GUEST POST: No Thanks to God by Lisa Morguess

One of the best things about this blog is meeting so many like-minded people. I really appreciate knowing there are others out there who share many of the same experiences and frustrations. We can relate to and understand each other. This is a big relief for those of us in communities that put so much trust in God, rather than in the people around them.

Many of you know Lisa Morguess. She recently had an experience that every parent fears. And she encountered responses that most of us, while we understand, find, at times, bothersome. Read on…..And thanks, Lisa, for sharing this with us!________________________________________________

NO THANKS TO GOD

My six-year old son disappeared while we were on a family vacation recently (I wrote about it here).  Without our knowing it, he slipped out of the condo we were renting for the week up in Mammoth Lakes, a small rustic town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  That he has an intellectual disability (Down syndrome) made it all the more terrifying; I was absolutely frantic when I discovered him missing.

It is a testament to the influence of social media in my twenty-first century life that after we called 911, I grabbed my phone and quickly typed on Facebook, “Finn is missing. We are up in Mammoth Lakes and he got out of the condo without us knowing. He’s been missing for close to an hour. Everyone is looking, including the police. I have never been so afraid in my life. Please think good thoughts for us.”  It seems ludicrous in hindsight that I gave a second’s thought to Facebook, but I guess I just needed people to know what we were dealing with; I needed to rally my support network.

Replies of support poured in.  It was not at all surprising that many of them were of the “I’m praying for you” variety, though most of my Facebook friends know that we are atheist.  I know they meant well.  I know that for people who believe in god, that’s the best form of support they can offer.  I was grateful for all the kind words, for knowing that people cared about my son’s well being.

In truth, though, I couldn’t help but think of my friend whose two-year old son wandered off several years ago and was found in a neighbor’s swimming pool.  He did not survive.  My friend was a devout Christian at the time, and I have no doubt that many, many heartfelt, gut wrenching prayers went out for her son all those years ago.  A lot of good they did.  My friend, who has struggled with her faith over the years, but who still believes, offered words of support to me that day that pointedly did not include prayer.

What flitted through my mind in the face of all the prayers for us was, “What if Finn isn’t okay?  What will you tell me then?  That it was just god’s plan?”

After being missing for about an hour and a half, Finn was found – wandering in  a mobile home park a couple of blocks away (and across a semi-busy road).  There really aren’t words to express my utter relief – it took a long time to pull myself together.

I let everyone on Facebook know that he had been found and that he was safe and unharmed, and then the “Praise God,” and “God was watching over him” comments started rolling in.  Again, I know that people meant well, and I was grateful for their caring.  But at the same time, it irritated me that the credit was going to the invisible puppet master in the sky.

This is one of the very biggest things about Christianity that bothers me: the selfishness it inspires.  People believe that when things work out well for them, god has smiled on them, god has granted them favor because they are worthy.  The problem with this thinking is that, logically, it would follow that when things don’t work out well for people, god has deemed them unworthy.  So this God of Goodness plays favorites.  Or at least he plays head games.

How could anyone believe that there is a merciful, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient deity who was looking out for my son that morning?  (Why would a god who demands worship watch over and ensure the safety of a boy whose family are non-believers, anyway?)  What makes my son any more deserving of looking after than any other child?  What about my friend’s son?  Was god asleep on the job that day?  Or is he just a total asshole who toys with people for sport?  In order to believe that my son got special treatment from the Big Guy that day, then one must acknowledge that he gives an awful lot of people the shaft.  But you never, ever hear Christians acknowledge that.  To explain it away as “the mysterious ways of God which we mortals are not meant to understand” is just a cop out.

I had the same frustration a few years back when my husband was battling cancer and so many people were praying for us, and when he went into remission, it was all thanks to god.  Why would anyone believe that, if there were a god, he would smile upon my husband over other people battling grave illnesses?  How was my husband any more deserving of life and restored health than anyone else (especially since he doesn’t even believe in god)?  What about all the people who die from cancer every day?  But that belief, that one can convince god to intervene on someone’s behalf, is, deep down, a belief that people who receive god’s good favor have somehow earned it – and if you believe that, then you must also believe that misfortune and unanswered prayers befall those who are not deserving.

To many, I have no doubt that “miracles” like my son being found safe and sound are just more proof of god’s loving presence.  To me, it’s just more proof that there is no god.  We got a lucky break that day, thanks to nobody but the good people of Mammoth Lakes.

