Atheism Is Not A Choice

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NOTE: By choice, I mean that after weighing the evidence and reading and learning – a critically thinking person has to be an atheist, or at the very least agnostic. To remain otherwise would be faith or superstition based and while that may be valid for many it is not a decision that will be arrived at via critical thinking.

One of the biggest rules “they” tell us to live by is not to discuss politics or religion. I of course throw caution to the wind and discuss them all the time; politics because I think it is very important in a quasi-democracy for us to discuss ideas and platforms, and to be informed. If your position is worth anything at all to you it should be worth discussing with the opposition. We did not build this great nation by having our forefathers be constantly worried about being PC or causing a ruckus – they debated, argued and negotiated. This leaves us with the other “not to be spoken about subject,” religion – or more specifically the anti-religion we call atheism. Religious people similarly do not want to engage in debate with atheists – this leads me to wonder just how strong their belief is?

So last Saturday afternoon I find myself with three hours to kill inside the nicely air conditioned train station in Stamford, Connecticut minding my own business. First I finished up an essay I had written earlier in the day on my prior life as a hard drinking man and then I found myself reading a book I had started earlier in the week – John Loftus’ “Why I Became An Atheist.” The book is an interesting look at an ex-preacher and how he grew over time to lose his belief in the supernatural and magical and began to realize that science was a much better route to answers. Interestingly, Loftus seemed to really lose his religion when his flock turned against him at a low time in his life (after he had an affair) when he needed community support and forgiveness the most. Funny how the flock did not follow the teachings of the bible that they deem so important.

When you least expect it…expect it. A very polite security guard who I had spoken with a couple of hours earlier walked by and knowingly asked me what I was reading. He was quickly called away, but soon returned. After seeing the title and assuming correctly that atheism was my position he quickly informed me that Jesus is coming back soon. I politely told him that was not true and he is in for a long wait. He seemed puzzled how I could not share his view. I told him that I would be happy to talk with him but he had to realize that there was no chance he would convince me of his view (I have been very comfortable in my lack of beliefs of over thirty years) and I realized I was unlikely to turn him into a free thinking skeptic – but I was sure going to try.

Willie, my new friend was not willing or able to think about the bible critically, or about god or Jesus (why does this never cease to amaze me?) He looked puzzled that Jesus would speak so clearly to him and yet not talk to me. He could not see how anyone could question the bible, the virgin birth or the resurrection. Of course I could not understand how anyone could understand the magic show that calls itself Christianity. I countered by questioning his ego-maniacal god who demanded total worship and this god’s genocidal, murderous and capricious ways. I pointed out to Willie that he also is an atheist (one of our standard methods) – the only difference between us is that I worship one fewer god. He really did not seem to grasp this at all until I elaborated. Then Willie had no issue with the statement as he does not consider the gods of the Hindus, Muslims, pagans, ancient Greeks, Native Americans ad infinitum to be true gods – yet somehow he thinks his god is a real god and the one. The interesting question of the Jewish god was better received until I pointed out that the Jews think Jesus was a man and not a god. Then he suddenly abandoned the Jewish version as well.

As much as Willie wants the entire world to share in his evangelical bible study groups view of Jesus, god and the bible I am not buying. It is man made material of a pretty low quality and it is not the least bit necessary for anyone to subscribe to the lies it puts forth. I will stick with science, research and the scientific method. It may not be perfect, but it allows for adaptation, correction, testing and retesting. Society has been served much better through scientific research and methods than it has been through god or religion. Some will find the atheistic view to be dogmatic and religion like – but it really is not. Atheism is simply the negation of the belief in a higher power or the supernatural. Everything is here and now in the concrete world – not off somewhere in the ether or the heavens. Like I have always said – “you cannot fake faith.” For me to believe in the lies of religion and the supernatural would require me to lie to myself – and that is something I will not do. Do I think Willie is lying to himself? No – not really. I think he is guilty of not opening his eyes to the world around him and he is certainly guilty of not questioning enough things that demand interrogation. Of course – Willie could turn that back on me and say I am guilty of “not opening my heart to Jesus.” Again – you cannot fake faith – and atheism is not a choice.

Link to a prior article I penned on atheism:

http://sapblatt.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/atheism-%e2%80%93-savior-of-the-world/

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36 Responses to “Atheism Is Not A Choice”

  1. Heather Says:

    a few criticisms first (as always ;-) ): atheism is not an anti-religion, but a lack of religion. anti-theism would be more anti-religion. also, not all theists or atheists engage in debate but many do. I’ve had more than my fair share of religious nuts engage in heated debate as soon as I mentioned my lack of faith.

    Just on a side note: I’d turn against someone who’d abused their spouse too, so I don’t blame this guy’s flock. To me, especially as someone who studies psychology as much as possible, cheating is one of the lowest, most selfish things a person can do to someone they “love” and it is indeed abuse.

