Do I Really Hate Christians? by Christina Knowles

believer Just recently I found out that some people I love very much think I hate Christians. I was shocked, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. I do poke holes in Christian logic frequently, and I can see how this could be misunderstood to be directed at the people who have these beliefs. So, let me clarify what I really think and feel.

I came from a Christian family, and I used to be a Christian, so I know what it’s like to be completely sure something is true with all my heart without evidence. But after a long journey, which started with studying the bible in order to get closer to God, I opened my eyes to the reality that religion and god are man-made constructions to meet emotional and psychological needs.

Even if we are independent, healthy, and happy people, we are not immune to the conditioning of the environment in which we were raised. Even if our trusted loved ones did not teach us about God since birth, we are surrounded by it in our culture. It’s so easy to accept something without really analyzing it when everyone around us accepts it as unquestionable. Even if we don’t accept it at first, when a crisis happens or even a joyful experience, maybe things start going well for us for the first time in a long time, it’s natural to revert back to our conditioned beliefs or to things that were told to us by trusted individuals. We may think that the people who preached the gospel to us were right all along because of some event. When we have this epiphany, it is emotional. We feel relief, peace, and joy. I’ve felt it; I know. But the thing is, this happens in every religion. People, regardless of belief system, experience the same emotional rush and believe that truth has been revealed to them. The sheer number of different belief systems where this occurs is evidence that this is a psychological phenomenon having nothing to do with supernatural truth. Further evidence of this is the fact that a Christian born in America would be a Hindu if born in India. Religions are regional. You are taught to believe it by the people around you.

With this in mind, I do not think Christians are stupid for believing. I think it’s natural. As more and more people are exposed to different cultures and beliefs, more and more people give up religion. Some people are highly invested in their religious beliefs and have no impulse to critically analyze it, and religions discourage it by saying we just need to have faith, as if believing something without evidence is a desirable thing.

But when I opened my eyes to the reality of the contradictions in the bible, the sketchy historical evidence for Christianity, and the scientific impossibility of scriptural accounts and combined that with ethical concerns over the morality of the God of most religions, I just could not believe it anymore, and I don’t want to. But I could not even if I did want to. What is seen cannot be unseen. And with this realization comes the knowledge of the shaky ground upon which Christianity stands. Now, I see holes and fallacies in it everywhere, so it is easy to poke fun of it and disrespect it. But I do not do this out of a dislike of Christians. I do it out of a desire to promote truth.

But in fact, I do sometimes hate Christianity. For the few good things done in the name of the religion, a thousand bad things result. When I see what Christianity has done to the world, to our country, to logic and progress, it angers me. It divides the nation and causes people who would ordinarily be compassionate people to side with heinous politicians who preach hatred and selfishness. It turns normally good people—people who would be kind, loving, and accepting if not for their strict dogmatic beliefs to fear, avoid, and hate those who don’t believe. It makes parents disown their gay children. It creates distance between brothers and sisters whose views are different. Christianity causes people to hate, war, and sue each other over things that should not be any of their business. It causes people to think they can tell another group they should have less rights. It makes people think they are better, more correct, and more moral than other really good people. It causes people to speak harshly and tell others they will burn in hell for just being human. It causes people to shun those who believe differently. It causes children to stop speaking to parents. It causes couples to fight and neighbors to keep to themselves. It causes teenagers to commit suicide because they can’t accept who they are and fathers to call daughters whores and mothers to keep their children from loving relatives who might infect their little ones with rational thinking. It invades our politics, our government, public life, schools, and personal lives. Christians sometimes think atheists are arrogant for not believing in God, but the height of arrogance is to claim that you have the one perfect truth and direct access to God. So, yeah, I have a problem with Christianity. Occasionally, I have a problem with Christians who do the above behaviors.

I do not, however, have any dislike for Christians who are kind and do not insist that others live lives acceptable to their moral codes. I enjoy my Christian friends who care for the poor, see their neighbors as friends instead of enemies, and believe their religion is a personal choice, and that everyone else in the country does not have to abide by the rules and dogma of their particular religions. I do not dislike Christians who like me and treat me with kindness even though I’m an atheist. And the truth is I’d love my family even if they did treat me badly, but they don’t. I do not believe they lack intelligence or critical thinking skills, even though I may believe they are using the fallacy of special pleading to exempt religion from the same critical analysis they apply to everything else.

I also believe I have every right to voice my disbelief in religion, just as they voice theirs. They wear crosses, verbally praise God, ask for prayer, and speak of miracles in their lives, just as I will continue to point out the flaws in the bible, wear atheist t-shirts, and put anti-religious bumper stickers on my car. I don’t assume they hate atheists because they wear a cross or have a fish on their cars, and they should not assume I hate Christians for pointing out how science disproved another verse in the bible.

I don’t want to hurt my Christian friends and loved ones. I just want to be real. I want to be the authentic me, and say what I really think, and I’m sorry that what I think is that Christianity is bullshit. I have the same need to speak truth that Christians feel when they speak of God’s supposed goodness and mercy. I have the need to tell my story of enlightenment, much the same as Christians have the need to tell their stories of redemption. But I don’t need faith to back up my claims because I have the evidence on my side.

