I’ve noticed on the CNN Belief Blogs and elsewhere that atheists comprise many if not most of the commenters. That puzzles the believing portion of the commentariat.
When I was a Christian, I, too, could never understand why an unbeliever would care one way or the other about religion. Why would he or she waste time commenting on CNN’s Belief Blogs? Why not just leave religious people alone?
Now on the other side of the fence, I find that there are at least three reasons. [What follows is a Beagle's Bark. ]
To Warn of the Dangers of Faith
Many atheists are former believers. We have seen not only the benefits of a faith-based life, but also the damage it can do. Just as evangelical Christians want to warn the world about the peril of hell, atheists want to sound the alarm over the dangers of conservative Christianity. For me, these included the following.
- I became morally compromised by having to justify some of the commands and actions of God in the Bible. I’ve posted about this here.
- I became intellectually twisted by having to fit modern, scientific knowledge into a framework that was forged in the Bronze Age.
- I became emotionally damaged by believing that my Heavenly Father’s very best plan for the world included so many seemingly gratuitous instances of suffering, and by believing that even my righteousness is like a filthy menstrual rag.
- I became relationally insecure when the God with whom I was supposedly having a relationship so often did not speak a word to me — at least none that I was able to hear.
- I became socially toxic due to an excessive, us-versus-them mentality. It’s hard to be both graceful and sincere toward the rest of the human race when the Bible specifically says that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” and calls all non-believers “fools.”
- This one did not apply so much to me, but I saw others become bound by fear due to the doctrine of hell. (Here is a gift one otherwise gracious person gave me when I left the church.)
- …and on and on.
To Do Penance For Our Sins of Faith
Second, some of us former believers feel guilt over our years spent in religion. Warning others away from it is a form of penance. In the Bible, God
- commands enslavement and rape;
- demands genocide;
- codifies animal cruelty into law;
- proves a blameless man’s loyalty by allowing him to be tortured and his entire family to be killed — all to win a gratuitous bet with Satan (entire Book of Job);
- drowns almost every human and animal on the planet because the humans weren’t good enough, when the Bible itself says that people will be good if and only if God causes them to be so;
- uses the psychological abuse of a child as a test of his father’s loyalty;
- declines to intervene as another father sacrifices his own daughter as a burnt offering to God.
This list, too, could go on and on.
During my 40 years as a Christian, I never felt as guilty and ashamed as I did when I realized that the book I had promoted as God’s Holy Word teaches atrocity after atrocity, and all my excuses for it were totally lame. I felt that my hands were drenched in blood. I hope that by speaking out now I can undo some of the harm I have brought on society.
To Protect the Body Politic
And speaking of society, here in America conservative Christianity drives at least one side’s passion in many political issues: abortion, homosexual marriage, school prayer, science curricula, global climate change, and recently even birth control.
While evangelical Christians seek to make their faith-based views into law, they ironically complain that our secular government is trying to deny their religious freedom. I say this is ironic because, far from promoting religious freedom, the Bible demands the death penalty for even a whispered suggestion of worshiping another god. But I digress. For now, let’s just say that the Bible’s definition of religious freedom is “worship Jehovah or else.” When a substantial portion of the American electorate upholds the Bible as God’s Unchanging Word, the rest of us get a little nervous.
That wraps up this series. I hope the reasons I have given for why an unbeliever would care about religion, other people, right and wrong and indeed anything at all make sense. If not, please leave a comment!