Why am I an atheist?
In Norway, people don’t react when you say you’re an atheist, as most people are really relaxed when it comes to religion. We are one of the worlds most secular countries, and I think that’s a good thing. (Obviously, as I’m an atheist, right?) Still, most Norwegians haven’t really thought about where they stand when it comes to the church. “I am going to christen my child, because it’s tradition. It has to happen in church, right” is a common statement from people I know for a fact never enter a church (except on Christmas Eve, another tradition!). “Oh, and my wedding has to be in the church. You know, it’s tradition!” Or how about this? “I’m going to get confimated in the church, or my grandparents won’t give me a present.” More traditional thinking.
We go to church at selected times, Christmas Eve, to baptize our children, or to get married. And for funerals. The rest of the time we don’t think about church, God, or Jesus. (Of course, there are people who actually are religious in Norway too, but not as many as in other countries.)
My parents are among those people. They go to church almost every Sunday. (Well, my father really has to go, as he’s a lutheran minister, and I don’t think he’d last long in that job if he refused going to church.) My mother is, an this is only based on my observations, a lot more religious than my father, the minister, and she doesn’t only go to church, she is often helping out by reading from the Bible, and doing other tasks that needs to be done to get through the mass. (Can I say mass when they’re lutheran, or is that only catholic?) When I was a child, she was the teacher at the sunday school, where I had to go because she’s my mother and she told me to. I guess at first I thought it was nice, as we sang a few songs, heard a few stories from the Bible, and had lemonade or hot chocolate, but around the age of 9 I guess I started to really feel uncomfortable. (They dragged me there until I was almost 13, and at the end I really hated it!) You see, I had my own Bible, and I read it. From start to end. All of it, even the long lists of names. And I started wondering. Why do they always chat about the cozy parts, and never about the scary stuff? (OK, the exodus from Egypt is a bit “scary”, but not when told at sunday school.)
I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that’s not allowed, right? (Deuteronomy comes to mind.) And there’s a lot of war, and not to mention a lot of stuff that’s just weird. (Parts of the Book of Revelation seems to be written by someone high on LSD or something.) Why didn’t we talk about that? We had covered Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, the wedding of Cana, Jesus being born, Jesus being killed, and maybe a few other stories I’ve forgotten, but we never discussed them. We only sat there while it was read to us, and then we sang. I had a lot of unanswered questions.
So, I asked them at home. “If Adam and Eve, the two first humans got two sons, Cain and Abel, who did they make children with?” or “During the flood, why didn’t more than two of each bird sit on the boat?” I soon learned that asking my mother was daft, because she didn’t want to explain my questions, she just said something along the lines of “God works in mysterious ways.” That’s not discussing anything, that’s just another way of saying “Hush, you’re messing up my world view, and I don’t want you to!” Asking my father, now that wasn’t smart either. You ask the question about Cain and Abel and who they made children with, and you sit for two or three hours listening to a lecture about the Bible, Greek, Latin, theology, and a lot of different stuff, and when you just can’t take anymore, and excuse yourself, you realise you haven’t gotten the answer you were looking for.
That’s why I decided to go to other sources. First stop was the library. The librarian is looking at you as if you’re green and from Mars when you’re 14 years old and take home heavy tomes about religion, the Bible, and the Koran. I read them, but I guess they were a bit to advanced for me, because I more often than not had to look up words in the dictionary, and I hadn’t developed any good ways to study yet. Still, I had a project, and I did it in silence, because I didn’t want my parents to find out that I was questioning everything they believe in. (I still haven’t told them that I’m an atheist. I guess I’m a 38 years old child when it comes to speaking with them. I suppose they know though, as I’ve got my father on Facebook, and I post a lot of atheistic stuff there.)
Fast forward to when I was 19 and went to a Christian boarding school (folkehøgskole – it’s kind of like a year where you study what you’re interested in, and looks quite like a summer camp, but it lasts a school year. Let’s just say it’s a Norwegian thing…) where I had classes in Religion, New Religions, and Christianity (and a lot more classes in Band, Drums, and Music in general!) My 19 year old me remembered a lot of what my 14 year old me had read, and I finally found a place to discuss my thoughts. The problem was, it being a Christian school, I was among the very few who questioned religion. And I was among the very few who had read the entire Bible! Needless to say, the discussions had a way to turn into “discussions” where the entire class tried to convice me I was wrong, or worse, they turned into “let’s help him accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour”. Thankfully, there was a minority at school who had the same questions as I did, but I was the only one who asked them openly. The school year almost ended early when two others and I almost got 14 days suspension for “blasphemy, satanism, atheism and nazism”! Our “crime”? We had turned one of the traditional Norwegian religious songs into a hardcore, industial punk song, and preformed it as the band “Cyberchrist”. (I’m still not sure where the nazism part came from, but whatever.)
At the university, I finally got what I was looking for. It’s called Sociology. (In short: How did our society end up as it is. What happened before our society, and before that?) When we discussed the hunter-gatherer societies transformation into a hortocultural soceity (hortocultural: the cultivation of a garden, orchard, or nursery; the cultivation of flowers, fruits, vegetables, or ornamental plants.) the lecturer said something along the lines of: “Before, as hunter-gatherers, people worshipped the Sun, the Wind, plants, a huge stone, anything that they could say had a ‘spirit’. When they started cultivating the lands, they got a surplus of food, and we saw the rise of specialists. With enough food, you can be a carpenter, mason, or a fletcher, and still be able to eat, because you trade your work for food. And with specialists you’ll get someone who’s richer than others, a ruling class. And what’s a better way to explain why you rule than by religion? So we move from spirit worship to more defined religions and gods. How do you explain that we should go to war against the neighbour? God said it!”
To me, this made absolute sense! People invented religion in order to protect what they had. The Bible is written in what we call the Bronze Age, when some people were hortocultural, while others had gathered in tribes and cities.
Exodus 35:30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.
The Lord has decided that these guys are the ones making artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze. It’s in the Bible. Doesn’t this look like what I spoke of earlier? “Why can’t I make designs in gold, silver and bronze?” Read the Bible bronze age man, it’s the job of Bezalel!
See? And what about being fit to rule?
Ruth 4:18 This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, 22 Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.
If you’re an average Joe in the Bronze Age, who are you to oppose this? David is the king because his lineage is written in the Bible – nine generations back! So don’t come here and think you know better than David, or than God, who has been watching over Davids family line since the days of Perez! Oh, you don’t know who Perez is? Well, he’s the ancestor of David! It’s in the scripture you silly pesant, now go back to the fields or we’ll flog you for fun!
After this relevation (pun intended!), I read the Bible again, but this time with the eye of a Sociologist. (I’m not a sociologist, but I’m close!) It all made sense! The entire Old Testament is written as a means to rule the masses. Holy crap, Karl Marx was right!
After that, I found the Internet (I’m 38 years old, remember!) where I could read the various atheist blogs, and where I found that I’m not the only one who’s had this experience. I’ve read books by Richard Dawkins, and the others, and I’ve discussed with my religious friends. But, in short – this is why I’m an atheist. Religion is made up to help the ruling class, just like Marx said (he said a lot of things I don’t agree with though, I’m not a marxist!). And today it’s even worse! People use their religious views to kill and maim others, to prosecute people with different thoughts, to ban quite normal things, and to undermine society. In my book, religon is dangerous!