Approximately 10% of the US population identifies themselves as having no religion. But a recent poll suggests that Americans view atheists and religious skeptics as slightly less dangerous than Al Qaeda
. Perhaps that's why we rarely see atheism even mentioned in traditional media, and when it is, the context is almost never 'fair and balanced.' It's not surprising that with these kinds of attitudes, politicians of every ideological stripe run away screaming from even a hint of atheism. But in the blogosphere it is openly discussed, as on the atheist/skeptic blog
Unscrewing the Inscrutable
(UTI) managed by Brent Rasmussen.
UTI--Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
DarkSyde (DS): You're an atheist, what does that mean to you and why are you one?
Brent Rasmussen (Brent): It means that I am a human being in which god-belief is absent. Please notice the lack of the mention of an actual god (whatever that is). Atheists are folks in whom god-belief, of any kind, is absent. Conversely, theists are folks in which god-belief is present. Simple, really. It's an off-on, black or white proposition. Either god-belief is there, or it's not there.
Philosophically, I hold the same position as George H. Smith - that the word "god" is literally incomprehensible. A blank. A semantic null. I make the further claim that it has a mutable and changeable meaning that is wholly subjective and is different for each and every individual human being on the planet, each and every time they use it - thus rendering it nonsense. Dangerous nonsense, to be sure, but nonsense all the same. The reason that I am an atheist is that the only other choice in this binary spectrum is complete and utter lunacy.
DS: Do you have a religious background?
Brent: I was a raised a Mormon. Almost all of my relatives on both my father's and my mother's side are Mormon. I was steeped in Mormonism and general Christianity when I was a child. Contrary to what many Christians try to claim, Mormons are not a "cult" in the sense that they mean it. Mormonism is simply another Christian denomination. A little different, a little on the edges, but Christian nonetheless. I mean, c'mon - is Pentecostal snake-handling any different than Mormon "baptism for the dead" when you get right down to it?
DS: How did you go from that to being a skeptic or atheist?
Brent: Well, interestingly enough my father had his own problems believing the contradictory doctrinal claims of the Mormon church - which he had also grown up in. He went so far as to remove himself, and later his family (my mother and my siblings) from the rolls of active Mormons at the head office. The critical thinking and reasoning he applied to digging out the facts of the Mormon religion impressed me and rubbed off on me.
Unfortunately, my father did not apply the same critical thinking to his new born-again Christian faith, or to religion in general, and remains a happy Christian man to this day. He stopped with debunking Mormonism. It was enough for him, I think. Well, I went much further with it and applied all the lessons in critical thinking that he had taught me to religion in general, and to Christianity specifically. Guess what? They came up wanting. Big surprise, huh? Well, at the time I was devastated. I really, really wanted some religion to be true and for a god to exist.
Much later I realized that being an atheist is the best way to approach this life. It's like un-wrapping the cotton swaddling from your skull and seeing the bright, beautiful world as it truly is. Our planet, each other, our lives, our universe, they are all so incredibly and wonderfully exciting - all on their own! Why gild the lilly, you know? Isn't it enough to see the mind-blowingly beautiful fog of stars on a clear night - and knowing that our tiny little envelope of air and dirt is embedded in this small part of one of the spiral arms of our galaxy - without attributing it to Jojo The Great God Of The Congo's B.O. or something? I mean, why diminish it like that? I'd rather understand it the way it really is - and not the way that I wish for it to be.
DS: Then you must be a card carrying member of the so-called Godless liberal left, yes?
Brent: Hardly. I'm pretty conservative. I was a conservative, registered Republican for the largest part of my voting life. I recently changed to "independent". I consider myself a "little "l" libertarian. My wife claims that I am still one of the most conservative people she's ever known - especially when I'm "driving like a grandpa" - to which I reply, "I am a grandpa!"
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