A Christian RT-fest this morning that read, “Know God / Know Peace, No God / No Peace” took off and started trending. Atheists picked up the trending topic, and by the time I sat down with a sandwich to lazily check my Twitter feed, “No God” was itself a trending topic. Well, actually. it was the trending topic – #1. You betcha.
I don’t have a ton of time tonight, but I needed to sit down and say the things that wouldn’t fit into Twitter’s 140-character limit or into my busy day. So I hope you’ll bear with me as I give this commentary with today’s tweets interspersed with thoughts and all that good stuff.
The “No God” search was full of things like, “No God never started any wars.” I agree, but that’s not really why I don’t believe in God. So here’s how I threw my hat into the fray:
There are lots of reasons to want No God, but the bottom line is, we don’t *need* one. God is an artifact of limited knowledge.
Pithy 140, but really only understood, I think, by fellow atheists (skeptics/freethinkers/etc.). What I meant was, gods are a creation of man, who, in ancient times, wanted to understand the things around him. Why did the earth shake sometimes? Why did the sun disappear behind the moon? Why were there floods, volcanoes, deaths, illnesses, bad luck? Humans are curious and essentially rational beings, but without millenia of scientific growth and understanding, their reason could only carry them so far. Gods who controlled heavens and fate filled the gaps of understanding.
Now we have a multitude of scientific understandings available to us. Those things they wondered about, we know to ascribe to tectonic activity, tides, human frailty, bacteria, viruses, coincidence, etc. The gods who did this for ancient man are no longer needed. They were created because of early human’s lack of knowledge. The Christian god of today is credited with creating the earth and the universe, but he’s not really necessary for that. Science explains how the earth got here, can even give us a long history of its geology and many of its life forms. The actual creation of the universe is still not really known, but we’re pretty damned close. Human understanding has filled so many of the gaps that gods were engineered to fill. Anthropology tells us we don’t need a god to be good – the ethic of reciprocity predates the Christian god by thousands of years. We’re good because that (hopefully) leads to others being good to us. We understand psychology and other sciences that help us understand ourselves. All this, and so much more (but I think you get the picture) is what I packed into that little tweet.
Here’s what someone responded:
@bjflanagan: @vkamutzki Atheism is an artifact of limited experience.
I don’t mean to be thick, but to be honest, that really seems like a nonsense response that someone threw together thinking they were clever with their allusion to my statement. I don’t get it. But then, I knew that people who weren’t coming from my point of view didn’t have the benefit of all that explanation I just gave you for my original tweet. So I responded:
@bjflanagan @vkamutzki Actually, for me, atheism was exactly the product of expanding my experience, which was v limited when I was a Xtian.
I was genuinely hoping this could open a dialogue – I still want to really understand what he meant. I should be so lucky. I don’t think he understands it. This was his reply:
bjflanagan @ymberlenis Well, so you outgrew a naive interpretation of religion. Good for you.
Er, um. Way to dismiss my entire life experience to suit your own needs. I guess. I should point out that as an aside, in response to some of the other tweets I’d been reading the search feed, I posted this:
Dear Xtians: Don’t be sad for me because I believe in no god. It’s insulting that you go straight to pity and skip over dialogue.
Amused by inanity of many No God tweets, but frustrated by reminders of most believers’ condescension and intolerance of atheists. #fb
So when I got @bjflanagan‘s tweet, I retweeted it:
There’s that condescension i was talking about. RT @bjflanagan: @ymberlenis So you outgrew a naive interpretation of religion. Good for you.
Okay, so I was moving to snarky and dismissive, too. But it’s still factually accurate; it was a very condescending thing for him to say. I got the following tweet shortly thereafter, but didn’t engage further. I want to believe I could call Poe’s Law, but reading through the rest of his feed (and seeing some nastier comments to others than what I got), I’m pretty sure he’s just massively reluded (which is shorthand for religiously deluded, just for future reference).
bjflanagan @ymberlenis Speaking as I do from the heights of my godlike wisdom, you might count yourself lucky that I spend time with you at all.
Right. Yep. I don’t. I’m a lost cause. Move on. The little voice in my head screamed, “Pick your battles! This one’s an energy-sucker! Run!” So I did. But from the same API call that brought me that last gem, came this one from someone else:
WebSelling4U #Jesus bless them all: @IMightBeRusty @supernoodle128 @MidwestClare @leauh @saynathespiffy @suezinha_s @LisaAntoniaa @ymberlenis
I really hate being prayed for. Not because I’m afraid it’ll “work,” but because I think it’s disrespectful. I tried to explain it to this guy, in several connected tweets (which is usually against my tweeting rule), so I’ll let you read them, and maybe I’ll elaborate.
I will admit my initial response was rushed and much ruder than I intended, which is part of why I tried to explain it in further detail later. Here’s the conversation:
ymberlenis .@WebSelling4U #jesus did “bless” me. For many years. It didn’t take. Save your prayers for someone who wants/needs them.
(Yeah, I still cringe at that. I want to be heard and assertive, but that really was more aggressive than I’d like to come across. I vow not to tweet under pressure/time crunches any more).
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis They’re my prayers and you need them even if you don’t want them. God’s gift is freely given even if you don’t accept it.
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis I pray you accept God’s saving grace before it is too late. I wish you peace.