    “It is man made material of a pretty low quality” This line I love. You’re right.. not only is it completely ridiculous but, if one is objective and can think logically, it’s not even close to a convincing lie.

    I absolutely agree with you in your statement that atheism is not a choice. I couldn’t force myself to believe in magic anymore even if I tried as hard as possible… my mind simply rejects it as utterly ridiculous. It’s an odd sensation to look back and remember the kinds of things I used to believe in.

    • sapblatt Says:

      Heather – somehow I missed your thoughtful and thought provoking comments.
      I agree with you on cheating – but if we were living our lives under the mantra and dogma of Christianity like his flock was we would be committed to compassion and forgiveness. Just more of the nonstop hypocrisy of it all. Again – thanks for your contribution! – Mike

  2. John Says:

    For me religion was not a choice I made. I was conditioned to it at a very early age. It took me years to leave and the best thing that has happened to me.

    • sapblatt Says:

      John – Thank you so much for reading and commenting – I hear you completely – I was in the same boat…I guess my point is that as soon as you see the true light that religion is all hogwash atheism ceases to be a choice – the only way to be true to yourself is to be an atheist. thanks again – Mike

  3. Kendra Says:

    I agree Mike and am impressed with your willingness to get into this with people who disagree. I would only caution that traditional scientific method is often lacking- evidence of absence is not absence of evidence and all that. I wouldn’t hold religion up to science so much as just the face value absurdity and outrageous narcissism of religion.

  4. SolvoReputo Says:

    Mike, I find that to be quite a funny occurrence. I do agree whole-heartedly that atheism is not a choice. I have been telling Christians for years that the bible is bad literature, and not to be thought of as anything but crazy people with pens writing.

  5. Sandy Diersing Says:

    I think sometimes atheism is a choice, for some people. I spent no small length of time calling myself an agnostic, or a pagan, pantheist sort of person, weighing my fear of damnation and my reliance on those divine hugs and my fondness for the romance of magical thinking against the crisp, invigorating experience of relying on the free and rational part of my brain. Now I go commando, but yeah, it’s my choice. Could I go back? No. But just as I gave up Santa knowing that it meant the quality of the swag on Christmas morning might decline, I made a conscious decision.

  6. Ray Ganoe Says:

    To Heather… I think that Mike was not condoning the adultery; he was pointing out the hypocrisy of the flock…they who are supposed to turn the other cheek and be forgiving were not walking the walk.

    Mike… a crazy concept. I think that for most folks it would have to be a choice. They are walking around with the mind-numbing love of jesus in their heart and they would have to make a choice to think critically about their belief, which they don’t do. Once one does the critical thinking and comes to the conclusion that you and I have reached, it is no longer a choice. One has no other option than to reject all religion for the sham that it is. Good article.

    • sapblatt Says:

      Ray – thanks – and yes, that was what I meant regarding the adultery – it was the hypocrisy of the flock. I understand what you are saying about choice – I guess my view is that after you take the time to read, learn and think critically – you really have no choice but to be an atheist unless you want to lie to yourself and believe the lie. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • james k. Says:

      there are different standards for the flock and the shepherd, no?

  7. Arieney tio Says:

    I love it.

    Being an atheist is not merely a choice, it is opening your eyes to the reality. Reality with logical explanations not with the supernatural nor with the magical explanations.

    I am an atheist.

    I stand for it since I started going to school. You can’t use “gods” as a substitute for your lack of awareness on everything.

    I am happy for what i am now. No limits.

  8. katy Says:

    Here’s what I don’t understand, you turned away from Catholicism, but converted to Judaism and are raising your sons as Jews. Seems hypocritical to me.

  9. John Says:

    Katy I do not see a post of someone converting to Judaism. Did I miss it somehow ?

    • sapblatt Says:

      John -
      Katy missed a couple of steps and details – which she may not have known…
      I was raised catholic and dumped that by age 12-13 – I considered myself an atheist from that point on, or at least by age 18 or so when I had read enough about to understand it. When I met the woman who I was to marry, Gail we dated and got engaged. Gail is from a Jewish family that I would say is more culturally and secularly Jewish – they are not temple goers. Gail and her brother did go to Hebrew school and did attend high holidays etc. The idea of conversion was presented to me – and I liked the idea of a united front in our home. The lengthy discussions with the rabbi did not offend me or my sense of truth – no one believes in an after life or a god that is going to intervene etc. To me it was more cultural and traditional for my wife and that was important to her.
      As for how “I” or “we” raise our sons – I do not raise them religiously at all. Gail wants to – but truth be told at this time it is something we cannot afford – temple membership is not cheap. Everyone complains about collections at christian churches – but when you go to a temple collections are prohibited and they get their money by annual dues and fees which are well over $1000/year. Many families have differing views on religion – and there are a great many secular and atheist Jews in the world.
      So – that is my story – possibly a blog for another day.
      Thanks for asking
      Mike
      ps – and I do not see anything hypocritical in it at all…I deny the existence of supernatural beings – and I do not like religion. I am not participating in religion and my oldest son knows my thoughts on “god” – he can make up his own mind.

