“I know in your heart, you’re still searching for God because you’re always asking about him” my aunt likes to kid me every so often. She still holds a candle that one day I’ll see the proverbial light again, though I’m sure her candle doesn’t burn as ardently as the one my mother carries just the same. Having grown up Catholic, I must have sat next to both of them in Church for hundreds of Sundays as a kid, so I understand they’re wanting to save me a spot. Especially now that I’m a full-fledged, bona fide, one-way-ticket-to-hell card-carrying atheist.
But even so, I still love discussing, and even arguing about religion and our purpose in life, particularly with people whose opinion actually matters to me, such as my aunt. Because if there is one thing I as an atheist will always find curiously fascinating (and a bit maddening quite frankly) about religion, is its effects on society, and most importantly my rights as an individual.
Unfortunately, there is no absolute division between church and state, despite the fact that our nation was largely founded upon this principle. And though it’s not specifically written into the Constitution, it’s not exactly a conspiracy theory that its intention was to ensure no one state religion would be forced upon all the people. And that people’s rights to live their lives as they see fit would not be trampled on as they are by certain fundamentalist religious groups today.
For example, the question of abortion and embryonic stem cell research. The fact there are still people who insist gays should not marry. States such as Georgia and Florida that prohibit anal and oral sex even between married heterosexual couples in the privacy of their own home. If these aren’t reasons enough to question and investigate religion and its intrusive and adverse effects on people’s private lives, then perhaps the fact that so many religious institutions manage to operate tax-free while the rest of us are never granted such privileges may put an atheist’s curiosity about religion into perspective.
This is why I feel compelled to challenge religious people who take it upon themselves to determine what my rights should or should not be. Even if they are the majority, why should it be anyone else’s business what I do with my life if and as long as I’m not affecting the rights of others? And assuming a god, particularly a Judeo-Christian god by the name of Jehovah and/or Yahweh does exist, isn’t it up to him, as opposed to the average mortal, to judge me in the end?
It may seem simplistic, and even juvenile tirade, but it’s crucial to continue challenging the extent of other people’s beliefs infringing upon others’ rights. Especially when one witness the danger religious myopia has and continues to pose upon society, and the world, in general.
Religious dogmatism has been forced to loosen its grip on society
Long gone are the days of drilling through someone’s skull to drain them of evil spirits. At some subconscious level, even some of the most fervent believers have given way to common sense and rational thought.
They’ve had to. Some of them even embrace newfound technology as a sign from god, whoever theirs maybe since apparently not all gods are created equal. Allah and Jehovah are two distinctly different supreme beings with radically disparate agendas. It’s a wonder to most atheists as to why devout Muslim leaders such as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are so quick to denounce Western civilization and its secular influence as they wait for the second coming of their messiah, the invisible Imam, but are equally eager to adopt nuclear technology and weaponry.
Why many atheists are not just curious about religion, but understandably apprehensive of it?
It’s not just our rights that are in jeopardy, but our lives as well. When one ponders the current state of affairs between Iran threatening to wipe Israel off the map, based on religious reasoning, and the US willing to back up Israel as an ally, no doubt thanks to Biblical prophecy, and Russia willing to step in and back up Iran in return, for god knows what ulterior motives, it’s not too far fetched to conclude that religious dogma could once again do more harm than good since the days of the crusades.
And these are but a few of the reasons my curiosity prompts me to still talk, question and argue over religion. Particularly with the people, I love most, my family and friends. Because they, not god, I’ve found are the only reason I need to find purpose in life. And while I may never step foot in a church again with them for the ultimate purpose of getting on my knees and praying to some entity I am convinced does not exist, I can still appreciate the communal and familial aspects fostered in these houses of worship. I must admit I still find a sense of solace, even peace of mind when I’ve taken the time to visit my old church. And I will always admire its architecture, though I’ve grown fonder of Buddhist and Hindu temples I’ve visited in China and Thailand. But I find their religious beliefs to be eerily similar, redundant and almost pointless just the same.
There’s no doubt that people need to believe in something greater than themselves and to understand the world around them. Anyone with an IQ over 50 would surely be curious. I just wish people would be more apt to reach a modicum of understanding through tried and true logistics based on reality as opposed to resorting to the mystical, divine or the supernatural. But even for those who opt for the latter, I could only hope they would at least respect my rights to live my life as I see fit either way.