By David Rosman Columbia, MO 10/10/10
“You hate God!”
I was taken aback by the comment. The conversation started discussing the premise of my new book, A Christian Nation? This is my attempt is to examine the qualitative arguments from the two sides of the issue in a pragmatic way, researching the materials and claims made.
Though I am about two-thirds through the first draft and went into this project with a relatively open mind, I have come to a basic conclusion. Regardless of the definition of “founding” as first colonies or the writing of the Constitution, and regardless of the “Judo-Christian” claims made, the answer seems to be the U.S. was not and is not now a Christian nation.
It was this preliminary conclusion that caused the “outburst.” When I asked why I hated God, my conversation partner said it was because I was an atheist and all atheists hate God. In fact, he continued, all atheists hate religion. Knowing it would not make a difference if I said that I was an atheist and hated neither God nor religion, I gave a noncommittal reply and changed the subject.
I know my answer to this question, but I wanted to know if I am alone in my view. Doing what I do best, I took a survey of atheists. As of this date, I have received about two-dozen responses.
This is a two-part question. First, do atheists, agnostics and others who claim that the Abrahamic God, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the newest members of spiritual myths, hate God? For this query, the question does not include, Buddha, the multitude of Hindu deities or Wicca spirits.
Without exception, the answer was simple. How can someone love or hate something she does not believes exists.
Without something either physical or metaphysical, “hate” is a word that atheists just do not use when describing their feelings towards God or gods or spirits.
However, the second half of the question, do atheists hate religion, is a more complicated. Atheists, unlike many of their religious brethren, can separate the person from her religious beliefs or non-beliefs. 80-percent of respondents said it is not the religion itself, but the manifestations of religion that they have come to dislike and distrust, even hate.
Many respondents identified the false hopes provided by religious beliefs, such as in cases of illnesses or survival. Many refer to the numerous wars fought because of religious differences, even within the same religion, citing the “Troubles” in Ireland, the separation of Pakistan and India, and, of course, the terrorists of all religious persuasions against each other. Today, we focus on the Islamic terrorists, but there are Christian and Jewish terrorists who have committed murder in the name of their God.
Yes, wars have been fought over land, political ideologies and women (the Trojan War) mostly because religion and government were, and still are, so intimately intertwined It was only with God’s blessing that one side would prevail. It was often an omen from God that war would be declared.
This, of course, leads me to Apocalypse believers, whose readings of the Book of Revelation has become politically activated, possibly leading to the greatest danger facing the world today – an uncontrolled nuclear arms race.
This is not to say that all who believe in the Abrahamic God are destined for evil. The vast majority have given of themselves, their hearts and purse strings, to help those who suffer around the planet without regard to their faith. Many of these same men and women would contribute the same efforts without the community of their church.
As to the need for religion, I can only state my opinion as to its necessity. For many, uncertainty of the future, whether in life or after death, is inconceivable; chaos cannot be tolerated, the “Safety” issue in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. For many, the knowledge that a power greater than themselves is caring and watching over one’s well-being, that a future may be predestined, provides him comfort.
I disagree with the notion that religion takes advantage of just the un- and under-educated, and poor. There are many persons of wealth and highly educated that are believers. Scientists who belong to fundamentalist and evangelical churches, orthodox temples and mosques. Millionaires and billionaires who fully endorse their religions spiritually, emotionally and financially, claiming in return their success in life.
Back to the original question. Do atheists hate God? No, they do not. Do atheists hate religion? The moderates will say it is not religion they hate, but the evils that emanate from greed, megalomania and the misguided readings of the holy books. But, then again, we atheists too have our radicals.
David Rosman is an award winning speaker, editor, writer, and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and New York Journal of Books.com.