Do I want Christians to wake up and see the flaws in their religions? Yes, sure. My life has been so much better since I gave up the fairy tale of religion, just like Christians want everyone else to wake up and accept salvation in their one true god. But do I hate them? Of course not. I remember what it was like to be them. Do I have disdain for their religion? Of course. I remember what it did to me, and I see everyday what it does to people I love. But we sometimes need to set aside our personal beliefs and just care about each other and not worry so much about what the other believes or does not believe. —Christina Knowles

 

Advertisements

Blessed? Aren’t You Special by Christina Knowles

blessed_1063_1280x1024I am so tired of hearing the constant gushing of ‘I’m so blessed because God . . .” Fill in the blank with all the nonsense people say was God’s gift to them—nice house, new car, health, a good job, etc. I don’t think they know how rude and offensive this is taken in light of the millions who are not “blessed,” such as the homeless, the sick and dying, the children currently being molested and abused. Yet, God chose to bless you and ignore them. Aren’t you special.

Sure, many people mean this just as a humble way of saying that they don’t deserve all they have received in life, but many people really do mean that out of all the suffering people in the world, they were chosen to get special treatment. Usually, they connect this to some behavior they have done to trigger God’s blessing. Disguised as humility, they are really saying that they do deserve this special treatment.         blessedThey often state it something like this: “God is so GOOD! Ever since I turned my life over to Him and followed his will, things have all been falling into place for me!” The other one that is popular is giving credit to other people for praying God into submission to their will. It goes something like this: “Sending prayers to you ASAP! We have all our prayer warriors on this!” implying that God will have no choice but to comply with “prayer warriors” fighting the battle for God against Satan. Apparently, God either needs permission to stop Satan from wreaking havoc, or he’s not capable of doing it on his own. Maybe he just needs the popular vote from his followers to decide that finding a missing child is worth his attention.

Of course, if things come out in their favor, yay God! He is soooo GOOD!!! Yeah? Well, what about everyone he didn’t rescue? They didn’t have enough Facebook “Amens” or “Sending prayers!” posted, I guess.

And what happens when after all this prayer, they are not “blessed?” They don’t get a new job, their car breaks down, they can’t pay the rent, and the doctor gives the worst news? Are they suddenly quiet? Ashamed that they must have done something to deserve this? Confused, wondering why God has deserted them? Or like, Job, do they give the standard, “Who am I to interfere in God’s plan? He gives and he takes away.”       Some have these reactions, while others continue the vigilant prayers, never wondering why they choose to worship such a capricious and cruel god, even though they would never treat their own children like this. Struggling to make meaning of suffering, they ignore the obvious conclusion. The things that happen to them are merely a result of a combination of random chance, coincidence, and the natural consequences of the choices they and those around them make.

Just as the ancient Greeks were desperate to explain the droughts and floods, the lightning in the sky, and the numerous uncontrollable aspects of their lives, we are desperate to make meaning of tragedy and chaos, so we too, invent myths to explain them and to comfort us. But they don’t comfort us. In fact, they are disgusting and harmful.

To those who believe in this god, is this myth you perpetuate, this god, the same god whom you think is going to send your child to live in everlasting flames merely for being unable to believe something for no good reason? Is this the god that would let a child be raped and murdered in order for those around him to learn some sort of twisted lesson? Is this the god that would allow free reign of ultimate evil for a time to separate the wheat from the chaff? Ask yourself, would a good parent let one child jump in front of a moving truck to teach the other child to look both ways? Would a loving parent let home invaders in to terrorize and kill just to see who finds the faith and strength to not give up? This is one twisted god you serve. And that’s what I think of every time you post how blessed you are.

Stop saying that when you do things right, or when you experience random good “luck” that God is blessing you. Stop saying that every time you have a good day, miss all the red lights, and find a parking space that God has blessed you. Stop saying that your expensive house, good job, and new car are the results of God’s goodness and love for you. Not only is it an affront to common sense, it’s cruel. How do you think that makes the abused woman feel? The starving child? How are they supposed to take it when you credit God for giving you a big house, a nice job, and lots of friends? If God would really do all that for you, why wouldn’t he throw this molested or neglected child a break? So that’s what some of us are thinking every time we read your ridiculous posts. Look, no one has a problem with you being grateful, but stop acting like you are chosen to miraculously be rescued from the suffering that God chooses to ignore in everyone else’s lives. Please.—Christina Knowles

90 Days with God: A Sincere Attempt to Believe the Unbelievable by Christina Knowles

devotionsTwo years ago, I became very frustrated with my back and forth relationship with belief. After feeling confident about coming out as an atheist, I had an “epiphany” that I was wrong and decided to determine what it was that I believed once and for all. Once and for all—quite an unrealistic expectation as I look back on it. But I was tired of waffling between Christianity and unbelief in any god at all. I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision, but as it turns out, I don’t really get to make a decision about what I believe. No matter how much I try to choose my beliefs, my beliefs just are. I can choose to look at things with a skeptic’s eye, or I can choose to ignore problems with claims as far as not investigating those nagging doubts, but in the end, I can’t un-know what I’ve learned, and I can’t deny logic. I just can’t choose to have faith. I have come to realize that belief is not a choice once the eyes are opened. It’s like seeing your parents fill your stockings in the middle of the night before Christmas. The illusion of Santa Claus is forever shattered. But I did try.

At one point, I wondered if I was just doing Christianity wrong. After having this epiphany that I was wrong about God not existing, I still struggled with faith, especially in the bible. I just couldn’t make myself believe that it was the inerrant word of God. It was full of contradictions, there was no original text to track changes, many things clearly contradicted what we know from science, but most of all, God did not seem like a god to me. He seemed like a man, a man created by a patriarchal culture, a flawed man, who valued vengeance, and demanded worship to feed an ego that seemed to go against my idea of an all-powerful perfect and good god. Not only that, the god of the bible seemed to contradict himself. He demanded things from us that he did not deliver on himself, namely humility and mercy. He also created imperfect beings, gave them free will, but demanded that they “freely” obey him, accept him, believe in him, or be punished.

