Jeffosophy: a collection of possibly useful things I have learned over the years.



Cartoon: man shouting he does not believe in God 

Atheists Are Not are Angry with God

A misbelief held by many Christians is that ex-Christians become atheists because they are angry with God. This is neither true, nor if you think about it, logical. You cannot be angry with someone -- even a supernatural entity -- that does not exist. It is like asking a child, who no longer believes in Santa Claus, if she is angry with Santa Claus. Of course she isn't. One cannot be angry with a mythical guy. Conceivably, she could be angry with her parents for lying about Santa Claus. But, she cannot be angry at the non-existent Mr Claus himself.

Angry with Christians, Not God

And this is where the anger comes in. Some atheists become angry at Christians who actively harass them, ostracise them, threaten them and even physically harm them.

Hang out in atheist forums on the web, atheist groups on Facebook and elsewhere and you will hear horror stories of Christian families who throw their own children out of the house for denying the existence of God. You will hear of atheists who receive death threats from Christians. You will hear stories of entire schools, teachers included, ganging up on pupils who have let it be known that they are atheists.

I have adult friends, especially in America, who have long been atheists, but who are afraid to say anything about it for fear of being penalised at work, ostracised by friends and rejected by family.

So, it is no wonder that many of these atheists become angry at Christians, not the god they fail to believe in, but Christians.

Not All Christians are Unchristian

Now, this is not to say that all Christians are like this. Indeed, most are not. Most are loving and tolerant people. Among my friends are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists. We are tolerant of one another's religions or lack thereof and respect the right of each other to believe as each wishes to believe. I have no desire to convert my religious friends to atheism, nor do they wish to convert me to their religions. For the most part, we simply do not talk about religion, and if we do it is on an abstract or historical level rather than judging each other's beliefs.

So, if Christians do not become atheists because they are angry with God, what drives them to atheism? There are many reasons, of course. But, most of the atheists I know have similar stories to mine. We feel that Christianity does not make much sense from a logical, rational and humanistic perspective. Let me tell you my story.

My Story

As a child, I was brought up in a moderately Lutheran family that went to church regularly. I was raised this way and most of my friends also went to church on Sundays -- except my Jewish friends who went to Synagogue on Saturdays. Going to the weekly religious service was something everyone did. And questioning God was, well, out of the question.

Then one day, when I was in my early teens, a school friend confessed that he was an atheist. My initial reaction was, "Really? I didn't know you could do that!"

His remark really got me thinking. It was an option not to believe in God? Really? Just knowing this made me realise that I had doubts. Indeed, I realised I long had doubts, but largely repressed them because one should not voice doubts in God. Repressed doubts, but doubts nonetheless.

 I should be clear here. My friend did not try to dissuade me in my belief. That he openly did not believe in God -- and was not struck by lightening for doing so -- opened my mind to the possibility that one could not believe in God and still be okay.

Read the Bible

Then I did what a lot of doubting Christians do. I read the bible. Not all of it, but chunks of it. And the more I read, the less sense it made. To me, science made sense. The bible did not. God did not. Jesus did not. And my religious belief quickly slipped away in the comforting wind of logic.

From talking to other atheists and reading accounts in atheist forums and groups, I have found that my story is typical of Christians who lose their religion. When we really look at religion, read the Bible and reflect on what what we know, Christianity simply does not make sense. Indeed, a joke among atheists is that the best book you can give a Christian to read, in order to convert her into an atheist, is the Bible.

To me an omniscient and omnipotent god who is more concerned that I believe in Him than that I do good to my fellow humans has serious self-esteem issues. A God that would allow thousands (most of them probably Christians) to die in the 9-11 destruction of the World Trade Center, but then leaves something that looks like a cross as proof of his existence has a darker sense of humour than mine. A God who gives us free will but sends us to hell if we do not do as he wishes is a control freak.

On the other hand, the big bang, evolution, the human mind, science, these are all things I respect. I won't say I believe in them. It doesn't matter whether or not I believe in science. Science is a discipline. It is a rational approach to understanding the world around us and enabling us humans to create great (and terrible) things. If I stop believing in science, it doesn't matter. Science doesn't care. Science will continue to exist as a discipline. God, on the other hand, only exists, to me, if I believe in Him.

I do not. But, I am not angry with him about it. I never have been.



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