Friday, May 27, 2011

"Atheists are Right." or: Jesus Freaks Scare Me.

Atheists have a point … or some of them do, anyway.

When originally looking at Marx, or Nietzsche, I figured that they had no idea what they were talking about. I do not use my Deity as a drug. I don't hold onto an image of someone being tortured to death on a set of 2x4s because I'm afraid of the dark. I don't use my faith as an excuse to not think, in fact, just the opposite.

I can give you reasons for my beliefs. I could tell you I think there's a God because of this thing called causality (IE: cause and effect … what's the cause of the Big Bang?). I can tell you I believe in an historical figure called Jesus, because there are records from that time period. There is more evidence for a carpenter named Jesus from Nazareth than there is for Hannibal of Carthage waging war against the Roman Empire (Hannibal was only written about a hundred years later, Jesus from the same generation, and was noted by Roman authorities).

I can give a bunch of reasons why I believe different elements of my faith, but as I've said before, I'm not here to convert one single person. Educate, sure, convert, no.

I'm relatively certain that I would not change one element of my life if I were an atheist. So, Marx, Nietzsche, sorry if I've disabused you 19th century pinheads of any fantasies you have.

Unfortunately, as I'm exposed to more of the world, I have to admit that atheists have a few points.

Yes, you read the title of the blog correctly. I'm Catholic, and Jesus freaks worry me. Seriously, how many people have had religious folks force their faith on you? There is a difference between someone having a civil conversation with you, and someone abusing you with a bible.

Let me be clear. If someone asks, “Is Jesus your personal savior?” and you say yes, and they leave you alone, that's one thing. I find it strange when anyone actually asks me that sort of thing at all, but if they ask, accept my answer, and leave, great.

If you're an atheist or a non-Christian, you say no, and they start a civil discussion with you, that's also great. Talking and reasoning are good things.

However, if they continue to talk at you as if you hadn't spoken, or they start by narrowing down what church you go to, on which street corner, then, Houston, we have a problem.

When it is no longer a conversation, but someone trying to shove a bible down your throat, it's time to break out the taser.

As I've said before, I'm a little strange. So, I'm going to provide some context.

Growing up, I learned more about religion from the novels of Fr. Andrew Greeley, and from my father the philosophy professor, than I ever did from any Catholic school instructor. In fact, a lot of what they had taught me was either inaccurate, or outright fraudulent. I had always thought it was my school, nothing personal, just a bunch of morons. I could go on, move on, have a nice life.

I figured that my upbringing in Catholic school was an anomaly, and that more people were like me.

Recently, I've gotten the impression that it's not going as well as I would like.

One friend told me about how she was Protestant at a (very) small Catholic college in California, and they considered burning her at the stake as a heretic. Fail.

They also didn't believe in reading the bible, “That's the priest's job.” That wasn't even a position held five hundred years ago.  On the one hand, vernacular translations SUCKED in the middle ages, and on the other-- do you know how expensive it is to write a bible, by hand, on lambskin (vellum)?  The Bible was chained down in church, but if you could read it, knock yourself out.  Here's a hint to these modern fellas, the bible has been revised and translated, if you can read, you're allowed to read an authorized and footnoted copy. You're a few centuries late. Serious fail.

Recently, Matt was told on his Facebook page “My God is better than no God.” Epic fail. (Two words for you, buddy: Allahu Akbar.)

Now, I may be an anomaly. Most of my friends are Jewish. My first ex is a Wiccan who had not yet come out of the broom closet. My best friend for nearly a decade was an atheist. Matt, who has created all of the good artwork around A Pius Man, another atheist. Frankly, I think some of these people are better Catholics than I am, from an ethical viewpoint. As I have explained before, I don't think being an atheist is grounds for you to be in any serious danger of having a crappy afterlife.

Also, religiously, I'm a bit of a libertarian. I don't care if you go to Hell. If you are in serious danger of going to hell, then you're probably not someone I want to be within a ten foot radius of. Being a complete jerk who commits felonies for fun … yeah, I most likely don't want to talk to you.

If you are a different sort of believer, and actually would like to convert people, let's have a conversation, shall we?

Step one: realize that atheists have valid points. For example, Marx made the infamous comment that religion is the opiate of the masses. It's not particularly true for me. I've been to enough masses where I've wanted to throw the books at the priest because his sermon was more about him than about what was in the Gospel.

However, there are people who can read a Bible, and the words go through their eyes and out their mouths without it ever going through their brains. The words become rote, mantras without understanding.

Marx is right, some people use the bible as a drug, to avoid the pressures of THOUGHT. How many? I have no idea. Though they seem to get a lot of the press. (Paging Mr. Phelps.)

And more of us than we would like can see where Nietzsche had a point. His entire “God is dead, you killed him, and you haven't even noticed” riff … I would like a show of hands. How many people have gone to services, listened to a sermon about peace and love, and “everyone get along with each other,” only to go out into the parking lot and see all of the people you attended services with try to commit vehicular manslaughter?  God is dead, they "killed" Him, and no one noticed ... call it a metaphor for our behavior.

Step two: Rodney Stark, who has done a sociology of early Christianity, has come up with various reasons why the faith was such a success even before Constantine made it an official state religion. The number one reason is simple: people saw how Christians treated one another, and they wanted to be a part of that. One big example is that there had been an outbreak of plague during the first few hundred years of Christianity. The major caregivers were Christians. They didn't run, they didn't evacuate the area and save their own behind from the plague. They stayed, and they took care of the sick and the dying, even when doctors had fled. I believe the biblical passages you want involve bushel baskets.

If you are a great big believer in (pick your faith here), live out the principles to the best of your abilities. Set yourself up as an example, and not on a pedestal. If you seriously think that atheists are in danger of going directly to hell, and need to be targeted, can I suggest something?

Be passionate without being insane.

Be reasoned, and educated, and know what the hell you're talking about. Know what the latest counter-arguments are so you're not just yelling at them.

Otherwise, you're just a freak, and not one of the good kind....

And, if they're yelling at you for being reasoned and rational, just run. It'll be easier on everybody.

Anyway, eventually, I will discuss atheists a bit.  Just so I can be fair and mentally unbalanced.  As usual. :)

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