About God’s Plan….

If you don’t believe in God, it’s hard to understand the logic of those who do believe. Here’s a good example. Thanks to Stephanie for sending the link.

A respectable, well-loved Anglican priest was murdered by a stranger. Family and friends of the victim repeated this weary mantra: “God’s plans are perfect. Even this one.”

Stephanie raised the question many of us ask: “How can average everyday folks believe in that way?”

It doesn’t make sense to claim that God is good, yet his “plans” include premeditated murder, pain and suffering. Good guys don’t make bad things happen. They don’t orchestrate some of the most heinous acts known to man. They don’t decide which men will suffer and kill themselves and which nations will war, dragging innocent men, women and children into their mortal combat. If God plans evil acts, whether passively or actively, then there is no moral source of good upon which religion rests.

Houston, we have a problem. (This is nothing new to us, right?)

So why does religion persist?

For one, it’s a mutually-symbiotic cultural meme that has survived by wrapping itself around the individual’s ego. The ego is fragile: It wants to live forever. It’s easily frightened. It fears the loss of itself. Religion is an institution that pacifies believers, reassuring them that life will continue in some other space and time. When a theist fears for her own death, when she cannot sleep, prayer, like meditation, is a lullaby that will soothe her into sleep with the hope that God will fix all problems, that heaven awaits. In a sense, believers have not attained the emotional independence of adulthood. God acts as a father figure upon which theists lay their problems to be solved.

Religion is also a coping mechanism. Grief, such as the murder of a loved one, is so emotionally devastating that projecting one’s pain onto God helps the sufferer avoid dealing with the intensity of the sorrow. There is pain not only for the loss of loved ones, but also for the part of ourselves that dies with the person who likewise loved us. Through belief in God, there is loss, but it’s only temporary. Family and friends and even pets will be reunited in heaven. (Of course, who would want to spend an eternity with Uncle Joe and your friend who won’t shut the hell up?)

Those of us who don’t believe can certainly understand the need for relief from tragedies and the fear of our mortality. Yet still, we wonder how seemingly intelligent people believe in these illogical concepts?

A few centuries ago, science attempted to prove the existence of God. But as humans began unraveling some of life’s mysteries, God could not be found. Religion, too, has been evolving; it mutates and changes, growing less mystical as science has pushed God and the heavens further out into the universe.

Science deals with facts; religion deals with feelings. There are those of us who refuse to let our feelings get in the way of understanding the world and our insignificant place in it, and those whose egos will not allow them to embrace their common sense. On some level, they must surely know that God falls into the same realm as Thor, Santa Claus and leprechauns. They refuse to be intellectually and emotionally honest about the reasons why they remain committed: God brings hope, comfort and relief.

IMO, it’s more honest to admit that belief doesn’t make sense, that it’s like love: it makes theists feel good, but it’s not logical. And oftentimes, the relationship is like an abusive marriage: when bad things happen, believers make excuses for God; they stick around just hoping life will get better because they’re too afraid to leave.

People believe not because it makes sense, but in spite of it.

That’s what I see from where I’m standing. What about you?

“EBOLA DOC’S CONDITION DOWNGRADED TO ‘IDIOTIC’”

“EBOLA DOC’S CONDITION DOWNGRADED TO ‘IDIOTIC’”   This was the headline from an article written recently by America’s beloved Christian conservative, Ann Coulter. Otherwise known as the Wicked Witch of the West to the rest of us.

I do not like to pick on my fellow females, but she has asked for a verbal lashing after she vomited up this column here yesterday. Take a read and then we’ll talk.

You might know that I’m not a big fan of mission trips. All those goody-two-shoes who think they’re off to see the miscreant heathens when, in reality, they just want to score some brownie points with the guy “upstairs.” However, this trip is different. Brantly and Writebol were helping their fellow man, who are desperately in need of their expertise, at the risk of their own health. If their motive to help is because god called them to do it or they’re getting paid or they just want to help, it doesn’t really matter, does it? They knew they’d be putting their lives in danger in order to help others. Now I know many of these Christian folks believe they’ll have special protections as part of god’s sales force, but the fact is, they’re still willing to take the chance to help others. They’re better men than me. So kudos to them, no matter what they call themselves or what they believe in.