Furthermore, it really bothered me that many places in the bible blatantly state that God causes certain people to not believe; he closes their eyes and hearts to the truth, so they cannot receive him and salvation. How is that free will? And how is that fair? Supposedly, he then uses them to fulfill his purposes. Not only does this seem unfair, it seems downright evil. But because I had this “revelation” that he was real (It is worth noting here that this epiphany came to me during a theatrical performance of Paradise Lost in which I closely identified with Lucifer), I thought it must be me. Maybe I wasn’t praying enough, confessing enough, or I didn’t have enough faith because I didn’t read the bible enough, everything that most churches will tell you that you need to do in order to develop a close relationship with God. So, I decided to do everything I could to do what was supposed to help me believe and have the right attitude. I committed to spending ninety days with God, praying, asking for faith, asking for God to reveal truth to me, reading the bible, journaling about what I read, and worshiping with music and meditation.

Every day I started by asking forgiveness for my unbelief and by praying Psalms 51:10-11, which says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (NKJV). I prayed for God to work in my heart, and I was sincere. It is worth noting that when I began this ninety-day commitment, I actually believed God was real even though I struggled with what kind of god he was.

I began reading the New Testament in Matthew and read through Acts. Everyday I would read a chapter or more, continuing until coming to a logical place to stop in the narrative, or slowing down when I required more thought on a passage. I would highlight it, meditate on it, pray for understanding, and then journal my thoughts and a prayer or two to God. I would end with another similar prayer, but more personal. Later in the day, I would listen to praise music and worship along with it. I would meditate on God or scripture as well. I did this whole-heartedly, expecting God to work in my heart.

When I first made this commitment, I honestly thought to myself that this was my last chance. I had devoted hours, days, and weeks to reading theology, bible commentary, listening and calling into Christian talk shows, talking to pastors, and looking for answers to questions I didn’t understand. I thought if this didn’t work, I was done. I would devote no more of life to searching in vain. The first few weeks were hard. I didn’t want to do it, I dreaded it, and I even had nightmares about the church being a cult that I needed to escape. Some people said this was a spiritual attack, and others said it was my subconscious telling me what I really thought about the religion. I’ve come to believe the latter.

Previously, I had always thought that most of my problems were with the Old Testament version of God. He is the one who commanded that whole races be wiped out, including small children and people who had nothing to do with whatever the rest were guilty of. He was the one who said to stone children who disobeyed, kill homosexuals, and plunder villages, leaving no one alive. But while reading the New Testament, I saw similar contradictions. For one thing, Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles advocated for the behavior in the Old Testament and keeping the law. And then I read the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. To paraphrase, the early church members sold their personal belongings and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet to distribute to anyone as they had need. Well, Ananias and Sapphira sold their land, and gave some of the proceeds to the church. Peter confronted them saying, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:1-4, NKJV). Ananias, after hearing these words, fell down and died. Then Peter asked Sapphira if the amount they gave was the whole price they had received, and she lied, saying yes. Then Peter, knowing she lied, asked, “‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5; 9-11, NKJV). Presumably God struck them down for having an unfortunately natural human reaction. Yes, I realize that in Christianity, natural human reactions are sin, but if Ananias and Sapphira would have been given a minute to think about it, feel guilty about it, they most likely would have changed their minds and given it all. I mean, they didn’t have to give any of it, so they obviously believed in the cause, but the normal human reaction is to be afraid, afraid to give up everything and trust. If they were condemned for a momentary lapse of trust, then we were all doomed.

Whenever I’ve heard this taught in church, the pastor always emphasizes that Ananias and Sapphira lied to God, not just men, and it wasn’t about the money. So what? Does that make it right? Does that mean they deserve to be struck dead? I’ve always had a problem with a major tenet of the Christian religion—the idea that because we are all sinners, we deserve to go to everlasting punishment. I agree, we are all flawed and sometimes do immoral things. No one is perfect. No one is worthy—wait, worthy of what? Heaven? Life? Punishment for sin is death. Okay, that seems reasonable, maybe, I mean if we’re talking just not living forever. But flaming torment without end? I don’t believe anyone deserves that. To me that sounds suspiciously like a human invention, an angry vengeful, wronged, and bitter human answer to taking care of people who do things they don’t like, or perhaps, someone who wants to frighten people into conformity. So, I don’t care if it was about the money or lying to God (the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira). They didn’t deserve it. And I don’t believe a loving father-God makes examples out of his children, so others will learn. Would you let one of your children step in front of a speeding vehicle, so the rest of your children will learn to look both ways? Of course not. I longed for answers, but everywhere the answers were shallow, didn’t make any sense, or just fell way too short of logic. And my problems with the New Testament don’t end there. How about the whole concept of blood sacrifice? But that’s another blog.

