If You Only Knew The Thoughts Going Through My Head

I don’t want to talk religion.  I never want to talk religion, in fact, with anyone.  But, for the purposes of this post, I will share with you my religious beliefs.  Or lack thereof, as it happens.  I am a scientist, as you know, and have a true scientist’s nature in that not only do I question everything, I also seek answers.  And not just in the “I thought a lot about it and here’s what I came up with” way, but literally in collecting data and facts and irrefutable evidence and then putting it all together in an effort to find the most supported, logical answer.  As far as religion is concerned, I have read the Old Testament and the New Testament, which together constitute the theories behind Judaism and Christianity, respectively, and parts of the Koran, the holy book of the Islamic faith.  I’ve also read Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great and have obtained a baccalaureate degree in Biology, during which I studied Evolutionary Biology among many other areas of physical science.

And here’s what I have come up with so far: the Bible (both Testaments) and the Koran are fictional, written by uneducated men (as in, human beings) more than 2,000 years ago and since changed and tweaked by countless theologians and religious zealots .  The theory of evolution is the only explanation for our species’ origin (and the origin of every other species on Earth) that holds water.  As far as there being a creator, I can’t say I’ve come across any undeniable proof either way, but it doesn’t make sense to me that there would be.  From what I’ve seen of all life on this planet, life springs from other life.  No living thing comes from just one other, more intelligent and powerful thing, but rather, from countless previous generations of similar life.  I feel now is a good time to note that I do believe in absolute freedom of religion and I respect everyone’s choice to believe in whatever makes sense to them.  Period.

Which brings me to what this post is really about: the freedom to choose and express one’s religious beliefs, or lack of, whichever the case may be.  I’m currently reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, an unbiased, scientific study of the age-old question of god’s existence, on my Kindle.  I happen to live and work in a Midwestern city where, it seems to me, as an atheist, I am in the minority.  At work the other day, I sat on break drinking coffee, reading on my Kindle when a colleague (a person I respect and whose company I enjoy, who happens to be a devout Christian) asked me what I was reading.  A bolder, more secure person would have been honest, would have proudly replied, “The God Delusion, since you asked.”  But not me.  I lied.  I said I was reading Atonement, a novel I’ve read before that has no religious connection whatsoever.  I lied for two reasons: 1.) I didn’t want my co-worker to ask questions about my faith to which I would have had to either openly own my atheism or pretend to believe something I don’t and 2.) I didn’t want her to think I was an immoral heathen, which I believe she would do if she knew my true feelings toward religion.

I’m sure there are places in this country where one need not feel the necessity of lying in such a situation but I don’t live in one of those places.  And it occurred to me afterward that this phenomenon probably happens more often to those without faith than to those with it.  I see people at work reading the Bible on their breaks without any embarrassment or need for defense.  Why shouldn’t I be able to be as open about my views?  Of course, we live in a country with freedom of religion and legally, I am free to believe whatever I choose.  But culturally, I’m not free to express it.  Not in some circles.  And since I was at work, where religion does not belong anyway, it didn’t bother me much.  It would be nice, though, to be able to say we lived in a world with not only the legal freedom to choose our religion, but the social freedom to express those views without the fear of judgment from others who choose to believe differently.

Hope I didn’t offend you.

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14 thoughts on “If You Only Knew The Thoughts Going Through My Head

  1. On a note to the above, depending on how you feel about your father, try reading “The Language of God.” It’s written by Francis Collins, and he believes in something called theistic evolution which allows him to believe in science and a higher power simultaneously. It’s at least worth studying; I hope this proves of use.

    • Thank you. I appreciate the suggestion and will check it out.
      And a word to Nik. I absolutely love the dialogue your post opened. You always seem to be able to take a really complex issue and discuss it concisely with a great deal of research to back it up. I would love to see some responses from christian readers to see what their opinions are regarding the state of intolerance in America today. Maybe we could actually talk to each other when we do it beneath a cloak of invisibility.

  2. You knew I would show up here sooner or later. I love the responses you have received and I am certain that more people than we imagine feel the same way. I was impressed by the bibliographies of each respondant. Allow me to enumerate the books I currently have in the end table next to me in my living room. “Questions and Answers from the Bible” by Les Feldick, “The Holy Spirit” by Billy Graham and the most recent addition, “Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, also by Billy Graham. These books, along with a stack of others that reside in my closet have all been given to me by my father in his loving and increasingly desparate need to know that I have accepted Christ as my savior and shall meet him on the beautiful shore in the sweet by and by. It breaks my heart that I cannot do this. I made the mistake of breaking down about a year ago and telling him what I believe. The look in his eyes was like a dagger in my heart. So I asked him to give me another chance to believe. He said his prayers had been answered and I told him I would read the Apocalypse book. I started the book so that I can honestly tell him I am reading it. The older he gets the more he needs to “bring me around”. It’s great to be able to talk openly about our beliefs, but right now, today, I am so furious that religion has done nothing for my life but make my father miserable on my account. I feel like I am living in the Twilight Zone. I believe in the Big Bang and evolution which has scientific evidence to support it. But I am being asked to say I believe in the Easter Bunny. Am I insane? Is this situation ridiculous? I will not lie to my father about something as important as this, but I will try to keep reading his books so that I can honestly say I am trying. Religion once provided a structure for social behavior and had its place, however, from the beginning it has provided divine authority for unspeakable cruelty and greed. It seems to me that religion is now making people more judgemental and intolerant. Why can’t people do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. I am not a bad person, not a murderer or a thief, but my father believes that a murdered who “knows the Lord” will go to heaven while his daughter burns in hell. Thanks for listening.

