Question: In what way did bribery play a part in your religious upbringing, if any? I don’t mean bribes as in “ultimate reward,” but more like on the Simpsons when Reverend Lovejoy explains that if a kid isn’t Christian, that means no Christmas presents. “You win more souls with Easy Bake Ovens than with this sleeping pill,” he says, holding his bible.
I expect that’s why many parents take their kids to brunch/Chinese food after services: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
That aside, I found Appalachian Agnostic’s testimony a great one. It’s a great example of how religion can be a steaming pile of hatred, fire and brimstone.
“Negativity was the rule in Horace’s church. He loved to call us wiggly maggots. He loved to point out how 99% of the rest of the preachers in the world were wrong. He loved to disparage any human effort to make the world a better place. According to him, the fallen world could never be improved by fallen man. The world was garbage. Man was garbage. Only God and Christ were good.
Despite his negativity, or maybe because of it, Horace Peabody held a powerful grip on his followers. If someone on the street asked a member of our church which church he attended, chances are the member would say, ‘Horace Peabody’s Church’ instead of the actual name of the organization.”
This is a good example of how violent and hate-filled memes tend to propagate better, as Craig James discusses in the Religion Virus. Appalachian Agnostic goes on to describe how the preacher had a hypnotic hold on the congregation, “building up slowly, like a symphony until you found yourself listening, not so much to the words, but to the rhythm. The content of the sermon was always confusing.”
I should look into the neuroscience behind this. The “hypnotism” is probably a good reason for the success of religion. Lulling someone works well in the secular world, too. And here is another example of a meme that has done a great job of propagating religion:
“While I doubt that anyone in Horace Peabody’s church has ever been made to feel special for possessing a gift or a talent, my guess is that they all feel special to be included in God’s so called elect. I don’t suppose there is any earthly failure or shortcoming that couldn’t be assuaged by the sure knowledge that you will be happy in Heaven while those who thought they were better than you are burning in Hell.”
Put all those factors together and it’s easy to see how religion might be irresistible.
Not My God focuses on persecution and hatred of atheists. I’m not saying that I equate anti-atheism rhetoric with segregated bathrooms under Jim Crow laws or genocides. What I am trying to say is that many people in the US hate atheists, all else being equal. I’ve heard time and time again of people saying that they didn’t believe in God– without sarcasm, without “and neither should you,” without any fanfare– and getting rejected or attacked. Sure, atheists make fun of religion and have blasphemy challenges and the like– nowadays. Even when atheists are just simply atheists, that’s apparently bad enough. Here is a comment that illustrates this beautifully:
“I live in the bible belt and am 17. I have been an atheist since I was very young and for my entire life I have been made fun of, treated diffrently and attacked because of my beliefs (well, actually lack thereof, but whatever) and about 4 years ago I tried to tell my parents. My mom told me she wasn’t going to let a devil worshiper live in her house (she knows what atheism means; she was just using that as an insult), so I instantly told her it was a joke and she has yelled at me for it ever since. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
Rationalatheist has a page on this topic.
Here’s another great example from Dawkins’s forum:
“I am 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. My parents divorced when I was 2 and my mother knows I do not believe in God. My father, on the other hand, is a heavenly devoted Christian (Methodist). I have never really believed in God but till I was around 14 my dad kept asking me if I believed in God, or if I accepted Jesus. I always lied and said “yes.” I always felt if I responded no, he would “physically” hurt me. I know he would mentally, for sure. For the past 2 years I have never answered his questions and he always tries pushing religion on me. As of the past 4 or so months, I have really started researching religion and arguments against Christianity and other religions. I have also taken some interest in Darwin’s theory of Evolution. Now my father has not asked if I believe in God lately, and in my opinion he knows that I don’t believe and is afraid to ask. I really love my dad I love him a lot. I do pity him tremendously because of how much religion affects my life. Every Sunday he gives his congregation over $300 and tells my mother he is broke and can’t help out with my bills etc… It’s a bad situation. Every month or so I go to his house to visit for the weekend and we go to church. I’m considering next time I go down there to lay out to him that I don’t believe in God and tell him I do not want to go to church. Hopefully, something tremendously bad won’t happen and I can make a good stand against his stand on religion to put his views in perspective. Now that I am 16 and have outgrown my father, I think if he out lashed physically I could stand my own and if he started yelling at me I could just hop in my car and go home. Wish me luck……”
I’m always intrigued by stories of the younger set, especially knowing how much harder it is when you are at the mercy of your parents.
Aye gevalt– Is it September already?
Thank Darwin for Facebook. It is proving invaluable in my meeting and schmoozing with other atheists/skeptics. Plus it’s great for meeting cool people everywhere. To any young ‘uns reading this, you have no idea how much the internet has changed things.
One thing I see a lot of in this project is atheists who have double, and sometimes even triple, whammies: being an atheist and being gay. Being an atheist and in the bible belt. Being atheist, gay and in the bible belt. I’ve met two such people from that last category. Here is one.
The author said I could use his real name, but since he is under 18, I decided not to use it for now. His words: “I don’t mind if you put my name in it since the people I have to fear will only hold your book to burn it.”
“I live in the bible belt at the age of 17 and being out of the closet, both as an atheist and gay male, I have had a constant stream of abuse from my fellow students. Because of my beliefs I am referred to as Hitler and greeted with a high hand salute or a ‘Godless fag’ remark. Our vice principal is the wife of a pastor, so she has a very good hold on [ignoring] my claims of abuse. I have been mocked during class and forced to keep quiet or face the [students} turning on me without any sort of protection from the so-called teachers there. I am told that it’s because of my people, gays and atheists, that our country is decimated by natural disasters and child abuse. Oddly enough, with that being said, the husband of the pre-mentioned VP has been brought up on child abuse cases where his adopted sons have been molested along with the girls he also adopted. He was allowed to keep the boys if he changed churches, because God is a get-out-of-jail free card. One of our science teachers openly mocks evolution and says, ‘The bible will tell you all you need to know about science.’
“I also was shunned by half the student body because I would not take part in the prayer on prayer day. Every argument towards reason is ignored with the saying, ‘Don’t pay attention to him, he’s just some pathetic atheist.’ This is followed by a laugh and a cold shoulder. I have few friends because of this mentality and the friends I do have still won’t let me say anything atheistic for they are Christians, too. I’m called a whore because i see nothing wrong with premarital sex by the students who are already married to God via a wedding their Church held for them.
“I had to fight for my right to write a paper on the errors of the bible and the usage of it as law in today’s culture.”
I find the Hitler reference particularly disturbing… I know that many theists claim that Hitler was an atheist (as if that means god does exist), and that’s probably where that comes from, but to liken an openly gay male to Hitler is, well, wrong in every sense. Then again, some town hall idiot called my own congressperson Barney Frank a Nazi, and he is openly gay AND Jewish.
I better talk to the guys at Homosecular Gaytheist about this.
I have some questions about the writer’s story, such as exactly what happened with the pastor’s children and whether religion really did factor in to the legality. Either way, when religiosi accuse atheists and gays for causing child abuse, I think that’s really displacing what’s going on. Methinks Christianity doth protesteth too much.
Just kidding. This is Not My God, a site for the personal aspect of atheism. I'm putting together a book with that title, having already 20 interviews lined up, but I still want to hear from more of you.
I've expanded the blog to include material not related to atheism, including rants, raves, consumer issues, curmudgeonly matters and other miscellany.
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