#MondayBlogs – Rants on Faith : What Went Wrong Pt 2

(This is a continuation of what I now believe will be a 5 part blog. To read part 1, click HERE.)

So last week, I touched upon a conversation I had with my mother on how they couldn’t understand how someone like me, with such an upbringing and record of service in the Catholic church, could have abandoned all such teachings and become an atheist.   Being staunch Catholics themselves, they asked themselves again and again, what went wrong with me?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And to ALL of my family, my path was no different than yours. Even as late as university and so on, I was still a true believer. I sang in the choir. I read the scripture before the crowds. I even mentored other youth in the faith at one time or another. My gal, WK, when talking about all of this, even told me that I was still a believer even 8-9 years ago.

But what made the difference that made me reject ALL religions, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Cthulhu, Buddhism, Taoism, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, Elvis, Zeus, Odin and all the rest, was a triple knockout combo of logic, morality and ethics.

This week, I’m going to cover a bit about the logic part. That came through introduction to some ideas proposed by Robert Heinlein and of all things, an episode of the Twilight Zone and much later, to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.

Robert A. Heinlein is one of the grandfathers of Science Fiction, and a unabashedly unapologetic atheist. He was a war hero, a writer of worlds beyond measure, a believer in the evolution of society and more. His words through Stranger in a Strange Land, to Friday to the Lazarus Long tales, hit and resonated a chord inside me. Certain key words taken from the novel Friday had hit me hard, and put that first chink in my Armour of faith…

A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.” [Robert A. Heinlein, from “Friday”]

These words had a ring of truth, and it resonated with somewhere deep inside me. But it had only dented my faith, it didn’t break it. It would take the words of another science fiction writer to do that, in an episode of the Twilight Zone, Dead Run.

In this tale, truckers were entrusted to bring the souls of the damned to Hell. But there was a problem, a rebellion in Hell had started, as one of the truckers had died in service to God and found himself among the damned. He would then discover that people were being sent to Hell for the wrong reasons, people who were good at heart yet had taken a stance on something that someone of faith might object to such as fighting to prevent a book burning of novels that might have sacrilegious text. And the souls of the damned would tell their tale, of those sent down because they were atheists, or because they overdosed on drugs but never hurt anyone else and so on.

That was the tale that knocked a hole into my sureness of faith.  The issue I had was with what I had been taught about religion as a child to adulthood, which is that basically all non-believers will pretty much go to hell regardless of the good they did in their life.  This wasn’t the act of a loving, forgiving God at all. Now having been introduced to the actual consequences in this tale, I suddenly I now saw this as an act of a malicious bastard, a cruel child who strikes out when he doesn’t get his way. It made me wonder how could anyone be good without the context of God, and the story of the damned atheist suddenly put things into a context I honestly never saw before. More importantly, when taking into the context that there are over 6 billion on the planet, of which only 1.2 billion are Catholics or Christians in one way or another, that means that just under 5 billion are going to go to hell just for the sin of being born in a country where “The Word” hasn’t even reached them. So, was God now allowing people to be born for kicks just so he can keep Hell pretty well full of people to toss into eternal fire? My instant reaction as a HUMAN BEING was… WTF?

I slowly started to look further into the texts and the dogma of the church. I would read the declarations of the Pope, and started to put some of that religious upbringing into focus through the eyes of an adult as opposed to an indoctrinated child. I would learn more about the causes the church had fought, such as women priests, abortion, and the treatment of gay people and the like. And with each page, I found myself having doubts about what the church taught me. These words, from the leadership going all the way to the Vatican, struck me as wrong. And the more I would look into it, I honestly started to be ashamed for what I was a part of.

Let’s take the topic of female priests for example. In the here and now, to even breach the possibility has gotten believers around the world excommunicated outright. Why? Mary Magdalene could easily be considered to be one of the apostles, She was recruited by Jesus, and was a recipient with the other 12 when the supposed miracle of tongues occurred. She went out into the world, and did her best to spread the word, just like the others.

