On Christianity

Dec 19, 2008, 4:52 pm by Paul Stiverson

I’ve considered myself a non-theist (or maybe an atheist) for quite some time now, but I was raised Christian. I had never explored the reasons why I fell from the fold until recently when I was asked seriously (by somebody who I felt deserved an honest response). There are a slew of bullshit reasons that I can give: atrocities performed in the name of Christ, my personal inability to commit to something of that magnitude, my general skepticism, the hive-mind mindset that allows injustices (and ignorance in the sciences) to be perpetuated, the fast and loose (mis)interpretation of scripture which permits the aforementioned injustices to come into existence. I could cite the passing of my father during my childhood, and bitch about the apparent lack of justice and equity in the world as evidence of the lack of a grand creator. I could note that to be a scientist you have to have an open mind—free of preconceived notions of an unseen and unmeasurable force driving the universe. I could say that I’ve never been touched by the hand of god, as so many Christians claim to have experienced. I could point to some mal-developed part of my brain that deals with the spiritual, but all those reasons are flimsy and unimportant. Ultimately I don’t think I have a legitimate reason, I am who I am.

When people discover that I’m not Christian (at least here in College Station) there is often a palpable shift in their body language, as if—since I’m not in their club—I’m suddenly an immoral person. It has always bothered me that religious folks associate morality with religion, as if god is the only thing that can stop a person from acting out all of their wildest impulses. As if god stops you from being pure id. The only thing god provides—in the arena of self-control, and in my experience—is a place to put all the regret you feel for doing whatever bad things you do, he lets you cop out of your sins, he forgives you so you can forgive yourself. The beautiful thing about not believing in god is that you have to be responsible for yourself and your actions. I don’t have the luxury of asking anybody for forgiveness other than the person I may have wronged, the regret for past transgressions has nowhere to go but toward stopping me from repeating my mistakes.

All that being said, I do think that religious teachings have a place, the Bible is an excellent document for teaching people how to live well. It tells you not to be a bastard, and illustrates past bastards who were punished for their bastardy ways. The rub is that people don’t just take away the lessons, they get all manner of byproducts that end up diluting the important lessons. Jesus’ teachings are absolutely right on, he told his followers that they needed to go further than not being bad, but indeed, to be good. Love you neighbor, don’t judge people, and that the wonder of life doesn’t reside in the material. These teachings should not be neglected, they should be celebrated and followed in their purest form. The circumstances of his life (and the afterlife in general) are insignificant compared to his words, and you don’t have to believe that Jesus was the messiah (or the son of the messiah, or anything else special)—or even believe that he actually existed—to benefit from the quality of the teachings.

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10 Comments

Paul Stiverson Says:

Dec 19, 2008

In before: You’re going to hell, sinner.

LEW Says:

Dec 19, 2008

do you remember at what point you shed your theism? btw i as use non-theist. atheist seems to imply a practicing system. theism just isn't a part of my life, it is a non-issue. another btw in b/cs tell people you are a jew and they will want to touch you like you are snuggles the bear.

LEW Says:

Dec 19, 2008

you're going to hel... damn b10

Paul Stiverson Says:

Dec 19, 2008

The passing of my father was when doubt first crept in, so when I was about seven years old.

LEW Says:

Dec 19, 2008

so young, that must have involved quite a few years of awkward church going and conversations with other kids.

Paul Stiverson Says:

Dec 19, 2008

Oh, you learn to fake it pretty quickly, as an unexpected result I am a pretty good actor.

It wasn’t until college that I stopped lying about being religious, but by high school it was pretty much a non-issue.

LEW Says:

Dec 19, 2008

i still tell strangers i am jewish to avoid awkwardness. my family and i have never discussed it but i am sure they have an idea.

Mark Says:

Dec 19, 2008

God's cool :)

I really appreciate that I have an outlet and a support and that I don't have to feel alone through everything, as cliche as it may sound. I don't think my time is easier because I have the big fella, i think he forgives me alot quicker than I usually forgive myself. Everyone has the luxury of asking for forgiveness, whether through religion or the persons we've wronged, alot of them are choose not to use that luxury because of pride, or anger or some other personal reason.

I haven't shunned you because of your chosen beliefs paul, and I know you weren't referring to me in the post, but alot of times when people who have faith encounter someone who doesn't ascribe to those beliefs, whether athiest or anything else it quickly turns to ridicule or getting looked down upon because of those beliefs. I know it happens on both sides of the fence, I'm just suprised that people who openly protest that poeple "like me" should tolerate their lifestyles have no problem berrating me for mine in the next breath. (I also dislike how the word tolerance has been mutated into meaning acceptance, but that's a separate subject.)

Trey Hooper Says:

Dec 19, 2008

amen paul
wait can i say that?

tom hooper Says:

Feb 12, 2009

Paul, you might want to check this out. I find it thought provoking and entertaining. http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

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