He was right; he could spend his prayers as he likes. That wasn’t exactly what I meant, but I tried to concede that point at least, while still trying to make mine:
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U You’re right, they’re yours. But clearly, you don’t understand how insulting it is to me & others.
I thought about following up here with why I find it insulting. But I didn’t, because I wanted to see if he’d take the time to ask me first, or if he’d make assumptions. He didn’t do either. At first.
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis In that case I must ask you how insulting do you think Christians find this whole topic. Do you think it was meant to insult us?
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis Some in this discussion calling themselves Christians are indeed intending to be insulting. But that isn’t showing Christ’s love
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis I assure U I mean no offense but I am called to tell others about Christ. You may listen or not. Go in peace.
Do you notice here how he didn’t even care to ask about why I find him praying for me insulting? He turned it around as a persecution of Christians, rather than an expression of a different culture’s ideas. I tried to lead by example:
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U Why are you offended that someone believes differently than you and says so?
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis I am offended when offense is meant. I am not offended by open discourse. You know yourself that some on both sides.. well U kno
I feel like I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that at least 80% of atheists on the No God train were expressing their own ideas in their own ways, and really didn’t care about offending Christians. But, since my general rule is not to speak for all athiests (a fiercely independent group), I will heartily disclaimer that statement as my own speculation, and could very easily be wildly wrong. So, in this conversation, I tried to stick to my own convictions and ideas.
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U Thing is, it’s not open discourse. An atheist says, “there’s no god,” & xtians say, “oh that poor mangy puppy needs saving.”
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U An open discourse would involve listening to the people speaking, not directing us to a god we don’t believe in.
At this, he wrote:
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis I’ve walked both sides of that track. I know the difference Christ has made in my life. Why wouldn’t I want to share my joy?
Can anyone tell me how that answers my statement? Because I read it as, “your idea of open discourse is completely irrelevant in the face of my joy that I want to force upon you.” I could be wrong, and am open to other well-supported interpretations. But I truly wanted to have what this guy called “open discourse,” so I tried to remain civil and reasonable. So this is where I broke my no-long-tweet-strings rule, in an effort to make him understand where I was coming from:
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U That’s fine, but that’s not the point. You offered it; I don’t want it.
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U Asking God to intercede suggests I’m too stupid to get it. I also walked the other side; I know that’s exactly what it means.
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U My path away from God was not an easy one, and not taken lightly. I don’t appreciate the assumption that it was “foolhardy.”
ymberlenis @WebSelling4U Which is exactly what’s communicated when prayer substitutes open discourse.
Having been a very devout Christian from, basically, birth, until I was in my early twenties, I know that praying for a “lost soul” is supposed to be an act of love, but I also know that it’s a very cynical view of that person’s ability to think clearly. However, I don’t like people making assumptions about me based on their own life experiences, so I tried to express that all of this is what his messages were communicating to me. I’d hoped that would open the door to clarification. Not so. Apparently, the only door available was the one that opened up up to more wild assumptions:
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis Nor was mine, the path back was even more difficult but worth the effort for me. I distrust religion 2 but found I was taught…
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis I found that I was incorrectly taught what following Christ meant. It has changed my life.
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis I do pray that your heart is opened to Jesus, not to a controlling religion that will stifle you and suppress your spirit.
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis You are the only person on earth that can be you. But you cannot be what God created you to be unless you open up to Him.
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis U’re angry w/ God. OK. U’re angry w/ ppl that manipulated U by saying “God says” OK. That doesn’t mean He’s not real.
WebSelling4U @CraigPaton @AtheistRE @ymberlenis @Maclark89 My message is simple: I believed as you do until a miracle happened in my life.
WebSelling4U @CraigPaton @AtheistRE @ymberlenis @Maclark89 God is real, He loves us but hates our sin. His ways are not our ways and we cant explain it.
WebSelling4U @CraigPaton @AtheistRE @ymberlenis @Maclark89 I wish you all the peace that passes all understanding that only comes through Christ Jesus.
WebSelling4U @ymberlenis I still believe God allowed this 2 happen so someone would be led to Jesus, maybe you even. Good night & thanks 4 the tweets.
Full circle. I’m surprised he thanked me for all the tweets, as he very clearly ignored every one in the end. I had responded to one from the middle of that last string before I realized he was gone:
@WebSelling4U Actually, I’m not at all angry with god. I wasn’t angry w/ him when I believed in him. Those are the assumptions that annoy me
That’s the truth. I’m not, nor was I angry with God. In fact, in very difficult times of my life, times where many people would have been angry with him, I turned to him for comfort. I lost my faith because I couldn’t resolve the cognitive dissonance any more, and the realization of the sentiment that was my first tweet in this post was heartbreaking, and I fought it for a long time. But the simple truth is, humans don’t need a god or any gods. Our universe’s independent and solitary nature points away from a god who would have humans believe they are his prime creation.
This actually leads into another topic that I’ve been really mulling over the past couple of weeks, but haven’t found time to write: Why we shouldn’t tolerate religion any longer. That’s its lead-in; hopefully I’ll get to it tomorrow, or at least this week. I’ve already taken much more of my time and yours here than I intended. Thanks for sticking around to read this, and please, I’d love any feedback/comments/interpretations/etc., if you’ve got ’em.