I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens. Although I do admit he could be a kind of an asshole. I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes. I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don’t believe that people die young because God needs another angel. I think it’s just bullshit, and on some level, I think we all know that, I mean, don’t you?… Look I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all of the random shitty things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride, I’m sure I would be happier. But I can’t . Feeling aren’t enough. I need it to be real
Something, which is hard for anyone to do, is come out as an Atheist. Mine was a pretty normal story, and in many ways is still going on. For those of you who do not know I live in Ireland. Presumably as soon as you just read the word ‘Ireland’ the word “Catholics” ran through your head. Rightfully so. Something about alcoholics was probably in there too.
The majority of Ireland is catholic. The latest statistics show that there are 3,831,187 people in Ireland who consider themselves Catholic. However the next biggest group is Atheists, there are 256,830 of us. So we are clearly outnumbered. These statistics are from 2011, the last census, between 2011 and 2006 the amount of Catholics has decreased by 186,222 people and Atheists grew by 81,578. Which means we are growing at a great pace.
So if somebody was to come out in Ireland you are of course going to have a number of devout Catholics question you on it. There is not a week goes by where I do not get questioned by a Catholic on Atheism. I actually find it quite interesting. However I personally come from a family of all Catholics, which made it very difficult for me when coming out as an Atheist. I did not want to offend the people who cared for me and I did not want to lose any of them. This was not to be the case.
I sat my parents down, when I was sixteen, and told them I was an Atheist. I had been an Atheist since I was thirteen. They obviously had some questions since they had raised their son to be a devout Catholic, which I had anticipated. My father accepted it and moved on from it. He respected my views, as they were mine and mine alone. My mother on the other hand has only half accepted it. To this day she still calls me a Catholic. Even though I showed her the letter I sent to the Bishop asking to be formally removed from the Catholic Church – which I now officially am. She now just regards me as a ‘bad catholic’. I still have religious debates with my mother. We both respect each other’s points of view and thankfully we have both come to terms with it all. Ok, she still regards me as a Catholic but if that makes her feel better about herself – then let her, I am not offended.
It wasn’t my parents however who didn’t accept my views and me. It was another member of my family. It came to said member of the families attention two months after I had informed my parents and later that day there was a knock on the house door. She walked into the house acting like she was all happy, then she seen me in the living room and she sat down, glared at me and the words “So I hear you’re an ‘Atheist’ are ya?”. I knew straight away I was about to have my hands full and my evening was going to be an interesting one.
I talked to her a bit about it and here is a little bit of the conversation that took place:
“Why are ya one of them things?”
“Because I do not believe in God.”
“I know what it means! But why are ya one ‘em?”
“Well, I have been one since I was about thirteen. It’s just now I decided to tell people. The reason I am “one of ‘em” is because I read the bible, did some major research into the Catholic Church and many other religions and I have found that science provides me with much clearer and beneficial answers”.
“But sure, the Catholic Church and Jesus are beneficial. Don’t you see that?”
“They may be to you, but not for me. I would like much more than a three thousand year old book to base my life on”.
“The bible is Gods word, though. How can ya not listen to God?”.
“It’s not Gods word. That’s my point.”
“How dare you!”
“How dare I? You’re the one who just walked into this house to shove your views down my throat. I am quite happy with you believing in whatever fairy tales you like, however I personally like evidence and facts.
The conversation went back and forth like this for ages. Me disputing that the bible is in fact, not Gods word. It is mans. There is no proof for a God. There never was. And that science is on its way to proving religion wrong and there is no God. She left the house after a three-hour debate not satisfied that I had given in to her threats and returned to the Catholic faith. Since that day I have talked to her once. Ironically enough it was at another family members communion. I stood at the back of the church that day and she walked past me at one stage and told me to get out; I did not deserve to be here. I merely replied with “Sure doesn’t your God accept everyone? Accept the gays…he doesn’t like them now, does he?”. When I turned eighteen I sent a letter to my local Bishop to have my name formally removed from the Catholic Church records. I photocopied the letter and sent her a copy.
I got no reply.
