Angry Atheist or Justifiably Angry? by Christina Knowles

Religion  We’ve all heard of the stereotype of the “angry atheist,” and I’m really tired of it and all it implies. If you really want to know why this atheist is sometimes angry, I’ll tell you, but you aren’t going to like it. I’m tired of being told that I am angry at a god I don’t believe in. I’m not, but lately I have been angry at some of those who believe in this god.

In general, I am a happy and pretty serene person. I am easy to get along with, I don’t get mad very easily, and I can’t think of any wrong done to me that I don’t easily forgive very quickly. However, I am angry at religion, at least organized religion. I don’t really have a problem with vague beliefs of some abstract spirit world where are there are no holy documents dictating how everyone else is supposed to live, regardless of whether or not they also believe it.

The kind of religion that makes me angry is the kind that is preventing progress, inhibiting intellectual reasoning, brainwashing children and cultures, interfering with the rights of others, and destroying our world. That’s right, destroying it. And I’m not just talking about the terrorism of some Islamic groups, or the overt oppression of homosexuals and women, but, at least in the United States, I blame fundamentalist Christianity for the dumbing down of the world when it comes to science, the environment and climate change, over-population, and for popularizing the belief in the superiority of mankind and his “dominion” over animal life and nature, as well as attempting to morally justify the worship of capitalism and making it acceptable to vilify and oppress the poor. Religion is leading to a mass extinction on our planet.

Any species that takes more than it needs from its environment eventually becomes extinct. The only way out of this that I can conceive is education. Education in science, history, literature, social studies, math, in everything, including de-bunking religious superstition. As long as people are conditioned to check their brains at the door and believe a book written by bigoted men thousands of years ago, men who had no understanding of science and every reason to perpetuate thought which put them in control. This book causes good people to discriminate against other good people, this book causes women to accept or even welcome their own subjugation, and this book causes intelligent people to dismiss intellectual thought in lieu of “faith,” which leads to denying scientific fact and embracing fantasy notions of escaping this planet for an imaginary perfect place where none of the people they find offensive will be allowed to go.

And when you believe there will be a new earth, why take care of the old one? Why not have “19 kids and counting” if a god will take care of all of them or rapture them up and take them to heaven? We don’t need to worry about the exponentially growing population and the fact that we do not have enough resources to support them or enough jobs available for them as they become adults. And if animals do not have souls, and men do, obviously, men can do whatever they want to them. And prejudice and discrimination against those who do not agree that your god makes the rules is suddenly justified because you are just “trying to save them” and are worried about their eternal souls.

One of the most disturbing things about American Christianity is the apparent worship of capitalism and the disdain for the poor. While, in the past, Christians prided themselves on caring for the poor, this new generation of Christianity seems to prefer quoting aphorisms about God helping “those who help themselves,” “no working-no eating,” and “teach a man to fish,” etc., effectively blaming the poor as being lazy without looking at factors such as opportunity and oppression, instead, promoting corporate greed as God’s blessings for the entrepreneurial spirit. They seem to think that if they please God enough, enforcing his edicts on the world, they, too, will be blessed with riches.

But if you really want to know why I am angry, you first have to understand my perception of religion. While Christians may think I am lost, I think, as a former Christian, that I have awakened and narrowly escaped a cult. I believe that Christians are nice people, more often than not, who have been deceived and brainwashed into joining a damaging and intellectually debilitating cult. This cult lures people in by quoting the nice parts of the bible, and there are a few, very few. These people are drawn in by the idea of an all-powerful and benevolent being who personally created them and loves them. They aren’t immediately informed about this god’s past immoral and psychotic displays of rage on humanity. And when they do run into these passages, eventually, they are explained away with such illogical nonsense as “We can’t begin to understand God,” or “Because God is perfectly just, He has to destroy sin,” (even the innocent children, apparently, and despite the notion that He created it), or my personal anti-favorite, “You just have to have faith.” Why? Why would anyone think it a good thing to believe something for absolutely no good reason, contrary to the observable evidence, and with no supporting evidence of its own? Especially, blissfully ignoring the fact that this god seems strikingly similar to a very flawed, over-emotional, prideful, vindictive, and sexist early Middle Eastern man. This is exactly what I mean. This cult ensures its survival by making sure its members believe that looking too closely at its logic is a bad thing and blind faith is admirable.

