Saturday, August 22, 2009


Earlier today I was talking to someone and the topic of religion came up. At some point during the discussion, the person I was talking to said:

"The main problem I have with atheists is that they don't have any moral code to follow. How can you know right from wrong if you haven't studied the Bible?"

You know what? I don't offend easily. I really takes an awful lot to personally offend me, but this person managed it in those two simple sentences.

You see, I've been an Atheist since I was about six years old. I don't believe in God, the Bible or any sort of afterlife…but I know right from wrong. Put simply, I don't need a holy book to tell me that it's wrong to kill, hurt or steal. I live my life by one simple rule: Don't be a dick. It's worked out well for me so far.

The part that honestly offends me is the idea that to be religious is to be moral and to be non-religious automatically makes you a bad person. This is just not the case.

A few years before I moved to America, one of the guys I worked with killed himself. To make things even worse, like a high percentage of suicides, he didn't leave a note. On Monday I was laughing and joking with him over a beer after work, and then next day when he didn't show up for work, I called his house and his father told me he'd hung himself. To this day no-one knows why he did it.

Now, I wasn't exactly close to the guy. We'd gone to the same high school about three years apart and we had worked together for about six months. We weren't what you'd call friends, but he was a good guy who was fun to be around, so on the day of his funeral I went along to pay my respects.

As I said above, I'm an Atheist. I don't believe in God or an afterlife, so to me, funerals are almost meaningless. However, as a decent human being, I paid my respects and spoke to his parents, telling them that even though I hadn't known their son long, and didn't know him very well, that I liked him, he was popular at work and we'd all miss him. This is what funerals are to me; a ritualized way to say goodbye and get some closure.

Then this happened:

"Well…" said his mother through the tears. "He's in a better place now."

I nodded.

"No he isn't!" Said a sudden, sharp voice. "He's in hell! You should read the Bible!"

There was a sudden slight scuffle as someone I later learned was great-aunt was grabbed by the arm and almost dragged away as she shouted how suicide is a sin and people who kill themselves go to hell.

You know, I've only seen one other person break down like his mother did at that moment, and it's not something I ever want to see again.

This is what I mean.

As an Atheist I'm supposed to be an evil, immoral heathen…but I know enough to know that talking to a grieving mother who has just lost her son is not the place to share my views on the existence or non-existence of an afterlife…and this was to a woman I had never seen before and would probably never see again. As far as I'm concerned the idea of going to heaven when you die is about as likely as going to Never-Never Land if you wish really hard…but my place at that funeral wasn't to try and convince anyone that their beliefs were wrong. My place at that funeral was to pay my respects and ease the burden on the family by showing them they weren't grieving alone.

On the other hand, a so called 'moral' Christian sees nothing wrong whatsoever with shouting about how her niece's son was burning in hell…at his funeral…because something written down in a book says that suicides go to hell.

That's not morality, that's not even being a decent human being. That's deliberately hurting a family member in a truly heinous way for absolutely no reason. Even if that's something you believe 100%, well…I was going to say that there's a time and a place, but to tell a grieving mother that her son is in hell, I can't think of a good time to share that viewpoint.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not tarring all Christians and the religious with the same brush, in the same way I'd never in a million years claim all Atheists are good, moral people…but that's kind of my point. Your beliefs and choice of religion don't make you a good or bad person, your actions do.

The one thing I can say is that in my entire life I have never knowingly or deliberately hurt anyone.

I'm an Atheist. That doesn't make me immoral


Evan 08 said...

Glad you don't lump us all in the same basket. Morality is a social value, not a biblical one. If morals were still strictly adherent to the bible, then it would still be legal to own slaves and to execute prostitutes by stoning.

Many Christians don't seem to want to acknowledge this, but the Bible DOES condone slavery, by saying that the faithful should "treat their slaves well." (Paraphrasing)

Paulius said...

I worked out long ago that calling all Christians 'bad' or 'idiots' makes me just as prejudiced, bigoted and self-righteous as the craziest religious fundamentalist.

Unfortunately, people have the tendency to rally under ANY banner and use it as a way to convince themselves of their superiority.

Woman atop her Soapbox said...

Most of those things that you hear people shout out are from the old testament and way out of step with current day.

I'm a believer and I find the moral and ethical statement offensive. Treating people humanely is a human thing, not a bible thing.


Kelly said...

I am not a religious person, though I do find a certain sort of fascination with organized religion. The earliest known religion was Paganism, and as I understand it, when Christianity was 'developed' in Rome, there was a huge disagreement about who believed in the 'right' thing. So Emperor Constantine and his 'people' decided what would be the official religion and what would not.

Organized religion has caused wars for as far back as we can trace, and this is my main issue with it.

Let's be honest, the bible was written by MEN! Not God. The Koran was written by MEN, not Allah.....and so on.

Personally, I believe in the afterlife, and I believe that there is some greater power/energy that some people refer to as God, some as Allah, some as Budda...etc.

I have friends from a variety of different religions and so long as they do not push their views onto me, I do not push mine onto them...and I think this is where a lot of religions have their flaws. Knocking on my door on a sunday morning and waking me up wont make me want to join the Jehovahs Witnesses!

Oh, and while i'm up on my soapbox, I believe from the depths of my soul, that anyone who denies their child a life ssaving operation or blood transfusion because of their religion, should have their parental rights revoked immediately and be charged with child endangerment........

Whether you believe in a specific religion or not, you should believe in morals and the value of life.

That's my 10 cents!