Why I’m an Atheist

This post is probably long overdue.  To be honest, I’ve struggled over how to write this article without being disrespectful to my Christian friends.  In the spirit of not wishing to demean anyone’s faith or belief system, and no offense is meant, in order to clarify my lack of belief, I must say some things that will invariably make people upset.
The advent of social media – especially Facebook – has led to reconnecting with people that I’d long ago lost touch with over the years.  If you knew me in high school, or college, or in my years spent in the Army you may remember me as a fairly religious person.  So it is understandable that you might question why I’m such an outspoken atheist today.

My conversion, or deconversion depending on perspective, began in February 1991 as I was attending the funeral of my 10 week old son Joshua.  Josh died of “complicated” Sudden Infant Death Syndrome which means he didn’t die in his crib, he died at Johns Hopkins Hospital two days later after life support was removed.

In those two days he spent at Johns Hopkins, I can honestly say I prayed as I never had before in my life, nor ever since. As “god took” my son for reasons that no one can comprehend, my outlook toward Christianity changed radically.  In the following months I rationalized that the only explanation that made any sense at all was that the god we worshipped was an absentee deity, no longer involved in our day to day lives, no longer hearing our prayers.  This was the only consolation I could take away from Josh’s death – because if god was an “active,” participatory god – then he was a son of a bitch worthy of my hatred.  At the time, my Christian sensibilities wouldn’t allow for that level of heresy, so I stuck with the former construct.

As years went by, I made attempts to strengthen my “bare bones” Christianity.  I tried going to church, I read the Bible, spoke with pastors and sought spiritual counseling.  I studied the Gnostic gospels, and delved deeply into the origins of historical Christianity, reading just about anything I could get my hands on. At the end of this period it became crystal clear to me that the Christian doctrine in which I had put my faith in throughout my life was a myth.

I was looking for reasons to believe, I was looking for answers and what I found were a series of more questions with no answers available.

I’m a historian by education and an analyst by profession.  These two traits in conjunction are not truly compatible with religious dogmas. Historically the bible fails as an accurate measure of history and analysis of the formation of the bible clearly shows that the books selected were cherry picked to serve the doctrine of the early church and Roman emperor as a means of controlling living souls with the promise of eternal happiness in the next life.

Take for example the gospels of the New Testament. Although attributed to Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, each of the gospels was in fact written anonymously and literally generations after the death of Jesus.  The earliest of the gospels, Mark, was not written until after 70 AD – an important date as that was the year the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem.  If you remember your Old Testament, the temple was basically the Jewish phone booth to god.  No temple, no phone.  You should also remember that early Christianity was not for Gentiles – it was a natural extension of new Judaism.  The Christ myth was created en lieu of the availability of the temple to continue the personalized relationship with god.

I should point out that although many (significant percentage of) Christians view science as an enemy of their religion (especially those that adhere to the belief that all of earth’s history has taken place in the last 6,000 or so years), science never once influenced my lack of faith; however, it certainly has revealed even more tragic inconsistencies with fundamentalist doctrine.

I use the word tragic with purpose – this creationist view of science, even under the guise of Intelligent Design, is just another factor in the dumbing down of America.

Of course, none of this matters to the faithful. Belief is not about facts – it’s about faith in the face of facts, which is why I continue to think so highly of my Christian friends and the strength of their faith.  Despite “accusations” that I am an evangelical atheist, that could not be further from truth.  I have no desire to deconvert Christians.  My only goal in being so outspoken is to demonstrate that atheists are among you, that we don’t wish to eat Christian babies, we are not Satanists (no god, no Satan, no heaven, no hell), and all we’d really like is to not get that look and expression of regret and sadness when we say we don’t believe in god – not your god or any god.  And while some may see it this way, we are in fact not less than.  If you’re right and we’re wrong…Well, I’ll close on that topic.

Suppose for a moment that I’ve been seriously led astray (by knowledge, I mean Satan), and the Christian god of the bible is indeed real. If you’ve ever truly read the bible, especially the Old Testament, then you might understand this stance – if Yahweh is real, then I want no part of him, nor do I think him worthy of praise or my respect.  His morality is severely lacking, even by fundamentalists’ standards.  I can’t even begin to document the immoral acts committed by either Yahweh or his earthly representatives – fortunately, someone else has 

Yahweh doesn’t pass the common sense test.  An omniscient and omnipotent god by definition wants human love so badly that if he doesn’t get it from someone, he has to judge them (although by definition he should already know everything about them) then send them to everlasting torment for not believing in his existence.  Love like that is normally reserved for abusive relationships.  Moreover, just think of all the human life throughout eternity that didn’t have the good fortune of belonging to the Hebrew tribe or get the good word after the crucifixion, all of these souls, by doctrine, are damned to hell.