I’m sure at this point, some people are thinking that I sound like I am mad at God. I’m not. I don’t believe he exists, but if the god of the bible were real, I certainly would not find him worthy to be worshipped or obeyed, not to mention that he seems to be a trickster engaged in the longest hide and seek game of all time. However, I am mad that this mythology is continuing to block progress and affects millions of people who do not share these beliefs. I am angry that persistent sexism exists because of religion. I am angry that discrimination of all kinds of people exists because of religion, that wars are started over religion, that disdain for the poor exists because of religion, that scientists are scoffed at because of religion, that we are killing ourselves, plant life, and animal life because of religion. I don’t mean to single out only Christianity for the blame; there are other factors, but, in my opinion, it is this dominant religion causing the most harm here in the United States. I am angry that in America, there are still some laws on the books that prevent an atheist from holding political office, which is completely unconstitutional. Personally, I would rather see a person who depends on reason in charge of public policy than someone who wants to determine what is right and wrong from an ancient book that should have long ago been relegated to the status of mythology, a category to which it most certainly belongs. However, we all know that even if there were no “religious test” for public office, the “moral majority” of America would never elect even the most ethical and upstanding atheist as president. An atheist would be forced to pretend to have the popular religion in order to have a chance for a political career in the United States.

Yet, Christians cry religious persecution all the time—whenever they are prevented from forcing their religious dogma on others. It is not enough anymore to spread the gospel, they must enforce their imaginary god’s laws on rational people who think they are delusional. I apologize if this is too blunt, and I want to make sure everyone understands that I do not think Christians are stupid. They aren’t. They are brainwashed, usually from birth, indoctrinated into a culture of Christianity and held there by fear of hell, fear of losing community and family, and being ostracized as godless heathens. When Christians do allow themselves to doubt and question, they are quickly reined in and corrected. And even when they no longer believe, they fear admitting it. I was once among them, and I feel for them, but I refuse to stand by silently while they destroy the world I, too, must live in. So, yeah, I am angry, and I do feel the need to say what I think is really going on, but I am not mad at an invisible dictator in the sky whom I do not believe exists.

I am not an angry person. I am a person who gets angry, especially when it really matters. I am a moral person, and I want to see us solve problems and move forward in a way that best protects our future. So you see, in this way, we aren’t really that different. We both think the other is ruining the world, we both think the other is deluded. However, I don’t think you are going to hell. I think you can be woken up. I think you can snap out of it and realize the wool has been pulled over your eyes. I’m sure you think I could come back to Christianity, but I won’t because I never want to believe something for no reason again. I want to see a new age of reason emerge, and the United States return to its former position as one of the world’s freethinking leaders of democracy and scientific thought, rather than being known as the largest free country still holding on to magical thinking and holding back progress. Reason, in the end, is the only savior out there, and I’m justifiably angry because we are encouraging ignorance and fantasies over rationality at the cost of our future.—Christina Knowles

Originally published in 2015

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The Terrorism of True Religion by Christina Knowles

atheism-it-cures-religious-terrorismI know that right now is the wrong time to say this. I know there never is a right time according to the politically correct mandate we all live under today, but I’m sick of being politically correct. I’m sick of worrying if someone is going to be offended. I’m probably going to get hate mail for this, but I can’t be silent on this any longer.

The heinous infection that is Islam is spreading across the world. And don’t bother telling me that it is a religion of peace. If you are Muslim, and you think your religion is one of peace, then you are doing it wrong. You don’t even believe your own holy book.

But I won’t stop there. It wouldn’t be fair. Judaism is not a religion of peace. Christianity is not a religion of peace. These three main religions have their roots in violence, their gods are violent, and their people are violent if they literally follow the rules of their holy books.

The fact is, fortunately, most of these believers don’t follow their religion, don’t listen to their holy words, don’t accept the hatefulness of their gods. Why not go one step further and dismiss the whole religion? If you need to reinterpret your holy book to raise the standard of your religion to the higher morals you already have, then dump the whole thing. You are more moral than your god, unless you are a terrorist, in which case, you are doing your religion correctly.

Many people fall back on the ideology that the Old Testament or the Quran are to be taken figuratively, or that the New Testament overrides the old. But this is just an excuse. Jesus condones the horrific acts of God all through the New Testament, and if you have to twist the words of the Bible or Quran to make them more palatable, then it’s not a book worth following, or even reading, for that matter. By the way, these books were supposedly taken literally by the people living in the time they were written, so apparently, they were written to be literal.

And being against the acceptance and practice of ridiculous belief systems is NOT racism. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with faith. I find it hard to fathom that in this day and age, we would praise the ability of blindly accepting that which makes absolutely no sense, is contradicted both by science and its own words, and is supported by zero evidence, as a trait worth aspiring to. It’s time for religion to come under the same scrutiny and criticism allowed in every other claim of knowledge. It is not exempt because you may be offended.