So if Jesus didn’t care, why isn’t there any female priests? Why are nuns are at best second class citizens in service of Christ. And I read further. In the earliest days of Catholicism, there were female “priests” of sorts who would spread the Good News. There wasn’t any such separation, but all that changed when Emperor Constantine became the head of the church.

That hit me hard. It wasn’t some declaration by God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit that set the Church on this path. It was a declaration made by a man, based on the social conventions of his time. Yet, it was one that was readily approved of by the faithful, because said faithful believed that God spoke through this man.

But, I was raised and exposed to strong women in my life. My mother is and has always been the cornerstone of my family. One of the first women to graduate from Loyola College in finance, and later became the Director of Finance of a hospital. My grandmother on the Lo side, despite her many faults and my very personal misgivings about her, raised a small army of children through the ravages of World War II, the murder of her father by the Japanese invading forces, and still bring the family through the dark economic times that followed. She had to endure conditions that would break most people, man or woman, and I have to give credit where credit is due. Who’s to say she wouldn’t have made a hell of a priest? And as I look out now where women are leaders on the global stage, dreamers and thinkers throughout all walks of life, who says they can’t be effective priests? The answer is easy; a group of conservative men in their late 70’s to 80’s in a cloistered marble palace in Vatican City.

There are so many many more topics I’d love to hit on this, but that would have to be covered in some other blog entry. The treatment of the LBGT community. Birth control. Abortion. Divorce. This and so so many other topics I will write about one of these days.

So now through my own investigations and examination, my belief in the Church was thoroughly shaken. Then along came Christopher Hitchens…..

End of Part 2

Rants on Faith: Why are some atheists so angry at religion?

A few weeks back, I read this letter from Timothy Havener, the son of a Fundamentalist Christian minister and an atheist.  And what he wrote here brought my feelings in recent years to light.

As a child, I was a devout Catholic, going to morning mass, serving as a Pastoral reader, the Church Choir, and even aspired to religious service.  As I got older though, and strangely thanks to the Jesuits who asked me to really think about why I believed, I found myself falling completely out of faith altogether and into a place where I feel deep inside where I should have been a long time ago.  But despite it all, I still find myself being drawn to a almost militant fervour in my rejection of religion, even as I am so dedicated to growing as a citizen of my city and country. But I still didn’t quite understand why I was so angry at religion as a whole, and the Catholic Church in particular.  Mr. Havener, in this letter of realization of himself, explains it so well as he, and so many other of my fellow atheists, have found themselves in the same place.  It’s betrayal.  I could say more… but I think I’ll let Mr. Havener explain it all himself:

Since I have become an atheist there is a growing anger inside me that sometimes flowers into a quiet, and other times not so quiet, rage. Theists and even some atheists do not seem to understand this emotion, or they trivialize it. Even I have not fully understood this causal effect of my deconversion. I know that I am angry about the lost years of my life wasted on delusions of grandeur and superstitious nonsense, but I have felt that was not really an accurate depiction of the deep emotional undercurrents I have experienced coming out of faith.

As a child, I remember that I loved to help people. My parents would often take me with them as they ministered to the sick, the elderly, and the needy. I was taught to love people as Jesus loved them. When I grew older my human compassion and empathy was filtered through a world view that instructed me to preach self condemnation and guilt as love. After all, if you truly loved your fellow man, you would do anything to prevent their eternal soul from burning in torment forever. So, I became a missionary to spread the ‘good news’ to those who needed the salvation of Christ. This became my mission in life and it consumed me.

When the walls of indoctrination started to crumble in my later years, I began to feel a sense of panic and fear. Fear that my mind was betraying me and that Satan was tempting me away from the Lord. At the same time I felt a drive to seek the truth fervently as I had been taught to do. This love for ‘truth’ and understanding had taken an unexpected detour to a place I never thought I would find myself. I would wrestle in prayer for hours in tears alone in the dark, pleading with a God who was never there. There were nights when I would wake up in cold sweats as if I could feel the fires of hell licking my feet.

