by Rick Wingrove
I am an Atheist …
By definition, Atheism means only that I have no belief in gods. To say the least, I find the stories about gods to be unconvincing. To say it another way, I find the ancient fables to be exactly as convincing as the stories about Santa Claus or Superman. As a thinking adult, I am under no obligation to believe what reason and experience show me to be false.
We are all born atheists, without religious belief, without the concept of Reason, and without the ability to apply skepticism, but possessing a brain which soaks up information like a sponge, even if that information is erroneous. It is during this early, pliable phase when parents and society begin to pummel young, uncritical, defenseless minds with stories of the locally popular deities, omnipotent powers, eternal life, and the dire consequences that will accompany disbelief. With these stories comes a frightening prohibition against any form of skepticism, which inflicts permanent disability upon the ability to apply Reason. More than merely frightening, all deistic religions cap off their indoctrination by making it dangerous, even lethal, to ask simple, reasonable questions about the most fundamental elements of their faith. Questions and doubt are mental crimes and grievous insults to the supreme creator of the curious mind. Deistic religions demand immunity from examination. By crushing all inquiry, the religions have quieted opposition and rendered huge swaths of civilization permanently incapable of questioning the answers they have been given – answers without questions.
Fortunately, it does not work on everyone, and despite the best efforts of the Southern Baptists, it did not work on me. Somehow I managed to retain my natural curiosity and, over time, I developed a healthy skepticism and an inability to blindly accept the ancient god stories without a more coherent set of explanations than was available in an ancient holy book. I slowly began to realize that what they were selling just wasn’t true.
I did not arrive at this position lightly. I was raised in the church and every attempt was made to set my mind with Christian dogma. I read my bible and went regularly to services and church activities. I tried real hard for awhile to get a sense of “God”, but I sensed only absence. But as my skepticism grew, I couldn’t help but notice that the stories I was told were strikingly close to the old stories of the Greek and Norse gods, differing only in the details, not in credibility. The ancient and various tales – no more reliable or believable than campfire stories, really – about deities creating the Universe were such obvious mythology that they were quickly abandoned in favor of a more Scientific and rational examination. Reason and Science, the mechanisms for the acquisition and validation of knowledge, won out for the simple reason that they were actually capable of supplying answers.
The disparity between the ancient fables and the realities of the Universe was most obvious when contrasting the biblical genesis tale against the discoveries about origins provided by the study of Cosmology. On origins, either cosmic or Human, the bible answered correctly in this area not once and corresponded to reality not at all. Instead, I turned to sources on astronomy and cosmology, and supplemented over time with evolution, quantum physics, history, sociology, and psychology. All these subjects taken together mesh into a coherent and rational explanation for the workings of the Universe. They also provide some perspective regarding the place of Humans in that Universe.
A comprehensive explanation is not simple and cannot be reduced to verse-sized sound bites. It could never have been understood or discovered by uneducated, illiterate and credulous Humans thousands of years ago. Nor is it palatable to those who cling to the old stories. The explanations are complex, far-ranging, and inter-related. The explanations require thought and they require study; they require process and must stand up to rigorous examination. The explanations are in no way augmented by the insertion of magical deities. Observed, and validated facts diverged wildly from the guesswork of the ancients.
In the end, religion made no sense to me. The gap between what the church taught and what reality showed could not be closed. I finally accepted that I was a natural-born, fully realized Atheist.
In short, I am utterly convinced, that all the stories about all the thousands of gods ever proposed by Humans are concoctions based on fear and wishful thinking, and are not connected to objective reality. I am as certain that there are no gods as I am that there are no unicorns, or leprachauns, or monsters under the bed.
I can justify saying that these things do not exist. To make such a statement will cause logical purists some heartburn due to the fact that it is never possible to prove a negative. But even the purists know that it is OK to stop searching for Unicorns.
… and so are you.
Now, the point of that whole semi-biographical roundabout was so that I can show that you are also an Atheist. All adamantly religious people are hard, committed Atheists. Just not very good ones.
Just like myself, members of every religion, commonly claiming to be the One True Religion, hold every other religion, also commonly claiming to be the One True Religion, to be false. If you do the math on that you will see that the vast majority of people on this planet recognize your religion, whatever it may be, as pure fantasy.
The atheism of the religious is not done after a careful weighing of the evidence. Nor is it done after a thorough ‘compare and contrast’ of the tenets of your religion against what is known about the workings of the Universe. True to the early indoctrination of your own religion, you just plain old don’t and won’t believe in the gods of the other religions. To you, just as they are to me, they are all obviously false and unworthy of further consideration. Proof is unnecessary and a waste of time as you summarily dismiss several thousand alleged gods without any thought whatsoever.
When you examine your attitudes about all the other religions, you can understand exactly my attitude towards all those religions. Your view of all those religions varies from mine not in the least, not at all. In the case of each and every one of those alleged deities you are experiencing and pricticing pure, hard Atheism.
Of all the thousands of gods that people have believed in, prayed to, and entrusted their wellbeing to, you retain belief, not surprisingly, only in your locally popular deity. When you do the math on that, you will see that, except for a small fraction of a percent, you are every bit the Atheist I am. The only difference is that my Atheism also applies to your local religion, while you persist in an inexplicable, irrational, and indefensible breach of consistency.
A final word
Is there a point to all this? Yes. There is an inherent contradiction built into every fundamentalist religion – open contempt for Atheists while practicing near universal Atheism towards all other religions. Those who are bent to religion frequently express incomprehension as to how an Atheist could not see the “truth” of the existence of their locally popular deity. Easy. Look to yourself – you do it all the time. You are an Atheist. Welcome to my world.
30 December 2003
Rick Wingrove is a navy veteran, a single parent, a taxpayer, a constitutional patriot, and a hard, assertive, full realization atheist. Rick is involved in political activism in defense of the First Amendment and is an adamant defender of the full separation of state and church. Rick recognizes the Establishment Clause as the most brilliant thing the Founding Fathers included in the Bill of Rights and that it has effectively prevented religious strife in this country for two centuries.
For fun, Rick used to fly hanggliders, but now likes to travel, do woodwork and stained glass, dabble in photography, keep up with old friends, and watch his daughter grow up.
Rick lives in the solidly conservative Christian bastion of Virginia, near DC, where he is appalled daily by the stupidity and pure evil emanating from inside the Beltway.