Speaking of names we call people, Brantly and Writebol aren’t the types of Christians Coulter says would be “called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots” in the US. No, those types of people wouldn’t be brave enough to reach out and help; instead, they’d be on the media circuit waving their blond hair about and spewing more hate.

Ebola has been around for a while—since 1976. There have been 1,711 cases this year with 932 deaths. That’s about a 56 percent death rate for the year. It’s a nasty virus that causes high fever and hemorrhaging. But it’s not an airborne disease and human transmission, according to WHO, is spread: “from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.”

What did Jesus say? Help thy neighbors. Don’t judge. Share. Be kind. Those sorts of things, right?

I find it very f*cking hypocritical to say, “If he [Brantly] had provided health care for the uninsured editors, writers, videographers and pundits in Gotham and managed to open one set of eyes, he would have done more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World.”

What does Coulter care about helping the uninsured? She doesn’t. She has worked against mainstream acceptance of the ACA, which has brought many of the uninsured into the safety net of the system. So saying that Brantly should have helped here at home rings really, really false. As in, ahem, bull shit.

Here in US, even in the poorest towns in our nation, we still have more than most of the world—and, for certain, access to a better healthcare system and infrastructure. All of us have access to emergency care. So I get that these folks wanted to help where they are really needed.

Liberia, which was colonized by the US and was modeled on our government, is having a humanitarian crises. They need the rest of the world. Should kindness have boundaries? Doesn’t humanism supersede nationalism in times like this? It’s not only missionaries who are helping. The CDC, the European Commission, the Red Cross and many other charities and nations are donating funds and personnel. Spain is preparing to bring home one of its sick.

These are the things you hope humans do for each other, no matter the reason. This is what you hope our hospitals, our charities and our government do for citizens in need. Bringing home our own when they have gone abroad to help the world is what America should do.

For chrissake, this is what your Christ would want, Coulter.

Guest Post: The Lord’s Followers Giveth to Themselves and the Lord’s Followers

I hope that everyone is having a great summer. If there are new readers who joined after my talk at the Fellowship of Freethought, welcome! I hope you will contribute to these discussions.

Derrick suggested that I solicit guest posts from our community of readers. I would love to share this platform with others who can offer their unique perspectives on the frustrations, challenges and/or solutions of living in a theist nation. Some of the best discussions on this sites have been the result of guest posts. If you are interested, please shoot me an email at kidswithoutreligion@gmail.com.

I appreciate Derrick starting us off with a great read that definitely resonates with me.  I look forward to reading the comments!

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The Lord’s Followers Giveth to Themselves and the Lord’s Followers
Taketh from Others

First, go read this article.

If anyone asks why atheists get so fed up with the religious world,
this is a good list to present them. Atheists suffer systematic
discrimination. There are still eight states in the US with laws on
the books preventing atheists from holding public office.

Theists seem to do everything in their power to stigmatize (and the
irony of that word is not lost) atheists. What they fail to realize is
that atheists are doing nothing more than standing up for their rights
as much as theists demand theirs. However, when atheists do it,
theists claim it is an attack. Theists want to believe that atheists
are trying to take something away from them while failing to admit or
realize they are the guilty party.

Most atheists do not care if theists want to believe in god. It is
their prerogative to believe. In fact, it is enshrined in the US
Constitution that the government shall not impede their right to
believe. Atheists are simply requesting that theists respect atheists’
right to not believe and to stop shoving beliefs down atheists’
throats. Christians believe atheists single them out, but it is
actually the reverse. Many christian sects are imbued with a
missionary tenet telling them to go out and convert. In the dark and
middle ages, this got taken to the extreme (just ask the jews about
The Spanish Inquisition). This continues in the modern day, and all
one has to do is look at Warren, Michigan, as an example.

One would think by this example it is only the laws against murder in
the US that keeps people like this mayor from actually burning
atheists at the stake. Here was a case of atheists simply asking for
equal access and to have their rights respected only to be met by a
public official who refused.

