Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 7 September 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

College essay contest: third place (tie)

Why I know I’m sane

FFRF awarded Carlos $500 for his essay.

This girl, with pigtails and too much makeup, twists around in her seat and asks me, “How can you not believe in God?” It’s smack in the middle of the first day of Psych 102, right after the tedious introduction portion where we share our religious beliefs, or in my case, the lack thereof.

“It’s easy,” I tell her, “I have a brain.” That answer though is too reductive, lacking the finesse capable of swaying her opinion. It didn’t matter. My goal wasn’t to argue a counterpoint but rather to become a reflection of the blatant condescension inherent in her question.

With nothing more than flimsy Sunday school dogma, she felt it fair to assume that she was the one completely in her mind, and that I had gone off the deep end. What follows will be the supporting evidence for why I am sane.

Faith is the backbone of self-deception.

Down the street from my house, there’s a minister who cures headaches. The claim is that belief in God works just as well as aspirin. Tithing 10% of your annual income secures heavenly acreage for you. Homosexuality causes earthquakes and colossal hurricanes. They hate us for our freedoms. In the age of science, it seems downright silly to make those correlations.

Will prayer supplant medical treatment? Must we follow a financial plan imposed by the threat of an imaginary afterlife? Do we stop indulging in what brings us happiness because it’s condemned in the stories of twisted fiction? The answer, for those in their right mind, is no.

Freud’s essay, “Future of an Illusion,” is an effective exposé of the human psyche. Freud proposes that humans try to control forces beyond themselves by attributing those forces to entities that can be appeased or angered. He asserts that we should impose these manifestations to satiate the insecurities of our powerlessness.

At first we imbued nature with human characteristics so that we may somehow tame its unbridled power. That has since been narrowed down to a monotheistic God, a catchall that saves us from the absurd randomizing of life, representative of our powerlessness. Essentially, it’s an act of self-delusion to avoid confronting this reality. Every poor soul eager to let his life be ensnared by the word of God does so out of fear of the world and a need to fulfill the void of a watchful parental figure.

As a child, I had to attend mandatory theology classes. Faith permeated every lecture. Sheer belief rendered tall tales into fact. What a contemptible request, I thought.

The bible’s ‘wisdom’

Faith is the backbone of self-deception. Any time a believer is backed up against a wall, cornered by the facts stacked against them, their last desperate act is to cite faith. Like a ham actor’s death throes, it’s unnecessary and, further, embarrassing.

Invoking faith indirectly refers to the justification of a subjective truth, the last safe haven for theists. Many philosophers, especially of the existential movement, try to uphold this approach to understanding, though what I will argue is that the truth that results from the outgrowth of the bible’s teachings is a harmful one.

Deuteronomy 22:20-21 condones the brutal stoning of a woman who doesn’t have adequate proof of virginity after being accused of being promiscuous. 1 Corinthians 14:34 advises women to be silent and submissive. In Deuteronomy 23:2, children of unwed mothers are born into the fatalism of eternal damnation. Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9 and 1 Peter 2:18 encourage slavery, offering slaves debasing guidelines to follow.

This is but a sampling of the bible’s “wisdom.” I’ve skipped its insights on homosexuality and leasing daughters as sex slaves, with still more ridiculous declarations to bear. Secularism and reason instinctively dismiss these falsities that trespass on basic human rights. Subjective truths are a deserved privilege that we should be allowed to practice and express, but not when it violates universal moralities.

One of the few religions I am on good terms with is Buddhism. A visiting monk drew a picture of a chicken and an egg on the whiteboard. “Which came first?” he asked.

The class erupted with conjectures. No one had anything more than a grade-school interpretation of the idea, but we argued our points passionately. After some time, he raised his hand, webbed with prayer beads, and calmed us into silence.

He then posed another question, a slight smirk starting to break his stoic manner. “Ask yourself,” he said, “does knowing this truth affect your life?”

The simplicity of the revelation was striking. Like the Zen koans that can incite a moment of epiphany, the monk had unlocked a new perception for us. People have concerned themselves with seeking the truth about their origins and an afterlife, forcing us to rely on religion to reach where science is not yet capable of treading. In trying to resolve that mystery, we have allowed senselessness to invade our beliefs.

As atheists, we must arm ourselves with education and go into the trenches, fighting a sort of guerrilla warfare that relies on the impervious invocations of logic and fact. In a faith-obsessed society, it has become increasingly important for nonbelievers to make the case for reason and put religious fanatics in their place.

Carlos Anderson, 21, Dededo, Guam, is a University of Guam junior with a literature major and a philosophy minor. He plans to transfer to either Boston University or Emory University. He aspires to write fiction and make independent films.

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