Anyway, I continued reading, praying, and worshiping, but my heart moved further and further from God. Did I even want to believe this stuff? The miracles didn’t bother me. If God created the world, then he could part the Red Sea, but the fact that he didn’t bother showing us any of these miracles made me wonder, made me doubt. Of course, the entire creation story completely contradicts what we know about the earth and the universe, so maybe it just isn’t supposed to be taken literally. But it comes down to this for me: Doesn’t he want us to believe? Isn’t he capable of showing himself to an unbelieving world? Wouldn’t a loving and powerful god know just how to reach each and every one of us? Maybe he just doesn’t care. Maybe he is evil. Probably, this god just doesn’t exist. The stock answer from Christians is that we just don’t understand the mind of god, he wants us to have free will, and it’s to test our faith. From the bible, I think we understand the mind of god too well—he acts just like a violent, sexist tyrant with the prejudices of an ancient patriarchal society. Free will doesn’t make sense because even if we knew God existed, we could still choose not to worship him. Satan and his followers did. Faith shouldn’t matter because the Old Testament people weren’t required to believe without seeing. They had miracles in their faces every day. Why should we be required to believe on less evidence?

But what was most disturbing to me were the contradictions in the bible about the basic tenets of salvation. Every religion claims to know exactly what, as Paul puts it, is the “Way” to salvation, but how could they, when it is not at all clear in the scriptures? For example, and I could give you many, it says in Acts 2:38, Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (NKJV). When I ask about this, I always get referred to a different part of scripture that says the opposite. But that only proves it’s contradictory, not which way is right. The very fact that it is contradictory points to none of it being right.

Then the other thing that many Christians disagree about, but seem to think it is really a non-issue, is the idea of predestination or Calvinism–that God chooses whom he will give knowledge and faith to, and who will be saved. Here is one verse among many that supports that, “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them’” (John 12:39-40). Verses like this make me think that if this God were real, I must be one of those people that God won’t let believe because no matter what I did, I doubted. But then there are verses like John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). Again, this doesn’t prove anyone can be saved; it just proves the bible contradicts itself, and no one, no matter what they say, can know the true “Way,” even within the confines of Christianity.

Now some Christians say that this is not important; we can go on regardless of which way it is, but I can’t see how. If the bible contradicts itself, it cannot be trusted, so therefore, all of it is in question. I do see obvious moral lessons and wisdom from some parts of the bible that are valuable, as I do with the wisdom of many religions, but I cannot base my beliefs on it, especially when so many things in it contradict my own internal moral values like killing groups of people because some of them have sinned, or raping and pillaging, slavery, subjugating women, or condemning homosexuals for feelings they did not choose.

So the conclusion of my ninety days with God was that I don’t believe I spent time with God at all. It was actually confirmation to me that I could never again be a Christian. It set me on a path of critical thinking and skepticism as it has for numerous atheists. So, beware, studying the bible too closely very often causes apostasy. Most atheists I know personally believed at one time, but turned away after studying the bible too closely, usually in an effort to be a better Christian.

I no longer feel the need to force myself to believe. I don’t need or want a reward for being good, and neither do I deserve to go to hell for being human. I’ve come to terms with this. I may be wrong. But if I am wrong, then there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t make myself believe something I don’t. I feel that even if I tried to brainwash myself again, it wouldn’t work because once I woke up and realized the truth, I couldn’t un-know it. By the way, I think that “epiphany” I had was a normal psychological reaction to my cultural conditioning, but I broke free from the cult of religion once and for all—at least I hope so.—Christina Knowles

 

Reviled in America by Christina Knowles

ingodwetrust

via belief.net

Sure, being an atheist means being reviled by the general church-going public, but what’s it like being open about our lack of belief to people we care about? Of course, it depends on whom we hang out with, but even in the most accepting groups of believers, we have to face a measure of condescension. I’ve heard many times that atheists are viewed as condescending and think they are better or smarter than believers, but believers give off this impression as well.

For example, religious or spiritual people often think they are privy to special knowledge, chosen, understand “mysteries” that atheists do not, they often believe they are the only ones with morals, and they feel sorry for poor atheists because they are “deceived.” It’s true that atheists think believers are deceived as well, and after realizing the fallacies of belief in religion, atheists have a hard time understanding how anyone could ever believe in the tenets of any faith, often forgetting that they may have once believed themselves. However, personally, I know I didn’t get smarter when I became an atheist although I did shake loose of my conditioning and began to look at things more objectively, but it is definitely not the easiest way of living in our culture.

Being an atheist isn’t easy in a predominantly religious culture, even when there is no church state or legal ramifications for disbelief. After coming out as an atheist, the suggestions for readings start coming in—bible verses, apologetic arguments, even ridiculous movie recommendations like God’s Not Dead. I never understood that title, by the way, because to think he was dead, we’d have to first believe he was once alive. But, by far, the worst thing we have to endure as atheists, in my opinion, is people who formerly respected us, now seeing us as people with no morals, no compassion, or a group to be feared. Of course, this is ridiculous; we are the same people we always were. Often, we are even more moral since dogmatic views of religion are frequently immoral, and when we let them go, we can have a clearer view of what is harmful to others—but that’s another blog for another time.

And despite popular opinion, belief is not a choice. I cannot force myself to believe something I do not. Being an atheist is not a belief. It is a lack of belief. We do not claim to know there is no god, but we do not have any good reason to believe there is one.

When I became an atheist, I had to choose to come out of the closet and be open about it or hide it and pretend to accept what everyone around me believed in so strongly. This was very scary. Atheists who come out to families and friends risk all the most important relationships in their lives. Even if their friends and families accept them, they will likely look at them differently than before. In addition to this, we do not want to cause pain or anxiety in our loved ones. This is very stressful, but I feel that I need to be real, especially with those who love me, but family holidays may never be the same.

