This is a letter that I plan to send to a pastor in my area. The pastor had sent me a friend request after a brief discussion on the subject of criticizing religion. We’ve had many exchanges over facebook since then and one of these exchanges has now resulted in the pastor blocking me from his facebook account. I have come to the conclusion that he sees atheism as a personal attack on his deity and that his intent the entire time had been to win me over for Jesus. I think this exchange might be useful to other atheists who are discussing religion with devout believers. Some might see this as a violation of etiquette but I don’t see it in the same light. Almost all of our exchanges were public and I don’t believe anything here is private. His message directly following his blocking my personal account was as follows, nothing has been altered except blocking out his phone number:
“it seems the only thing you are against is God. You will believe we came from a worm with no doubt just because someone said it, you believe two grown men doing unspeakable things together in “normal” , and yet you will deny that “feeling” you get when you look at the Heavens as they declare God’s glory.
I have handled you the best I know how out of love and compassion for a human but with the things you continue speak about my God with absolutely no proof and only fueled by hatred of Christianity, I must take you off my friend list. I am not gonna stand by as you continue to take jabs at me and the God that saved me, and yes you did. I thought you were more of a “scientific” type person, but I realized in your last post it is just hatred, much like the “religion” you hate. I read a book “Tortured for Christ” and the pastor that wrote the book witnessed many atheist convert upon their death bed as they realized the truth at the last moment. I hope someday you will see. I did not want to defriend you without first giving an explanation, but I refuse to continue these fruitless arguments on Facebook, its not the place. I will continue to pray for you and I pray you will change. If you ever need to talk to me in person, that offer still stands of breakfast and my contact #xxx-xxx-xxxx”
My reply that I will be sending via email as soon as his sister-in-law supplies me with his email address. Here is my reply:
First off, I’d like to extend what I think is a due apology. I feel personally, that you are a kind and honest individual. Please do not see the following letter as a personal attack on yourself. I in no way intend this. I only wish to articulate my position and why I think what I do. I believe you have completely misunderstood the atheist position. I don’t think this is any deficiency on your own part. I blame myself for not articulating my position more clearly. I also think the atheist position is just something that is completely foreign to you and not something that you have ever had a need to understand before. Furthermore, I am not simply an atheist, or one who does not believe in any deity or supernatural force of any kind; I’m also a rigid anti-theist. Meaning by this that, I am absolutely convinced that, religion is the primary cause and source of the division of our world and humanity.
The U.S. in it’s current state, and especially in what’s typically referred to as the “bible belt”, has seen an immense resurgence in religiosity. Especially in Mississippi, our culture has been completely self insulated against anything that isn’t white and Christian.
The atheist position.
The atheist position, no matter what you hear from your Christian peers, is this; no sufficient evidence has ever been produced to warrant belief in any deity. We never say that a god does not exist. Only that evidence is insufficient to believe. This is applicable to all Judeo-Christian religions(Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and also, every other of the thousands of mutually exclusive religions in the history of humankind. Christianity and Islam are both built squarely on top of the Jewish religion. Therefore, if Judaism falls, both of these collapse as well. Jewish scholars have been at attempts to prove their own religion far longer than the Christians and Islam makes no attempt to prove anything, since they(more or less) kill, threaten or torture anyone who disagrees.
We know from archeological, geological, biological and cosmological evidence, that most events of the OT never actually happened. The most obvious example of this being the book of Exodus. Jews didn’t arrive in Egypt until much later than this episode takes place and when they did arrive, they weren’t slaves. They were a garrison of Soldiers allied with the Pharaohs army during the Nubian campaign. Plus, they owned slaves themselves and not the other way around. No Jew ever moved a single block to build the pyramids. We know now, exactly who and, more or less, how the pyramids were constructed. Even recent discoveries have only solidified our knowledge in this area. There are, of course, further complications to this narrative as well. The logistics of a flight from Egypt with well over a million Jews, tens of millions of heads of livestock for food, all the tools of their individual trades and all of their worldly possessions. This monumental event that would have been a moving carpet for hundreds of miles in all directions, slowly moving through kingdom after kingdom is never mentioned anywhere, by any historian or accounts by most of the area that should have been plowed under by the rolling mass. Going even further than strictly a complete lack of any historical and archeological evidence to support this episode; God himself is the actual culprit for every single immoral act in this tale. Repeatedly, the Pharaoh is prepared to concede to Aaron and Moses when God himself “hardens Pharaohs heart”. What is this? This serves no purpose other than malicious intent on the part of Yahweh and this is only after the supposed genocide of thousands of infants murdered by Yahweh for things to have progressed this far.
