Letter to a Christian friend

I was thinking about some content I would like to add to my blog. As I have said in previous posts I am a closet atheist, just a few close friends and some of my family members know how I feel. I have a Facebook account and have many friends from my time growing up in the church. Being in the Midwest my facebook feed is generally filled with pictures like in my last post. I also saw a lot of religious based posts right after the election, seemed many Trump supporters were emboldened by their win (that seems to have died down lately … I wonder why?).

The point is I see those types of posts everyday and I generally don’t mind because many times I asked them to be my Facebook friend. But sometimes it gets to me  because I know I can’t post as freely as they can. I would lose contacts (which maybe I shouldn’t care if I did), some of my Christian friends would see the posts as direct attacks which I am attacking an idea not the people that believe it, and also I have a lot of family that does not know and I would like to keep it that way for now.

Then one evening I saw a post from an old youth minister that lives out of state, he’s not in the ministry anymore though. But I guess for some reason he wanted to share some of his thoughts regarding atheism. Let’s call him Bob…..

So here’s Bob’s post:

Here’s something I’ve been chewing on…. I think that the word ‘atheist’ doesn’t actually apply to anyone. Perhaps a better word might be, ‘Egotheist.’….that the contradiction of insisting there is no God may actually be a claim to personal deity…they have positioned themselves as ‘ultimate knowledge, judgement and sovereignty.’ Just had to put my thoughts down in text.

Most days I would just shake my head and scroll on but for some reason that night I felt it deserved an answer. I really did like this guy growing up so I tried to keep it as polite as possible and of course I couldn’t reply on his wall. This is what I sent him privately through messenger.

Hey Bob,

I just wanted to also give you some of my thoughts concerning your post. If you look into the definition of atheist you may find some contradictions to the description
you are using. Having a lack of belief in a god or gods is different than insisting there is no God.

I am not saying there are no atheist who will insist this but I would term them as gnostic atheists as opposed to the majority I have come across who are agnostic atheists – (there is no current knowledge or way to know if a claim of God is true… simply put lack of evidence).

Could God exist, sure… has this been objectively proven? In most atheists opinions no.  In what other aspects of life would we believe an incredible claim without sufficient evidence other than religion? … this is the basis of faith.
Lumping all atheist together as “egotheists” is the same as saying all Christians believe in transubstantiation, snake handling, the death penalty for homosexuals or magic underwear.

As to the rest of the post:

Ultimate knowledge – I would say most atheist embrace the idea that “I don’t know” is the best answer many times that can be given to a question. “I don’t know” spurs the act of investigation, opening your mind to new and different perspectives.
Science and technology are driven by these questions. In my experience most of the people who claim to have Ultimate Knowledge of how things were, are and will be tend to be quoting whatever is their favorite holy text they grew up with.

Which brings up another question, if one of these religions had a real grasp of ultimate truth wouldn’t we see an overwhelming conversion to that religion?

The number one predictor of what religion you are is where you were born, second would be what religion are your parents…. think about that. Deep down inside do
you believe that this is a decision a 10 year old can make when walking down the aisle on Sunday morning? How many ten year olds say dad, mom I know you are Mormon but I was thinking about becoming Jewish. Isn’t this a decision that God would want to be made using freewill of a mature and informed mind…. why then do we see the push by the church to do the opposite … I think you know that answer.

Judgment – You may ask why I am writing you in a private message rather than a comment? Besides being wordy (sorry about that) having a different belief or non-belief in a portion of the country that refers itself to the bible belt brings with it a stigma that can effect friendships, family, organizational memberships and in some extreme cases employment.

Profanity laden insults and threats of physical harm are not atypical replies on the internet to atheist posts by those claiming to follow in the footsteps of Christ. I see many posts on facebook saying atheists are trying to ban prayer in school or prevent me from worshiping how I want. It’s true there are atheist working to keep government free of the promotion or teaching of any one religion in our public schools or courts. But ask yourself if you lived in areas of Michigan that are quickly becoming majority Muslim wouldn’t you want the same protection for your children’s religious beliefs attending public school? I find it alarming that many fundamentalists are trying to push for exactly
what many of our founders were running from.. theocratic government.

Sovereignty – Far from it. There are many authorities I submit to everyday, the law, my job, duty to my country, family and an overall responsibility to humanity to do my part to leave this world a little better then when I came into it. One of the realizations I had in adulthood could be expressed this way.

When I was really young I thought my parents and adults knew everything. They were my teachers they taught me to walk, to talk, what this world was around me and what to believe was true. They could do no wrong.

When I was a teenager I thought my parents knew nothing. They were out of touch, they didn’t understand me and came from a different time.