Theists tend to believe in their right to propagate their religious
beliefs willy-nilly in public places. All one needs to do is do an
Internet search about christmas displays or displays about the ten
commandments (too many links to list). Once more, theists get bent out
of shape when atheists ask for equal access. The question must be
asked why one group believes it should be favored over another. Why do
only theists get to make public displays? Part of the reason lies in
the fact they are fighting for the hearts and, more specifically, the
minds of the young. Theists would do everything in their power to
completely disparage and demonize (yes, irony again) atheists in order
to stop the young from questioning theists’ position of power. Simply
asking someone if such-and-such a belief is true is viewed as an
attack. This is why of late theists started playing the victim card.
They are trying to win by sympathy and not by logic. Anything that
questions their position of privilege is deemed hostile, and it seems
to them that looking wounded is better than appearing reasonable.

Atheists just asking for their rights to be respected must, if the
above is true, be seen as an attack. Hence, theists by nature must do
what they can to suppress atheists. It is not atheists who are really
hostile toward theists, but most often the other way around. When
atheists get tired of getting kicked around and start standing up for
themselves, theists are doubly offended. The basic act of telling them
to stop trampling atheist rights is an effrontery. To allow theists
an equal and free voice jeopardizes the very heart of theist
institutions. Ultimately theists are fighting against democracy and
freedom. This may be what they cannot tolerate the most about
atheists: atheists are all about democracy, equality, and freedom.

­ Derrick

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Guest Post: God Cannot Help

Below is a guest post from Shanan W., who expresses frustration that many of us have felt. How do we handle these sorts of conversations with friends, frenemies and family on social media and in person? Should we ignore them? Point out inconsistencies?

Thank you for sharing, Shanan!
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I don’t typically get into arguments on the Internet, because honestly, I think they are rather pointless. However, when the Malaysian airliner was allegedly shot down on July 17th over the Ukraine, I couldn’t help but respond to one particular post. Snippets of the post were as follows:

(All but first initials redacted to protect those involved.)

K: (After several “God help us” posts, and this is a paraphrase, because the original post seemed to be removed): 1) God cannot help. 2) Deepest sympathies to the families of all of the victims. Please wait for all facts to be gathered before coming to conclusions about what really happened.

R: K that is your twisted opinion. You are misguided if you think God cannot help!

My Response to R: Whose God? Which one is going to help? Yours? Where was this God when the plane went down? Why is it God can help after the fact, but doesn’t get the blame for the act to begin with? Why is it “God works in mysterious ways” when bad happens, but then God is the first thing people look to if they need comfort. God: Created in the image of man.

KS: (different person from K): Why do these posts always end up with jerks insulting each other?
My gosh just get over yourselves! Not every one [sic] had the same views or opinions.
Shame on you Shanan Winters for insulting someone’s personal beliefs!!!

Now wait just a minute, here. I didn’t send that response to someone who offered up a sincere prayer. KS asserts that not everyone has the same views or opinions. That is correct. But R was the first one to insult someone’s opposing view (which, again, was not in response to anyone’s sincere prayer). Why is it that the non-believers are the “jerks” and why is it “shame on us?” This conversation went on for a few more rounds, and never once did I or any of the other non-believers who got involved stoop to name-calling or shaming. What kills me is the irony of the fact that KS didn’t realize that she called herself a jerk. In a follow-up, she asserted that she never once insulted someone based upon their views. Oh really? I guess “jerk” and “shame on you” are terms of endearment?

Let me state that I would never respond in a derogatory manner to someone’s heartfelt prayer for the victims or family members of a tragedy. I may roll my eyes quietly behind the scenes and then express sympathy in my own way, but I wouldn’t outright insult someone else’s sincere wishes. I wouldn’t have said anything at all, except that R decided to blast K for her assertion that God cannot help.

What it boils down to is this: It is acceptable in our society for strangers to “shame” us and insult us for our lack of belief. Yet, for the most part, non-believers assert that people can have their beliefs all they want. We just tend to get sick of sitting in the wings, listening to everyone go on and on about them, especially when they outright attack a non-believer verbally. But when one of us speaks up, it’s somehow shameful. But that’s ok… hypocrisy is hypocritical.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t reply unless you believe the same thing they do? Honestly, I’m kind of done with that thinking.

The fact is, this allegedly-shot-down aircraft is a horrific tragedy, and people reach for that which comforts them to ease the fear. In many cases, it’s a prayer to God. In our case, we simply feel saddened by the senseless loss of life, and wish there was more we could do to help.

