Emancipation from religion – my story. , Converts, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(1507)

Jan 29, 2013

Hello All!

It wasn’t hard to get to this point. In fact, it seems as though I’ve been thinking about it all of my life. Wondering and musing over the inconsistencies, injustices, and outright weird things presented in the Bible and Christianity in general. It began when, as a child, I was told that my dog would not meet me in heaven. Heaven, it seems, existed only for humans and God himself. No animals allowed. After all, according to the Bible, humans were to have dominion over animals and all the Earth. As lower forms of life, animals do not have “souls” and do not ascend into heaven. At least that’s what I was told in no uncertain terms. I remember looking into the eyes of the one who “knew” what heaven would be like, what it would and wouldn’t include, and how one like myself, after all, could gain access. There was no equivocation. No animals would be in heaven.

Inherently I knew this was wrong. My dog did, indeed, have a conscious soul. She had feelings, emotions, compassion, and a sense of humor. My dog knew how to love, and to love without judgment even when I wasn’t always good to her. She was absolutely loyal and always honest. Name one human that could possibly live up to her example… just one.

When confronted by the pastor with the absolute truth of the “reality”
of the afterlife, no doubt squinting a bit and probably raising an
eyebrow, I wondered… how in the hell would he know? He’d never been
to heaven that I was aware of and I rather doubted if he had a special
line to God with which to have a conversation or check on the rules as
it were. I, rather unsystematically as a typical 10-year old,
assessed the likelihood that this person could know one way or another
and I decided that they had no way of really knowing if animals went
to heaven or not. Thus, I decided that for heaven to be “heaven” our
beloved pets had to be included. How could I face going through
eternity without them… that would not be heaven; that would be hell.
Without them, I didn’t want to go…

And so, as a young girl I began to develop a real suspicion of the
doctrine of religion or at least Christianity which is all I really
knew about at the time. There were always the doubts about many of
the Bible stories… how could anyone live inside a whale for three
days? Why did God appear to some, be it through an Angel of some
sort, and not to others? Why are some selected and others apparently
forgotten, forgotten even to be kept alive let alone be one of the
chosen. The typical response is usually that we cannot know all of
God’s plan… that the Lord works in mysterious ways… or that God never
gives one a burden too big to carry. Hum, that’s all very convenient.
We can know God’s mind to the point that animals will not be included
in heaven, that men are the head of the family, and that God has a
plan for each of us yet the fact that there is no explanation for the
pain and devastated lives of so many remains a mystery. So, when
there is no explanation—it’s God’s unknown will—when there is
explanation, it God’s known plan. Thus, religious dogma explains all
and nothing.

Throughout my childhood I also studied history, culture, science,
literature, and mathematics. It was wonderful; studying the beliefs
of ancient cultures including their beliefs in various gods. There
were the Greeks, the Romans and the ancient Egyptians; Athena, Zeus,
Diana, Thor, Rah and Isis. Of course, my favorite was always the
winged horse, Pegasus, and the role of the royal cats of the Nile.
Why did these gods fall out of favor? Why did worship of these gods
yield to the worship and belief in the one Christian god or more
accurately, the belief in only one God—monotheism? What made one god
better than a group? The ancient Greeks had Olympus, Christians have
Heaven. What’s the difference? The form of sacrifice? No. Don’t
they all require various forms of human sacrifice or servitude?

The only answer I ever got from the adults in my life was that ours
was the one “true” god and the others were phony. Just the creation
of human imagination and ignorance, after all, the Bible was the word
of God and thus we had the truth! At the time, I didn’t know that the
Bible was written by men who had never known Jesus if, indeed, he
actually ever existed. I didn’t know that there is not one shred of
independent evidence of the existence of Jesus… that Jesus never wrote
so much as a single word to leave behind. I never knew that all of
the characteristics and miracles attributed to Jesus were identical to
the characteristics and miracles attributed any one or more of a dozen
other ancient gods. There was much I never knew but what I did know
is that the assertion that the current god was the right and only one
was not convincing… there was no evidence. No one I had ever met had
ever met god, ever seen god, ever talked to god, or seen any tangible
evidence of god. All were to believe that we were “blessed” to have
the opportunity to believe without any evidence and grateful if we are
persecuted for this belief as well—it made us better Christians in
fact! Somehow, that too seemed remarkably convenient. We were to
believe without evidence—because that’s what god demanded. It smacked
of that old parental fable—do as I say, not what I do. Believe
because we’re told to. That was really never quite good enough for me
but I assumed that there was just something more that I didn’t
understand and one day it would all make sense.

