May 10th, 1955 – My Birthday
I not sure if it was the birthday cake, the bubbly or just the dread of using up another year in a finite supply of years but something triggered my memory of a seemingly insignificant and misty moment over 50 years ago.
To start with, however, I must say that I enjoyed being 55. Since I was five years old “5” was my favorite number. Until at least the age of 10 I was fascinated by the power of 5 and anything divisible by 5. So 10 is good too. My favorite coin, therefore, was the “quarter” where 25 not only has a five in it but when divided by 5 = 5. With that pseudo-logic 55 should be even better.
So in 2010 I was 55 with a birth date of 05- 10- 1955. That felt natural. I took it to mean something significant. I waited 5 years, since I was 50, to say I was 55 and now that opportunity has gone. 2010 came and went and May 10th, 2010 came and went, and 55 came and vanished, in a blink, never to return.
My first remembrance of a significant 5, however, was when I was, you guessed it, five. I had decided to resolve the question of god once and for all. Was there really a god who did wonderful things for us? If there was, I decided to make a simple but straight forward request. I asked for a five dollar bill to be place on my path home from school as a birthday gift from god.
Five dollars was a lot of money in those days but still achievable. I didn’t want to look greedy and have him judge me on the amount I was asking for. I wanted the request to be judged on merit. If it was too little then he again may decide it was frivolous and not worth the effort. So five dollars seemed a rational choice. Needless to say, no blue Canadian five dollar bill appeared on my narrow worn trail through the grass on my way home from school.
It’s not that the “five dollar” moment defined my total lack of belief in a god, and it wasn’t the first time I questioned the belief in god, but it was the first moment I realized I was irretrievably on the far side and there was no going back. From then on I questioned everything. If god didn’t exist then what else have we gotten wrong in our society and culture?
As it turns out we have gotten so much wrong. Racism, slavery, environmental damage, nuclear meltdowns, clear cut logging, drift net fishing, hunting to extinction, collateral damage, genocide, cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, suicide bombing, jihadism, terrorism, communism, McCarthyism, the crusades, Jesus, Judas, Salem witch hunts, the Inquisition, Stalin, Robert Mugabe, and the list goes on and on.
I have to laugh when someone is surprised to find out I am atheist. Often they are dumbfounded which seems to be a natural state for the religious non-thinkers.
“So you believe there is no God?”
“No, I don’t ‘believe’, I ‘know’ there is no god.”
“How can you know that?”
“If you take away faith which is a simply a superstition founded on man’s archaic assumptions of what contributes to the driving forces in the world and replace them with proven modern explanations and proofs using the science of physics and chemistry and biology then there is no longer any need to believe in a mysterious process. The truth is no longer based on hearsay (from human authors of the bible written hundreds of years after the fact) but rather it becomes evident based on reproducible demonstrations of physical properties”
“So you are saying that you are correct and that billions of Catholics and Protestants and Anglicans are incorrect?”
“To start off Christians believe that billions of Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhist are wrong anyway. So that doesn’t leave much credence to your argument for one god, but let’s pretend that all of those religions also believe in a god and therefore that proves a god must exist. Do you agree that to be true?”
“Of course. You are still only one person who says god doesn’t exist when billions believe in god. Therefore you are either super arrogant or simply wrong.”
“Ok let’s look at some examples in history. In 1543 Copernicus published a treaty that explained how the earth revolved around the sun instead of the religious view that everything including the sun revolved around the earth. Since man first became conscious of his environment it was “observed” that the sun rose and set. The authors of Joshua 10:12-13 naively wrote into the Old Testament the same conviction that Neanderthal cavemen must have also held based on an observational illusion. Once man wrote this into a book it then became the law or better known as “the word of god” and not to be questioned. Therefore when Galileo took up Copernicus’s theory and made it public he was one man against almost everyone else in the world.
Now what do you believe? Do you still believe what the church dictated or what the bible says that the sun revolves around the earth? Or do you know for certainty that the earth revolves around the sun? Will you swear on a stack of bibles? Remember that the bible has not been revised.
Another example of course is the fact that at one point in the history of man we all believed that the world was flat and if you sailed too far into the Atlantic you would fall off the edge of the earth. It may visually appear that way when looking across the expanse of an open ocean until you see the sail of a ship slowly sink over the horizon as it passes over the curvature of the earth. Do you still believe the world is flat or have you come to know the earth is round? How do you explain that the ship can sail back over the horizon and return to port?”
In both of these cases everyone was wrong except the first man to realize differently.
Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.
– Giordano Bruno, burned to death by Inquisition
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
– Mark Twain
At this point in the debate any good Christian then immediately brings up the argument of faith but that is where the rational discussion ends. Someone said that you can’t use logic to win an argument with someone who believes in something that is not logical. Like Superman being able to fly. There is no logic in the belief that a super dense being (man-of-steel) could defy gravity with no propulsion. The two properties, super density and gravity defying, are mutually exclusive and the act of Superman flying is then just magic.
I don’t believe in magic or ghosts either but the bible allows many Christians to believe in such nonsense without having to prove it or actually think about it for just a second. What if the bible’s human authors had tried to address gravity? What if they had said “god gave us gravity to keep our feet on the ground” (written in a more biblically poetic way)? Then flying would be against religion. Maybe that is why Jihadists blow up airplanes.
