Friday, March 28, 2014

Calling Out The Orthodox Atheist

I am an Atheist. I do not believe in a personified deity called God. I don’t believe in one or more gods. I don’t believe a God created the universe, our galaxy, solar system, planet, or life of every kind on this planet. I don’t believe that any religious scripture is the Word of God, but instead is the work of numerous men (males) who, over time, wrote, revised and sometimes eliminated various myths, parables, cautionary tales, rituals, and histories (some true, some not) to give a religion’s believers a sense of who they are and guidelines for living moral, ethical lives – such as they were thought to be at the time – which was thousands and then hundreds of years ago. I do not believe in heaven or hell, or that the alleged God knows about, loves, and protects me.

However, I am also a Jew, a Spiritualist, an ordained Interfaith Minister of Spiritual Counseling (from a real seminary, not from a matchbook or a quickie online mill), and in a variety of ways, a spiritual person. I don’t believe Jesus Christ was a God, but rather a wise and compassionate human, Jewish rabbi (rabbi means teacher) whose teachings, for the most part, constitute a decent way to live and treat other people. I feel the same way about most of the Ten Commandments. If all this seems contradictory to what I wrote in the paragraph above, it’s because I haven’t gone into explanatory detail, and, I am not an Orthodox Atheist.

Considering that there are 40 million Fundamentalist/ Evangelical Christians in this country, people who take every word of the Old and New Testaments literally; who believe that what they believe is the single legitimate truth; and who have made a long, concerted, and successful effort to integrate their politically and religiously conservative views into secular American law, I am delighted that Atheists are coming out of the Belief Closet in considerable numbers and working to fight the financially rich and intellectually bankrupt Fundamentalists – who genuinely think this is a Christian country and have no working concept of the vital separation of Church and State.

The problem is that Atheists alone cannot fight Evangelical fervor and ignorance. But many have created a kind of religion of their own – and Atheists really hate it when you call Atheism a religion! – by assuming that anyone who embraces any aspect of a religion believes in all the myths and parables and is incapable of separating personal belief from intellectual understanding. Not all religious people are stupid, stubborn, silly, or determined to proselytize their way to power. They don’t all deny science, including evolution and climate change. They don’t all oppose abortion, gay rights and the legalization of marijuana. And unlike their Fundamentalist cousins, most religious people understand the importance of and support the separation of Church and State.

It’s also worth noting that not all intellectuals and scientists reject religion – notably the great Albert Einstein, whose belief in Judaism did not prevent him from being rational and devoted to scientific inquiry. It would behoove Orthodox Atheists to recognize that they can gather more allies for the fight against the worst kind of religious dogma if they recognize that not everyone who doesn't think exactly as they do is the enemy or are not sensible people. The idea that one’s own sense of truth is the only legitimate truth is a dumb religious notion – and Atheists of all people should know that.

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