You have stated that I believe that man evolved from a worm, on no evidence and only the word of someone else. This is both wrong and right. Not only do I believe that man evolved from this “worm”(it’s not a worm actually), I believe that all vertebrates can trace their lineage back to this creature. If you removed this creature from history, all of us would be wiped out, fish, hawk, shark and primates alike. I do not take this on the word that it’s simply been told to me. It’s place in our family tree has been peer reviewed and discussed by experts in the field and the literature on it is available for all to see. It’s also fairly easy for me to see and understand in all it’s historical and biological implications. To say that I believe that humans evolved from a worm is a gross oversimplification of what we’re really discussing. We’re talking about millions of years of biological evolution. It’s at first, fairly difficult to wrap ones head around, but after getting the initial gist of the concept, it’s really quite easy to understand. Almost all biology hinges on evolution as well as most of our medical field. If evolution were not a fact, the medical industry would simply not work. The continued evolution of the influenza virus causes enough trouble every year by itself. Not even taking into account the agriculture industry that feeds and sustains our population. The modern banana is an example of evolution by human design.
No creature shows optimal design. If anything, we have countless examples of design flaws, our vestigial organs and tail, as well as problems with the reproductive systems of both sexes and child bearing issues. As well as the light shed on our history by advances in our knowledge of our genomes, which has had an enormous impact on the fight against disease and genetic conditions.
I’ll say that when I look at those magnificent pictures of the wilderness of outer space, I don’t see anything that event remotely suggests design there either. We’re in a shooting gallery of celestial bodies that can at any point be wiped from the face of the universe by any number of random and typical events that devastate and destroy vast stretches of that wilderness. Our place in the universe is so precarious and unimportant that even the most modest galactic event would wipe us from the universe as if we had never been. I simple gamma ray burst would destroy all life on this planet and leave no trace of it behind. I hiccup not too long ago from a star(I forget which one but I will go back and look it up if you request) that was 50,000 light years away was enough to compress our planets magnetic field badly. The history of our species is perhaps 200,000 years, a blink on the cosmic timescale. Another blink and we’ll be gone.
Some atheists say that they wish that it was true. I am not one of those. I can’t bring myself to desire that any religion would be true. If you read 1 Samuel 15, you will get a glimpse of what I mean. Other passages are just as horrific. The genocide of Jericho is one other such example. God’s commands to routinely kill women and children and infants is not something I can bring myself think are moral. I’ve read apologists and theologians on this point and even some of them are honest enough to admit there are no explanations or logic that can be applied here. One of the most celebrated atrocities of the bible is Abraham’s willingness to gut his own son to prove his love and devotion to god. Even if I threw evidence to one side and said, it was all true; the moment god commanded me to do this would be the exact moment I would unhesitatingly tell god where he could go. No self-respecting human could do otherwise. There are further difficulties here as well. God by definition is omnipotent and omniscient. So, this is not a test to which the outcome is unknown to god. Either god knows the outcome in advance, in which case the test is unwarranted or malevolent, or, whatever it is that Abraham is talking to, it isn’t god.
