Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hating God

Since being out as an atheist, I have been accused many times of hating God. No matter how many times I explain that it’s rather impossible to hate someone that I believe doesn’t exist, the same allegation still comes up, many times by the same person. Maybe there are people who honestly can’t comprehend that some people just truly don’t believe in a god, and view my stated disbelief as a sort of rebellion, a childish way of lashing back at God out of anger.  They cannot conceive of never believing, because in their mind God is as real to them as the air they breathe, so it's impossible to accept actual disbelief from others.    

(Unfortunately, they don’t take this far enough to examine why I might be angry with God if that were the case…usually I’m told some variation of “you want to sin without feeling bad about it” or “you’re angry that God doesn’t give you everything you wanted.” These are both wildly inaccurate, and make me look like a petulant teenager, which might be why some believers I've encountered are so dismissive and condescending towards me. I want to explore both of these in more detail later, so stick a pin in them. Right now, all I can say is that this characterization is just plain wrong. For more insight, you can read a little about why I no longer believe in God.)

I also think that there are some believers who confuse my hatred of the atrocities of religion, and my hatred of how some believers treat other people, as a hatred for God. And while it would be too strong to say I hate religion, because I do think that good things have come out of religions (maybe in spite of the religion itself), I do hate irrationality, intolerance, cruelty, evil, and the many, many other negative effects that religions have had on our world. (I don’t have the time for a total overview; that would take a book, many books. The best book I know on the subject and one I recommend everyone read, religious, atheist, or indifferent, is: Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless.)

Yesterday, however, I came the closest I've ever come to truly hating God. 

Not religion or the religious, not a nebulous god concept, but the good ol' God of Abraham and Issac and other people who'd feel totally justified sacrificing their kids for that bloodthirsty monster. The Judeo-Christian God.  Now, it was only for a moment, a moment long enough for me to breathe and go, "Okay, calm down, now.  He's not real.  You're pissed at someone else and projecting it onto a non-entity.  It's like being pissed at a unicorn because you're tired of being a virgin."

And so I took a second to think, and realized I was actually feeling a deep, white-hot rage for my mom.  Now, I love my mom, and being angry with her is not a comfortable experience.  It's not surprising I directed that brief flare of hate towards God.  Easier target, and since he doesn't exist, I don't have to go apologize for hurting his feelings later on.  Taking another second to analyze, I figured out that it was less anger than a huge load of hurt--tinged with jealousy--a profound pain that caused me to lash out irrationally.  I didn't want to acknowledge how much Mom had hurt me.

I didn't respond to what happened. I changed the conversation. I doubt she knows that what she said gave me a second thought, much less actual hurt. And I don't know that I can ever have a productive conversation with her about it. I do, however, believe I need to blog about it.

Here's the situation: Mom and I were driving along, doing errands, which is where we tend to have our most intense conversations. We don't get to spend a tremendous amount of time together because her work keeps her very busy (16 hour days are not unusual, and her hours vary every single day with little consistency on where she's going to be or what she's going to be doing). She's my best friend, but I don't spend near the amount of time with her that I would like to. We usually discuss ethics, politics, and religion (and most often all three at once). Because I read and watch news far more than she does, I'll often bring up whatever story I've been chewing on and we'll discuss it...which usually leads to a philosophical or theological debate about the rights and wrongs of the thing. (Aside: my mom doesn't think she's smart, and she feels bad about not having a degree, but that woman is a deep, rational thinker, and while I may strongly disagree with her religious beliefs, she is far from stupid. She makes me work hard for my positions and I've learned more about ethics and theology--history and modern application--than from any university class.)

I brought up a story that's getting passed around facebook. (I have a lot of old friends and family friended, most of whom are still fundamentalist/evangelical Christians, so I have to put up with a lot of Christian--and Republican-spam. Most of the time, keeping in touch is worth it. Sometimes, I wonder.) Anyway, the story goes that a missionary mom and her children were captured by the evil, savage, godless natives. (That's not racist at all.) Godless Natives gave Missionary Mom a choice: renounce God and live, or they would kill her children, and her. So Missionary Mom did the godly thing, kissed her kids goodbye and told them to be strong, and let the Godless Natives torture her kids to death. Of course, this lovely story comes with a great moral: "What would you do? Would you be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for God?"

What the fuck.

First, Missionary Mom is not just making a decision for herself, which I guess is her crazy-ass right, but also for her children. Because she's not willing to say some words, her kids get tortured to death. Isn't God all-knowing enough to realize she's just saying it to save her children's lives? Isn't the whole point of forgiveness and Jesus' death and all that jazz that even if God was pissed (which, seriously, what the fuck, if you're serving a god that puts a few words above your children's lives, I can't even), couldn't Jesus just forgive you after? All forgiven, still going to heaven, and best of all, your children haven't just been tortured to death.

And my Mom says, "She did the right thing. It would be the hardest thing I would ever do, but I hope I would do the same."

That's when I hated God with a pure, deep, white-hot rage.

It's not God's fault, of course. One nice thing about not existing: it gets you off the hook pretty effectively. It's religion. It's indoctrination from a tiny age into a religion that celebrates parents who sacrificed their children on God's command and martyrs that died for stupid-ass reasons. And it hurts.

I don't think this story is real. I haven't seen any actual documentation. (If someone has outside verification, by all means, I'm willing to be shown I'm wrong, even though it would break my heart.) I don't think that three kids were tortured to death because of their mom's ridiculous sense of morality, that put a few paltry words above her kid's lives. But I'm real. I'm real, and it fucking hurts that my mom would rather watch me die a slow, horrible death, than ever "renounce God" --even if it was just for show, even if it was meaningless and she could take it back later. And when the anger and jealousy faded, there was just sadness.

When I was a kid, I accepted as normal and right that Mom put God before us. And lordisa knows she did...her service to the church has always come before her family. But, now, hearing such a vivid confirmation that she puts her imaginary sky daddy ahead of even my life...I dunno why this is bothering me so much. It's not like it's new information.

Still hurts, though.

1 comment:

  1. How did you tell your family you're atheist? My immediate family and an aunt know I'm atheist, but I haven't known how to bring it up to my extended family without having them cry and scream and pray outside of my apartment (no hyperbole, they really would). I'm thinking that the next time religion comes up I'll just throw it out there and deal with the fall out. Any advice? What was your experience like?