  10. Mr Soviet Says:

    Mike,

    By being an Atheist, you are indeed influencing your own children. They are observing somebody who doesn’t believe in anything beyond this world – and this is what he sees every day.

    The point that Atheists often bring up is the “brainwashing” children go through in religious families. The truth (since that’s what Atheists are always seeking) is that many teenagers make these decisions when they get older, and our influence as parents is still there.

    I guess my point is that no matter one’s beliefs, kids will grow up and do what they want – and if they choose religion or not, they are doing what they want.

    • sapblatt Says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting – I meant that I was not influencing them religiously – but I certainly am trying to influence their ability to think. I want them to grow up and do what they want!
      thanks again!

  11. John Says:

    In my day the ” brain washing ” was continuous and you take for granted what you were taught is true. It was reinforced when I went to a 12 step group that is a nom denominational religion in disguise. By chance I found some atheist literture on Amazon when I was browsing for something to read. I found I could deal with my problem without god and the organization that promotes god over the problem you have. Don’t they put spell checks on these thing anymore. The little red line that says you misspelled a word. I miss that. lol

  12. Kate Says:

    Mike, thank you for sharing.
    This is a very personal struggle of mine, from the very first memories of my early live…
    I really apreciate your style of putting such complicated issues in such simple terms.
    thank you Again.

  13. joeldg Says:

    Just a point, I have worked with a lot of groups in Israel and they have all been very curious about how here in the west we interpret the bible and why people are so ‘crazy’ about it.

    one guy in particular was telling me that he was looking at the translations side-by-side (he reads/writes both) and was saying he felt our version lost all the beauty, subtlety and poetry.

    So, while the Jews assume jesus was just a man and nothing more than a minor prophet perhaps, they can see the bible as the poetry which it is.

    However, every Israeli I have spoke with will flat out say that that the version we have completely loses anything potent of the original translation and many things simply do not translate so are grossly misunderstood / misinterpreted. (thus the bafflement about the western seriousness about it)

    But then, most believers you run across don’t know the bible well. For instance almost all have a startling lack of knowledge about what happened after jesus supposedly died, that nothing, nothing at all was written about him for forty years after the stories had supposedly happened, forty years being a generation.

    Anyway, good points you made..

    • sapblatt Says:

      Thanks Joel – interesting comments about the poetry side of it…of course it changes nothing on the supernatural side. Thanks again – Mike

  14. Raithie Says:

    Very well put.

    It’s interesting to see how some theists can blindly grasp at the “veracity” of the Bible, and then somehow draw lines on what they believe and what they dismiss (ie a genocidal, homophobic and misogynisic God), despite that the Bible doesn not actually differentiate between the two. They’re cherrypicking the parts that they like without even realising it.

  15. John Says:

    I don’t now if this a little off the subject. I am reading a great book about the start of Christianity. It really gives insight on the evils of the Catholic church. There are other religions involved but she devotes a lot of time on the Papacy and things even I was shiocked about. I am not promoting the book but the name of it is ” Divine Right-The Truth is a Lie. ” It is written by a human rights activist by the name Jacqueline Sarah Homan.A bit pricey but I am enjoying it very much.

  16. John Says:

    You will probally have to go to Amazon.She has only three books published so far.

  17. Atheism Is Not A Choice (via Symptom of the Universe) « The Road Says:

    [...] June 28, 2010 NOTE: By choice, I mean that after weighing the evidence and reading and learning – a critically thinking person has to be an atheist, or at the very least agnostic. To remain otherwise would be faith or superstition based and while that may be valid for many it is not a decision that will be arrived at via critical thinking. One of the biggest rules “they” tell us to live by is not to discuss politics or religion. I of course throw … Read More [...]

  18. When Is It Alright to Kill? « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    [...] http://sapblatt.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/atheism-is-not-a-choice/ [...]

  19. A Response to A Response to “Atheism is Not a Religion” « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    [...]  Atheism is Not a Choice [...]

  20. Atheism Is Not A Choice (via Symptom of the Universe) « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    [...] Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/sapblatt NOTE: By choice, I mean that after weighing the evidence and reading and learning – a critically thinking person has to be an atheist, or at the very least agnostic. To remain otherwise would be faith or superstition based and while that may be valid for many it is not a decision that will be arrived at via critical thinking. One of the biggest rules “they” tell us to live by is not to discuss pol … Read More [...]

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