People who believe in god and and post god articles and comments on News24 often accuse me of being misinformed about their religion, of quoting scripture out of context and of hating their particular version of a god. More times than I can remember I have been threatened with some final judgement and of being condemned by a loving god to an eternity of terrible punishment and suffering in hell.
I have written this to set the record straight and to save me endlessly repeating my standard responses. In future I can simply paste a link to this article and tell them to get on with it.
I was raised as a Christian of the Anglican variety, baptised (although too young to remember the experience) and I spent the Sundays of my early years in Sunday School. My first big school was a Catholic Girl's Convent which little boys could attend till what was then standard one. I have no idea why my parents sent me there but my abiding memory was the cruelty inflicted upon me because I write left handed but do most everything else right handed. I was told the Devil was left handed (sinister) and the nuns regularly rapped me on the knuckles with a steel edged ruler as I messily struggled to meet their demands to write with my right. We had dip pens and inkwells in those days so the results were a complete failure. I never complained to my parents as my father, who had attended a posh English public school and was therefore used to caneful school disciple, was not going to be unduly sympathetic.
At age 11 I was sent to confirmation classes at the local Church after school were I was taught to repetitively recite the Lord's Prayer, scripture verses and the Creed and given a thorough understanding of what communion was all about. I was on my way to becoming a good Christian boy.
I can remember exactly when I came to doubt what I was being told. It was after I had been confirmed. I lay one day leaning over a terrace in the garden looking down on a path some 2 metres below where many fairly large black ants were scurrying around doing what ants do. I had a peashooter in hand and casually started to pick the ants off one by one. Little boys tend to do that sort of thing. Sometimes I missed but many ants never knew what hit them. Some were wounded and then casually finished off with subsequent shots.
I suddenly realised I was playing god. I could force the ants to take a different path if I placed a stone near the nest. I could pour water into their nest. I could exact random punishment whenever I chose and had the ultimate power of life or death over these helpless creatures. I could continue or I could cease. I could spare that ant but not the other. I stopped, troubled at the thought and realised that I was behaving in exactly the way the god I was taught to believe in did. My thoughts drifted to the idea that perhaps humans were like the ants. If an ant could think he must surely conclude his comrade's deaths were caused by a god-like superior intelligence or force. That was when I wondered, was life on Earth perhaps the result of some experiment by a superior alien intelligence who planted the seeds of life on Earth and then cold-heartedly and interestedly watched to see what developed?
(Note: It is pure coincidence that Roux de boy used the ant analogy the other day on News24 but he only toyed with them recently while I did so more than 50 years ago).
With my parents encouragement I was an avid reader and my father, who was a university lecturer, told me about evolution not ever mentioning the obvious conflicts with the Biblical accounts. He was a man of engineering and science so he accepted the scientific discoveries and explanations and he once took me, wide-eyed, to meet Professor Tobias.
Do the aliens interfere with the life they initiated? Did an alien fire a peashooter that caused the Permian–Triassic and Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction events? Did an alien watch to see what happened if an iceberg was placed in the path of the Titanic? The hypothesis is as valid as any that one of the thousands of gods worshipped by humans did it.
Despite my growing disbelief I was nevertheless forced to attend communion every Sunday, a duty I hated as I knew the service off by heart and saw it as a complete waste of valuable time on a Sunday. The wine was too sweet and the cracker always stuck to the roof of my mouth. Anglicanism was then a quiet dignified form of Christianity: no ra, ra raw emotion, yelling, hand waving, clapping and threats of hell fire and damnation. I can only ever once remember trying to pray in earnest. I had again failed to do my homework and knew Miss Richies would send me to the principal’s office where justice would be swiftly administered with two cuts. I asked God to spare me but he failed me miserably so I received my just deserts. I never bothered to pray again after that. What good was a god who fails when you need him most? I could place far more reliance upon a couple of layers of thick woollen underwear.
The day I left home after I matriculated was the last time I ever had to go to church again and I never did except for weddings and funerals. I considered myself to be agnostic and simply got on with my life and career relying upon my own judgements. As my children arrived and became old enough I did my duty and hauled them off to the local Sunday school so we could have some peace and quiet on Sunday mornings. They proudly returned with crude drawings of Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark but gradually lost interest, said they no longer wanted to go so I let them get on with what they really wanted to do.
My anti-religious views hardened as I watched the Nationalist Government, openly supported by God and the Dutch Reformed Churches, enforce apartheid. All those calls to the almighty, the religious propaganda spewed by the SABC, the banning of people, books, films and Sunday sport: the abhorrent ill-treatment of people and the open hatred of those who were different finally made me realise that God was just an excuse for people to behave abominably. I realised I had not only become atheist but anti-religious as many of the worst and least trustworthy specimens of the human race that I encountered were those who openly displayed their religiosity.
My mother was 95 years old when she slipped and fell in her room at the retirement home breaking her hip. She spent the last year of her life bedridden and in constant agony and suffered the added indignity of being unable to go to a toilet and often soiling herself.
How fair was this? Here was a woman who devoted part of her life to successfully raising five children and the rest for God as she devoted most of her time working for her church. She organised the cake and bring and buy sales and fetes to raise the money to help others. She visited and consoled the sick. When she had no more to give and had outlived her money her children and grand children supported her but the church lost interest. I visited her regularly and she felt betrayed. She knew I was non-religious and skirted around her bitterness at the spiritual abandonment she had experienced. She just knew there was no help coming, expressed doubts about her long held faith and repeatedly expressed the view that she wanted it to end. She died miserably a year after her fall. What sort of loving god allowed that to happen to her?
I don't as a rule provoke anti-religious comments on News24 but react to news articles about religion and religious beliefs and to comments made by theists on News24 justifying or peddling their faith.
Sure I am offended that so much human effort, resource and intelligence is misdirected into the god business. Yes, I am indignant that so many children are brainwashed with such misguided, unfounded and patently false beliefs. Certainly I resent that faith without substance should be considered a virtue and that it should enjoy respect and special privilege in society. And of course I am contemptuous of the likes of Ray McCauley, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, The Pope, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard, all those ayatollahs, imams, rabbis and other Mammon loving preachermen who prey upon human gullibility. But angry with god. No. I am not angry with any god. None exist. I am angry because the slimy, dishonest self-appointed charlatan representatives of gods on Earth still exist in the 21st century.
So it is a waste of time quoting scripture at me. I will simply quote verses right back that you or fellow members of your faith ignore or have never heard before. Don't claim moral superiority because of your god beliefs because I can list literally thousands and thousands of links to the despicable and immoral acts of god fearing believers. I will laugh at you and mock you and your god if you threaten me with judgement and eternal torture by a non-existent Satan in a non-existent hell. I will be caustic, snarky and unsporting in my responses if you post nakedly racist sentiments or spew hatred for those who do not share your beliefs or who are different. If you want my respect and attention then simply provide verifiable evidence to support any religious assertions you make. If you cannot then I will have no reason to listen to you.
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