There is a collision between religious faith and the right to Americans to live unhindered by the religious dogma of others. In other words, if we grant the right for you to interfere in the lives of others by way of legislating morality, we must extend this right to all other faiths as well. The first amendment to the constitution states unambiguously that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. There is no wiggle room in this statement. Article six echoes this theme in stating, “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”. The constitution expressly protects me from compulsory belief and grants me the right to be free from others ideas about how I should live my life in a moral and ethical fashion. You might ask, and rightly, “ok, granted, but what is your point?”. Well, if we allow religion to legislate the rights of citizens, we will inevitably end up having to deal with amendments to state constitutions like the recently defeated MS Prop. 26. Which would have amended the state constitution as follows:
SECTION 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
You will notice there are no clauses in the wording of this amendment to differentiate an abortion or a miscarriage. Take into account some forms of birth control for instance. Some of these medicines do not prevent the egg from fertilizing, only stopping it from attaching to the wall of the uterus. In other words, legally speaking, there would have been absolutely no legal distinction between taking a birth control pill and preventing a pregnancy in this manner or, putting a loaded pistol to the head of a two year old and pulling the trigger. They would legally be the functional equivalent under the law and both subject to first degree murder charges. Doctors who intervened in ectopic pregnancies, attempting to save the life of the mother from an already doomed pregnancy, could, by legal definition, be subjected to manslaughter charges. Allowing religion into our government and courts will do nothing but subject our citizens to outrageous intrusions into their private and personal lives as well as the destruction of our society.
Setting aside the aforementioned MS Prop 26, we can read about the opposition for the introduction of the HPV vaccine. HPV, a well established sexually transmitted disease which effects an astounding number of our youth population and which is well known to cause cervical cancer in women, which kills a number of women in the U.S. and untold numbers all over the world every year, now has a vaccine. This vaccine was opposed by the religious right in this country for two reason. The first is that it interfered with God’s design and secondly, that it’s a deterrent to pre-marital sex. I myself even had a heated verbal discussion with a coworker years ago in which he emphatically stated that if he denied his daughter this vaccine and if she contracted this lifelong and sometimes lethal disease, then that was her punishment from god. I simply stated that, after this confession, that I was thankful that he, was not my father.
We know what happened in the attempted eradication of the polio disease from the poorest third world countries in Africa. The vaccine was opposed by the Muslim clerics as a conspiracy by the U.S. which would, when administered, cause impotence and sterility. After this fatwa was issued by Muslim authorities, that stated no one was allowed to administer the vaccine to infants, polio came back in these countries with lethal force.
Madeline Neumann died a tragic, painful and miserable death from easily treatable diabetes because her parents used prayer as medicine. Laws put forth by the religious are designed to protect the parents of children who die horrible and needless deaths by neglect and maltreatment and they continue to die.
Communities in uneducated, third world communities infected by a combination of superstition and religion, kill, torture and exile female children for being witches.
Certain communities of Hasidic Jews, practice a form of circumcision that involves the circumciser cutting the skin loose and then sucking off the amputated flap with their mouths(no intention of attempting to be vulgar here). This has resulted in the transmission of genital herpes to infants and causing the deaths of several of them.
Religion is an urgent and direct threat to public health.
All of this barely scratches the surface of the problems with Christianity by itself. I can go in depth on any subject that you care for and can supply further explanations if you would like. There are far larger problems with religion itself. Where can we look at the worlds conflicts even today and not see that the problem is faith and religion? Religion is an enormous multiplier of divisiveness and conflict. Faith is not a virtue and humans pay the price for their own and others faith on a daily and hourly basis.
I cannot look at our world and see the hand of a deity at work. I cannot look at children and infants starving by the thousands and see the handiwork of god. I cannot look at lethal legislation that is put forward in our nation that will kill to keep someone from being offended.
I do however deny your claim that I hate god. That is not possible. I can not hate something that I do not believe exists. That would be the same as attempting to hate unicorns or the tooth fairy. God plays no more part in my misfortunes any more than my accomplishments, there can be nothing to hate, and nothing to hate him for.
One final thought. You say that god saved you. I think you don’t give yourself enough credit. A fault which many humans share. You and others are far stronger than you give yourselves credit for. You can endure more heartbreak and misfortune than you know. I know this from horrible lessons learned in my own life. Be proud of your own accomplishments and how fiercely you can weather the storm.