It’s true, the end of religion won’t be the end of all violence, but it would be a great start. It’s time to grow up and realize that Santa is not coming. Your parents, as well-meaning as they were, lied to you. Only when we embrace facts and science can we end religious terrorism. Every prayer you send up for the victims of terrorists validates the idea of fantasy creatures who command the eradication of those who do not believe and encourages this notion that faith is a good thing. It is not. It most definitely is not.—Christina Knowles

Originally published in 2015

Subtle Sexism and the Complicity of Women by Christina Knowles

news.com.au
news.com.au

This week I was confronted with the fact that numerous girls from the age of 16-18 hold views of gender equality, or should I say inequality, that are more akin to what I expect from their male counterparts of the same age. I teach in a somewhat, okay, very conservative high school, but still, these students have embraced openly homosexual and transgendered students with fairly open arms. Yet these same students hold the view that women should be submissive to men, that it is a good idea to stay home and let husbands take care of them, and that many jobs traditionally held by men should continue to be held by men to the exclusion of women.

It seems that no matter how prevalent racism is, no matter how discrimination still subsists against the homosexual community, and no matter how much prejudice remains against those who practice certain religions or no religion at all, the final holdout will likely be biases based on gender. It makes me wonder with all the racist comments directed against our first black president, who happens at least to be a man, what kind of degradation will a future female president be made to endure. I have to ask myself, Why?

Well, here’s my theory. America is a country where, according to a Pew Research Poll (2012), 73% identify as Christian (PewResearch). And although sexism is a factor in many religions, including Judaism, I often hear many comments about Islam’s blatant sexism, which I don’t deny, but the sexism inherent in Christianity is a much more subtle, and therefore, easier to ignore type of oppression, and with 73% of Americans theoretically accepting the bible as God’s word, I wondered if this is the root of our tenacious American version of sexism.

Of course, the bible condemns homosexuality, and yet, there seems to be a trend to accept that as a lifestyle more and more. Still, being raised in the Christian religion myself, I know, firsthand, the views of women’s roles according to “God.” I have heard from the pulpit of at least a dozen churches that women are to be submissive to their husbands, should not rule over a man, that woman was made for man, women were created to be man’s helper, and that a woman is to keep the home, stay silent in church, and ask her husband if she has any questions.

Of course, all of this is biblical. This archaic message continues to be heard from thousands of pulpits today, even in the 21st century. It really is quite shocking—yet, many Americans aren’t shocked at all. Why?

I believe that women are complicit in their own sexist treatment as a result of being subtly conditioned by a predominantly Christian culture to find sexist treatment desirable, flattering, sexy, and even loving. Again, from the pulpit I’ve heard ridiculous explanations of the stories in the bible twisted to make the degradation of women seem acceptable. I’ve heard a pastor say that Adam only ate of the forbidden fruit because he didn’t want Eve to be condemned without him. Sure, that is a much more romantic way of blaming Eve for the downfall of mankind. And everyone’s heard the feel-good twist on the creation of Adam and Eve. The real bible story goes that Adam was created first, and then Eve was made from his rib to be his “helpmate” because it was “not good for man to be alone.” The modern version of this story is that Eve was taken from Adam’s rib to symbolize how she walks next to him—not in front of him, not behind him, but equal to him.

I guess someone should have told this version to Paul. This is what he has to say on the subject in I Timothy 2: 11-15: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (Biblegateway.com). Apparently, Paul, and God by extrapolation, believe that because Eve came after Adam and was first to be deceived, women now and forever after must keep their mouths shut, be submissive, know their place in the church and at home, and if they do their job of birthing children, there may still be hope for them. So much for walking side by side in equality.

And, of course, there is always the “Chivalry” justification. I’ve heard from the pulpit that women, as the “weaker vessel” are to be treated like a priceless vase or precious fine china. They need the protection of a man, and this, unfortunately, means protecting them from doing really hard stuff like having authority over a man. Where was all this delicate treatment when women had to marry their rapists or were being offered up to be molested in the place of angels in Sodom and Gomorrah, by a man who was deemed “righteous” in God’s eyes? Naturally, there is an “explanation” for this as well.

Gotquestions.org is a popular site dedicated to answering the unanswerable questions and contradictions in the bible. This is what they have to say about Lot’s righteousness: “Based on what is revealed about Lot’s life, one might wonder if he was righteous. However, there is no doubt that God had declared him to be positionally righteous, even during his time in Sodom . . . At some point Lot had believed in the coming Messiah, and that faith resulted in a righteous standing before God. It is likely that Lot’s uncle, Abraham, had passed this truth down to him” (Gotquestions.org). So he was only considered righteous because he had once believed in the coming Messiah, which contradicts numerous teachings regarding apostates who “turn from the faith” and are commonly thought to never have been converted in the first place. My point is that our culture seems to accept every despicable treatment of women justified by religion as long as we sugarcoat it.

