My parents had always had gay friends growing up and, because they were kind and good people, they had also been my friends. I started to wonder if god would really send those good people to hell. So, when I was on the cusp of twenty-one, I began to read the bible and, sure enough, it does condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms. How could that be? Homosexuals, though immoral perverts, were typically nice people. When I met malicious people such as thieves, bullies, etc, they were despicable and cruel and worthy of contempt. But homosexuals were not like that, they were not criminals. They were hurting nobody. It was strange to read of god’s lust for human sacrifice, his willingness to kill children, or how casually he demanded genocide, and then to read of him saying homosexuality was the abomination.
What I was reading in the bible appalled me. I may have cast the monstrosity of it aside, saying that god’s ways are inscrutable or something like that; except that it was shortly before I started reading the bible that I also began to read up on astronomy – finally giving some genuine attention to my love of stars. The difference between the bible and even the most elementary astronomy book astounded me. Astronomical texts were written with such clarity that there was no need to explain away seemingly attrocious portions of them. They were stuffed with so much information, things that I could not even come close to comprehending as a child, but that they were always willing to explain if I applied myself.
Conversely, the bible insisted that I could not question (proverbs 3:5 and a gaggle of others). It made a virtue of obeying even the cruelest edicts without pause (see the story of Abraham and Isaac or of Jephtha and his daughter). There was never a case of god ever explaining anything to anybody, at least not the way mortals were able to do in my astronomy books. It occurred to me that this was why people were always bickering over what god’s will truly was, even in my old church. It was because the bible is a muddled book from which we can draw no precise conclusions the way they could in astronomy.
It was at this point that I realized that Christianity was absurd, but I didn’t drop it entirely. Perhaps god really worked in mysterious ways? Later that year I finished my first complete read-through of the bible and realized I needed a basis for comparison – so I picked up the Koran. Suffice that it suffered from the same problems as the bible. Both were filled with tall tales and demands that our moral sense reject issues of happiness and suffering, as the bible had with homosexuality. Still being a pseudo-Christian, it was painfully obvious that the Koran was not the word of god. It was silly in places and frightening in others, but it was clear that no intelligent person could think it was the work of a higher power. Like the bible, it was ignorant of everything in my astronomy books, and it said several things that were just plain false. It followed that it was constructed by people who were much more ignorant than astronomers, and no such person (or persons) could be called a higher intelligence.
But it was so similar to the Old Testament, the book that began the religion that provided myself and so many others with such a sense of empowerment. At that point I was forced to admit that I was wrong. The bible was constructed in an ancient time where people would have known very little about humanity. Its atrocious ideas of morality were every bit as horrendous as I had thought they were. The obvious conclusion was inescapable at that point: god should be able to do better. The bible was a book that any modern person of even limited knowledge about the universe would have been ashamed to have written. It followed that this book was not written by even a clever person. Whoever wrote/influenced it was a moron, and god could not have been a moron.
I have since read it through twice more to make sure of this, and every time I am increasingly disappointed in the younger me. Though I felt myself enlightened when I used to look at the stars, it is now clear that I had given a name to my ignorance: “god”. As a result, I had been proud of my ignorance and had even found it beautiful. Such is the effect of a world view that makes a virtue of believing without seeing, and makes belief the object of focus rather than the methods used to formulate the belief. I had been ignorant of morality, I had been ignorant of science, and that bothered me now – and I felt so guilty that it didn’t bother me in my youth. Unfortunately, my beliefs dictated my actions (as they do for every person), and because I had never truly thought about them, I had acted ignorantly. I opposed the rights of normal people and I preened as though I were somehow the moral one.
Faith in Jesus made sure I had “friends” but it made me a bad person. I realized later that no matter how many “friends” I had, that I hated myself for what I had done and how gullible I had been.
Ever since that time I have worked to figure out who I am and how the world really works. For any belief I hold now, anybody can ask me at any time “How do you know that?” or “Why do you believe that?” and I will be able to explain it to them using the same methods that revealed the true nature of the stars. I have also come to understand that belief without reason informs people’s actions, and that we’re all playing on the same team down here. Ignorant beliefs, like mine in my youth, are dangerous. They are divisive. Lastly, after years of interacting with religious people (mostly Christians) on a daily basis, I have come to realize that most of them are not very different in the faith from the younger me.
With the fullness of these realizations at my back, I now realize that it would be immoral of me not to fight unreason.Tagged with: atheism • Atheist • JT Eberhard • Secular Student Alliance • SSA • WWJTD