As atheists, we have to deal with people we care about thinking that we have no morals and that we are going to hell. We may pretend we aren’t offended when they think we have no morality and that we are influenced by Satan, whom we think is another imaginary creature. Atheists are not more immoral than any other group of people. We generally think that living morally for no other reason except that it is the best way to live is more admirable than being good out of obedience, the promise of reward, or the threat of punishment. We, generally, think that if we followed the biblical law, we would actually be much more immoral. We are also permanently responsible for our actions, rather than believing we can just ask for forgiveness or do penance.

Still, we are required to endure pity, offers of prayer, and reading suggestions to change our minds when we think our friends and families are the ones who don’t realize the truth. And even though we may understand our believing friends and families are sincere in their concern, that doesn’t make it any more comfortable to deal with. It would be so much easier to pretend. It’s even harder if keeping your logical reasoning to yourself is the only acceptable choice to keep the relationships you value.

As atheists, we have to face the reality that things don’t happen for a reason, and that we create our own purpose in life. We don’t have any higher power to lean on or any hope of some being coming to our rescue, but in the end, we feel like this is a better way of living. We don’t have to try to make sense out of random tragedies. We don’t have to try and reconcile a loving god with terrible things happening to innocent people. Things just happen. Some are preventable and some aren’t, but no one is up there making arbitrary decisions about it.

As atheists, we may have to be careful not to say what we really think when people give God the credit for the skill of doctors and scientists, and then give God a pass when a loved one dies anyway. We may have to ignore the illogical comments about blessings and miracles and prayers and keep our rational thoughts to ourselves. We have to be nice when people offer prayers and platitudes and think that if we had God in our lives, everything would be better, even though bad things happen to them too.

We have to gently tell them we have already read the bible, and that’s one of the reasons we are atheists. Sometimes we have to show them that we actually know more about the bible than they do. We have to patiently listen to the pretzel logic of re-interpretation they go through so that the bible is not really contradicting itself and God is really good after all, despite his heinous acts. We have to kindly refuse to go to church revival services, and remind them that we used to be Christians for many years. We then have to convince them that we really were Christians when they point out that we weren’t true Christians. This is extremely frustrating. I know how sincerely I believed, and no one else can logically claim to know my mind.

Finally, we have to point out the fallacies in the double-standards—that what they consider an infringement on their religious views is actually an infringement on our right not to have a religion, and that in America, Christians are not the persecuted group. We have to point out that this country was not based on Christianity, but founded on a secular morality that our forefathers feared the intermingling of church and state, and that trying to legislate based on religion is the opposite of what the United States was created to do.

So, clearly being an atheist isn’t the easiest path, and being open about it comes with a host of unpleasant realities. Fitting in with the millions of believers around me would be easier in so many ways, but I care about reality and what’s true and makes sense, so although sometimes it’s harder, it’s the best way for me to live a moral and intellectually honest life, and in the long run, it has made me a much happier and less conflicted person. So, I’ll try to be less condescending if Christians will too. I will try to remember that I used to believe if they will consider the possibility that maybe someday they won’t believe anymore either.—Christina Knowles

Easter and the Concept of Blood Sacrifice by Christina Knowles

sacrifice-to-junoAs we enter the season of the Christian holiday, Easter, the concept of the blood sacrifice of the innocent weighs heavily on my mind—or should I say, the fact that people are okay with this concept, weighs heavily. So often Christians seem to brush past the gruesomeness of this tale without really thinking about it, but others dwell on the horrors yet seemingly only recognize the injustice of the punishment and feel guilty and grateful that Jesus was sacrificed instead of them. Needless to say, I have a lot of problems with either of these views.

Let me start by saying that I don’t believe the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus even happened, but let’s say for a moment that it did. The idea that it is moral for an innocent life to stand in substitution for the punishment of an actual guilty party is abhorrent. Of course, the counter argument to this is that he is giving his own life freely, not sacrificing someone else. This still makes no sense. Who made the rule that there has to be blood to pay a price for sin in the first place? God makes the rule, knowing that he’d have to kill his own son to meet the requirements of his own rule. His own rule does not make sense in the first place. Why would the blood of an innocent atone for a guilty party?

Besides, he did not just sacrifice himself/son (however you want to look at it). All throughout the Old Testament, God requires the sacrifice of the innocent—lambs, pigeons, doves, goats, children, including Isaac. The story of Abraham and Isaac, wherein God tells Abraham to slaughter his son, and then at the last minute, says he was just testing him, aside from being cruel and sick, is said to prefigure the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s son. So, how is it righteous to slaughter an innocent animal on an altar for the forgiveness of transgressions by man? You guessed it! Because God said so. He made the rule, yet we are supposed to be eternally grateful that he had Jesus slaughtered brutally, so we could feel guilty (and loved which just creates more guilt in this situation) throughout all eternity. There is clearly no logic in the idea that the blood of the innocent makes up for anything done by someone else. Conversely, it creates another sin to compound the first.

But this saves us from going to hell—which God created, a place supposedly created for Satan and his followers, but for some reason, he is perfectly willing to allow us to go there as well, even for the sin of being unable to believe the unbelievable—unless, of course, he gets his blood sacrifice. Although this is clearly illogical, heinous, and in no way moral to the average person if we took God out of the story and replaced him with any other being, we do see this concept over and over throughout mythology and in many ancient pagan religions. Blood sacrifice was known to be part of religious ritual and even for the forgiveness of sins among early Hebrews, ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Pre-Columbian civilizations, and is suspected in countless cults, not to mention being the subject of numerous ancient myth stories. Obviously, this is a concept familiar and acceptable to primitive mankind, but should we still think it sounds like a good idea today? Should we calmly accept it as the foundation of the beliefs of a modern and educated culture? Do we really think it is justice for a rapist, a murderer to go to paradise because he believes that Jesus took his punishment? Would this make sense to you if you were not conditioned to believe it?

