Archive for April, 2013

Being An Atheist XV: People are a Lot Less Religious Than They Would Like You/Us to Think

April 5, 2013 Leave a comment

In a Blog that I haven’t followed in four years, a blog that followed the terrible “Left Behind” series of books page by page, the author of the blog explained a little game that he liked to play with American Christian right wingers. He opened by declaring that the United States was not a Christian country, and when the person reacted negatively by responding that a great majority of Americans do consider themselves Christian, he simply agreed with them. The problem was, the author stated, was that no matter how hard you agreed with a specific point the fundamentalist tried to argue the point as if you had disagreed. For instance, and this is one example that I remember; when being told that so many people were Christian, he would respond that he agreed since a number of Christian holidays are celebrated by the country a fact unique to Christianity (seriously, name another religion’s holy day that gets any national recognition), the person he was talking to would respond about how stores suppress the phrase “Merry Christmas” even though this actually doesn’t happen (and even if they do, it doesn’t matter since a private company gets to do whatever it wants unless you want the government to mandate what people say). Agreeing to that would give another response about how America isn’t Christian enough because they may do the holidays but they don’t give to the needy, when that is agreed upon you simply say that social programs that exist need to be funded more so that the poor can eat, have a roof, etc. Suddenly the Christian isn’t so, well, Christian anymore.

Find a news story where a government program is going to be initiated to help the needy and you’ll find numerous comments about free-loaders and socialism, welfare queens and drug addicts, that vastly outnumber any comment talking about what a good program it is or even one that criticizes the program on purely practical reasons. If this country is full of Christians, and every poll/survey/census taken seems to back it up (including a recent one where over half the respondents wished they read the bible more) how is this the reaction to a program that wants to help those who ask for it? It would be different if the program was causing taxes to go up (which it never is), but even then I don’t recall the Christian call to charity to include a bunch of conditional statements or ways out. It’s not like god says in Proverbs 28:27 “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses—unless he thinks the poor are on drugs or just lazy then the curse will be layeth on the giver.” I always thought that one of the hallmarks of the Christian religion, especially as this new Pope has been proclaiming, was the work with the poor and the destitute. The command of the followers of Jesus was not only to give but to give anonymously and without pomp and ceremony (Mark 12:41, Luke 21:1-4), so any government program that takes tax money and distributes it to programs to help those in need of it is actually doing the Christian a favor, provided that Christian is doing it out of the goodness of their heart and not out of fear of prison/hell.

Atheists, like myself, get a lot of flack for not being as charitable as religious people. It’s almost an impossible thing to test, because giving to a church that is larger than a shopping mall is not my idea of charity, and a lot of giving is done anonymously, but I will concede the point. Sure, religious people give more, but then again, they are told to do so by their god. Even then they still don’t want to, they resist a command that will send them to hell and then turn around and tell a person like me that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in god. It doesn’t make sense, it’s like the guy who gets the prohibition against homosexuality tattooed on his arm even though earlier later it is explicit that tattoos are forbidden (lev 20:13 and lev 19:28 respectively).

I may not like the rules of religion, but I don’t have to follow them because I don’t believe in any of it. I would at least expect those who are going to be discussing the superiority of religion over atheism to follow the teachings of the religion they profess rather than just speak the words. Those “Christians” who go to mass every week, believe in Jesus, and think that literally/figuratively a bland wafer changes into the actual meat of Jesus; they are supposed to follow the rules of the religion and it shouldn’t be up to the atheist who is apparently going to hell to remind them of what their standard of moral goodness is supposed to be. Even if every atheist/agnostic/non-religious person in the world was a lazy person who didn’t want to follow the rules, it doesn’t actually matter because they don’t have to follow the rules, they’re out of the game. You people in the game who want to pretend that just going to a building and staring at some guy talking for an hour or more once a week makes you morally superior are supposed to at least not complain when it comes time to help the poor.

The apparent distinction is that when a religious rules interferes with the daily life of the religious person, the inconvenience is just discarded. Of course, I don’t mean this for every religious person out there, I mean it for those people who think that I, and people like me are destroying society while turning around and complaining that some program is going to help the poor. I know that some religions have indoctrinated its followers into thinking that everyone is a hypocrite and a sinner, but that doesn’t mean you get that excuse as a way out. Either follow the religion or don’t, just stop trying to have it both ways. One thing that separates us from the religious is that we can be hypocrites but not institutional ones.

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