My one wish for humanity is a growth of intellect, and that all people would reach for peace instead of violence. My main beef with the “God” argument is that it seems to cause more wars than it stops. It justifies retaliation and perpetuation of violence, as long as the other person’s “God” doesn’t match the aggressor’s. If religions preach peace, why don’t we have it? The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We’ve been trying religion for a long time now, and it’s not getting us very far. I’d love to see humanity evolve beyond superstition, learn how the natural world works, and realize our place within it.

I do hope that the investigators of this airline crash are able to pull together the pieces and figure out what happened. It doesn’t bring back the deceased, but it can offer a measure of closure for the impacted families. I hope that they can find peace in the days, months and years to come. I hope that the people involved, if it was an attack, can find better, more constructive, and less violent ways to resolve their conflicts.

And my sincerest wish is this: for those who would invoke the name of their God in this tragedy, please do so out of love and peace, and not as an act of wanted vengeance.

Was I wrong to reply? Maybe. It’s not the best forum to express this specific frustration. It might not be the optimal time or place. I just couldn’t help it.

(All comments on this thread, along with the original story, can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/12news?hc_location=timeline under the post “BREAKING: Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in Ukraine with 295 people on board, Reports coming in that it was shot down.”)

The Devil is Good for Business

With the Pope and the devil in the news again, I thought I’d talk a bit about the two.

Political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that individuals and groups “…define their identity by differentiating themselves from and placing themselves in opposition to others. While wars at times may have a divisive effect on society, a common enemy can often help to promote identity and cohesion among people. The weakening or absence of a common enemy can do just the reverse.”

Enemies are important, especially strong ones. Good leaders realize, at least intuitively, that a common foe can provide cohesiveness and goals for a group of people. After 9/11, for example, Americans were uncharacteristically united against the forces of evil. Whether it’s al-Qaida, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden or the Devil, the bad guy defines us through contrast. We are good and full of love; they represent evil and are full of hatred. We want harmony and peace; they want death and destruction.

It makes sense, then, that Pope Francis would reintroduce Satan as the Catholic Church’s grand cosmic antagonist. Given that the Church has been hobbled from decades of scandal, leaving it weakened and vulnerable, what better way to resuscitate an ailing institution than to identify the cause of its illness and to declare war against the universe’s oldest enemy?  The Pope has warned followers, “…there is no shadow of a doubt. A battle exists, a battle in which the eternal salvation of us all is at stake.” He has said that the devil wants to divide Christians, destroy the family and make love disappear. Satan doesn’t want people to be disciples of Christ nor does he want peace between nations.

Humans construct their identity by opposing and differentiating themselves from the undesirable other. This kind of black-and-white thinking underlies religion’s worldview. In order to know who you are, you also have to know who you are not.  If there is no evil “out there” threatening the Roman Catholic empire, what indeed does it mean to be a Catholic? Where do the sinful acts, the pedophiles, the abusers come from? Although this is a simplified worldview, the dichotomy makes it easier to deal with the ambiguity and unpredictability of complex human behavior. You’re either one or the other.

Lucifer not only provides a contrast to define what makes a good Christian, his perceived omnipresence and power invoke intense fear that keeps Catholics in check, that makes them stay the course in their faith. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Who will save them from the Prince of Darkness? God? No, God does not come to the rescue of possessed mortals. Only the Pontiff and his consort of exorcist priests can keep believers safe here on earth.  The devil is strong, but the Church, with its trained exorcists, is stronger. It keeps the great garden of faith weeded of evil and growing.

By referring repeatedly to Satan, the Pope is summoning and reinforcing an old narrative of good versus evil. He is rallying his troops and giving them focus. The Devil has been the reason for the winter of discontent. Now that the enemy is “out there” and in the holy sight, evil is no longer an intrinsic part of the Church but a separate, identifiable other. The war on Satan is how the Church is healing and redeeming itself. This is how it will reclaim its followers and its reputation.

The devil is good for the business of religion.

Do we have freedom from religion?

I don’t even know where to start. Yesterday’s ruling was a huge disappointment. By now, you all probably know that the SCOTUS opened the door for “people” (both living and nonliving) in positions of power to push their religious agenda on others. Hobby Lobby & friends are exempt from providing coverage for certain types of birth control they deem against god’s will. (You know, because they have a direct line to HIM or because they read HIS ever-so-accurate 2,000 year-old manuscript for living that he, without a doubt, authored or inspired or something like that.)

