Don’t you hate how difficult it is to start e-mails like this? I never know whether to say ‘Hey’ or ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’…but all-in-all it doesn’t really matter now. I’ve blown it.
I do have a question, however. Or a few comments. I’m 16 years old and I’ve been an atheist for as long as I can remember, and I find your website incredibly entertaining and enlightening at the same time. One thing has always struck me as odd when it comes to organized religion: Don’t most religious extremists end up going against everything that their religion teaches them? Perhaps I should elaborate…the Ten Commandments. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. :) One of them, I believe, clearly states ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ And yet…most of the wars that have sculpted the planet into what it is today have been over the desire for land, or for religious expansion. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but killing someone in the name of God seems like the most hypocritical and ridiculous thing to do. Do you agree? My dad is also an atheist and we have theological discussions on a regular basis, and this point constantly comes up.
In religion’s favor, I can understand the huge amount of comfort that one can receive from getting all of their questions answered by faith, and I have nothing against those who choose this way of life. My boyfriend calls himself a ‘follower of God and Jesus Christ’, and is considering Mormonism for his future religious preference, but he and I have never fallen out from a theological standpoint. We talk, of course, and I ask questions (as we Atheists so enjoy doing) about our individual beliefs, but I hold nothing against him for what he believes. Nor does he to me. I think this is the reason we get along, because neither one of us IMPOSES our belief onto the other.
Which brings me to my next point. (Sorry for the lenthy e-mail. Never sure if I’m going to get an e-mail back from a website, so I tend to cram everything in.) I never, ever get angry with anyone for believing in what they believe in. So why do so many people insist on hating me and telling me I’m going to Hell…calling me a witch and a heretic and a lost, helpless sinner? Wouldn’t saying things like that only decrease their chances of converting me? It’s the one thing that genuinely angers me about religious extremists…when they try to impose their beliefs on me when I have done everything in my power to refrain from doing so to them. Am I wrong in getting angry here? I dislike doing so, since being laid back is one of the things that endears me to my friends.
In fact, one of my friends at school who was previously a Christian asked me one day if all Atheists were so laid back about life and faith. I answered that being laid back is part of my personality, but not having to worry about where I’m going or what I’m doing and being allowed to live in the moment definitely helps. She had an unfortunately heated discussion about her faith with her mother that night, and now calls herself an Atheist. She was always leaning that way and told me that being shouted at by her mom only made her want to deny her faith even more.
I would greatly appreciate any feedback you have on my comments and questions…I’ve read the responses that you’ve sent to other people and I would love to have a conversation with you on these topics. Thank you!
Killing in the name of God only contradicts “thou shall not kill” if the command is taken at literal face value, and the Bible obviously does not do so. The God of the Bible commands killing often and frequently, so the Commandment is obviously not an absolute. But where the lines are is the matter of much discussion.
I’m glad to hear that you don’t try and impose your beliefs on others — particularly on those you care for. One thing I would be interested to know — why does your boyfriend feel the need to join an organized religion? And what are his criteria for choosing a church? Many people choose religion more for social than theological reasons (they like the community or the ceremony, for example).
Regarding condemnation from some religious people being annoying and counter-productive — I tend to agree with you, and I can’t completely explain it myself. I think it goes hand in hand with some religious people seeing atheism as some kind of a threat or insult. When you say your are an atheist, they may feel like you are condemning their theism (even though you are not).
I wish more atheists were laid back. But I think you should talk more with your friend who started calling herself an atheist after an argument with her mom. There is a big difference between someone for whom atheism is an intellectual destination and someone who is an atheist because they are rejecting religion. The latter can, in some people, be effectively a religious stance. If she says she’s “denying her faith,” I’d say that isn’t a good sign — she may have unresolved issues.
Thanks for writing!