Sunday, April 20, 2014

Let There Be God But Not In My Foxhole

In the beginning, man created god. Man said, "Let there be God" and God was a formless void. Then man said "Let there be religion," then there was a God created in his image. Now we had us and we had them, those who believed and those who didn't. We could now have someone to thank, someone to blame, someone to give credit and someone to point the finger at in shame. Now man was off the hook for God got all the credit. Man now had convenience and ritual.

Man then created many gods for many purposes. The gods would bring the sun across the sky, they would make the waves crash on the beaches, make the thunder and lightning and change the seasons. A perception of order was created throughout the world. This order was the garden where the seeds of civilizations were planted.

This made sense for a while. Then some interlopers started explaining things using experimentation and proof. So the gods, most of them, got smaller and disappeared. The many gods dwindled to be few, for some down one and for some down to none at all.  Few are left, but linger ... for now. Man loves ritual and this carries on even now that the Bronze Age is over.

The religious bear many gifts for us non-believers. They created temples, churches and cathedrals with spectacular architecture, music and art. They created the Book of Leviticus as a gift to comedians.  For genre writers, they gave the Book of Revelation. For poets, they gave the Book of Psalms. And for us atheists, they gave the Book of Job.

If you believe in God after reading the Book of Job you have to wonder why you would worship this God at all. This is a god that takes one of his children and completely fucks with him to prove a point to Satan. Satan claims that Job is only pious because life is good. To prove Satan wrong, God gives Satan permission to destroy all of Job's relatives and possessions. Satan kills Job's family while they are at a feast and destroys all his possessions. After this is done, Job praises the lord and the smug God gives Job an even better family and possessions. Well that's awesome!  Be pious and God will kill your family and give you a better one. So glad everyone is worshiping this God!  (This is sarcasm in case you haven't noticed.)

Often I find myself having to defend atheism which seems odd since atheists are not the ones with a belief system. One shouldn't have to defend a lack of something. No tomes of atheism or scrolls of atheism exist that I am aware of.  The closest one could find is perhaps a copy of a Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens book, but these are not ancient.  Humanism is close to atheism in that it looks to humanity to resolve problems with the world, but a humanist can still believe in a god. I write this today on Easter Sunday, the most holy of Christian holidays (which they celebrate with chocolate bunnies and egg hunts), because I am a little tired of people bashing atheists. I am usually quiet about my atheism because really it is not something I think much about until someone bothers me about it. I am not sure why I should have to. My memory is imperfect and the sense of history is limited, but I don't remember ever hearing about any groups of atheists flying any planes into skyscrapers. I don't remember ever hearing about any groups of them lynching people from trees or burning people at stakes. Yet I am somehow told occasionally how immoral it is being a non-believer or that all morality comes from God. I have no doubt the mythical Job felt that way. This may just go on my long list of things that I don't understand, but if you need to cling to a Bronze Age superstition to make yourself moral, please do so, but leave me alone if I don't. Don't come to my door with pamphlets and don't fill my Facebook feed with self righteous indignation.

Atheism is not a religion (it is the antithesis of religion), but if it was, it would be the fastest growing religion in America. There is something else growing in America, civility. Violence is down and has been steadily dropping for years. All violent crime has been dropping for decades. Fear of crime is higher (thank you 24 hours news cycles), but violence is the lowest it has ever been. Yes, even gun violence is down. We have big news stories when a shooting happens but overall gun violence is down. I am not so bold that I am drawing a direct line here, but if atheists were so immoral, wouldn't crime be getting higher?

There seems to be two aphorisms being proved wrong here. One is that when the economy gets bad, then crime gets bad. This is somewhat true in that property crime, like theft, has been higher since the economy got bad, but this hasn't affected violent crime. The bigger aphorism of course, that adverse conditions make people turn to religion, that there are no atheists in foxholes, is obviously wrong as well. If people turn to religion when times are hard, shouldn't Atheism be decreasing?

The aphorism that "there are no atheists in foxholes" is particularly egregious to me. Apparently, when conditions get really bad for me, I am going to abandon everything I believe in and start believing in God. There is no basis for this. Many religious people who experience war, like Job become more religious, but many don't. It goes both ways, but conversion doesn't happen, not on any scale whatsoever. It occurred to me one day as a young Catholic that the idea of God just seemed silly and illogical. It wasn't an epiphany, it was too anticlimactic for that. It just happened. It was a great weight lifted off of my back. In the more than 30 years since then, I haven't once considered I was wrong. No crisis, no foxhole, no pamphlet or Facebook video is going to change my mind.

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