I think I finally grew up when I realized I know nothing too. I realized that each of us are born into this world trying to figure out how to navigate it. How to be a parent, a spouse, a citizen and hopefully the desire to do the right thing as we understand it.

I apologize if this comes off negatively that is not my intention. I typically do not respond with such frankness to posts like yours. Maybe I am using you as a sounding board for the one sided posts I see flooding through my Facebook feed from people I love and respect. You seem to be a good and loving person, I respect you. I just know sometimes it helps to hear a side that isn’t typically given or seeked out by the Christian community we grew up in.

I know I don’t have to but I ask that you could keep this message between us, it’s not that I have anything to be ashamed of but I think my beliefs or non beliefs do not define my life, my family is important to me and I would not want anything to come between me and those I love that feel that belief is what is most import in their lives.

I wish you and your family nothing but the best.

So that was the post, I must have spent hours writing and editing. Making sure I don’t come off condescending. Making sure all of my points are clear. And you know what happened?

Nothing – no reply back. He didn’t unfriend me he just chose not to respond. I don’t know what I was expecting though. And looking back now I think I did it more for myself then hoping it would have any effect on him. I think it was for the reason I started this blog, maybe I will be the one to learn from this process. I should always put my money where my mouth is so to speak and continue to question myself and listen to others. I am done with a one sided sounding board that I grew up in.

Well at the very least he can say he knows an atheist and we are not all baby eating demons.

Uzzah

I’m so tired…

Why am I tired ? A couple of reasons but the main one is I have spent too much time on YouTube watching atheist videos. Hey in the beginning I was so excited about watching all these youtube videos of atheists confronting Christians … Hitchens was my favorite but he has now shed this mortal coil and no more new ones. The majority of his videos come from his God Is Not Great tour of the south where by necessity he repeats some of the classic lines

For 98,000 years God sits back with folded arms…..

At least with North Korea you can fucking die….

One of the things I live for is, if not passing on my genes, then taking part in activities that might allow those genes to be passed on…

I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice …

If none of these quotes are familiar you haven’t watched enough Hitchens….  there will never be another like him.

Every once in awhile we get a lone gem like when he told Ben Stein “He needs to live two more lifetimes to live down his work with Richard Nixon… but I can’t picture two more lifetimes let alone one more with him for anyone else” Laughed my butt off on that one.

So I watch Dawkins, Dennett, Harris ….  I’ve worked my way through the four horsemen ….  Dillahunty, Krauss, Carrier, Barker, Aron Ra  … heck I have even gone through all the Gervais and degrasse Tyson soft appeals to atheism ..  all 1000 + epsisodes of the Atheist Experience…  I’ve tried some of what they would call the alt right atheist (Thunderf00t, Amazing Atheist, Sargon)  not sure about those..  although I have to admit that the Drunken Peasants are a guilty pleasure (I actually live about 5 minutes from Brett Keane)…

Now I am down to videos of atheists being invited to speak to churches or Christian classrooms  …  yeah I don’t have to hear about the ontological argument or the kalam cosmological but this is what I am down to…

Where do you get your morals … Doesn’t it take as much faith to be an atheist… But what if you’re wrong (Pascal’s wager)….. How can you not believe in anything …. why do you hate God?…  if man evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys…

I am seriously depressed I think I have finished the internet ……. what should I do next?  Really what would you suggest?

Uzzah

 

 

 

So who’s this Uzzah character?

As I said in my last post Uzzah is not my real name.  Some of my family and a couple of friends know I no longer believe, for the most part though I have kept this to myself, for several reasons which will make great topics later on.

But who is Uzzah?

One question many atheists are asked is “when did you stop believing?”. Most answers I have heard tend to be that there was not one specific thing that changed their mind but it was a gradual questioning over time. Even though this is the same for me, I did try and remember when that questioning began. For me it was in Sunday school when I was a child, probably 7 or 8 years old. Each week we were given lessons from the bible and there were four that I can remember which really didn’t sit right with me at the time.

  • The death of Uzzah when he touched the Ark of the Covenant
  • Lot’s wife when she looked back when fleeing Sodom
  • God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac
  • God’s torture of Job to prove a point to Satan

I would like to talk about all of these in future posts but right now let’s focus on Uzzah and what I think illustrates a lack of compassion or mercy in the God of the bible.

But before I continue let me clarify the above statement. When I write or comment about God,  Jesus or any character in the bible I am in no way conceding their existence. They are exactly that, characters in a story. There are many people who do believe they were real and even a few who would say some of the stories are just allegories to illustrate God’s message. My point is to show why I think these messages are anything but moral and question why anyone would use this book to guide their life.

Let’s start with what the Bible says (KJV)…

2nd Samuel – Chapter 6
1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.
3 And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, 4 with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.
5. And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.
6. And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 8 And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.

