This list (pardon the tacky title) is the result of a few years of fairly frustrating interaction with religious people, some of whom, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, had the best intentions and were either seeking to build a bridge or give helpful advice (the latter, presumed as such).
You will understand why sanctimonious remarks from otherwise intelligent and affable people, friends included, provoke more nausea than the knee-jerk reactions of zealots who simply wave you off to Hell. Many of these remarks come in the current socio-political climate of the “West fighing for its values”; some, however, are unrelated.
And yes, I’ve heard or read all of the following, quite recently, as a response to discussing my apostasy. Perhaps at the time I answered in a fairly polite manner; however, the intrinsic reaction would have translated better as follows.
Parenthesis here – I’m not even an atheist/ materialist, as I know there are phenomena worth exploring on the level of energy use, transcendental experiences etc, which cannot be reduced to mere coincidence. Foreseeing a future event with great accuracy in a dream would be a good example. However, the term atheist is often cast on me as a label (many believers cannot tell the difference; there is a clear line between those worshiping their god and the rest; specifics are often unimportant). I can’t say I mind, though it’s not entirely accurate.
1.”You must be miserable without God; you must feel so alone; atheists are dark and suicidal. They need our help and our prayers.”
My honest but less than polite response would be stop masturbating. Psychologically and emotionally, of course – at the thought that you’re in a much better place, than, conceivably, a non-believer could ever be. That what gives you elation must give everyone else elation and lacking it must equate depression and dark moods.
Needless to say, these people have their own emotional struggles – yet if you dare mention one of your own, however common among humans, they immediately make a connection between that and your lack of belief. Everyone struggles with issues at some point, regardless of religion or the lack of it.
I find this assumption and afferent compassion disgusting. First of all because it is divorced from reality. Former believers experience relief, at least in the long run (some do feel lost for some time); certainly not misery, at the realisation that there is no sky goblin perked up in the attic, listening to their every word and thought and potentially condemning them for it (much like the Stasi, I might mention). I do feel alone in that sense. In a good way. That my thoughts are my own and there’s no one writing them down in a “book of judgement” which notes my brain’s activity more arduously than a corporate accountant.
Stop assuming the role of a benevolent saviour in my direction. Stop masturbating, that is.
2.”Atheism is a fad nowadays; a cool label. You’re just going with the trend. It’s trendy to attack religion. You’ll get over it.”
Might I mention, you totally inconsiderate person (which came to replace some other term), the many years I’ve spent reflecting on all this, feeling doubtful, guilty and fearful, and endlessly analysing my decision, with all the internal struggle that involves.
I didn’t just “sign up to another club”. I had a lot of life-changing reconsidering to do. I had to question all I’d previously thought, in terms of moral applicability. You don’t just give up your religion because a new fad has arrived on your doorstep.It’s far more complex. Far more intimate and far deeper than that.
To cheapen, reduce and trivialise someone’s decades-long experience of religion can only be the product of a fairly simple mind.
3.”God has a plan for all of us, yourself included. If things go wrong in your life, it’s because you have not accepted his plan for you.”
Although I know the thought of a divine plan gives people comfort in times of struggle, such as bereavement, one has to think of the cognitive dissonance of praying to and worshiping a God who allows all imaginable atrocities.
You’re expecting your life decisions to fall out of the sky, instead of employing your brain. And then you delegate your own mistakes or misfortunes to God’s plan, while thinking someone else’s are a result of their absence of faith and being misled by the devil. How arrogant.
4.”I’ll pray for you to find your way back to God; he will help you if you just let him. I just know you’ll be back someday.”
Of course you think so; you can’t possibly imagine people existing separately from your divine Sim Farm. “It matters not. He is your king.” (Braveheart).
In your mind we’re all ants depending on his mercy, on his benevolence, on his tolerance. We are all ant-like in the sense that we cannot successfully oppose physical forces greater than us (illnesses, earthquakes, the weather, accidents, other people’s use of force etc). However, what we think and feel is ours and ours alone and not lorded over by someone else, earthly or otherwise. At least that’s the capacity we have. Of course, brainwashing gets in the way.
When you interact with me and at the back of your mind have fantasies of converting me, perhaps you should look for like-minded company instead.
5.”You’ve been brainwashed by cultural Marxists, who seek to attack our traditional values; you’re giving up your religion so you can embrace the ideology of sexual minorities.”
Look who’s talking about brainwashing. And by the way, opposing bigotry is not an ideology and neither is belonging to a minority the religious love to pick on. It’s someone’s nature, not a doctrine others convinced them to adopt.
These proponents of falsehood project by seeing artificiality in other people’s attitudes; everything is a conspiracy meant to upturn the religiously-inspired order of society. It’s called being reactionary, not objective or realistic. History has had its fair share of reactionaries and, like it or not, cringes when looking back on their views.
6.”You’re just not ready to understand that the world could not function without religion; we would all become animals; someday you will (this coming from a self-declared fellow agnostic).”
Really now? I could cite five hundred sources disproving that claim, since the beginning of time to present day, when murderous religious fanaticism is perhaps the greatest danger we all face. I could list religious wars, genocides and atrocities; torture and maiming which goes on to this day, witch hunts, the delaying of scientific progress for centuries, slavery and what not.
