In my last blog, ‘My Story’ I had mentioned the misconceptions of Atheists and said that this was a topic for another day. Well, today I will talk about this topic, and why it’s important to me to rid society of these stigmas, and why in fact(in my opinion) these misconceptions exist at all.

How do any group of people get misunderstood or labeled as ‘bad’? It can stem from a number of things and really isn’t that different from pathetic junior high rumors. I have heard alot of different things about Atheists, considering I am one it’s kind of hard to believe, since I don’t do or believe in what most rumors spread say about us.

Most of the rumors or misconceptions come from a small group or sometimes just a single person from a group acting out in a way not accepted as ‘politically correct’. Such as Fred Phelps and his group of nut jobs, I think most of us know that not all Christians act in such a hateful and disrespectful way that the WBC does. My Mother goes to church and prays but I don’t think I would ever see her picketing a U.S. Soldiers funeral, and that goes for all the religious people I know. Things like this can have a bad effect on Atheists and theists, some people, already in the process of questioning religion may see the WBC and it’s pathetic antics and associate this with other Christians and assume they are all alike and go on to hate or even do something terrible to theists. Same thing goes for theists who claim people like Hitler and Stalin were Atheists. While it has been debated, Hitler was not an Atheist, he was Roman Catholic and referred to God many times in his speeches and writings, the Catholic Church funded the Nazis for years. Stalin may have been an atheist but the genocide and strangeness of his character were not in the name of atheism. Unlike that of mass suicides by cult leaders and mass killings of people in the past, all of which are ‘in gods favor’. Spreading blatant lies like these, are a total waste of time and energy, but there is always going to be fanatics in everything, but that doesn’t mean that we have to make them the poster child of their ’cause’.

Sometimes the misconceptions consist of just ‘passing the belief down’. You know,  you ask your parents questions or you hear the preacher talk about non-believers and how vile they are. Children are very impressionable and they will remember what is said, especially when it pertains to burning in hell for eternity. Theists know children are very impressionable and that is why indocrination occurs at such an early age, and then they sugar coat it with ‘I’m just concerned with their souls’, which translates into ‘Don’t ask any questions, or you will go to hell’. This is not a very good recipe for raising healthy and responsible children.

Last, but not least is one of the funniest misconceptions of people like myself. The belief that atheists worship the devil and/or some other evil entity. I would love to know the source of where this came from. Do people actually believe this ridiculous garbage? When they think of atheist groups do they imagine us dressed in cloaks with sacrificial daggers, with alters, and pentagrams? I hope before they believe such drivel they would use a dictionary and look up the words ‘Atheist’ and ‘Satanist’. How could I worship something who doesn’t exist? If I don’t believe in the supernatural, like god or angels than why would I believe in devils and demons? Atheists, like myself like to surround themselves with positive things in life, and devil and demons aren’t exactly positive things, this goes for the bible and god as well.

It’s very important for us as a society to get over such stigmas. To dismiss any rumors until proven otherwise. People need to learn to research and study for themselves instead of just believing because someone they look up to or is older tell them these things. Everything I hear or see, I automatically research, if it’s considerably important to me, I will read and research for hours on a particular subject, so why doesn’t the same apply for others? Atheists only have one thing in common and that is the non belief in a god or gods. There are many different types of atheism, like Richard Dawkins breaks down as ‘Weak Atheists’ and ‘Strong Atheists’ But we all use the same system to guide us through our lives. We use science instead of religion to guide us, reason and rationality instead of prayer. So, no we don’t sacrifice innocent animals, we don’t eat children or paint pentagrams on our chests in blood, if you are wondering how I would know about such actions without doing them, relax I’m a huge movie buff and read alot, so this is where these statements are coming from.

In order for us to truly live in a free society, we have to be able to get over such childish notions. From people like Bill O’Reilly down to something as simple as a mom telling their children that atheists will go to hell. If people would only see what they are saying, they would realize the nastiness behind these messages. It’s no different than believing that women are inferior to men or the white race is the superior race. Notions like these not only make a bad image for the people that fall under these categories but it also can create a harmful environment just waiting to discriminate against them. Like in some states, an atheist is still not allowed to hold public office, even though it says in the United States Constitution that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.’ So how in is this legal at all? Some groups and organizations are simply denied or shut down because they are associated with atheism, again how can people get away with such things in a country such as ours? I say all the time if our Founding Fathers could see the state that this country is in, they would be turning over in their graves, and they would especially flip when they see the Christian right, claiming this country is based on ‘Christian’ Values, but just like in my last blog, this is a topic for another day.

