! Geddit..pans...sorry...

hesitant scribe said...

Jon - I love the way I can always rely on you... but what for exactly I'm not sure :p

I'm sitting here waiting for the flack! It's worryingly quiet though so perhaps I've just been abandoned in my refusal to worship supernatural beings!

God said...

I had a few dark moments too but now I'm convinced that we're all balanced on the back of a turtle or something...

Rebecca said...

I've seen that book and often thought of picking it up - but I don't think I want to be totally and absolutely convinced that there is no God. (cowardly, perhaps, dunno) My tiny teeny little bit of just-in-case-maybe-there-IS-a-God can be occasionally comforting.

I really am the worst kind of religious fence-sitter - the kind of person God must get reallty irritated with - I don't actively believe but then I won't denounce him either. - you know, just in case. ;)

hesitant scribe said...

God - oh yes - turtles... nothing but turtles all the way down!

Rebecca - it's a good book. It is't like a disease (you won't catch atheism!). I read Bamber Gasgoine's The Christians when I was 13 and the exposed hypocracy of the church was enough to send me off to find 'something else'.

For me Buddhism is a wonderful philosophy/way of life that is 'god free' yet 'spiritual', and I also love the teachings of my Blackfoot Sioux ancestors with regard to the natural world. I think we need morality, a love and respect for all living things regardless of what they are, or what their beliefs are, so perhaps your sitting on the fence is not such a bad thing after all. At least you won't be one of those who condemn others for their beliefs.

I've called myself an atheist because I don't believe in a monotheistic supernatural creator type figure, and I hate the way that science is undermined by funadamentalist philosophies, but I would only condemn the acts of atrocity carried out in the name of their Gods. At the heart of all religions there is the central core teachings of 'love thy neighbour' and 'treat others how you would want to be treated yourself' (although the latter might be a bit dodgy if you're dealing with a sadomasochist eh). These are, sadly, the teachings that are most often ignored.

I'm off on one now! Erm. Fence sitting. Yes - no problem. I'm on the fence about the existence of fairies! ;-)

Pacha said...

I read this post yesterday but sneakily shuffled away - such a difficult subject and so many issues! (it scared me OK?). I have been brainwashed/bought up Roman Catholic and feel for this reason I can never be a true Atheist.

Today I feel connected to Catholicism purely through superstition. I couldn't not baptise my kids for example (my daughter had to have open heart surgery the day she was born and - being in Italy - we were asked if we wanted to baptise her first. We didn't hesitate and said yes - my main reason being that I got to spend more time in the intensive care unit with my kid during the quick ceremony but I have to admit it was soothing too!)

Recently I baptised my last born. I asked my sister to be Godmother. She asked me if she was allowed to since she was Atheist. What would you do in that situation? (e.g a best friend asking you to be Godmother?) Since, although a Godmother should be responsible for a child's religious education, usually the role is symbollic of other (more important) things.

Religion and school - DO.NOT.GET.ME.STARTED. Here in Italy kids start preschool at 3 and already have religious education lessons (Catholicism). I was outraged. As a parent you could choose for your child not do religious education but you had to come and pick them up and take them home during the lessons (or the kid had to play alone in another room during the lesson). Not wanting my children to feel left out (and letting myself be convinced by the teachers that what these 'lessons' comprised were essentially stories about what it means to be good/bad --- not about how Jesus died on a cross for us etc...)

I also find myself resorting to religious learning when I need to console my kids (my eldest is 6 and is obsessed with not wanting me to grow old and die --- probably because I too am obsessed about this very same thing!) --- I mean it softens the blow to talk about paradise and an afterlife/reunion with loved ones.

I am rather intrigued with Sufi learning at the moment! (There are similarities with Buddhism actually)

Oh God (no pun intended!)... I bet you wish I had stayed away now!

Pacha said...

p.s I know that the above makes me a hypocrite so perhaps that should be my religion?

hesitant scribe said...

Pacha - That is so interesting, and I can understand wholly the reasons why you had your children baptised. If it helps people to cope with what must have been a most horrendous time, then it fulfilled its purpose perhaps.

With regard to the Godmother thing - why can't someone be a non-religious Godparent?! I had always understood the term to mean the person who would take care of the child if the parents were not able to, and one would hope, according to the parents' wishes (i.e. religion free if that were the wish of the parents).

As for religion in schools - well it is a difficult one. We do need some form of moral education, that's for sure, but my schooling in Canada was religion free - secular all the way - and my schooling in the UK was very much religion based. As a result of my constant barrage of questions I was always in trouble with the nuns and priests! It didn't quell my appetite for info though!

I think your comments about Sufism are very interesting. I do like Sufism, and yes it is very like Buddhism. My favourite philospher (in this vein) is probably Krishnamurti, who was against all religions including Buddhism, because he saw all these schools of thought as separatist i.e. making people see other people as different to themselves.

I dunno. It is, as you say, very complicated! The one thing I am certain of is that religion is at the heart of so many conflicts and disputes and I want no part of it! I do, however, want to be loving and loved, and if I must choose an 'ist' to be then atheist, and or pantheist will do me just fine.

p.s. Isn't is weird how scared this post left me feeling, how it made me question whether or not I should have even posted it!? Such is the power of this illusory God. Hmmm.

Chilli said...

Yes he really has found God....had another email, will have to share it with was all about being 'saved'. Oh Lordy!!!!!!!!

hesitant scribe said...

Oh No!!! Saved? From what we wonder?!!!