Saturday, October 08, 2011

The God Closet: Part 1

Me? I am a lifelong avowed atheist. My attitude about atheism has evolved over a lifetime and I am proud of it. But, this is something I cannot talk rationally about with my family. The last time my sister who is married to an Evangelical dude...there are Rick Warren books littering his den...asked me about religion, I told her that I was an atheist. It ended with my sister crying about how we would never be together in heaven. I think that sums up the American attitude about religion, or more aptly, the human condition. Most people don't think about it, they just do it. They are incapable of thinking deeply enough to question the concept of belief. Belief simply solves many of the aspects of the dilemma of being human. Belonging to a religion is submission, the surrender of reason. Religion is the natural manifestation of the evolution of the higher human mind. When man intellectually evolved to the stage where he became aware of his relationship to our environment, the ability to believe is the natural defense mechanism against the manifestation of his own evolving intellect. Our brains are complicated, powerful organs. Over eons, humans have evolved a collective intelligence. This isn't unique in nature. We are only beginning to understand the natural tendency and power of this phenomena in bees.
Questioning belief is a normal part of human development. For most people, religion is just something they do, a social interaction. They think that submission to religion is the thin line between amoral anarchy and order.
But, in reality, the world is full of atheists, but they are secret atheists. Acknowledging atheism is a threat to those who have surrendered to belief. Most atheists don't openly speak of these things and live a life of conformity. 
This fact is very well illustrated in the recent statements by Herb Silverman, the president of The Secular Coalition of America (SCA) who in a recent interview in The Guardian, that his group was aware of 28 members of congress who were atheists, but only one was comfortable allowing his non-belief to be known.

“Privately, we know that there are 27 other members of Congress that have no belief in God,” Silverman claimed. “But we don’t ‘out’ people.”

That number is up from 2006, when SCA determined that there were there were 22 atheists in Congress.
“At the time, twenty-two of them told me they didn’t believe in a god,” SCA Advisory Board Chairman Woody Kaplan told the Humanist in 2008. “Twenty-one of them said, ‘You can’t tell anybody.’ One of them said you could: Congressman Pete Stark.”
Upon receiving the American Humanist Association’s 2008 Humanist of the Year Award, the California Democrat explained that his notoriety as a non-believer wasn’t planned.
“My most recent accident was becoming a well-known humanist,” Stark told the association. “Somewhere along the line a nice group of people, the Secular Coalition for America, sent a form requesting information from those of us who support separation of church and state. In response to a question about belief you could check one of three boxes. I checked the one that said I didn’t believe in a supreme being.”
“I think that most of my colleagues, and politicians in general, just pay lip service to one god or another… The answer is that it has never been about God for politicians. It has been about power. It has never been about peace on Earth. It has been about profit in your pocket.”
He added: “I would confine God to currency, constitutional control, and colloquialisms like ‘Godspeed’ and ‘gadzooks.’ Then we can begin to deal with the real problems in the world, such as those related to education, health care, poverty, and human rights. But we can’t move ahead if we’re going to tolerate abstinence-only training, creationism, denial of environmental destruction, and oppression of reason. The power of simple solutions can fill a vacuum caused by the abandonment of reason, and that has got to end.”
 American Humanist Association’s Fred Edwords believes that in the U.S., there is still a high risk for atheists in politics.
“Nontheistic Americans, including humanists, are the group most likely to be discriminated against for their convictions,” Edwords said in a press release congratulating Stark. “Recent polls show that fewer than 50 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist presidential candidate, even if that candidate is well qualified… Americans still feel it’s acceptable to discriminate against atheists in ways considered beyond the pale for other groups.”
The Guardian noted that experts agree that the number of secular Americans has doubled in the last 30 years, making them the fastest growing major “religious” group in the country, a classification that many non-believers would object to.

(perhaps, this can be the beginning of an ongoing discussion here about atheism, so this post is titled, THE GOD CLOSET: PART#1)


dennis hodgson said...

I sympathize regarding your difficulties with other members of your family. I'm lucky: my wife is a Christian, but she doesn't believe in heaven, hell or an afterlife, and she certainly doesn't condemn other people for what they believe (which is why she has no trouble accepting that her husband is an atheist). As for American politicians; I can't understand why being an atheist should disqualify anyone from the top job.

microdot said...

Ahh, Dennis, you obviously aren't an American. Even a Catholic has a hard time here...perhaps this is Mitt Romneys biggest handicap in spite of his ideological differences with the tea brains...he is a Mormon...
Mormons believe that Jesus was a being from another galaxy....I least that was what they believed a few months ago....

Dizzy Parker said...

The British writer, Michael Moorcock, wrote the best summation of organized religion I've ever read, and it only took four words, "a conspiracy of agreement". This kind of belief has nothing to do with spirituality. It's exclusively about assuaging existential terror by creating elaborate fictions. If only one person held these beliefs, they'd be locked up in a looney bin. Somehow, just because millions are deluded into espousing these silly beliefs, it becomes legitimate.

I've always thought that the best solution is to teach philosophy in kindergarten and continue the study throughout a person's entire education. Teach people to reason and religion will die off pretty quickly.

microdot said...

Michael Moorcock made my adolescence ever so much more entertaining. I think I have read 75% of every thing he ever published. One of my personal favorite fantasy writers of all time, but what he wrote was so much more than fantasy...allegory.

J.O.B. said...

I think religion is spawned by people wanting to beleive that there is "Something" after death. It seems that alot of people just don't want to believe that sometimes, you just go to sleep.

The Mormon religion is basically the same as Christianity, except, they think a guy named Joseph Smith was the only man who could translate Jesus' message.

Most Conservatives dislike Romney, because he is Mormon. They look at that religion as an occult.

microdot said...

Immortality can exist as a concept in an atheist sense, but you have to be able to let go of your sense of ego.
I always was, I will always be, but only this one time as I am now...So make it count...

mud_rake said...

Most Conservatives dislike Romney, because he is Mormon.

I'd correct that statement to: Most Conservatives dislike Romney, because he is not a Tea Party nut like them and he actually believes that there is a role for government in the lives of The People.