The facts summed up are these: We don’t believe in the supernatural including god, satan, demons, angels, etc. We do not want world domination, we don’t eat babies, we don’t want to stop people from believing what they want to believe,  we just want a fair hand at things. We want to be able to come out and say that ‘I am an Atheist’. Without the fear of persecution or social suicide. Isn’t this the very principles that this country was founded on in the first place? The only thing I would like to instill in people is to question. Not just to believe in something whole heartetly without questioning and investigating it themselves. To question something or to simply say ‘I don’t know’ is a humble approach, and is respectable. But, somehow, someway this country went down the other path. Not to question, just ‘do’. This is a much different country now than it was when Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Adams were alive. For good and bad reasons. But to go against something that Article VI, paragraph III of the the Constitution clearly states, is just down right, shameful.

My Story 02/15/2011

Hi, I'm Mark, I am 24 years old, I was born an Atheist like everyone else, but early on in childhood I was introduced to Christianity. I was never baptized or 'saved' as they so arrogantly state.

As far back as I can remember my Mother always went to church, and she usually took her children unless they were sick or something. But I do remember never feeling quite 'right' inside a church or even during the sermon. I know I wasn't quite old enough to understand what they were saying or even the 'message' of the sermon, but something inside me always questioned what they were trying to say. By the age of 10 or so I started having more of these doubts and then the inner questioning came, like 'Who made God"? and other contemplating questions that any 10 year old would ask. My Mother always said "God has always been, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end". And this never really satisfied me for an answer.

By this time, I usually went to church nearly every Sunday and depending on whether I wanted to or not, also on Wednesdays for youth group. I think I just went on Wednesdays to talk with people my age or to do some other activity. But even there, I still felt the same way.

In my mind I started calling myself an Atheist. At school I would hear people talk about things such as religion and beliefs and would sometimes hear 'Atheists worship the devil' and other nonsensical rubbish. Knowing what I knew, I knew I didn't worship the devil, how could I or anyone else worship something that isn't there? That goes for god as well. It always bothered me and still does about the misconceptions of Atheists or Agnostics, but that is a topic for another day.

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by friends with the same disbelief as I did. Even though now, most of them claim to be Christian, or don't call themselves Atheists anymore. It seems like I have been the only one to keep my stance on the subject, even though I would still sometimes go to church on Sundays and some on Wednesdays. But by the age of 12 or so, I started skipping more and more. By this time, it had became optional to me, even though my mom sometimes still went. Because this is the time in which I began to feed my brain everything I needed or wanted to learn about. Even though, admittedly I didn't quite understand Evolution or other scientific subjects, but I always found them so interesting.

So, by High School I was an 'outed' atheist. Everyone knew that I was an Atheist. So, nobody in my family was really interested in what I felt about religion or my atheism because it always turned into an argument of some sort. So again, I had my group of friends to fall back on. By, this time church going was out of the question, and never even really crossed my mind. The funny thing is sitting here, typing this, I do remember times back then 'praying' sometimes when something didn't go my way or something bad had happened. Good thing is I grew out of that, sad thing is, some people never do.

By my junior and senior years I had met my still current girlfriend. She never judged me or my Atheism, and that's one of the qualities that I love about her. We moved out with each other, soon after graduation. About a year or more after that we had a baby girl, and we named her Kamdyn Julia. We only had about 7 months with her until a tragedy took her away from us. I never prayed in the E.R. but I saw my girlfriend pray and other family members, but nothing ever happened. There was never any glimmer of hope, or miraculous outcome. Nothing. So for me not believing in god, is this what I deserve? But what about so many others that prayed for our daughter that day to live, is this what they deserve for believing in god? For that day, many of our closest family members stood firmly beside their beliefs and it may have made them stand closer to it more than ever before. But for me, that was truly my first hand experience of the god hypothesis failing. It didn't fail me, because I had already let go of false promises and the belief in god years before, but for so many others in that little room that day, when I seen the doctor come in and shake his head, I seen their 'god' was never watching over any of us, let alone the world. And if god does exist, did he choose to answer the prayers of a football fan, to help that team win a game, and excluded the prayers for a 7 month old baby? To actually take a step back and look at the tragedies in the world, let alone the loss of a child and to believe there is some sort of god out there is not only ignorant but its irresponsible.