So over the years, I have found that I have had to rewrite definitions concerning the religious of the world because the prevailing definitions were written by those who believed in the prevailing dogma. Here is my breakdown written as questions and answers.
• Who is an agnostic person? Anyone who fears that god exists but doesn’t wish to resolve the doubt.
• Who is a religious person? Anyone one who has faith that god exists, but keeps it to themselves because they don’t want anyone to question their faith.
• Who is a religious zealot? Anyone who fears god exists and publically says that they believe in god because they don’t want anyone to question their fears.
• Who is a religious fanatic? Anyone who says that god supports them or favors them. (For example, movie stars who thank god for winning Oscars, or Presidents who ask god to support them in a war.)
• So what category does as a terrorist fall under? Terrorists are supra-religious. They believe what they want to believe and it has nothing to do with religion. They are sadists.
My definition puts all movie stars, singers, musicians, American Presidents, Ayatollahs, national football league players, African and Middle-East dictators, suicide bombers (they are not terrorists but rather victims of sadistic terrorists), preachers, TV breakfast hosts, and airline pilots in the category of religious fanatics. These are all people who benefit from or trust that they benefit from, or fear they won’t benefit from their faith that there is a god. Note I did not say that they believe in god.
I think that to believe in god you have to be a special category of someone who has been transported through a worm hole from the Paleolithic Age when man learned to use fire and bury the dead. Pre-historic australopithecine man would have simply “believed.” Everyone else has been influenced or deliberately brainwashed by generations of simple minded “observational” explanations for twinkling stars, blue moons, eclipses, regressing tides and noises in the night all attributed to god or gods, or even anti-gods such as devils, werewolves, and vampires.
To enforce the belief in gods or devils or vampires, which are all in the same category of a magical phenomenon that can’t be explained by physics or quantum mechanics or even common sense, powerful organizations of men then told the masses that if you don’t believe these lies we will torture and/or banish you. That of course is the role of the church.
So what category does an atheist fall under? The definition of an atheist is generally given as someone who denies the existence of a god. That is like the police saying “the ‘offender’ denies having robbed the liquor store.” That definition was written by a religious zealot who did not understand the mind of someone who is void of religious faith and therefore does not feel the need to deny the existence of any magical phenomenon such as a god.
True atheism is a variety of peace of mind and confidence that is impossible to explain to the religious (all categories) who totally live under the fear of the existence of a god or the fear of not being accepted into heaven.
The religious think that when a convicted murderer finds god he has changed. They think he initially didn’t have the fear of god and that is why he committed the murder. What about the fear of being caught and electrocuted in the chair or hung by the neck until dead? Isn’t that based on a fear? Why is that different than the fear of not going to heaven?
The murderer was just as religious during the act of committing murder as he was during the religious rites read by the priest before his trip to the electric chair when you use my definitions above. The only difference is that in jail he has had a little more time to reflect on the “why” of what he has done and that leads me to the next point. The religious are hedging their bets.
I’ve had lots of religious people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of not going to heaven?” Why would someone who has no belief in heaven or hell or god be afraid of something that does not exist?
I’ve had other people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid you are wrong?” Think about that. Fear is the fundamental reason religion still survives in this age of technology and science and reasoning. Everyone is hedging their bets. They are unsure. They are afraid of what comes after death. That is why the murderer on death row finds “Jesus”. Just in case.
A rational person, however, doesn’t want to die either and will certainly fight to stay alive but not because of a possible afterlife consequence. I want to stay alive just because I have things to do and there is nothing more I can do after I am gone. I need to do “good” now and feel good about what I have accomplished while I am alive because there is no second chance.
My morals come from within and are not imposed externally by some church or priest trying to make me feel guilty or afraid. Most of those in the religious category have no personal morals. Every beautiful singer who wins the Grammy or each patriotic American president who wins an election and thanks god for choosing them is saying they are favored by god while everyone else who lost is not. Why is everyone else deselected by god and you are favored?
These self righteous snobs are just barely a step above the superstitious witch hunters of the Inquisition. It is the same logic as that used to support slavery and forced prostitution. Some are chosen. Some are not. Some are better than others. Is that what you teach your children?
What has this got to do with the number 5 or with my birthday for that matter? Well the fact that I didn’t get a five dollar bill laid out for me by god on the pathway home from school 50 years ago doesn’t explain why I am not religious. I am not religious because I question and reason out answers and explanations and find connections and associations for everything we do and everything around us. None of the logical and defendable answers led to some mysterious god. I am no Richard Dawkins but I realize that as long as unsubstantiated religious fears drive political policy in this world we are doomed to extinction.
We need to wake up and stop waiting for god or god fearing self serving politicians to pass intelligent protective policies to prevent mankind from continuing to destroy our environment. I think that lack of direct action by leaders of the world is the most substantial explanation I know to prove there is no god. Why?
Because if I was god things would be different!
I certainly wouldn’t leave my world to the men of religion such as Christopher Columbus, Hernan Cortez, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Robert Mugabe or Muammar Gaddafi.
For the end of my 55th year and the starting of the rest of my life I want to speak out against all those who have contributed to destroying our world as we found it approximately 100,000 years ago, and support those who have done some good during their one time on earth and don’t need a magical god to explain why they are doing it.
If you know of other non-religious foundations or groups reaching out to help the less fortunate or to protect the environment please send the links in so I can post them.