How I Became Atheistic
[irony: this piece was written whilst listening to the beautiful voice and music of Josh Grobin - a religious singer]
I was an adolescent, maybe 10 or 11 years old. It was a small church. I had gone to church many times with my family. My folks had signed me up for a special church presentation. There were quite a few other kids there. We listened to a group leader introduce what was to be the presentation - a movie. I think that the movie was called Rapture.
At the climax of the movie, the unsuspecting characters - with which we had become familiar as the plot unfolded - experienced a painful death by fire, burned alive without warning; the Rapture had come and "true justice" had been served. Their screams were horrifying, and wouldn't you know, I was in line to be "signed-up" by the Pastor, who was conveniently waiting in the back of the room with that nice, easy-for-kids-to-read oath: "I accept my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, into my heart ..."
It was by deception that I became religious. It was by deception that I stayed religious - as I witnessed the evasion of personal growth (in others and myself) which only religion makes possible. While other philosophies may claim that man is, by nature, base and corrupt - only religion allows one to embrace this notion with an ironically righteous conviction; only religion allows one to maintain the pretense of morality while rolling in the "sinful" muck that is taken to be the human spirit.
Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness. Only God may judge - religion itself, cannot be wrong and must not be questioned. That is the answer to the Jim Bakers of the world, using religion as a tool to sacrifice the value of others to self, spending my tithes on prostitutes while committing the greatest sin which humans are capable of: living a lie.
As I read in the news about a self-sufficient town of Amish people, where a young girl was repeatedly sexually-molested by relatives for years on end, I recall the sinister sanction and unassuming arrogance of her relatives and of the leaders of this community. She was shamed (and one gets the impression: blamed) for having worn blue jeans. And the leader's punishment for the girl's hideously and insidiously familiar "abusers": 6 weeks without Church, and repentance to the Lord - which, they claim, is tremendously difficult for the abusers.
I have one question: How difficult is it for a child to develop the joy of self-love that is esteem, when her body has been used by others (others familiar to her, or not), for years, as a mere means to their savage ends? How does that "difficulty" compare to the "difficulty" of 6 weeks without Church?
Their militant avoidance of spiritual growth (of building a soul) was made evident through the news reporter's questioning. When pressed (by the reporter) for a rationale supporting this meek "religious" response to a horrendous crime - their arrogant, self-righteous, destructively-modest reply: We leave that up to the Lord.
Seven words have never been more evil than that.
Only religion has the power to whitewash the sins of whole towns of evil, and to give to mass deception the pretense of a self-exalting morality. Only religion allows humans to feel entitled to a wicked, deranged esteem without any growth in spirit or character. Yeah, communism is bad. But its pretenses are now, in principle, easily uprooted via reference to reality (via reference to history - which is something communism accepts as a judge). Religion is a more insidious evil than that, because it comforts and supports infantile narcissism - it allows one to feel "good" without "growth."
Imagine a bird tricked into never opening its wings (with a touch of false morality allowing the bird to feel a mongrol, self-righteous exaltation of walking on the ground all its days), that is what religion can do to the human spirit. Using Mill's terms for another purpose, religion creates satisfied pigs, satisfied pigs feeling moral superiority over the dissatisfied Socrates found in the world.
As a primitive philosophy -and as a springboard to a more moral philosophy - religion is not entirely without value.
I started out with religion as my philosophy. Then I read books by the Christian psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who encouraged me to question my own religious convictions. This led me to Nathaniel Branden, who encouraged me to question every system of moral philosophy or belief. This led me to Ayn Rand, who encouraged me to embrace all that is good in myself and the world. Who taught me how I can achieve values and enrich my life and the lives of others around me.
Peck was the bridge allowing me to escape the wickedly circular damnation of religion, Branden was the bridge offering hope and confidence, upon which Rand delivered the means and empowerment - closing the deal.
I have again, been born-again - each time leaving a much more helpless self behind. Each time embracing higher hopes for my future. Each time experiencing a wondrous joy flowing through my veins, and a refreshing reverence for life and for taking part in life. Each time feeling more alive than ever before. This is how I became atheistic, by embracing life.
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 11/24, 9:29am)