No, I didn't have any great revelation and run to the nearest church and begin to pray. This experience made me realize even more to cherish each moment, not only with our loved ones, but also the strangers that come in and out of our lives, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Because we don't live forever, and this life is the only life that we get. We are so lucky to be here and be able to laugh, or to love one another, or goof off when we shouldn't be, or simply ponder the universe and what is out there. Why do we need to be cooped up inside a church, stifling our thoughts, telling us what is there, and that we are born dirty and are vile creatures? This is not healthy for us folks, we have to learn to move on, from such disastrous notions. It also taught me a more disturbing lesson. It taught me that the world is indifferent in its disasters and tragedies, and things just 'happen'. There is no reason or great lesson to be learned from these things. It just happens. No rhyme or reason. We don't die because it was our time, or 'god needed us more'. I have learned so much more about life through an Atheist set of eyes, more so compared to a religious pair, that I can say with my all of my heart "Thank god, I'm an Atheist".

The Message 02/09/2011
Should religion mean that much to an Atheist? I won't be the judge for all Atheists, because I know like everything else, there is diversity among the Atheist community. To some they really couldn't care less about religion, as long as you keep it out of their faces and don't press too much. Some don't like it to an extent but still believe it has its pros and cons. But to some, such as I, don't see any pros in religion. ANY. I hold religion responsible for most if not all of human catastrophe. I have a lot of disdain for religion. Religion is responsible for a lot of bigotry, a lot of oppression and most if not all of past and modern day wars.

Should others including myself, be so harsh? Well, you have to take a close look, and most of the time investigate and reference quite a bit to get to the original reasons why things in history have happened. Let's take WWII for example, just off the top of peoples heads, they might say "Yeah Hitler, killed millions of Jews, what does that have to do with religion, besides the slaughtered being Jews?" Well even this leads back to dogma. In my opinion this can be considered a "religious" war. Hitler came to power on the back of the message, straight from Martin Luther. The Catholic Church consistently backed the Nazis and even funded the party, and up until the 70's and 80's still preached the anti-Semitic rhetoric. Hitler himself referred to God many, many times, in speeches, in "Mein Kempf", you could call him and the Nazis as a whole, religious fanatics. This is just a small example on a grand scale of things, of how religion can shackle and debilitate our minds.

Does religion need to exist? My answer is a simple one; no. I do not see any benefits I can receive from believing in something that cannot be scientifically proven. I don't see how anyone can receive any healthy benefits from religion, of any kind. A false sense of protection and hope is not very good reasoning in my opinion. You wouldn't take someones word on 'faith', most of the time, so why take the word of thousand year old primitives? Why take the word of someone deemed 'Pope', or 'Reverend'? Why do these people seem to think they are more qualified in the 'seeing more', 'hearing more', and 'understanding' department than the rest of us? Religion does not need to exist for us to be a prospering society. Morals would not decline, people would not go out and rape and kill each other. This logic comes straight from the religious. To plant the seed of fear in people, to make them think that without religion, there would be 'pure evil'. But let me stop for a moment and ask this, Why would you want to look at humankind with this much shallowness? With this much inconsideration and all in all a pretty awful outlook on life in general? I mean, its pretty low to go and say "Without knowing God, you will be lost". Which Atheists get pretty much all the time. "How are we lost?" and "How would the world just crumble, if religion just ceased to exist?" The beautiful Twin Tower in N.Y. would still be standing, thousands of children within the Catholic Church would not have had their innocence taken by pedophile priests, we would not have to read about suicide bombings everyday, the thousands that were burned at The Witch Trials would not have been burned alive, and we might have had one of those people go on to do something really great, like an Einstein, or a Marie Curie, same thing goes for all the wars, the Inquisitions, etc. It's a shame to sit and wonder 'What could have been".

To sum it up religion is bad, no matter how you look at it. I must admit, early on in my Atheism I did say things like "As long as you don't preach at me, or shove God down my throat I'm fine", but once you actually start reading and doing research you will see that God and religion goes further than anyone could imagine. And my stance went from the one mentioned to "Imagine no religion". I know its hard to fathom at first, but once you do your own reading and studies, if you haven't already, you'll see what I mean.

