This post is about atheism. Specifically it is about my atheist beliefs and how being an atheist affects me. Because of the nature of this topic, there may be some content in this entry that could be considered offensive. Please keep that in mind before reading further.
Atheists in the UK are calling for a de-baptism as a way to remove themselves as members of a religion that they were initiated into as infants against their will. They feel that they were wrongfully inducted into a group whose beliefs they do not share, and they want out. An interesting quote from the article:
The Church wonders aloud why, if atheists and secularists believe baptism is so meaningless, they are letting it upset them.
Mr Hunt supplies his own answer.
“Evangelical noises are getting louder and louder.
“The recent change in European legislation has led to religious beliefs not being challenged at all, and there’s no limit at all on what anybody can claim as a valid religious belief.
“I think it’s important that more people speak out and say they don’t subscribe to the historic beliefs of the Church.”
I am completely in awe of this; I had no idea that renouncing your baptism was even an option. I kind of want in on this. This may seem like a silly and childish gesture to some people, like I am making it a point to leave the church very conspicuously and make a big show of it, but I think that it would mean more than that to me.
I was raised Catholic and I was an active member of my church. I volunteered at church functions, I sometimes did readings during mass, I even taught Sunday school for a year. I have been baptised, have received the Eucharist, and have been confirmed. Despite all this, I cannot remember ever thinking that my faith brought me comfort. As I grew older, around 10 or 11 I guess, I realized that I didn’t believe in any of it, but I figured that everyone else felt the same way as I did. I mean, when you pray or talk to God he doesn’t really talk back to you, right? So maybe all those times that I prayed but didn’t feel any different at all afterwards I was doing it wrong? I would have liked to just stop attending mass, but I knew that it would make my mother sad, so I kept going, kept praying. When I was 13 it was confirmation time, so I did that too. I signed the book and repeated the words that were to deepen my connection to the church, all the while knowing I was lying. I lapsed a bit, but I tried to force my faith. My senior year of high school one of my good friends was killed in a car accident and I thought that turning back to my Catholic faith would help comfort me, but it didn’t.
Strangely enough, I didn’t fully embrace atheism until I was in college, my very Catholic college. I met people who felt their faith fully and lived it deeply. Listening to them talk about the connection that they felt with God, I had never heard anyone speak of their faith like that. That was the breaking point for me, I was off the agnostic fence. And now here I am, wanting to renounce my confirmation. I wonder if I can call the church I was baptised in, tell them to cancel my entry in the records. Call the church I was confirmed in, tell them to cross my name off the list. How does one say that tactfully?
So why would I even bother going through the trouble? Because the Catholic church claims to have 1.147 billion members and I don’t want to be counted as one of them. The Catholic church stands for too many things that I don’t believe in and I don’t want to be a member. It is the same reason that I don’t want to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan. This is not to say that the Catholic church is in any way comparable to this organizations, all I am saying is that you don’t maintain membership with a group that you don’t support. When the Catholic church makes a statement, 1.147 billion supporters seems like an awful lot of people.
So now I have talked about being an atheist. When people discover this about me, I get mixed reactions. Some people don’t care, and that is my favorite reaction. Some people believe the same, also an okay reaction. Occasionally I get people that just cannot accept it, and insist on praying for me or trying to convert me or something. Which I am also okay with, up to a certain extent. Pray all you want, but please don’t expect me to thank you for your time. Try to convert all you want, but please don’t be disappointed or angry when you don’t succeed. Sometimes people are curious, which is an okay reaction too. Some people just cannot understand why I don’t believe in anything. Someone once asked me why I hate God so much. I don’t hate God, i just don’t believe in him. Someone once asked me if I was angry at God. Well, you can’t really be angry at something you don’t believe in, but I guess I am pretty angry. Yes, I am an angry atheist and my anger is not for nothing.
Between now and the 2008 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates — their education, age, religion, race, and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be …, would you vote for that person?
Fifty-three percent of responders would not vote for a qualified candidate from their own political party if he or she was an atheist. More than half, based on religious beliefs alone.
A president elected during my lifetime has said that I am not a citizen of the United States because I am an atheist. (Emphasis is mine.)
When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency, as incumbent vice-president, one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O’Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates, had the following exchange with then-Vice-President Bush.
Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I’m pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I’m just not very high on atheists.
This is not to say that I feel personally attacked everyday. Of course that is not the case, most people are too apathetic to really care about what I do or do not believe in, nor do I think that my opinions are important enough to be a big issue. But the fact still remains that I and people that believe the way I do are not a generally accepted group. Until recently the atheist population has lived in silence, paying our respects to the God we don’t believe in and his followers by biting our tongues and keeping silent as religion creeps into our lives. We watch as homosexuals are denied the right to marry, stem cell research is banned, women’s rights to choose are threatened, and children are allowed to die of curable ailments, all in the name of religion in some form or another. And now that there are some very vocal atheists out there, with their often condescending tone and arrogant attitude, I’m not sure if we’re really all that better off. I think the last thing that atheists need is to be represented by people who come off as condescending and arrogant.
I’m not at all saying that all religion is bad and that everyone should be an atheist. I realize that my beliefs are not for everyone. I think that religion is an okay thing. It does a lot of good for the world and for people. But I also think that it does a lot of harm, which seems to contradict the very things that religion stands for in the first place. All I’m saying is that I’m angry. Angry that religion holds such privilege and I am expected to just accept it. What do I mean by privilege? Wish me a Happy Easter in a few weeks and I’ll tell you.