And here is the last joke played.  Even in Christianity, there exists such incredible schisms among the many different sects that many believe the other isn’t doing it right and therefore, won’t be heaven bound – Mormons and Catholics just to name a couple based on good Protestant understanding. How is it you can believe in the right god, but practice the wrong doctrine – as my 16 year old would say, “Epic Fail!”

Historically, the bible has as much value as Aesop’s Fables.  It represents, at its best, stories that seek to answer questions as to where we came from, why are we here, and what happens when the lights go out.  Sometimes comforting, often disturbing, the bible is also the myth of a nomadic desert tribe that somehow came to represent the belief system of the modern world.  Yahweh was portrayed as a mean sonofabitch out of necessity.  
The tribe of Israel was constantly at war with neighboring tribes, each of whom had their own unique gods.  The Yahweh myth served the warring tribe of Israel well in inspiring Hebrew warriors as well as striking fear in their neighbors.  This story arc was going along just great until Yahweh lost his pleasure in watching his chosen people killing, and raping, and pillaging in his name, so he sends Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon, to take the Israeli people as slaves.  [Side note:  It should be seriously argued that the Babylonians exercised a much higher brand of morality as they did not simply slaughter every living thing in Jerusalem as Yahweh instructed his minions to do just about every time they went in to a city and took it as their own – definitely not compassionate displacement!] Jeremiah 52
The story arc of the bible changes dramatically during this period of captivity and out of necessity, a “savior” figure emerges to rescue Israel out of captivity.  This line continues until the days of Jesus, in which all of his followers are convinced that he will redeem them from their bonds.  When that failure happened, the basis of the New Testament and the afterlife redemption story takes hold.  Paul was basically a 1st Century version of Harold Camping.
As I said earlier, I’ve no desire to convert anyone to my way of thinking, nor do I need anyone to pray for my wayward soul because I do not share your faith in a ridiculous story. And while I respect your faiths and beliefs, I do not respect when your religious doctrine is brought to bear on social issues of the 21st century.  Prayer does not need to be in public schools in order to make America great again. The 10 commandments do not need to be displayed in American courthouses for effective justice to be served.  If “In God We Trust” is what is keeping the dollar alive, why are so many people investing in gold? Opposition to marriage equality is grounded in the wisdom of a fairy tale – in the same chapter where other godly instructions are conveniently forgotten or flat out ignored.  This is cherry picking on the fable.
Lastly, I don’t hate god, nor do I hate Jesus.  Nor do I hate Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, or purple unicorns.  I simply disdain the hypocrisy that accompanies actions in their names and I find it troubling enough to speak out on the issue.  I have no desire to seek spiritual satisfaction in other religions as I view all religion as a man-made attempt to explain our place in the world.  Atheism is simply a term that reflects my non-belief in a god; however, if proof of a supernatural-creator-being were presented and it was actually worthy of worship and praise, I would gladly reconsider my stance :).  Thanks for reading 

If you got to this point and you still are trying to understand where I’m coming from – please take a look at this video clip.  It sums up my thoughts much more eloquently than I could ever hope to do…

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18 Responses to Why I’m an Atheist

  1. Lydia says:

    Sean, this is very well written and touching…I'm so sorry for your loss. Lydia

  2. Anonymous says:

    You need to examine scripture with your heart, not your mind…..young grasshopper.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great article! Love it! Though I'm a bit disappointed that you didn't mention http://www.evilbible.com, it sums up all the evils in the bible very well (if you didn't know about it though, check it out!). I hope when believers see the article they don't think you can only embrace atheism by abandoning religion after trying to cope with a huge loss like, in your case, a child. That's one perfectly valid way of losing your religion, but there are those of us who have other reasons, like experimenting abuse as a child from religious parents/teachers/preachers, or studying different kinds of religions and studying science and realizing that science is better than religion at explaining everything, or many, many other different reasons.BTW at the person who says that you need to examine scripture with your heart… When you say that, do you mean "cherry-picking the things that would be acceptable to teach to children and ignoring the verses regarding slavery, rape, bigotry and brutal murder in the bible"? If you believe in the bible, then that's the word of the christian god right there, as said in 2 Peters 1:20-21.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I must have strange organs but my heart and my head are in agreement that the scriptures are repugnant.

  5. Anonymous says:

    "Whatever you do, don't read the Bible for a moral code: it advocates prejudice, cruelty, superstition, and murder. Read it because we need more atheists, and nothing will get you there faster than reading the damn Bible." – Penn Jillette"If you believe it's your God, and your God is infallible, you can't throw out some of the rules just because you don't like them." – Also Penn Jillette

  6. Dena says:

    Thanks for sharing. Do remember some of us take the Bible seriously but not literally. I'm sorry about the loss of your baby. I can't even imagine! I don't believe that the Divine could be all good and all powerful so I assume the Divine isn't all powerful. I just don't think it works that way.

