Blame it on my parents. They always told me to “think for yourself”. I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that.
Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.” Too late. When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent.
Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.
When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “Make me go.”
I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?” Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.
Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me. I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time. They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.” (as if they ever works for anyone) After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell. I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.
I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there. Save me a nice place, OK?” He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child. By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool. My parents insisted that I apologize. I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.
For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week. So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year. By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school, I had completed a couple of years of college. Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself. I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again.
The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married. After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more. I’d like to say that worked, but subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation. Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.
I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age. In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.
What did I learn? Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions. There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.
Penn Jillette, an Atheists Guide to the 2012 Elections Are they all really crazy?
Is It Important If Jesus Existed?
There is not much evidence to support the actual existence of the biblical Jesus. Does it really matter? Which is more important, the message of peace, tolerance, and love or the physical presence of an individual person who may or may not have actually existed?
The message of Jesus, as most would believe, is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In modern language, treat people fairly, honestly, and without prejudice or intolerance. That’s pretty simple and good advice. True, it’s not always so easy to do, but, acting in our own best interests, it is a good way to live. Cheating people, taking advantage of them, or otherwise hurting someone unnecessarily will ultimately not be good for ourselves. So, whether Jesus actually existed is not nearly as important as following the very good, true advice attributed to him.
Consider this. What if there were no record of say, Thomas Jefferson, until 40 or 50 years after his death? Then, there were suddenly one, then several people writing about things he said or did. Would modern day people doubt his actual existence and believe he was a fable like Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill?
In the case of the historical Jesus, there is not one contemporary record of his existence. The Romans, who otherwise kept very good records, never mentioned a figure who was supposed to be socially, politically, and spiritually so significant. Not until the Gospel of Mark, written from 40 to over 100 years after the supposed crucifixion, is there any mention of Jesus. If we look at the fables of Horus, Attis, and Mithra, we see amazing similarities. Born in low circumstances on December 25, 12 followers, executed at an early age, son of a god, resurrected, the list goes on. It would appear that the early church, in need of a powerful central figure, “borrowed” from earlier myths to create a rallying point for their religion.
As stated by Dr. Bart Ehrman, Professor of religious studies at the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill, NC said, “In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman scholar, politician, philosopher, or poet. His name never appears in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”
Again, what does it matter? The important thing is the message. Be good to each other, help the less fortunate, do not discriminate because someone is not like you. Be like the Good Samaritan and act kindly to all. Are those things more valuable if they were spoken by an actual person or lessons a group of people agreed were important? Being able to assemble these things into a coherent collection of quotations from one person makes them easier to understand and practice. Maybe that’s what the founders of the religion had in mind?
Where Is God?
We can demonstrate that no god exists. Certainly not in the Jewish/Christian/Islamic omnipotent father-figure image. Notice the contradictions in observed reality with the image of the loving god that is aware of “every sparrow that falls” and “numbers the hairs of your head”. Clearly, no such deity exists and there is no divine intervention in either a positive or negative sense. If there were, at any moment the 27,000 children around the world dying of malnutrition and starvation be permitted? Would evil be permitted to exist? Would people benefit from evil deeds and good deeds go unrewarded?
For that matter, it can be mathematically demonstrated that prayers are not answered, either. Unless you consider a success rate of .01% to be “answered”. That’s far below even the rate of random chance. Even the behavior of religious groups when confronted with practical matters demonstrates that they do not believe in the “power of prayer” either. If they did, they would simply pray to god to provide their churches with all that was needed instead of extorting money from their members. If they don’t trust that, they must not have much faith in their “god” either.
Let’s All Have Faith
If something cannot be proven, there is likely to be a reason for it. If something cannot be seen, it can still be proven. Gravity cannot be seen by of our current technology. But its effects can be seen and measured. Just try dropping an iron weight on your toe. Or do you think that was a spiritual effect by god to punish you for being stupid enough to drop it on your toe?
Gravity can be measured, its actions observed and even predicted. I knew that weight was going to hurt your toe. You probably did too, so you decided not to drop it on your foot.
“But you must have Faith!” OK, I am willing to test that. Are you?
I invite you to the roof of my building. It’s not too high, between 25 and 30 meters (80 to 90 feet). I hand you a large belt and tell you to put it on. As you are buckling it, I explain that it is an anti-gravity belt I have built. I add that it repels gravitational force, just as ordinary magnets repel each other.
Like magnets, the closer it is to the earth, the more powerfully it works. So, when you first step off the roof, you’ll fall fairly fast. But as you near the concrete parking lot below, you’ll slow down until you stop just a short distance above the ground. Way more fun than bungee jumping, right?
Now go on, step off the roof. What? You want to know how it works? The entire secret was revealed to me by a space alien in a series of visions. He also told me that drinking too much alcohol was bad for me. I know that to be true, so this has to be true, too. It’s too complicated for you to understand anyway. You need me to interpret its action for you and for you to have faith.
Yes, I’ve already tried it, now it’s your turn. Off you go now. Take a leap of faith.