But the absolute craziest thing I’ve heard lately came from a conversation I had with a local bible guru who hosts a Christian radio question and answer show in Denver, Colorado. This talk show host actually used the “protection” reasoning to justify polygamy as being superior to homosexual marriage. Now, I’m sure he would deny that he was justifying polygamy. However, he claims that there are times and cultural demands that present polygamy as the only viable option for women to live safely and be protected. He says, for example, in the bible, that God allowed polygamy for the protection of women. He states that sometimes, in a certain culture where men hold the power and status, and there are not enough men to go around, women would be on the street without polygamy. He says it isn’t God’s ideal plan, but God allows it because the culture requires a redefinition of marriage. Yet he denies that we can redefine marriage to include same sex marriage based on our changing culture. It also seems the double-standard never works in favor of women because when I asked him if the reverse would be true—if a culture dominated by women existed, wherein women held the power, the status, the jobs, and there were fewer men than women, if women should have more than one husband to protect the men, he declined to answer, and instead, changed the subject.

It is no revelation that sexism is rooted in traditional religions. However, it is the subtle acceptance of this legitimatized sexism among mainstream and nice people that makes it so insidious and pervasive. According to a study published by Psychology of Women Quarterly, the effects of what psychologists, Burn and Busso, call Benevolent Sexism, wherein women are complicit in their own oppression due to the religious and cultural reframing of said oppression, biblical literalism is at the root of this problem. Burn and Busso find that their studies “do suggest that religiosity is correlated with BS [Benevolent Sexism]. Thus, a consideration of the various forces that contribute to women’s lower power and status should include religion. Religion is frequently a central part of a culture and many religions communicate to their followers that men’s greater power and status relative to women is appropriate and acceptable. Although this perspective is presented ‘benevolently’ rather than ‘hostilely,’ the net effect is still to support gender inequality—especially because women as well as men tend to endorse it. Not only does BS justify traditional gender roles but it also pacifies women’s resistance to gender subordination by masking gender inequality with the cloak of chivalry (e.g., men need women and should protect and cherish them” (Glick & Fiske, 2001a, 2001b). “BS rooted in religion may be a significant obstacle to gender equality when it is rooted in literal scriptural interpretations and is essentially nonfalsifiable because there is no arguing with the word of God” (Burn, Busso, p.6). Burn and Busso quote Anwar’s 1999 study “Theological alternatives to religious fundamentalism” that states “common features of religious fundamentalism include a belief that society needs to be rescued from secularism, a commitment to the authority of the ancient scriptures, and the idealization of a past where gender spheres were separate and women were modest and subordinate” (Anwar, qtd in Burn and Busso, p. 1).

The churches I grew up in and have attended at various points throughout my life claim not to be fundamentalist, just bible-believing, but they would all fit the above criteria. I don’t deny that there are many factors involved in the lingering and acceptable sexism persistent in the American culture besides religious justification and the “dressing up” of gender stereotyping and behavior. However, I do believe that a culture that teaches women that it is God who demands a subordinate role, and that this role is righteous and good, will continue the “benevolent” oppression of women, and that this acceptable oppression will not confine itself to benevolent acts and innocuous sexist views of women, if there is such a thing. As our culture moves beyond stereotypical assignments of roles to various people groups, the advancement of women as equal human partners in the modern world requires an abandoning of this acceptance of literal interpretations of the bible and of the adherence to ancient biblical writings as divine law that should be imposed on a modern society. As long as religious leaders use the divinity of scripture as justification for the subordinate treatment of women, effectively blaming God for their prejudice, and as long as they condition and pressure women to accept this treatment as the will of God, gender inequality will continue to exist in our society.

If, indeed, there is a god, I am sure this god is very disturbed at the thought of men using an ancient book written by men as a justification to inflate themselves and to persecute half of creation in his . . . or her name. –Christina Knowles

Sources:

Burn, Shawn Meghan, and Julia Busso. “AMBIVALENT SEXISM, SCRIPTURAL LITERALISM, AND RELIGIOSITY.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 29.4 (2005): 412-18. Digital Commons @ CAL POLY. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/psycd_fac/32/&gt;.

Gotquestions.org. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <http://www.gotquestions.org/Lots-daughters.html&gt;.

“Nones on the Rise.” Pew Research Center. 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/&gt;.

“I Timothy 2:11-15.” Biblegateway.com. New King James Version. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.

“UN Women Ads Show Sexism behind Google Searches.” Photo. News.com.au 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.

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