Aside from her, I have not had too much trouble with my family. Most just consider me a ‘bad catholic’ because they actually do not know I have officially left the church, my mother decided to keep that a secret. I don’t blame her. I can deal with my own decisions in life, they are mine to deal with any grief I get for them, and however I know she would get judged for “raising that atheist”. For that, I don’t blame her in the slightest. Catholics, ironically, never seem to catch on at the fact that 99% of the things they do are wrong in the bible. Walk past a Church any Sunday and if you see anyone with shoelaces tied, they are bound for hell according to the Old Testament. Try telling a Catholic that and they simply dispute that it is there. Ask them if they have read the bible however and well, most have not.
One-way however I have dealt with a lot of coming out as an Atheist was keeping a blog. I wrote almost everything down; my thoughts on religion, on life, things that happened to me everyday. Almost like a diary. This is where I got one of the ideas for my blog posts on Religion in an Irish classroom, because it was something I dealt with personally. I plan on using a lot of material from that blog on this one, although I am still going to keep that one private.
If you have a similar story about coming out as an Atheist, please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear it. Also if you would just like to get anything off your chest, please – use the comment section I am always up for discussion, which is after all the purpose of this blog. Until next time.
Question everything. Assume nothing.
The other day as I walked to the shop I passed the local Catholic Church and happened to overhear a conversation between two women. The first thing I heard clearly from one of them was “Jesus, what’s the world coming to? Those gays should be hung!”. This was said as I was just after passing them and they were well in a world of their own, I’m not even sure they realised anyone had passed them – but they were about to.
Once I heard the above statement I came to an abrupt stop. Looking back at the two women, who were in their fifties or sixties, I said “Excuse me?”, slightly shocked they looked at me slowly realising that someone had heard them, maybe also realising what they were in for. “Did I really just hear you correctly? Did you say gay people should be hung?”. “Uhm…yes.” she slowly replied. I moved closer to the two women so I was not in the way of passers by on the footpath then began to talk with them – I say them, only one talked to me but the other was there for the entire thing.
THE FOLLOWING IS A GUEST BLOG POST BY MY FRIEND, BARTREND SURELLS.
I was born into a Catholic family. It was decided for me, when I was a mere twelve weeks old, that I was to be a part of this organisation as well.
Throughout my childhood, my parents stayed true to their Christian duty by bringing me to mass every Sunday and teaching me the Catholic standing on what is right and wrong. At the age of ten, I think it was, I became an altar boy at my local church and spent a number of years wearing the uncomfortable pale cream robes and serving at mass until I was twelve years old. I had begun to dislike having this responsibility each Sunday. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-teens, around sixteen years old, that I began to dislike going to mass altogether and it has progressed since then to the point where I’m at now: I feel I get no good out of the ceremonies. And this isn’t simply laziness or teenage rebellion against the ‘man’. Something about it didn’t suit me. Continue reading
I was baptised as a baby (less than two months old), I received my first communion at age eight and then received my confirmation at age twelve. All of course, by my own will…yeah, right?
We all know a twelve-year-old can’t even make a proper decision for themselves, never mind a two month old, an eight year old and of course…the twelve year old. Obviously this is just the way it is as a catholic in Ireland – I am not sure what age you receive these sacraments in other countries but I presume they are roughly the same.
I was sent to a Catholic school from the age of four until I was thirteen (primary school). Once I got to secondary school (high school) the only school in my area was a ‘non-denominational’ secondary school. I put this is parentheses for a reason which we will come to later. I now entered secondary school at the age of thirteen and had received the three major sacraments a catholic will ever receive and there was just one little problem, I had never once read the bible. Yeah. The entire reason I was a catholic was due to this book but yet I had not read the damn thing. Why, you ask – because nobody ever tells you to and because I was a child. You are told the odd few things in school, like Jesus turning water to wine, curing lepers, the virgin birth, etc. The ‘necessary’ stuff. However you’re not told about god asking various people to sacrifice their children, to kill people in his name, the amount of disasters he caused, the fact that he apparently hates the gays, etc. You’re never told the bad stuff. Continue reading
In which Richard Dawkins and Rickey Gervais discuss atheism, religion and life.
In which Richard Dawkins replies to the question “What if you’re wrong” regarding his beliefs.