  7. Sean Asbury says:

    Thanks for the comments!To address a couple points:For the poster that mentioned evilbible.com – it's a good site and I have used it as a source, but the skeptics annotated bible just remains a personal preference.I also take the point that people come to lose their religion through many different paths – this just happened to be mine. I don't think tragedy is required per se, but I do think that whatever event spurs a deeper dive into the truth and when people are open to setting aside faith in favor of the truth, then the course is set.The Penn Jillette quotes are great and I completely agree. It's the hypocrisy that drives me crazy. The same people that will adamantly oppose marriage equality will embrace the likes of Newt Gingrich, who according to the bible should have been put to death for his own "sins." Can't have it both ways…

  8. Steve says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of the baby Sean.

  9. Sean Asbury says:

    Dena – Thanks for reading. I'm intrigued by you comment of taking the Bible seriously but not literally – how do you do so and how does that work for you?

  10. Sean Asbury says:

    Steve,Lydia,Thanks for the condolences 🙂 It's been over 20 years so it's not a fresh wound.Please don't take this the wrong way, but the biggest reason I rarely bring it up is that I don't wish to receive the condolences…maybe I'm strange that way…???

  11. Sean, after reading here, I felt moved to comment that as we move past religion to atheism we can still deal in a loving way with the past from which we come and the people we love. Maybe now our love can be even stronger because now we have no agenda. In my case I did not need to fight or argue about god. God was just the last shackle of many that I shed on my way to spiritual and emotional freedom. As my friends joke: "Dammit! He's chewed through his restraints again!"No god. Know Freedom.Fr. Gareth Harris – SentimentalStargazer.com

  12. Anonymous says:

    Sean,I was raised in the church like you. As someone who’s lost a child also, I understand why you question or even reject the existence of God. Although I realize that your loss is not the fundamental unpinning of your beliefs. As for myself, I’m stuck somewhere between agnosticism and atheism. Part of me wants to believe, but the rationalist in me agrees with the gentleman in the video.Thanks for the thought provoking post.Marc

  13. Sean Asbury says:

    Gareth – Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to checking out your site!It is funny that you mention it, but both my wife and I have noticed that since moving beyond religion we are definitely more involved and concerned about our fellow humans – which, divine or not, I think the Biblical Jesus would approve of 🙂

  14. Sean Asbury says:

    Marc – thank you too for sharing! We are unfortunately part of a "club" that understands what that loss is about. I hope you can find your way navigating through the questions you have. If you ever want to bounce ideas or thoughts off someone – feel free to contact me anytime! Seasbury@comcast.net

  15. trubble76 says:

    As a lifelong atheist I am always highly impressed by the acheivements of "born-again" atheists who manage to break a lifetime of brainwashing and manipulation. It displays great mental strength and is praiseworthy.I tip my hat to you, sir.

  16. Sean,Even though in the past, my condolenses for the loss of your son. It's a pain I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy!As a lifelong atheist myself, I am always interested in reading and hearing about people's deconversion stories and reasons. I will probably blog about this on my silly website. I think it's important that other people get a chance to read this.Although, I can already hear the (predictible) apologist weasel words:"You are just angry at god.""Gawd works in mysterious ways. You'll see that this terrible tragedy was actually good for you."Or some other BS and insulting language that dismisses your very real experience and pain.

  17. Sean Asbury says:

    Larian,Thanks for the comment and appreciate you feeling it's worth using in some way!It's funny that you bring up the comment on "anger with god." I think initially, if you hold on to faith, there has to be an anger factor involved with the "man in the sky" who controls everything. Where I ultimately found my anger placed was more at myself for having bought into the storyline for as long as I had and not recognizing the truth sooner. That is hard to share with theist friends as you try to convey your deconstruction and understanding of what essentially amounts to a fairy tale while still respecting their right to their faith in the same belief. On this issue, you're either right or wrong. I've even had family members let me know that while they respect my right to not believe, have fun in hell…I guess the respect factor doesn't cut equally across….

  18. Anonymous says:

    If you have read the Quran, you would have been totally disgusted. In one surat it says adultery is forbidden, in another it would say, take only your wives and what your right hand possess. Basically married muslims guys would fuck with great pleasure a girl, but if she gets another boyfriend, they will call her prostitute (charmouta). in the NT, Jesus forgave the prostitute, in the OT a prostitute has to be put to death…. All bullshit. I was my entire life a Muslim, obedient, shy, scared from everything, believe me they all fucked me hard. These muslims fired me from work, testified falsely against me, fucked me… But now I have sworn that I will fuck every Muslim soul I find, I'm an atheist, I'M Me.

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