What I find even more appalling is, having contributed my two cents to the topic here yesterday, people actually said that we have freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. Crazy, I know. Then there are those who say, You’re a socialist! Buy a sex toy! Or some other asinine comment. (Yeah, people always take what you write personally, and they personally attack you in return.) They fail to see this is not about 1. Socialism or 2. The type of birth control women prefer. This is about religious employers making decisions for you based on their beliefs. This is about control and power and judgment. And what does god say about people who judge?

But the most appalling sentiment running through the comments is that people actually think that Hobby Lobby & friends have a right to decide what is best for you. The ACA was intended to be a fair and lawful solution to America’s healthcare woes. It was not mean to be a religious battle. In what should be a health decision made between you and your doctor and perhaps even your partner, your boss can now step in and say, “My god says it’s wrong, so it’s wrong for you, too.”

What’s next? Will corporations (and not just family owned) now claim insuring gays harms their religious sentiments? What about single moms? Will Hobby Lobby still pay for Viagra since the medication artificially induces an erection when god clearly does not want that? (Ummm…of course not.) What happens when a Muslim or Jew or devil worshipper decides to impose her beliefs on employees?

As Justice Ginsberg said, the Court has “ventured into a minefield.” This case was important not just to women but to all Americans, regardless of what they believe about god.

Right now, it’s apparent that we do not have freedom from our boss’ religion.

The Devil

A lot of us are ex-Catholics. I thought you might be interested in this piece I wrote for OnFaith about the devil.

Lucifer has been used as a tool since the beginning of Christianity. I’m always shocked to read that the majority of folks believe in Satan. I wonder if the Pope has pulled his old friend back out of the bag to slow attrition?

The devil was something my kids learned about early in school from their friends. Sometimes, they would come home frightened. My youngest kid was told that the devil lives in the ground and could reach up and grab children’s legs. I took him out back, and we dug in the ground in search of the devil. He asked questions like, “How would the devil breathe? Wouldn’t he be crushed? How does he move through all this dirt?”

This is how we help our kids learn to think critically and to overcome their fears. By asking questions. By reasoning.

Why don’t adults ask these same questions? Why does the devil seem so much like all the other evil characters we’ve created in books and movies?

Religious Kids are More Successful in Life

bibleI hope you guys are having a great summer so far. I’ve been busy with other projects. For those living in Texas, I recently wrote this piece on water conservation. Leave a comment or drop me a line and let me know what you all have been up to. I’ve missed chatting with everyone.

Now. Did you know that, “Research Shows Religious Teens Are More Successful in Life?” (Thanks LanceT for the link!)

I didn’t know this either. But before we help our kids find religion ASAP, let’s look at the facts. This is an important topic to discuss with our children: Does an article or claim hold up? What sorts of sources are used?

Of course, the first red flag is that this article can be found only on LDS websites and blogs. Another thing I like to check when I read these sorts of articles is the references. I’ll start with the first quoted source in the article.

I don’t even know where to start. If you click on the link, you’ll be directed to “familyfacts.org.” Scroll down and you’ll see that the website is owned by the Heritage Foundation (eye roll). Most of you are already familiar with the HF. The site claims as its goal: “FamilyFacts.org provides data on family and religious practice and analysis of their role in maintaining civil society in America.” Yes, they have an agenda—to promote religion in the secular sphere.

The “Longitudinal study” quoted in the article is a reference to on-going surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that were conducted in two batches, 1979 and 1997. There is no single “recent study of 14,000 youth.” The BLS data is “the collection of data on respondents’ labor force participation and investments in education and training. Other core topics are marital history, fertility, health, and income and assets.”

So I’m not sure how they came up with the “facts” that kids from intact religious families are less likely to do drugs, drink or have sex (gasp). And, certainly, there is no evidence that those kids do better in school. I’m pretty sure if we were to normalize the data from the very small population of kids being raised without religion with the very large population of kids being raised with religion, we wouldn’t find any difference in their academic performances. To my knowledge, there has not been a study of the educational success of children from religious vs. nonreligious homes.

But back to the Mormon article. There’s another study referenced as proof that religious kids do better in life. It’s not titled, but if you click on it, guess where it goes? It directs you to an article by Patrick Fagan, again on the Heritage Foundation’s site.

