After living for years in a sort of religious limbo (no pun intended) I now call myself an atheist, not because I know there is no god, but because I do not believe in one. God might or might not exist; I have no way of knowing for sure, so I’m an agnostic atheist.
I used to call myself just an agnostic, and before that I called myself spiritual but not religious and before that I called myself a Christian because that’s how I was raised. But after reading Dan Barker’s book, Godless, I know that if I cannot specifically answer in the affirmative if someone asks me if I believe in God, then by definition, I’m an atheist.
Theists believe in a god. In the U.S. most theists are Christians. And most of them have no reluctance to tell me how wrong I am for not believing. I can point out that they only believe in one god, the Christian god, and therefore, are atheistic with respect to all other gods. What if they picked the wrong one? But logic doesn’t faze most fundamentalist Christians. They, after all, have their bibles.
It doesn’t matter that the bible is chock full of contradictions and horror stories of a vengeful god. It doesn’t matter that the bible has absolutely no independent historical corroboration. It doesn’t matter that not one word of the New Testament was written by a person who knew Jesus personally or witnessed any of the events they wrote about. None of that matters to Christians. They have their beloved bible, which is the unerring word of God. And how do they know it is? Well, obviously, because the bible tells them so.
Logic, reason, and rational thought don’t work at all with fundamentalists and their bibles. They can be the most reasonable, intelligent people in the world when it comes to all other aspects of their lives. Maybe they are whizzes at business or art or music. Maybe they have a photographic memory or are champions at playing Trivial Pursuit. But they are able to compartmentalize their daily, rational lives and keep all that separate from their religious beliefs.
It doesn’t matter to them that scientists have proved that all species of life on Earth, including humans, have evolved. They simply say, “Oh, it’s only a theory.” They don’t realize that, in science, a theory is as good as it gets. Theories have been proven, even though they can be modified by new evidence if necessary.
Fundamentalists say they have all the proof they need that God exists, in the trees, the flowers, a baby’s cry. It doesn’t matter one bit to them that everything they point to as proof of God can be explained perfectly well by science using only natural laws. It doesn’t matter to them at all that the personal feeling they have that God lives within them can be duplicated, and is duplicated, in other religions that they might call heathen religions. And those feelings can all be explained by neuroscience anyway.
I am often asked why I care what other people believe. I care, partly, because I am a teacher, and I like for people to understand how things really work. I at least like for them to be open minded enough to try to understand.
Mostly, though, I don’t much care that people believe in God. After all, if there were solid evidence, I could be convinced myself of God’s existence. I used to believe in God. So I get it. But what really bothers me is not their belief in God or even in Jesus, but that so many of them rule out what has been proven by science in favor of biblical mythology. And some of these people who rule out evolution as viable in favor of six-day creation find no problem accepting help when they need it from a doctor. Many medicines, such as immunizations and antibiotics, have been created based on the theory of evolution. Evolution is useful to scientists, and therefore, to everyone else.
If the religious fundamentalists would denounce the use of anything that comes from what they do not believe in – the theory of evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the earth and Cosmos – then I would say they are missing out on life, but at least they would not be hypocrites. But if they make use of any of these things, then they are, indeed, hypocrites. They use the advancements of science for their own benefit, even if those advancements could not have come absent the theory of evolution.
I say to all the fundamentalists who do not accept evolution as factual, despite 150 years of evidence supporting it then stop using the benefits of science. Live like the Amish. You should not accept the fruits of the labor of evolutionary biologists if you do not believe in evolution. You can’t have it both ways, unless you are a hypocrite. If you are a hypocrite, then you are being dishonest. And isn’t that what you would call a sin?