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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Essays | 5 comments

Name: Pat Kugel

Born: 1965

Location: Ontario, Canada

 Label: Anti-theist

Former Religious Affiliation: Roman Catholic

My Story: 

Part 1: History

I start out with a story much the same as many others: I was born and raised a Catholic, went to a Catholic grade school, attended mass at least once a week (Sundays), and even served as an altar boy; my mother was Catholic and my father converted to Catholicism before they were married. That is pretty much the definition of a domesticated Catholic and screams urban religious-moderate westerner.

Problem was, as a child, I was just doing what I was told by parents and priest. I felt nothing doing it other than boredom. I felt no rush or relief for the love of god, etc. Nothing!  As I got older and began to understand “religion” as an ideal or concept, I came to realize that right from day one I never believed or accepted any of it. I would ask questions like, Hhow can someone blindly follow a 3000 year old story that does not even have a conceptual relation to the modern world?”

Eventually as I reached young adulthood, my parents, like they had done with all my older siblings, gave me the choice to decide for myself if I wished to continue attending mass, etc. That was the last time till my father’s passing that I stepped foot in a church.

When my father passed, my mother insisted on a religious funeral. I together with my brother had to make the arrangements for the service. Entering the parish pastors house to discuss the arrangements actually creeped me out.  All I could think of was, “How can you trust a person that has so fully devoted their life to an obvious lie?” Well, that and “how many boys does he have stashed around here?”

I attended the funeral as was [expected], but to this day I believe I made a mistake. Funerals are a religious ceremony designed for the living; the dead are incapable of caring one wit about the entire fallacy! As was my mother’s desire, it was a strongly religious event, and, like times passed, I realized I was just doing what I was told?!? But more to the point, by this time in my life I realized I was becoming an anti-theist strongly believing that religion does more harm than good – so, was I not betraying myself in succumbing to this ridiculous ceremony? I was being the religious hypocrite I so despised!

As years passed and wisdom gained, I reaffirmed my non-belief through authors like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, etc, but also in a stronger understanding of the universe itself. I am a strong proponent in the thought that the best way to put religion to the background is through science and education – I truly do not see how one can be deeply religious and strongly scientific in the same breath. I have said it before: “When one looks at the universe from the microsphere to the macrosphere and truly sees the world and universe for what it is, one realizes there just is no room for a deity.”

Eventually as is the lot of all us animals, my mother passed away. Again, plans were made for a religious ceremony, etc. (not by me), however, this time I did not attend. In doing so I would have again betrayed my values. I do not regret missing the funeral, after all, it is a ritual for the living not the deceased. As such, let those living that would get something out of it attend. As thinking, emotional beings, we each deal with loss internally, within the privacy of our minds first before externalizing it – I grieve the loss in my own way with no need for formal ritural.

 

Part 2: The Here and Now

I am not afraid to admit I am an anti-theist, I feel no embarrassment over it, and I do not apologize for it. Quite the contrary, I know atheists in general have a much brighter view of the world since they are not viewing it as through a frosted pane of glass whose religion only allows site to what it approves.  I also believe we hold life to a much higher value than a devout ever could simply because we see this as *it*; this being the only shot at this universe we will ever get, and once we step beyond oblivion’s veil we are gone forever, no redo’s, second chances, ever.

I value the atheist as the more morally honest; when the atheist steps up to help their fellow man, [generally] it is because it is the morally right thing to do; however when a devout does the same there’s always the nagging question, “is it because they [have] to?”

What, you may ask, is the fundamental difference?  The fundamental difference is in the willingness to accept morality as a set of basic human tenets granted us all vs. concepts learned and earned via beliefs that can be waived at a moment’s notice. The one that acts on the moral weight of an action alone does so out of honest belief in those morals; the devout that acts on the guidance of an ideal or concept no matter how “moral” it teaches, acts on the strength of those ideals alone, not the moral appropriateness of the resultant actions. As such, the actions themselves need not even be morally acceptable so long as the teachings the devout believes teach it’s moral correctness.  This is how religious persecution throughout history has justified countless heinous acts; when a suicide bomber straps on the bomb, it is not the moral appropriateness of the actions they weigh, but the religiously taught ideas. Here morality and religion take a giant leap apart, and yet the fanatic’s beliefs are grounded and insolvent. Were the suicide bomber to evaluate their actions purely on a humanistic moral view, they would surely chuck the bomb asking, “What the hell am I doing?”  This is where religion is dangerous: it does not teach morality, it teaches morality by its doctrine, regardless of the acceptability of that doctrine at a basic human level vis-a-vis the morality innate to us all, and its morality is fluid, subject to the same fluctuations as the teachings themselves.

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