‘My journey started with questions’ – Linda Allewalt

FFRF member shares nonbelief thoughts with pastor in series of newspaper columns

FFRF Life Member Linda Allewalt was asked by a local pastor in Kentucky to write a series of columns for the newspaper on the perspectives of nonbelievers.

“He was concerned about the increasing religious polarization going on in our community and he wanted to demonstrate how opposite opinions could not only be tolerated, but celebrated,” Allewalt wrote to FFRF.

So the pastor — Dave Charlton of First Christian Church — and Allewalt were able to get the editor of the Shelbyville, Ky., Sentinel-News to agree to run a series of five weekly columns by each. The columns ran side by side.

Neither Allewalt or Charlton knew what the other was writing, but for the final column they could respond to what the other wrote in previous columns.

The first installment was an overview of each writer’s journey to their respective religious worldviews.

“My journey started with questions — basic curiosity,” Allewalt wrote. “I believed in and mentally accepted the basic tenets of Protestantism in essence because people I loved and trusted told me it was all a true description of how the universe works. If I had been born in Pakistan, I’d be practicing Islam; India, Hinduism.

“In short, I found the gods (there are at least two) depicted through those mythologies to be petty, violent, exclusive and immoral. And I have to include the god of Jesus in that description.

“I concluded I didn’t need Christianity in order to be a good and moral person.

“What I am describing is a huge change of mind. It is a movement from what I called ‘boxed-in’ thinking to freethinking.”

The following are excerpts from Allewatt’s columns on the given topics.

Separation of church and state

“The ‘God’ of Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Adams and many of the men in the room hashing out the Constitution was not in any sense the Christian ‘god.’ So claims that this country was founded as a ‘Christian nation’ are so far off as to be comical. Except it’s not funny.

“Now we have legislators enacting resolutions to recognize the ‘Year of the Bible.’ We have Congress inviting the pope to address them. If you know anything about the Founders, you would know that this single act would have them jumping out of their seats in protest.
“Despite all of these inroads into government, members of the dominant religion, Christianity, complain bitterly in courts and media that their ‘religious freedom’ is being violated.

“For an atheist, the message from our government and society is even louder and clearer than the church bells ringing out Protestant hymns on a daily basis. ‘You don’t belong.'”

Perception of the other side

“‘A good Christian man . . . a woman of strong Christian values . . .’ How many times do we see this description used for politicians in general remarks about someone? What does that mean? Are religious people overall more moral than nonreligious people? Is there a difference in their morality? The short answer is ‘no.’

“Either people have a sense of compassion or they don’t. That sense is not dependent on having a god or being godless. Meaning and purpose in life come out of a sense of awe about our place in the universe and again out of our desires to increase love and happiness in our fellow human beings lives, and not from some unevidenced fantasy about an eternal extension of our consciousness.

A look at science and religion

“We need scientifically literate people in our future generations or we as a country will fall further behind other countries than we already have.

“Forty percent of the people in this country claim the creation story is the accurate explanation for human origins.

“We still have a significant part of our population who feel that their religion is so threatened by science that they must find a way to silence it or diminish its influence. Or, label it ‘atheism’!”

A discussion of belief and nonbelief

“All ideas and claims in this world should be subject to scrutiny, criticism, demands for evidence and even sometimes satire and ridicule. Attempts to hold religious ideas (or atheistic ideas) ‘untouchable’ are wrong in a free and democratic society.

“Rational thinking is not so much a condition, but a tool to probe ideas to determine if there is evidence to support those ideas and claims about the nature of the world/universe. I would say that atheists use this tool for more than religionists.

“Religions tend to build fictions and present them as reality.

“If the emotion of love is a product of chemistry, physics, physiology and biology of a healthy brain, then I say, ‘Wow! Aren’t brains marvelous? The universe is awesome all by itself. It has no need for the supernatural to enhance it.'”

Freedom From Religion Foundation