Freethought Today · September 2012

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Fifth place: College student essay contest

Time to stop respecting religion

ouelletFFRF awarded Eric a $300 scholarship for his essay. 

By Eric Ouellet 

When I was young, my Christian mother would read bible stories to me. She would take me to church occasionally and lecture me about god. Like any child, I believed all of it.

As I grew up, I fell in love with science books at the library, particularly books about space. Christianity’s claims soon seemed completely nonsensical. By the time I was 9, I had rejected religion and the idea of a God but told no one.

I remember feeling that no matter what I believed, religion merited respect, and it was wrong to question another person’s beliefs. But over the years, religion began to anger me. I became angry at the way Christians seemed so certain about things they had no way of knowing, the way they assumed they were morally superior and that the best way to raise children was by brainwashing them.

Slowly, my mother began to suspect that I had rejected Christianity. When I was 13, I was reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and telling my younger sister how the ancient Greeks calculated Earth’s circumference. Mother said to me, “Keep in mind, scientists don’t have all the answers.”

That angered me enormously and to me meant, “You can learn about science if you want, but always remember that God is the real answer to everything.” I didn’t say anything. In fact, I didn’t come out to my mother until I was 16. Thankfully, she didn’t disown me.

In fact, she doesn’t really seem to care that I am a nonbeliever (which makes me question whether she really believes the claims of Christianity herself, because if she does, she ought to be concerned that I will be tortured for eternity).

Deserving of ridicule

Why did it take me so long to come out of the closet? It was largely because of the idea perpetuated by society that it’s good and noble to be religious.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” Every week, politicians are ridiculed in editorial cartoons and on satirical TV shows, but for some reason, it’s unheard of to ridicule the most ridiculous beliefs of all.

Religion’s unmerited respected status is the only thing that truly sustains it. After all, it’s fairly obvious that most religious people don’t believe as they do because they’ve evaluated all the possibilities and come to the conclusion that their faith makes the most sense.

They believe because those around them believe the same thing and no one seems to question it. One of the reasons it’s so important for atheists to come out and become vocal is to abolish the dangerous social custom of not questioning ridiculous beliefs.

The atheism section on the social news website Reddit has over 730,000 subscribers. It’s sometimes criticized for posting too much silly content mocking Christianity and Islam rather than discussions. But in my view, Zombie Jesus pictures and the like are extremely valuable in that they help destroy the assumption that religion deserves respect.

I’m always amused when religious defenders online try to use the same tactics as atheists. For example, one posted a picture of an obese teenager at a computer with a caption calling atheists “fat fucks with no life.”

Imagine the reaction if something like that were said about Christians. Rather than feel insulted, which was the intent of the childish picture, atheist commenters “agreed” that atheists are fat because they eat so many babies.

It’s difficult to attack atheists because they don’t have any ridiculous beliefs that require defending and therefore generally don’t feel the need to resort to tribalism.

The stigma associated with criticizing religious belief does not apply to any other belief, whether it is political, scientific or otherwise. It’s impossible to know the exact numbers, but I suspect that a large portion of supposedly religious people don’t truly believe the claims of their faiths. Thankfully, the rise of the Internet has been unkind to unjustified claims, and as a result, nonbelief appears to be accelerating.

I believe that religion will be eliminated in my lifetime, but when that happens depends on nonbelievers having the courage to come out.

 

Eric Ouellet, 18, lives in Mississauga, Ontario. He’s in his second year at Carleton University in Ottawa, studying computer science.

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