If God wanted to forgive mankind, he could have made any way he wanted to to accomplish that. He could have just forgiven those who were sincere—he’d know their hearts, right? He could have made them do something to make up for their crimes—maybe something along the lines of restitution? Something that fits the crime? If this story was not in the bible and drilled into our heads since birth in our country, would we not find this story abhorrent, immoral, and illogical? We are so used to hearing it that it sounds normal, and when everyone around you believes it, it’s easy not to even question it. I encourage you to question it, examine it, and do so with the attitude of someone who has never heard it before, and see if you can possibly still believe it. This is my challenge for you this Easter if you are willing to accept it.—Christina Knowles

Photo via talesbeyondbelief.com

 

“Reversal” by Christina Knowles

road

“Reversal”

Gazing thickly through the mist

Vagaries fade into the impassable

Tracing ambiguous signs, I persist

In foolishly pursuing the intangible

 

Finally awake, I see the irrational—

The loss of something that doesn’t exist

Arming myself, I’m intractable

I ready myself to resist

 

Oddly, I mourn the infallible

A loving mirage is dismissed

Reality is not compatible

With the spikes I saw in your wrist

 

Light exposes the actual

Meaning of which it consists

Accepting that which is substantial

Disillusioned, I desist

 

Following the path of the rational

Another paradigm shift

Reversal, a practical

Undertaking adrift

 

Hanging on to the palpable

The evidence I enlist

Stoically casual

I betray this fantasy with a kiss—Christina Knowles (2014)

 

 

Angry Atheist or Justifiably Angry? by Christina Knowles

religion We’ve all heard of the stereotype of the “angry atheist,” and I’m really tired of it and all it implies. If you really want to know why this atheist is sometimes angry, I’ll tell you, but you aren’t going to like it. I’m tired of being told that I am angry at a god I don’t believe in. I’m not, but lately I have been angry at some of those who believe in this god.

In general, I am a happy and pretty serene person. I am easy to get along with, I don’t get mad very easily, and I can’t think of any wrong done to me that I don’t easily forgive very quickly. However, I am angry at religion, at least organized religion. I don’t really have a problem with vague beliefs of some abstract spirit world where are there are no holy documents dictating how everyone else is supposed to live, regardless of whether or not they also believe it.

The kind of religion that makes me angry is the kind that is preventing progress, inhibiting intellectual reasoning, brainwashing children and cultures, interfering with the rights of others, and destroying our world. That’s right, destroying it. And I’m not just talking about the terrorism of some Islamic groups, or the overt oppression of homosexuals and women, but, at least in the United States, I blame fundamentalist Christianity for the dumbing down of the world when it comes to science, the environment and climate change, over-population, and for popularizing the belief in the superiority of mankind and his “dominion” over animal life and nature, as well as attempting to morally justify the worship of capitalism and making it acceptable to vilify and oppress the poor. Religion is leading to a mass extinction on our planet.

Any species that takes more than it needs from its environment eventually becomes extinct. The only way out of this that I can conceive is education. Education in science, history, literature, social studies, math, in everything, including de-bunking religious superstition. As long as people are conditioned to check their brains at the door and believe a book written by bigoted men thousands of years ago, men who had no understanding of science and every reason to perpetuate thought which put them in control. This book causes good people to discriminate against other good people, this book causes women to accept or even welcome their own subjugation, and this book causes intelligent people to dismiss intellectual thought in lieu of “faith,” which leads to denying scientific fact and embracing fantasy notions of escaping this planet for an imaginary perfect place where none of the people they find offensive will be allowed to go.

And when you believe there will be a new earth, why take care of the old one? Why not have “19 kids and counting” if a god will take care of all of them or rapture them up and take them to heaven? We don’t need to worry about the exponentially growing population and the fact that we do not have enough resources to support them or enough jobs available for them as they become adults. And if animals do not have souls, and men do, obviously, men can do whatever they want to them. And prejudice and discrimination against those who do not agree that your god makes the rules is suddenly justified because you are just “trying to save them” and are worried about their eternal souls.

One of the most disturbing things about American Christianity is the apparent worship of capitalism and the disdain for the poor. While, in the past, Christians prided themselves on caring for the poor, this new generation of Christianity seems to prefer quoting aphorisms about God helping “those who help themselves,” “no working-no eating,” and “teach a man to fish,” etc., effectively blaming the poor as being lazy without looking at factors such as opportunity and oppression, instead, promoting corporate greed as God’s blessings for the entrepreneurial spirit. They seem to think that if they please God enough, enforcing his edicts on the world, they, too, will be blessed with riches.