After a while, when the fear and guilt subsided, I saw much more clearly what exactly religion had done to me. It had taken the innocence of a child who wanted to love and help people, and twisted me into a pawn to perpetuate its lies and fear. Worst of all, it made me think that this was love. I was taught that only through Christ could I experience true love for others. I was told my own heart was corrupted by the curse of sin I had inherited from Adam. When I would feel compassion and love for the afflicted I would always attribute these feelings to God and give credit to him.

This is where my anger truly comes from.

That love and empathy I felt was always me. The goodness I expressed toward others was always my own compassion and understanding. Religion was taking my identity as a person and the goodness in me, and using it to make itself stronger. But it did not stop there, it twisted the best qualities of my human nature and perverted it to spread a message of fear and lies to those most vulnerable to indoctrination. Looking back, it was if someone had stripped me of who I was and replaced it with a shell of a person.

The biggest betrayal was when I started to really look at the God in whom I placed my trust. The stories in the Bible revealed a psychopathic monster, not a loving father. The message of salvation became insulting to me. Why should I need redemption from such an awful, horrible creature who would slay infants and pregnant mothers because his feelings were hurt. I felt a level of betrayal that reached to the darkest corners of my mind and at the same time felt like I was betraying everyone who I had ever looked up to.

Christians only serve to compound this anger when they attempt to explain away the horrid aspects of Christian faith with nonsensical psychobabble or cherry picking verses. They seem to think that I was somehow flawed and never really a Christian when the truth is I believed more passionately than most of them. I do try to understand that they are just as deluded as I once was, but when you experience such a profound sense of betrayal that comes from seeing your faith with the eyes of reason, it can be an emotionally brutal ordeal that opens up scars you never even knew you had.

The sunlight of reality hurts when you step out of the darkness of ignorance and superstition, but that pain pales in comparison to what that light reveals when you can finally see what you did as a believer and what was done to you. That realization leaves you with an unrelenting anger that burns with a passion hotter than the fires of any imaginary hell. This same compassion that drove me to be a missionary now drives me in my anti theism. I seek to tear down the lies of religion so that not one more child will have to go through the emotional torment I experienced. No one deserves that…no one.

-Timothy Havener

The 419 Request

New Post coming up… but in the meantime, here’s one from my former blog that I thought was cute…

Ever get one of those stupid 419 requests for help to manage huge amounts of money, in return for a bank account and a small amount of wired money to start things off? Basically people still fall for that, and usually either really desperate or just plain gullible or stupid, but I’ve always found such requests as a thing of amusement. So here’s the text of the letter sent to me… and my amused responce. I’m waiting to see if I’ll get the $100 million 🙂

 

On 11/08/12 12:20 PM, tarek alquaheed wrote:

——————–

Asalam Aleikun

I have a business that might be of your interest, can you be able to manage 100million USD for a period of 10 years? I want to invest that amount to good lucrative projects and i am looking for a good investment manager

Let me know your interest

Allah Bless You

Tarek Alquaheed

My Responce (under an email called YYCscamalert419@gmail.com)

—————

Mr. Alquaheed,

I am quite interested in this venture, however, you must understand the following:

1- I have never managed any money in amounts over $1000 before, and of course only in rolls of pennies. To be within my comfort zone, can all $100 million be available in pennies?;

2- I lose huge amounts of money on the stock market, casino, the ponies, and of course many many ladies of the night (and a few men as well);

3- the amount that you wish me to manage, is just enough to cover the secret underground lair I plan to build as I will start my vigilante career as Boatman, champion of dragon boat paddlers everywhere.

4- did I mention that I really like to play the ponies? and prostitutes? Really really do.

5- Actually as I think of it, I’d love to bathe in money. Can $1 million be made available in $5 denominations? I love the feel of cash against my skin, especially in the nether regions.

If this is all agreeable, please let me know what I have to do to proceed. I’ll gladly begin all necessary preparations myself.

Sorry, I myself am not muslim, so I can only offer my own regards In the name of the one that I believe in based on my own personal beliefs, that is He who is the bringer of peace and all things good after a baseball game, the one and only Colonel Sanders,

– T