The very same story is repeated in 1st Chronicles Chp 13 but it is almost exactly the same so I won’t repeat that here. (I guess plagiarism was not an issue back then)

I’ve read several apologists explanations of why would God do something that most people would find that extreme. It’s a reasonable question and it deserves some answers. One site I found (Got Questions) had compiled several of what they would consider the best answers. I’ll try my best to sum them up and give my take on them.

  1. The Hebrews were given specific instructions on how the Ark was to be transported. The Ark was to be carried by men on poles and David did not follow God’s precise instructions.

My response: What David did or didn’t do has no bearing on whether Uzzah should have been sentenced to death by God. At best this is a hindsight is 20/20 answer … basically saying if David would have followed the rules there would not have been any oxen to stumble. It also seems maybe the rules were not clear anyway,  if you read on, it took a whole three months for David to figure out the proper way to transport it.

 9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me? 10 So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite. 11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.

It seems that God is a stickler for the rules a zero tolerance kind of guy.

2. The Ark had stayed at the house where Uzzah lived for such a long time that “familiarity breeds contempt” and Uzzah forgot the Arks holiness.

My response: This seems to make a few assumptions that claim to know what was in Uzzah’s mind, this is simply not backed up by scripture.  I could say the exact opposite view, that no one at the time was more reverent of the holiness of the ark. The proof? Uzzah lived for 20 years under the same roof with the ark, he would know better than anyone else what the ark was and what it meant to his faith and its importance in his religion. Also he had a 20 year track record of not breeching God’s rules regarding it’s care.

3. The oxen stumbled but the Ark was not falling. Uzzah thought it was his duty to save the integrity of God. They compare this to when Moses disobeyed God’s instructions and struck the rock and was then denied entrance into the promise land.

My response: Once again they are claiming to know what was in Uzzah’s mind with absolutely no proof. From all the various versions I have read it appears to be just a reflexive action…  a normal human response anytime something you cared for was in danger of falling. To compare it to the incident of Moses that appears to be an intentional disobeying of God’s command is an apple to oranges comparison… I say appears because I do not want to make the same mistake of trying to guess Moses’s intent.

All three of these attempts to explain God’s decision have the same problem that the majority of apologists explanations have.  They try to make assumptions that will place the blame away from God and make his actions palatable to our modern moral sensibilities. Maybe we should take these descriptions of the Old Testament God as they are…  they show a character who is a vindictive dictator who shows no value or sense of mercy for the lives of his subjects.

In the end I think of Uzzah as a man just trying to do the right thing in this world and what happened to him was beyond his control. That’s why I am taking the name Uzzah.

To God he was just a means to make an example to his people …  to promote what he craves the most from us  …..  fear.

To read Got Questions take on why God struck Uzzah dead click here

Uzzah

 

Introducing Myself

So here I go.  One thing to understand is this is a step in a journey that if you would have asked me to take 10 years ago I would have declined. I definitely would have not made this next statement.

I am an atheist.

That took awhile to admit to myself.  It’s taking an even longer time to admit it to others… and I know I am not alone. I once thought atheists were under the direction of Satan. The term was used in sermons to demonstrate failure of a child of God, someone to be feared because that evil could somehow infect you. No one would ever want to be an atheist unless of course they were in love with evil and wickedness.

But here I am now. I am an atheist. I am a man in his mid-forties with a wife I love and have been married and faithful to for 20 years. I have two beautiful and smart children who show a caring and empathetic nature to others. I have held a succesful job in the IT industry for over 25 years at the same company. I pay my taxes and bills on time. I try my best to help my fellow neighbor or friend. I have never committed any serious crimes or been arrested.  …  I am a terrible speller though I will warn you of that.

Some people would say I am blessed.  I might have said the same thing sometime ago. But now I am not sure what that means. It seems to indicate that for whatever reason God decided to give me a life worth living. Something millions of people today or in the past(many who were or are faithful Christians) did not even have a chance at. This would have been explained away with the God works in mysterious ways and to “just be thankful for what he has provided you”. Others would say that now that I am an atheist it is Satan’s way of fooling me that I don’t need God.  But these good things happened long before I turned away, back when I was an active Christian, even later when I didn’t attend church as much but the guilt was on my mind all the time.

The truth to me now is this. It’s a combination of things luck, hard work, genetics, help from others here on earth, location …. etc.  I could go on there is not one thing I could say that was the cause of what my life is now. For sure it is not a god or any god …  somehow that would diminish the truth and in my eye’s it would be dishonest to myself and others. This is the promise I make to you if you take the time to read my story …. I won’t lie to you.

Uzzah – not my real name.

Please introduce yourself to me in the comments.