But if you really want to know why I am angry, you first have to understand my perception of religion. While Christians may think I am lost, I think, as a former Christian, that I have awakened and narrowly escaped a cult. I believe that Christians are nice people, more often than not, who have been deceived and brainwashed into joining a damaging and intellectually debilitating cult. This cult lures people in by quoting the nice parts of the bible, and there are a few, very few. These people are drawn in by the idea of an all-powerful and benevolent being who personally created them and loves them. They aren’t immediately informed about this god’s past immoral and psychotic displays of rage on humanity. And when they do run into these passages, eventually, they are explained away with such illogical nonsense as “We can’t begin to understand God,” or “Because God is perfectly just, He has to destroy sin,” (even the innocent children, apparently, and despite the notion that He created it), or my personal anti-favorite, “You just have to have faith.” Why? Why would anyone think it a good thing to believe something for absolutely no good reason, contrary to the observable evidence, and with no supporting evidence of its own? Especially, blissfully ignoring the fact that this god seems strikingly similar to a very flawed, over-emotional, prideful, vindictive, and sexist early Middle Eastern man. This is exactly what I mean. This cult ensures its survival by making sure its members believe that looking too closely at its logic is a bad thing and blind faith is admirable.

I’m sure at this point, some people are thinking that I sound like I am mad at God. I’m not. I don’t believe he exists, but if the god of the bible were real, I certainly would not find him worthy to be worshipped or obeyed, not to mention that he seems to be a trickster engaged in the longest hide and seek game of all time. However, I am mad that this mythology is continuing to block progress and affects millions of people who do not share these beliefs. I am angry that persistent sexism exists because of religion. I am angry that discrimination of all kinds of people exists because of religion, that wars are started over religion, that disdain for the poor exists because of religion, that scientists are scoffed at because of religion, that we are killing ourselves, plant life, and animal life because of religion. I don’t mean to single out only Christianity for the blame; there are other factors, but, in my opinion, it is this dominant religion causing the most harm here in the United States. I am angry that in America, there are still some laws on the books that prevent an atheist from holding political office, which is completely unconstitutional. Personally, I would rather see a person who depends on reason in charge of public policy than someone who wants to determine what is right and wrong from an ancient book that should have long ago been relegated to the status of mythology, a category to which it most certainly belongs. However, we all know that even if there were no “religious test” for public office, the “moral majority” of America would never elect even the most ethical and upstanding atheist as president. An atheist would be forced to pretend to have the popular religion in order to have a chance for a political career in the United States.

Yet, Christians cry religious persecution all the time—whenever they are prevented from forcing their religious dogma on others. It is not enough anymore to spread the gospel, they must enforce their imaginary god’s laws on rational people who think they are delusional. I apologize if this is too blunt, and I want to make sure everyone understands that I do not think Christians are stupid. They aren’t. They are brainwashed, usually from birth, indoctrinated into a culture of Christianity and held there by fear of hell, fear of losing community and family, and being ostracized as godless heathens. When Christians do allow themselves to doubt and question, they are quickly reined in and corrected. And even when they no longer believe, they fear admitting it. I was once among them, and I feel for them, but I refuse to stand by silently while they destroy the world I, too, must live in. So, yeah, I am angry, and I do feel the need to say what I think is really going on, but I am not mad at an invisible dictator in the sky whom I do not believe exists.

I am not an angry person. I am a person who gets angry, especially when it really matters. I am a moral person, and I want to see us solve problems and move forward in a way that best protects our future. So you see, in this way, we aren’t really that different. We both think the other is ruining the world, we both think the other is deluded. However, I don’t think you are going to hell. I think you can be woken up. I think you can snap out of it and realize the wool has been pulled over your eyes. I’m sure you think I could come back to Christianity, but I won’t because I never want to believe something for no reason again. I want to see a new age of reason emerge, and the United States return to its former position as one of the world’s freethinking leaders of democracy and scientific thought, rather than being known as the largest free country still holding on to magical thinking and holding back progress. Reason, in the end, is the only savior out there, and I’m justifiably angry because we are encouraging ignorance and fantasies over rationality at the cost of our future.—Christina Knowles

Alone, I Thrive by Christina Knowles

I wrote this poem in 2009 during a time of struggling to believe in the unbelievable, trying to make sense of a cruel or absent god with no evidence to support that this god existed at all, and finally coming to the realization that God was not cruel; he just did not exist. This was not the beginning of my struggle, nor was it the end, but looking back on this time, I realize that facing the reality that God probably does not exist, I, indeed, am thriving. I say “probably” because I cannot know he does not exist, but I have no reason to believe he does, and living my life based on my best assessment of reality has freed me to blossom and grow with the confidence that I won’t drown when the waves of trouble crash against me; I can swim.

Ocean Storm

via free-download.com

“Alone, I Thrive”

Once again I’m drowning

With You nowhere to be seen

Can’t You see I’m floundering

In the open sea?

 

In my doubt I’m sinking,

Not knowing if You’ll come.

I just can’t help but thinking

More faith would help me some.

 

Could it be Your purpose

To let me drown again?

I think You are not merciless;

There must be a higher end.

 

I reach out to You, Oh Lord,

Grasping at Your hand.

I can see the distant shore,

The fabled Promised Land.

 

I feel Your hand is slipping

There’s nothing I can do.

I feel my heart is ripping,

But Your plan was all You knew.

 

Gazing at the inky sky,

I see the moonlight shine.

I tell myself I shouldn’t cry

For Your will be done, not mine.

 

I tell myself, someday, You will let me see

The purpose in Your plan,

And I’ll understand why You let me

Sink, slipping from Your hand.

 

I’ll understand Your absence

In time I’ll comprehend

Why You don’t come to my defense

No doubt your reason will transcend

 

The silence from You is deafening

Abandoned once again

My hope in You is lessening

My withdrawal from You begins

 

I don’t blame You for Your failure to assist

Me, You are unable to respond

You simply don’t exist

I should have known it all along

But the idea— impossible to resist.

