Very often I am asked by a needy, possibly homeless person for a handout. Disavowing the Conservative notion that these people are just going to buy booze, I generally oblige by giving a few dollars, depending on what I’m carrying and how needy they appear. Perhaps I’m being scammed, but the fact they are out in the generally hot Vegas sun to beg means they need it more than me. The universal response upon receiving the money is “God Bless.” I generally respond, that’s ok and go on my merry way. This past weekend, I decided to mix it up a little.
In a store parking lot, a man approached and said, “ma’am can you spare a bit? I’m a day laborer and work is hard to come by this weekend (as it was Memorial Weekend) and I need to bring something home to my family.” So I asked the man to wait a moment while I unloaded my oversized Costco merchandise from the cart and he proceeded to help me. While he returned the cart to the storage area of the lot, I grabbed a $10 bill and gave it to the man. Perhaps I gave more than usual because he mentioned he also had cats to feed and I am a feline lover. Nonetheless, he was very grateful. On cue, he responded, “God bless.”
Deciding this was a good time for a quick debate, I replied, ‘I don’t believe in god.’ He said, ‘really? You’re an Atheist? You’d better be an Agnostic, ya know, for insurance purposes.’ I replied, ‘if there’s a deity who’s so petty I must undoubtedly believe in his or her existence, I really want no part of that.’ I did mention that my religion is kindness to other humans and I don’t require a belief in the supernatural. Unexpectedly, the man replied simply, ‘Good point.’ We said our good byes and I drove away.
I thought about the encounter and decided he was either a.) diplomatic and not interested in a debate or b.) convinced I had a point and he too was grappling with the idea that God might not be real. Perhaps he is an Atheist and says God bless because it’s de rigueur. The whole episode made me take inventory of what it means to be without “faith.”
Recently, Pope Francis decided Atheists can also be redeemed and enter Heaven, so perhaps, in time, folks like us won’t be stereotyped as “bad people.” Because so much of our society is embedded with the thought that churchiness is directly proportional to goodness, people literally shudder when I mention my absence of theism. Having lived in Oklahoma for a few years, I learned not to disclose this information too publicly. People unfortunately mistake your public religious persona with your sense of morality.
Sigmund Freud had many theories of behavior that I don’t entirely believe are fully accurate. However, his assessment of religion does seem pretty spot on. Primarily:
Religions are human constructions. His other points, summarized:
The monotheistic God is an illusion based upon the infantile emotional need for a powerful, supernatural father-figure and that religion, once necessary to restrain man’s violent nature in the early stages of civilization can, in modern times, be set aside in favor of reason and science. So…anyone wonder why science is being downplayed and attacked — and not taught? And why reason isn’t effective with religious zealots of any faith? Or why people are kept ignorant to be more programmable? Simply put, religion stifles emotional, scientific and social progress. The fact we have such a pronounced anti-science/pro-religion movement in this country demonstrates the antipathy between the two components of our society, proving they cannot symbiotically coexist. Heaven forbid we teach critical thinking to the indoctrinated. What value would religious fantasy have to a society that critically analyzes scientific concepts?
This country continues to suffer at the hands of the über-religious, anti-climate change, anti-science, polluting plutocrats. This belief in God is a handicap that the Plutocracy requires for control of the brainwashed masses. The evidence required for something so extraordinary should be as extraordinary as the claim itself, yet no true tangible proof has been presented and for the deeply religious, no evidence is enough to satisfy their concerns. The idea that morality is co-dependent on religion is as ludicrous as the idea that we’re born with “original sin” as prophesied in a book of preposterous fiction. Saddling children with the guilt of this concept is cruel and downright crazy.
The belief in God is just a mythic reproduction of the universal state of infantile helplessness. Like an idealized father, God is the projection of childish wishes for an omnipotent protector. And, hopefully, we all can see the paranoia of the religious right, their wish for the world to end and for their savior to save and protect them.
We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.”
~ Christopher Hitchens
If I may be so audacious and speak for the great Hitchens himself, I would also say, “thanks, but I’m good without god.”