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I didn’t grow up in a very religious environment. My father has been an atheist for as long as I know, making fun of religion and people who believe. However, he wasn’t a good father, and not a good role model. Had he been a better role model, maybe I would have had more conversations about religion and would have never gone into a church in the first place. Truth is, I was looking for a home of sorts, where I could experience some acceptance and friendship, and unfortunately, churches are good at filling some of those needs.
My mom was raised catholic in a small town, and tried holding on to her faith. The rest of my extended family, grandparents, uncles and aunts, all faithfully attend the catholic church, pray before meals, and use Bible verses as needed to prove their point. When I started going to church for a short time at 17, my mom seemed to like it, and for the next 20 something years I always saw her sadness and regret that she couldn’t attend church regularly.
I moved away, went to college, worked, and then moved to Texas about 11 years ago. I attended church from 2000 to 2005, partly due to marriage to someone who liked the attention of the religious congregations.
I found out quickly that those who call themselves Christians are driven and motivated by the same things everybody else is. Most people do not make extreme sacrifices that will hurt themselves or their families. In fact, often enough it is the other way around and people either market their belief or make money with it.
I drive by the highway and see “Christian Automotive” businesses, Christian bookstores, Christian home health agencies, Christian counseling or Christian foot care.
Can you get better automotive service at a Christian place? Or at any normal place simply because the guy checking your car is attending services at XYZ church? No. What kind of service you get depends mostly on the business decisions of the company, the honesty and good will of the individual who works on your car, and the integrity of the place. If the whole company promotes charging for services that were not rendered, then even the Christian coworkers at the place will most likely fall into that same routine of checking off things on the list without checking on them on your car. Most likely the individual will not sue the company, expose the company or tell on the company. Why not? S/he wants to keep the job. Also, if the company puts the individual under pressure to perform a certain way, whether honest or not, then most likely that individual will yield to the pressure.
Does the Christian bookstore employee never take money out of the cash register? Maybe. Just because the person at the register goes to the same church as the owner of the store, or the manager, doesn’t mean theft will never occur. Otherwise, why is it necessary for even those employees to have their own register code? There is no more trust to employees in Christian businesses to run the cash register correctly than in other businesses.
Is the Christian chiropractor or doctor better than the atheist pediatrician or nurse? I don’t believe so, although I have not done any studies. I am just speaking from my own life’s experience.
Yesterday my neighbor stopped by, who is running a non-profit organization that has something to do with praying for people who are sick and also with pandemics that are to be expected in America, but with information being kept secret. Not sure who keeps the secret, it sounds a bit apocalyptical to me. Things aren’t going well, and the lady lost her house, then her apartment, and now she is trying to get a small apartment next to me. She is selling her furniture, she explained to me, at a church garage sale, so people can get a tax write off, and then the money is given back to her, because the church pays money to her business. Aside from the fact that I never had a garage sale and I don’t know if anyone actually would have to pay sales tax if they sell their junk once a year, this sounds like a bit of a money laundry to me. I personally don’t care, but it sounds like she is using the church sale to maybe get more money, as people might be willing to pay more if they can write it off, or buy something they may not have really needed, just to help out their church. But I am sure the people do not know that that same money goes back to one individual person, to help her pay her rent. Does she act human? Yes, of course. She needs the dollars and she does everything to make the most out of it. Does she act like a good little Christian? I don’t know. My common sense alone (since I am not a Christian) would advice her: get a regular job, then you have regular income and you can pay your regular expenses, such as rent. If I was a Christian, I would expect her to act in this responsible manner.
Not to mention the jail population, I have seen people who show up in church on Sundays, steal from each other, abuse their children, lie to their family, take advantage of others, be disrespectful, beat their wives, cheat on their spouses, commit the “gay sins” or run businesses without integrity and honesty. I see people market their faith, make money from other people’s spiritual needs, and judge, accuse and generally make others feel bad because of their own opinions and agendas.
There is no difference in behavior. Non-religious parents foster or adopt as much as religious ones, and there was no god telling them to do it. Religious parents don’t foster because god told them so, it is because they want to (for several different reasons, not all of them good ones). Non-religious people volunteer, help out, donate and have as much human and social behavior as those who think that only their religion makes them good people.
Over time, I have found that those who consciously make the decision not to belong to any religion and to dismiss any and all belief in supernatural beings are often better educated and have more integrity than those who do believe. Maybe my view is biased.
For the most part, however, I see Christians, people of other religions, and atheists, live together in the same society, pursue their happiness, take care of their families, keep their jobs and provide for themselves and their children, go to a doctor instead of praying for that blood pressure to go down, and vaccinate their children as well as give them appropriate medical care. The expression of religion is mostly reserved for Sunday mornings only and otherwise they are content to be able and call themselves Christians.
My point is, religion does not change people. Their lives are not a reflection of their faith, but their behavior in church is a reflection of their personality that they already have. Except, they give their god the glory and gratefulness for it and believe that they are doing wonderful things in the name of god and with his help only.
To briefly go back to my own story, I was diagnosed in 2004 with an intersex condition and had surgery to correct the condition. I also received a name and gender change court order and new birth certificate. A few months after that, I was attending a non-denominational church and had made some friends there.
When they found out about my condition, I was of course asked to leave, then was told I should meet with the elders of the church and bring all my medical paperwork to them. Then I was told I could never date a woman, because I used to be one (well, not quite), because that would be gay. I laughed and said, what, should I date a man? Of course, they said, I couldn’t date a man, because that would be gay also. I asked them who I could date then, so I wouldn’t be gay, and what was wrong with being gay anyway? It was all against the Bible of course, no matter which way it was turned.
At this time, I had already many doubts about this particular religion and had started doing research about religions in general. I happily left the church at this time and dismissed religion for good.
Although I never made important life decisions based on religion and could never figure out how this heaven or hell place was supposed to work, I am happier now than before, and I feel stupid for ever having believed the stuff. Once you are outside looking back, it’s really dumb and ignorant, and inhumane.
I’d say it’s time for a new book. I just wish the wise men and women of this world could get together and write a book on how we should treat each other, what are some good values, and what we shouldn’t do to each other. Of course, this book would get regular updates in the next few thousand years and never claims to be the ultimate truth. If we could just stop cramming religion down the throats of our kids and offer more critical thinking and higher education instead, we would be a great big step ahead.
Thank you for listening.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)