But something else comes to mind first – you must have little love or respect for the people around you, to claim that they are not capable, on mass, to behave decently towards one another without adopting a fairy-tale as their moral pillar. You basically argue that it doesn’t matter whether those beliefs they organise their lives around are true, as long as they can, presumably, be deceived into better behaviour.
In other words, you place yourself way above them. You don’t think they can handle the truth with their measly minds; only enlightened people such as yourself can. And those trying to make them see it are doing them a disservice, leaving them prey, heaven forbid, to their own nature (which you also share but distance yourself from). In that regard you demean the species far more than you might perceive an evolutionist does.
7.”Something terrible must have happened to harden your heart, so now you see only darkness in the world and blame God for it. You’re just angry with life; someone must have let you down, and now you reject God’s love.”
There’s such desperation to think apostasy could never be the product of an honest intellectual endeavour and sincere self-reflection. Anything but the kitchen sink is envisaged as the potential cause. Such desperation to think intuition is completely valid when resulting in faith (this is what I believe and feel in my heart, therefore God exists), yet invalid when renouncing it, and that apostasy is caused by flimsy external circumstances.
Darkness has its role, or should I say realism. I could not, without vomiting, raise my arms to praise God’s love in my direction for, let’s say, having survived a shipwreck, when everyone else around me drowned. It’s a matter of being honest about things. Survival is a matter of luck and/or resilience, not God’s presumed love. Other people’s love or altruism towards me is of their own doing, not something planted in them by the supreme puppeteer.
8.”Your preoccupation with religion shows your heart is actually crying out for God, otherwise you wouldn’t give it a second thought and you wouldn’t be talking about it to others.”
It should be common sense to realise that when someone has spent decades believing and regurgitating lies, when they do eventually abandon them, they have a natural drive to deconstruct all previously held falsehoods, especially when those around them keep spouting them.
When someone starts to see how much religion had affected their life, from their perception of themselves to their interaction with others and propensity for falling into political traps, they naturally reflect on every single aspect.They seek information regarding these falsehoods and often share it. Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist) explains this in all its complexity.
The needless guilt and mortification, the needless fear of being spied on every second of the day by an invisible bookkeeper, to the degree of censoring their thoughts. The bigoted things said to others, which cannot be taken back. People who come out of cults often turn against them vocally – and who can blame them? Brainwashing causes anger.
There is, of course, a degree of anger – not necessarily towards those who unwittingly carried out the indoctrination, having been subjected to it themselves as children, yet towards the phenomenon per se.
9. “There are simply people who don’t concern themselves with matters of greater importance than their measly day-to-day experiences and pleasures… “
And then there are those with such delusions of grandeur they think they are among the chosen who will inherit the Earth. There are those who engage in social engineering in their own heads – who should have rights and who shouldn’t, which categories deserve respect and which deserve ostracism (sexual minorities for instance) etc. The world is a board game for them and they think they have it all figured out.
They are preoccupied with conspiracies upon conspiracies by those who seek to “upturn the natural order” (as if laws and cultures had not evolved throughout time, from one generation to the next, and their understanding of things were flawless). And in the end, these illusions only produce a thin smoke around them, if not gas, in some cases, as only a negligible minority of wannabe social engineers actually reach positions of influence.
Rejecting such futile arrogance is not, in any way, based on reducing one’s preoccupations to trivialities, as non-believers are often said to do. It’s simply the awareness of one’s limited perspective and limited possibilities of influencing reality – not to mention the quest to develop as much empathy as possible, as to avoid seeing enemies everywhere.
10. “I don’t think you’ll actually go to hell; you’re a good person; Jesus will take that into account. I’ll pray for you and God will listen to me.”
This is a poor way of saying “the afterlife system I believe in is so grotesque it involves the people I love and like spending eternity in a pit of fire and boiling tar, with imps shoving pitchforks up their behinds, while I spend eternity in peace and harmony”. Instead of admitting that, they give imaginary passes to those they want to maintain a relationship with in their earthly lives.
Either admit there is no such place or shut up about it. You might actually think you’re doing me a favour by interceding on my behalf to your imaginary sky goblin.Your condescending benevolence and ad hoc advocate/saviour role, from a presumed position of superiority, is so delusional it is sickening.
11. “You’re doing God’s work without being aware of it.”
This patronising remark comes when a believer is confronted with actions which fit the moral pattern they adhere to, at the hands of a non-believer. Since morality supposedly comes from God and atheists or agnostics are “of the devil”, the only way to get around liking and approving of non-believers is to think they are secretly on God’s pay role and are secretly carrying out his plan.
I hate to tell you but I don’t want a place in your imaginary Sim Farm where everyone is a property of your God. I know you built this whole world in your head, allocating a small plot to each individual you know, according to your God’s criteria – the saved, the potentially saved and the rest. Either like me for what I am or leave me alone. I don’t belong in your fantasy.
Years ago, Christopher Hitchens made this claim, seen as hyperbolic by many – that religion poisons everything. Upon analysing it, though the claim might seem exaggerated or frightening to the struggling-to-be-religious-and-get-along-with-others type, it is actually very accurate.
God is in your family, in your marriage, in your bed, in your community, in your likes and hobbies, in your intellectual ventures, in your state policy, in your country’s international affairs, and first and foremost, in your head and heart, like a ballooned Stasi, judging and censoring everything down to your most intimate thoughts.
And therefore, religion does affect, or should I say poison every aspect of your life, or at least has the capability to do so, if you take it seriously enough.