The Great Things About Being An Atheist

I have been an atheist for quite some time. Close to 15 years by now, and I have to say being an Atheist doesn’t have many down sides. Growing up, I had a Judeo-Christian upbringing, which was difficult to begin with. My grandmother on my mother’s side was known to cause religious problems with my Jewish grandparents, such as sitting me on her lap in front of my grandmother and singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in front of her. One could say, due to this upbringing, I had a keen awareness of the negatives regarding two different religious groups having a religious battle. That was hardly the first time that my grandmother had used me to get an emotional response from someone else, usually in the negative for them. I never enjoyed being treated as her tool to commit this acts, or to be the receptor of such political battles. I was a child, after all, and cared about my family, all of them.

These experiences showed me, with others occurring more recently, that maybe religion wasn’t for me. After I came out, I received quite a bit of negativity for being gay, and all of those reasons (both from family and from people I knew in the neighborhood) were for religious reasons. I have never forgotten a moment of those times when others expressed to me a sense of otherness simply for being gay. I understood, deeply, that I was not only still a person, but still a neighbor, a nephew, etc. It was so unjust to be treated in that way, back in the 1990s.

More recently, I have had a fair share of additional negative experiences with folks who are religious. The continued pressure that others think I should be that way (religious) rather than understanding with compassion and understanding (namely, love) that I have no interest in such silly things. I have read the Bible (frankly, I have read tons of Scripture, due to my family members pushing that down my throat, and I don’t make much sense of it).

One of the articles that I would to discuss is from TheHumanist.com, titled “Why Are The Poor More Religious?” It states the following:

Interestingly enough, people living in these places are also more likely than those in wealthier sections of the country to Google search terms related to religion. The Google search terms common to these regions, which include “antichrist,” “about hell,” and “the rapture,” suggest that fundamentalism and its hellfire and brimstone visions of the apocalypse play a significant role in the lives of people who live in these impoverished regions.

These findings from The Upshot are reinforced by previous research into the connections between religion and poverty. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, there is a strong, positive correlation between strict adherence to religion and privation. But while the Gallup poll reports a link between religious devotion and poverty, it doesn’t provide any insight into why it exits.

A study by independent research Dr. Tom Rees, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, suggests that in places without strong social safety nets to provide people with opportunities for upward mobility, people are more likely to rely on religion for comfort. As contradictory as it may seem, when someone is suffering it may console him or her to think that the end of the world is near—that God will bring it to a close and reward the faithful with everlasting joy. Doom and gloom predictions about the trials and tribulations that humanity will face before the apocalypse, prevalent in Christian fundamentalism, may also help some people attribute a higher purpose to their suffering, explaining it as “part of God’s ultimate plan.” It’s also worth noting that in areas with little to no social supports, the local church may provide for people’s basic needs through free childcare programs, food pantries, and clothing drives.

Although religion can provide real assistance and a sense of security to disadvantaged individuals, that doesn’t mean it actually solves the problems associated with poverty. In fact, in an analysis of the aforementioned study, the British Humanist Association warned that government promotion of religion as a positive social influence could mask larger social problems that contribute to poverty, such as a lack of access to education.

I nearly vomited! One might attest that believing the world is going to end is not a mindset to induce a positive lifestyle. Not at all. I, most certainly, do not want to dwell on such negative material day and night, when the world has so much more to offer.

I couldn’t help considering the divisive nature of this article, though, mainly with the “Doom and gloom predictions about the trials and tribulations that humanity will face before the apocalypse, prevalent in Christian fundamentalism, may also help some people attribute a higher purpose to their suffering, explaining it as “part of God’s ultimate plan.” Is it really OK to suggest such a thing? How does one measure suffering? Who suffers more and who suffers less? What is the deciding factor in suffering?

I say this for good reason, and that’s where the Kennedy family comes into play. The Kennedy family isn’t “poor” financially, but didn’t they deal with suffering? There the assassination of JFK and RFK for starters. Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy in another tragedy. Kathleen Cavendish is yet another. There are many stories about this. These are good questions to ask.

I happen to think suffering is a part of life. We all don’t win all the time, even on our best days. The world doesn’t spin around each person asking: “What do you want to happen?” You have to go out and get it. You have to do something. It may not work out. Does this suffering need to be purposeful? Not really. It simply happens. I exist fine thinking it doesn’t get attributed to a higher purpose, because none of it has been shown to prove me more successful a person. None of it has actually made the world any better for me, personally. I cannot attach any sort of purpose to any suffering I have dealt with. It’s a part of life. There is no plan by some secret deity who has not shown himself to me at any point in my life. It’s just life.

The universe, as well as the world, generally has me in awe. Science, in general, is awe inspiring. I don’t have to think of anywhere else than the existence I already have. The beauty in the world, the people in it, and the things I care about.

My responsibility to others in relations remains completely the same: 50/50, though due to lack of privilege, it’s more like 25/75. We often acknowledge responsibility to resources, and I have little to offer in resources. I don’t take what I don’t have. It’s not sensible. My human life is just as valid and valuable as every other human I know. Human life remains important. Human life, like mine, should be upheld. But human nature hasn’t changed. That’s a foolish idea.

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3 thoughts on “The Great Things About Being An Atheist

  1. Matt – really good thoughts and a very thought provoking read.

    Especially on the thoughts about religion being pushed down one’s throat: if something is really, I think it should be shown much more than it is described.

    • Like I said, I had a fundamentalist grandfather who preached on the streets of Boston, Worcester, and Springfield. I knew him in life, even though he wasn’t around much, because of what he did with his life. I felt his influence at home, such as being handed a Bible to read after coming out gay in the 1990s, it being suggested I watch episodes of 7th Heaven and Touched By An Angel, and wanting me to commit to celibacy. This was upsetting to hear from my own family members.

  2. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda: Season 5 | The Progressive Democrat

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