This article is just more propaganda on the benefits of religion. I guess when you’re used to living your life based on a book that is not supported by facts, it’s okay to write articles that are not supported by facts either.

My question is, Why are they trying so hard to convince everyone that religion makes better people? They doth insist too much, methinks.

Belief does not create two religions

Early in the morning, before anyone else is awake, before the birds are even stirring, I walk down to the edge of the stream behind my house. I kneel down and call to my water nymph. She answers.

Not everyone can see her. Not everyone believes I see her. But I worship her. I promise her that I will love and revere her above all others, above my parents, my spouse, my children, myself. I request her help, ask her to carry out acts of mischief on others. Find money and treasure for me. Help me attain my goals. She bends to my will. She exists through me, for me.

Those who don’t believe in my water nymph are a-nymphs. (Not to be confused with nymphos.) Their a-nymphism is a belief system, too, which, through contrast, helps validate my conviction.

This idea of belief and unbelief in nymphs is a little ridiculous, yes? Yet you and I often hear that atheism is a belief system or a religion.

No. It. Is. Not. Refusing to accept an outrageous story or idea as truth or true does not make our skepticism or doubt a “belief.”

No matter our religious affiliation or lack of, we all sift through and oftentimes reject what others believe. Here are some examples, which many of our grandparents believed and we now simply reject (we don’t become a-believers):

1. It’s bad luck to open an umbrella inside.
2. If you break a mirror, you will have 7 years of bad luck.
3. Rubbing a wart with a bean pod, and then burying the pod, will get rid of a wart.
4. High heart rates mean that your fetus is female.
5. Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker.
6. If you swallow chewing gum, it remains in your stomach for 7 years.
7. If you go outside with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold.

There was a time when it made sense to believe in these things. For example, before people understood that colds came from viruses, not from being “cold.” Now that we know better, we reject this belief our grandparents held, or we just consider it an “old wives tale.”

Many Christian apologists will insist that atheism is a “belief system” or a religion, too. This is simply an attempt to equalize the two, to bring unbelief on the opposite side of the equation from religion, which is a belief system. If, believers postulate, both sides are “beliefs” and if one is free to choose from two separate–but seemingly equal–systems, then it standardizes religion. Religion is now logical like math and science. Science and math now require a leap of faith. Belief and unbelief are simply one of two choices that any reasonable person can make.

No. No. No.

It is not logical to believe that breaking a mirror will bring you bad luck. It is not logical to believe in my water nymph, even if I tell you that your unbelief is a belief, too.

But what if all my neighbors and relatives say that they believe my story? What if I show you a book that I found, telling of the nymph’s fantastical journey from Planet Ooh? What if I tell you that everything I’ve asked my water nymph for has materialized?

Correlation, we know, does not imply causation. An observation of two variables does not mean that one causes the other or that they’re related.

There’s one more thing we need to address to put the nail in the coffin of atheism as religion or belief system.

Belief.

Yeah. I believe in science. But that is different from saying, “I believe in god.”

“I believe in science” means that I put faith in the people and institutions that are doing the work, that I have confidence in their methods. I could do the math or science my damn self, if I had the time. But you and I cannot specialize in everything. We cannot do all things. So we must trust that others are doing their jobs, the same jobs that we could do, using the same methods that we were all taught and have agreed are worthy of our trust and confidence. These things are provable and repeatable and verifiable across the scientific community.

“I believe in god,” as many philosophers have noted, is an existential claim that is made when the thing believed is unrealistic, unproven or highly unlikely. I believe that eating more burgers before conceiving will produce a boy baby. I believe that kissing a frog will produce a prince. I believe in the tooth fairy. Vampires. Leprechauns. Water nymphs. God.

So, no. Atheism and science are not beliefs or religions. And, yes. Belief in a deity or deities requires a leap of faith and is therefore not based in logic. If it were logical, we could all plug god into the equation and prove his or her existence. If it were logical, we could confirm the existence of god and heaven. We would not hear people say, “I know it doesn’t make sense, but I just believe. I just feel in my heart that god is real.” This is neither evidence nor grounds for a sound argument.

If believers are being intellectually honest, this is something they already know. Unfortunately, the idea of atheism as religion has been repeated so often that I now hear other unbelievers accept this as true. Don’t get pulled into accepting this mistaken notion that atheism is just another belief, another card in the deck of theism.

One person’s belief cannot create two religions.