People are welcome to their own beliefs, that is what makes this country so great. If religion makes you feel good, than great. But in my opinion, anything that says "the questions stop here" is not worthy of my time. To understand any subject we must use common reasoning, logic & rationality. We cannot simply just close our minds when It comes to God. We cannot say "Well God did it", because YES this is too easy of an answer. It is a lazy, simple persons answer to very complex subjects. You cannot just read a book written thousands of years ago, that has no scientific quality to it and say it does. Calling the bible, or any 'holy book' for that matter science, is the equivalent of saying Dr. Seuesses Green Eggs & Ham is a quality cook book. You can't claim that it is history either. I have been in debates with many believers as well, and you cannot pick and choose what is meant to be taken literally and what is meant to be taken metaphorically. But like I said in the beginning sentence of this paragraph, you are welcome to your own beliefs and our welcome to come at me with them, but do not get snobbish when I start pulling out Facts, and questions you cannot answer without using a circle argument.

The point of this is to reach to the believers, and I hope I haven't made you sway away from here with some of my previous comments. My message is simple; Questioning an authority is not a sin. I know sometimes religious freedom at first can be quite frightening, so people a lot of the time forge their own cages, and religion is one of the forgers. To keep you shackled to a lie for a lie, for power. I just hope that one day you can 'open' your eyes, before its too late.

Why? 02/07/2011
  The first thing people will ask me is "why do hate religious people?" First off I don't hate anyone, unless you are one of the priests who take joy in the raping and torture of the young, than yes I do hate you. But other than that I don't 'hate' anyone, I may dislike people for different reasons, but certainly not hate them.

  I hate religion. I hate the idea of 'god'. It saddens me that we still live in a society that is controlled in a major way by religious leaders. I mean right down to selling beer on Sundays. They tell people when & how to pray, how to eat, what to eat & when, how to dress, why their beliefs are right & the others are wrong, why 'you're' stained with sin and were born dirty, that we aren't worthy of this world and that god is coming back to destroy it. This is the messages people buy into, and subject their
children to. This is a couple reasons for my hate. Most of the time the adults are indoctrinated when they're children, and never really have a chance to question or branch out for a different position, because by the time their old enough to learn and comprehend they are taught most of what I typed above. Besides those, the big reason is the fear of hell. Now what child is going to deny their 'creator' once they learn of this? Do they teach them about heaven first or of Jesus' love first? No, of course not because then they might not buy into religion so willingly. So first you have to teach them the fear part first. It always starts off subtle, and then progresses the older they get. Now let me ask this, if there was any other organization besides religion trying to endorse the ideas that religion spouts off such as hatred, bigotry, indifference, homophobia, fear, jealousy, vanity, etc how fast do you think people would renounce that organization? So why not do the same with religion?

After all the fear,  than they will learn about the postmortem rewards of ever lasting life, and golden paved streets. They will say things like "This life don't matter, it's the afterlife that is important". Okay, so why be good at all? Why listen & pay attention in school, why go to college, why meet & talk to different people, why even be good to other people, why not kill myself right now? But see religion has
answers to these rebuttals. "Well, if you don't do those things you will go to a place of everlasting torment." Wow, what choices does a child have then? None. Either be good, and listen just for the sake of your afterlife reward, or get punished for eternity. Now if they would actually take the time and pay attention to what they were saying, this is not really a good message to be sending to impressionable children, it's not a good message for anyone. And if you ask some religious people they will say "I'm good because I want to go to Heaven, and be with my God". Okay, fair enough, but is this the only reason you're good? Is it just because of some reward you may or may not get? It's not because humans have evolved a very sophisticated set of "rules" for life, and that being good to each other, respecting each other, sharing, and getting along, working together are what we have found out makes life easier and more productive, just like our primate cousins. "NO!" they will say. "We aren't monkeys!" Okay, enough said.

The real question here is, what good does religion do in the world that people who claim no religion or Atheists cannot do? Religion donates money, volunteers to help in crisis, build hospitals, etc. But so do unbelievers. Now what wickedness has religion done in the name of a god that no Atheist or unbeliever has ever done? I rest my case.