Image by Mrs eNil via FlickrA letter from Transman
To all the believers and religious people who come here, I have some small advice for understanding. Quoting Bible verses to us, offering websites and books of apologetics, and trying to bring other arguments or pseudo (or fraud) claims of proof, will not change anything.
As many of us have said before, try comparing it with Santa Claus or other fantasy creatures of our childhood. Once you know that they are really just a fantasy, you cannot go back to believing, even if you tried or really, really wanted to. I can't imagine that anyone on this forum would ever go back.
Also, to help you a little further, look at the big picture. Most people don't want to insult you, hurt your feelings, or be in any way negative to you, as a person. Often however, when someone says something negative about your particular religion, faith, denomination or god-person, you are personally offended, because you identify with this god, you treat the god like a good friend, and feel the need to defend that god. On the other hand, you probably may not have a problem making a joke about other religions, gods, or religious practices, or make critical remarks, sometimes not knowing how deeply THAT can offend someone who is a member of that culture or religion.
Similarly, let's say someone watches a TV show and likes that TV show a lot. The main character might be Superman. You watch the show every day and when you just hear the name "Superman" or the melody that starts the show, you feel elated, happy, you smile, relax, or get excited. You have Superman posters, pictures, magazines, you meet weekly with your Superman club. You collect stickers and can recite lines of the movies. You sleep in superman sheets and wear a Superman shirt, to show everybody who you like. Then, if someone says something negative about Superman, you may feel equally offended and defensive.
It doesn't matter that Superman is a fictive character. After watching and hearing it that many times, the brain treats it like it would react when you met an old friend, a real person. The brain creates the same feeling of recognition, happiness and excitement, or worry that the (real or imaginative) friend might get hurt.
Now, let's take a step away from the closeness of the TV show and the character you like, and from your god, your religion.
I am not trying to convince you of your hero/god not being existent, just keep reading.
Here are some questions I want you to ask yourself, and I am asking you to answer them, just to yourself, in non-religious language, without quotes form religious books or phrases you are used to hear in church.
Think about why you believe in this god (don't say because this god has led you to believe, but think in terms of where you grew up, what your family believes, what churches are in your area etc). Why you believe in this religion or denomination? Where did your faith or belief come from? Is it the culture of your family? When you were a kid, were you always told that god is really real and Jesus really walked on water (just an example, use a different one if you like)? Do you believe that Jesus' mom was a virgin when she gave birth to him? Do you believe another young woman could be pregnant right now and still be a virgin, and maybe give birth to a god-son today? What questions would you ask her?
What if your family had lived in another country with a different culture? Have you seen how different denominations of the same religion sometimes tell or believe in contradicting things? (For example the Catholic religion believes in saints....how can you prove or disprove the existence of Saints?)
What is religion and where did it come from? Read some of the different stories about the beginning of the world, that different societies wrote a long time ago. How do you feel when you read these stories? Do you feel any specific emotions, such as happiness when you read the name of a certain god? Read some other religious books and see what you think about the writings. Look at them very objectively, as I have no plans on trying to convert you to any religion. Why do you go to church? What are some of the things that you like about it, maybe some things you may not like? How about the people there, what connects you with them, besides the belief in the same religion? Learn some things about other cultures and how they are interwoven with their religions. Make a count of gods that have been worshiped.
See, I am not telling you to read Dawkins or any books by atheists, nor do I bring up arguments on how there is no proof of god.
But looking around and seeing that there are many different ways of life, many different people and cultures, and many things to know about the different may help you to not take as much offense when someone does not like your particular one. And maybe, just maybe, you can see how life is diverse and how we all want to be happy. And we, just like you, don't want to constantly hear what we should do in your opinion. I know you mean well and I know that many of you have this really hurting emotion of worry about their loved ones because they are "not saved" or not practicing religion the way you do or believe it is done right.
Try to let go of that worry. It is okay if your daughter does not go to church and does not indoctrinate her children, your precious and beloved grandchildren. Do not worry about the afterlife so much. It is hard not to, because your religion is aimed at the afterlife, but really, your family needs you here and now.
I have a coworker who is very distraught about her daughter not taking the grand babies to church, and I feel her real, consuming, heart-wrenching pain over it. But there isn't much she can do about it, and her life would be easier if she could step back and let go.
Try and make a friend next time, who you know does not go to church, whether that person is an atheist or simply someone who has no interest in going to church. Be aware of the way you talk to the person, and try not to constantly mention god or Jesus. Get to know that person a little, and you may find out that this person has the same human traits and characteristics and interests as yourself and your religious friends.
There is not a lot of difference. Your new friend might be as honest, friendly, well-meaning, family oriented, open, accepting, helpful and giving as you would want your best Christian friends to be.
See, if you do these things, you will not lose anything. You won't lose your religion, you won't get any doubts, you don't expose your mind to what you may consider dangerous or frowned upon by your god or Christian friends.
I do think it may open your sight to life in its diversity, and that may help you to take different opinions in a less offended way, and see all the different people out there.
It may be hard for you to understand, that some people do not enjoy the same things you enjoy, or don't believe the same things you believe. Have you ever encountered someone who told you something you know isn't true, such as "feeding gunpowder to your dog makes it a better hunting dog" and you wanted to keep debating with that person to convince him or her that it isn't true. It is hard to understand, even just accept, that there are people who don't believe in the existence of a god, when it plays such a big role in your life. It is hard to resist to say something. And often, we atheists feel that very same way. We want to say something too, want to share what we learned through research, share our stories, help you understand.
I am sure you would not want us to bombard you with quotes from science books or philosophers. You know that would be offensive, unasked for, and unwelcome.
When you deal with people you don't know, be a little careful. You don't have to constantly express your belief and religion in your conversations. You may not even be aware of doing it, so maybe develop some awareness.
I have a neighbor who is very religious, and she knows I am an atheist. Every time she talks to me, she says things like "god only knows" or "thank god" or "thank you Jesus!" She is very aware of her speech, and I never asked her to, neither am I easily offended, nor do I really care all that much about it. I do appreciate her effort though and we are great friends. Often expressions like "thank god" are just cultural and used by non-believers as well. What I ask for is maybe take the edge off a little. Spare the loud exclamations of "thank you Jesus" or to constantly point out how "the lord" healed you, saved you, delivered you or blessed you with a new car. Just use normal language.
And on this forum, it is offensive to most people if you talk religious talk and quote verses of the Bible, such as "god so loved this world" or "Jesus is the way" or other things. They do not have the meaning to us as they have to you, and they do not touch us emotionally anymore than if you read in some other nation's religious and treasured book that "the god Hylpitrumwfs sacrificed his favorite pet to save men from the demons." It might elicit cheers in the members of this religion, but has no meaning to you.
Also, please be a tiny bit critical to yourself as a group (with many different faces, yes), that you represent to us. Check out www.FSTDT.com, specifically this page: http://www.fstdt.com/fundies/top100.aspx?archive1.
These are quotes from Christian/religious people, left on blogs on the Internet. I am sure you will see some you would agree with. And some, where even you will shake your head.
Thank you for your attention, and I hope to have fostered a bit of understanding and acceptance between the general group of Christians (no specific denomination) and us, the atheists. Most of us in both groups are nice, civil, friendly and helpful people, and I think most could do better in commenting to the testimonies than to use the same phrases that we all already know (Bible verses or typical sentiments used by preachers). Just speak normal language and be yourself.