 

So alone in the water, I struggle to survive

Rising to the surface, surging

Forward, I arrive

To the shore emerging

In tact, alone, I thrive

—Christina Knowles (2009)

What I Miss About Being a Christian by Christina Knowles

broken_cross_by_cantabrigian

Photo via deviantart.com

Since I’ve become an atheist, I have had to give up a lot of things I was used to. When giving up religion, God, an entire belief system, of course, there are going to be major changes.

For example, I gave up some prejudices. It’s not like I had obvious prejudice in my life, but I remember feeling sorry for people whom I thought didn’t “know” the truth like I did. When people asked why so many horrific things happen to good people in a world with a supposedly loving god, I thought they just didn’t understand God like I did. After all, what about free will or helping us to grow our characters? I ignored how in the bible, God didn’t really condone free will at all. I mean, is it really free will when you are condemned to everlasting torment if you refuse his commands? That doesn’t even fit our legal definition of free will. At the very least, it would be considered coercion or extortion. And I tried not to think about how a child getting cancer could possibly have a positive purpose. After all, to a Christian, this life doesn’t really matter as much as the afterlife.

Speaking of the afterlife, I had to give up ignoring this life in favor of an unknown possible life after death. As an atheist, I have to face that this life is all I have, so this makes me appreciate each day, see the beauty of now, and make the most of the time I have here instead of dreaming of a day when I get to die and go to some better place. To be honest, heaven never sounded that appealing to me anyway. I’m glad this is the only life I have, and I’m going to make the most of it.

Without God, I also had to give up being a child, being told what to do and how to do it. And without the hope of heaven, I had to give up selfish reasons for being good. Now, I have to decide for myself what I believe is right and wrong and how best to live out my ideals. When I do something for someone, I don’t think there is some invisible father watching me, counting up my good deeds in order to lavish reward upon me in the afterlife. I do it just because it is the right thing to do, it is kind, and I want to live in a kind world with the least amount of suffering for my fellow inhabitants of the earth. And who really wants to remain a child all her life? Aren’t children supposed to grow up someday and think for themselves? Apparently, not God’s children.

I also had to give up a lack of self-esteem and guilt. Being told you are nothing without God, a seemingly cruel and vindictive tyrant, can damage your self-image. Worshipping anyone, including an imaginary being, takes a toll on your self-perception. I’ve always had an issue with the idea of worship anyway. If there were a perfect being, wouldn’t he be too perfect to have an ego problem? If pride is a sin, then the god of the bible, if he existed, would be the biggest sinner of all. Why would he feel the desire to strike people dead and send them to hell for not bowing down to him? Does he have a self-esteem problem? He sounds worse than any monarch I’ve ever read about. But now, I don’t have to believe that something is inherently wrong with me just for being born human. I don’t have to tell myself that I deserve hell when, really, I never did anything to deserve eternal torment. If God created me and chose to make me with flaws, what gives him the right to judge me for it? And expect me to bow down and thank him for the privilege of not being tortured for eternity?

So, I had to give up fear of punishment, especially for thinking. I can’t make myself believe something so flawed and unbelievable. I can’t make myself believe something which has no basis in the reality I experience every day, and I can’t force myself to have the faith God supposedly requires to avoid his wrath. Now that I don’t fear my doubts, but instead embrace skepticism, the world just makes more sense, and I sleep just fine at night. People ask me, “What if you’re wrong?” Good old Pascal’s Wager. The common atheist answer is “What if you’re wrong about the particular religion you chose; what if you chose the wrong one?” But my answer is that if I’m wrong, God will have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do, and if his answers aren’t good enough, I probably won’t even offer him my forgiveness.

Furthermore, I had to give up pretending I don’t have a mind. I don’t have to pretend that the earth is six thousand years old, and that women were created as an afterthought, just to keep men company. I don’t have to pretend to believe that two of every animal on earth fit on a boat, or that we have different languages because God confused them because he was afraid people could actually build a tower to heaven, or that a man lived in a fish for several days because he refused to be a missionary (where’s his free will?). I don’t have to believe that it was a good thing for God to impregnate a barely pubescent, scared virgin teenager or that it was right to accept the blood of an innocent to atone for the sins of the guilty. Now, I can use my brain to think and say that it is actually silly to believe the unbelievable.

But the most important thing I’ve given up is confusion. The entire time I was a Christian, I was completely confused. When I first became a Christian, I wanted to learn all I could. I read, and I studied, but that’s the worst thing you can do if you want to stay a good Christian. The more I learned, the more I realized that the bible was full of contradictions, the god of the bible was a lying, self-centered villain with a maniacal ego, and that Christianity was just another cult like every other religion, based in no more reality than Scientology or the worship of Odin. Now that I am not a Christian, the world seems to make more sense, and I am not constantly in a state of anxiety over trying to figure it out.

So, I gave up my stress over making sense of religion, and with it, I gave up my conditioning—what I was taught from birth to accept without question or logic, what my culture decided I should believe, and I learned to see the world without the blinders of indoctrination. I’ve given up the chains of blind belief, and I feel truly free for the first time in my life.

So what do I miss about being a Christian? I miss out on wasting my life on a delusion. I miss out on forcing myself into a box in which I never fit, and I miss out on overlooking this life while I fantasize about the next, which probably doesn’t even exist. What I’ve gained from giving up on God is the whole world and the ability to be a grown up, making my own decisions, and living this amazing life as I see fit.—Christina Knowles