And what about the rest of knowledge. The Earth cannot possibly have
been created in the literal sense as the Bible asserts. Was Eve
really an afterthought—created just to keep Adam company? How
convenient and how biologically impossible. Even as a young girl I
used to tease my male counterparts in Sunday school that god messed up
when he created Adam. He was a “first draft” as it were. After
figuring out all of the imperfections, god then created Eve—the more
perfect version of mankind. As you might guess, this interpretation
was never well received.

The theory of evolution must be true just as the planet is not flat
nor does the Sun revolve around the Earth. Certainly, the creation
story in Genesis had to be a metaphor—a story to simplify a complex
reality that uneducated minds couldn’t understand. I must admit, I
was not raised in a fundamentalist or evangelical environment. I
attended the liberal United Church of Christ which focused mostly on
the good news of the New Testament and, with appreciation, this
denomination does not spend much time on the “do not(s)” of
Christianity and focuses primarily on what humans can do to make a
better world. I did not have to confront the nonsense of
fundamentalism until I was an adult. However, even as a young child,
most of the Old Testament seemed ridiculous and unsettling. There was
too much killing, raping, human sacrifice, slavery, hell fire and
brimstone for me. For most of my childhood, it was simply easy to
ignore it all.

The next point at which I had real misgivings was when, as a young
woman, it was made clear to me that my “boyfriend” was the head of the
relationship and final arbiter of all decisions. All of this
authority is derived from biblical scripture—written by men—to produce
more happy and successful relationships and families free from
conflict and strife. Once again, how convenient. Religion empowers
men over women because, well, because it’s convenient and
self-serving. Why men and not women? Well, beyond the obvious self
serving motivations, men are always portrayed as being closer to God
in all aspects. Women are an unfortunate requirement for perpetuation
of god-like man—free to breed but never to think. Not of value beyond
that. For millenniums we were property when not queens but always in
need of being fixed or controlled in some way.

This, as well, always struck me as utter nonsense after all, I am
clearly more intelligent than most of the men I have known. Why
shouldn’t leadership be awarded to the most prepared to make
decisions, the most intelligent, and the most rational? I cannot
remember a single time in my life when I ever was personally involved
with a man who was better prepared to make decisions than I was. Once
in a discussion with a man I had known for many years, I was
confronted with his view that much of current social strife was the
result of the Women’s Movement of the 1970s as women established
legal, moral, political, and social independence. Thus, fatherless
families are the result of the ascension of women to the equal status
of men… and society’s willingness to embrace that new role.

At that moment I was sipping some wine with the intention of seriously
trying to listen to his concerns. My reaction was uncontrollable and
I was actually surprised by it. I nearly choked on the wine and
proceeded to spit it out defiling the kitchen counter followed by
uncontrollable laughter. The reason men do not live up to their moral
responsibilities is because women don’t have to submit to abuse and
dependence anymore! His explanation for this view is that such
emancipation was “unnatural” and upset the stability of society that
was set up by god. This is the rationale of one who claims to be
morally superior. He “knew” what was best based upon what the Bible
said. To be honest, I was never quite sure if his assertions were
just a reflection of convenience—men should be the head of all—or
whether he really believed it due to his early indoctrination into
conservative Protestant religious beliefs. Nevertheless, I could
never again look at him without thinking about what a fool he was.

As a result of this and similar comments, I am no longer in touch with
who I thought was an old friend. His belief in the righteousness of
repression was simply not a difference that could be overcome or
accommodated. In fact, such a feckless human being does not argue for
faith or religion or the existence of god, but rather provides
undeniable evidence that our evolutionary journey is far from over.
Such thinking cannot possibly be a product of divine intention; it’s
all too human. So, throughout the various stages of my life I have
been confronted with certain realities—the dominance of divine belief
and its obvious fallacies. In the end, I had to accept the reality
and reject the absurdity of believing in the existence of any god or
the dogma of any religion.

Now, Professor Dawkins, your work and the work of others such as the
remarkable Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris has provided extensive
structure to my “instinctive” childhood conclusions. I feel
profoundly relieved that I am not alone in my thinking and reading The
God Delusion provided the necessary evidence for me to embrace my own
psychological emancipation. As a Ph.D. and professor myself, I help
students focus on scientific method of examining evidence and use
critical thinking to support or question their “beliefs.” It’s a
delicate balancing act at times. Knowing I am not alone is helpful.
However, living in religiously and politically conservative central
Florida, USA, I usually feel very isolated. Thanks for your website
and the opportunity to join, however remotely, with others.

All the best to you all!


Marcy Everest

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