    • Kayty,
      I’m so sorry your father can’t accept and respect your views the way you obviously accept & respect his. I understand the Twilight Zone feeling. It is so completely clear and apparent to me that everything in the Bible is fiction written to manipulate and coddle the masses yet others feel as certain of its literal truth. I agree that religion is now serving to divide people and promote intolerance and this post is basically a call for change. I’d have thought that freedom of religion would foster acceptance and tolerance but it seems to be the opposite.
      I’m afraid I have no answers. But rest assured you’re not insane. On the contrary, pride yourself on your intelligence and rationality and courage for going against the grain. And I applaud your efforts with your dad. My patience would have run out long ago. In fact, it did. Reading the Bible was enough Christian reading for me. I’m thankful that my family, at least, takes me as I am.
      ~N.

  3. Oh girl, this post was perfect. You, yet again, manage to fully explain your feelings without attacking others and at the same time not sound cowardly. Brilliant. And I agree with everything here, like, about 100% (only cuz I still go back on forth on a higher power)
    Love ya!
    ~A

  4. Christopher Hitchens was a great essayist, his death was as untimely as it was saddening. He died as he lived through, flamboyantly.
    Sam Harris is quite good as well. We’re basically naming off all those that are collectively referred to as the “New Atheists” these days.

    • Brother, if I believed in soulmates, you would be mine. Hitchens’ death saddened me as if I’d known him personally. I admit I revered him not just for his freethinking but also for his profound intelligence and relentless commitment to truth. His death has truly darkened my world.
      I haven’t read any Harris. I’ll be sure to add him to my ever-growing ‘to-read’ list.

  5. People want to see things, and they make it be so, it’s how our brain works. Same reason you see “Jesus in the wood” or instances of the same type. Our brain creates whatever it wants to see and it shapes images to our eye when the image isn’t there, or no more there than another image that somebody sees.
    In reference to the familial issue, I understand. I told my parents less than a year ago and it went over surprisingly well. I did grow up Catholic, but I also grew up a very freethinking family. It took me forever because I was afraid of rejection, but it worked out in the end. Richard Dawkins is phenomenal by the way; read his other books if you can.

    • I am seriously loving Dawkins’ prose and honesty. I’ve already downloaded The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution onto my Kindle.
      Have you read any of Christopher Hitchens’ work? He was a journalist and outspoken freethinker and I highly recommend his book God Is Not Great. I’ve read excerpts from another book of his, The Portable Atheist and recommend it, too.
      Thanks!

      • I love Dawkins too; I’ve read “The Selfish Gene”, “The God Delusion”, and am in the middle of “The Greatest Show on Earth”. I think you’re right, one of the really novel things about him is his raw honesty.

        I’ve also read “God is Not Great” by Hitchens and enjoyed it immensely, but never read any of his other work. I’ll have to take the “The Portable Athiest” out of the library. If you’re looking for more non-religious works, my favourite is Betrand Russel’s “Why I am Not a Christian”!

  6. I’ve had countless similar situations. I come from a very religious family and I do not mind them having whatever beliefs they want, but it seems that kind of openness and receptivity fails to go both ways. They of course can spew as much religiosity in front of me as they want, but I have never even openly declared my lack of belief in God, only hinted at it. I suppose I quite literally, in their opinion, am not “allowed” to be non-religious. Once I too was reading Dawkin’s “The God Delusion”. My mom asked what it was I was reading, and in a panic, I turned the book over for her to see. Thankfully, she read it as “The God Decision” and smiled at me, as if to say, “glad to see you’re finally coming around”. I suppose people really can see whatever they want to see, whatever will make them feel better!

    • Thanks for sharing, Beverly. Fortunately, my family has always encouraged my curious and questioning nature and never judged me for whatever opinions I came up with. What a shock, though, when I left the nest to find that the majority of others don’t! I’m all for people believing what makes them feel better. I just wish they could understand that for some of us, religion isn’t what feels better. Truth is.
      Thanks!

  7. I completely understand where you’re coming from in not wanting to open up to people on matters of faith. It’s difficult to get around, and in such a religious based society as the one we operate it can, in certain cases, be dangerous. It’s political suicide to question the Bible in America, and can absolutely destroy your credit and reputation in a community. Saying that, I came out as a freethinker two years ago and haven’t ran into any serious trouble. I am one of an argumentative nature, so maybe it’s just my contrariness that caused me to open up. It is definitely a polarizing force, without a shade of doubt.

    • I couldn’t agree more with everything you said there. I wish it wasn’t so polarizing and that with our freedom of religion, we (as a society) had real respect for every different perspective, but that’s wishful thinking, I’m afraid.
      I guess I’m half-out as a freethinker. I speak freely with my family and close friends, but at work and in a few other particular circles, I try to keep my mouth shut and fly under the radar. Which is cowardly, I know.
      Thanks for reading and for your comment. I was afraid of backlash for this post. What a pleasant surprise to find your encouraging response!
      ~N.

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