Heard about the three atheists who walk into a bar? The first yells, “God damn, I’m thirsty! Give me a beer!” The second cries, “Jesus Christ! Where the hell is the bartender?” The third looks at them, dismayed, and says, “And I thought you guys were SINCERE!”
OK, so it’s not the funniest “walks into a bar” joke you’ve ever heard. But I think it illustrates something about this world in the 21st Century. Some people are devout, practicing people of faith; it doesn’t matter whether it’s Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, or whatever. Others have drifted away from the faith they were raised in; or were just never RAISED in one. And there are others — a minority, thank God — who insist there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no afterlife, no ghosts, no such thing as miracles –nothing that you can’t see, touch or spit on. Their motto seems to be, “Enjoy it while you’re here, because when your lights go out, that’s it. No more light, no more life, no nothing. You might as well be a pile of dog poop scattered in some alley.”
I was kind of indifferent to religion growing up — although I never doubted the existence of the Creator, Heaven, Hell, etc. My grandfather was a Methodist minister, Mom was a devout churchgoer, and I grew up sitting in the pews on Sunday morning. It was just something that we did — but I never thought about it overmuch. Not even when I was baptized — for the second time — as a teenager.
THEN AS A young man I went through a “deist” period, when I claimed to believe that there was some kind of Higher Power, but that there was no way we could know anything else about it. Then after a couple of more years, I just kind of didn’t think much about religion any more.
But as I got older, I started noticing some things that happened to me, occasionally, which, down the road, led me to take actions that left me better off, financially and otherwise, than I had been before. No, I never heard any mysterious “voices,” or saw any “ghosts,” or anything like that. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t exist, of course. These were just little things — and one BIG thing that may have saved my life — and most of them weren’t noticed by anyone but me. And I began to think: “Maybe people are right when they say, ‘There’s no such thing as a coincidence. Maybe things happen for a reason.’ ” And so, I began to reach the conclusion, that Someone has to be making them happen, for a reason, that we human beings often can’t grasp, because we’re mortal.
Now, as you might guess, I consider myself a Christian. But that doesn’t mean I look down on any other faith. I think people tend to believe, what they’ve been taught to believe, UNLESS once they’ve become adults, it starts to sound like nonsense to them, or they have bad experiences with their particular religion — as people sometimes do, of course. Because religions on this earth are run by our fellow humans. And all humans are fallible, and don’t always do things as they should. In Christianity we call it being “sinners.”
Now, I don’t know for sure whether most atheists are taught to be scoffers and unbelievers by their parents; whether they become that way because the religion they’re taught doesn’t shape up to their satisfaction, once they’re adults; or whether their belief that there is no god, no heaven, no hell, no afterlife, is something they’ve thought deeply about; a conclusion they’ve reached after much study.
BUT POLLS HAVE shown that people with higher IQs, are more likely to declare themselves atheists. And of course, news items about those polls are written with barely disguised glee. It’s as if the liberal media is saying, in effect: “See? See? The smartest people have figured out that all this religious hokum is just superstition and nonsense! So why don’t you more ordinary people follow their lead? After all, they’re a lot smarter than YOU are!”
Oh? Well, in terms of total brain power, sure. An IQ of, say, 155, trumps one of 100 (the average for all Americans) any day in the week. Yes, they’re way ahead of most of us, in a number of ways. Try to tell them about a financial problem you’re having, and right away they’ve got the solution for you. And if you don’t follow their advice, then of course you’re “stupid.” Start to tell them a joke, and they’ve guessed the punch line before you can finish the first sentence. Make a statement about something that happened to you, and instantly they’ve got one of those “Oh, I can top that!” lines all ready to spout at you. Well, you get the point. No doubt you’ve known at least one person like that. I’ve known several. One or two may be reading this. If the shoe fits, wear it.
The thing about these people is that they aren’t willing to admit that there is ANYTHING they can’t figure out, or ANYONE that they can’t outsmart. They view themselves as the elite, the aristocracy, lording it over all us stupid, “ordinary” people. They don’t want to believe that there is anything, or anyone, higher than them. They know it all. “Religion? HA! A bunch of superstitious nonsense, used to keep the stupid lower classes under control. Snigger, snigger!”
Of course, there are documented cases where atheists have had “near-death experiences,” which have changed their outlook on this world and how it operates — and why. And atheists, for many years, have peaked out at about 5 percent of the population. So are the 5 percent the ones who “know” that religious faith is just “superstitious belief in an imaginary man in the sky,” that there is “no god, no heaven,” yadda yadda? THEY think they are. Just ask them, if you don’t believe me!
NO, THEY DON’T know what they insist is true. They want to BELIEVE it is. And, of course, one could say that we who DO believe in a Higher Power, whether you call it God, Jehovah, Allah, Brahman … and the list goes on, believe because we WANT to believe it. OK, fair enough. The atheists challenge us to prove that there is a god. Can we? Well, that’s open to interpretation. Can they prove that there is “no god”? Oh, they’ll say, it’s impossible to prove a negative. How convenient for them!
Actually, this talk about “proof” of the existence, or non-existence, of God, is just a waste of time. You either believe there is a Higher Power, that this world consists of more than just things and beings you can see, touch or spit on; or you insist that it’s all a bunch of superstitious nonsense. You either believe; or you scoff.
I’ve never been able to understand why, if somebody doesn’t believe in something that a lot of others do subscribe to, they can’t just go their own way, secure in their non-belief and laughing up their sleeve at those they think too stupid to know any better. But it often doesn’t work that way — especially with religion and atheism.
Do religious people ever try to “exterminate” atheism? Not in that sense — not that I’ve ever heard of. Excepting Muslims, of course, who want to exterminate anyone who doesn’t share their religious views. They have done volumes to justify notions among atheists that religion is the cause of all the world’s problems.
BUT GROUPS LIKE Freedom From Religion, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others seem to be trying to whittle the Christian religion down, restrict it, box it in, accuse it of “offending” others, demand that it stay out of the public eye, etc. Make no mistake: If you’re a Christian, they want to render you toothless and helpless, in the hope that fewer and fewer young people will want to become practicing members of the faith. If you’re wanting to stamp out a particular way of believing, you target the young people, for they are the hope of its survival, long term.
And of course, all the major religions have faced persecution by someone, somewhere, during their history. Look at the Jews: 2,000 years of exile from their Promised Land; being expelled from dozens of countries during that time; and finally, the Holocaust. But in 1948, the Jews’ “Next year, in Jerusalem,” their toast for 2,000 years, came true. The State of Israel was founded. Anyone really think that it was just dumb luck for the Jews, just a fortunate combination of circumstances? To believe that, you’d have to be — well, incredibly credible — so to speak.
Hinduism developed in India, starting about 1,750 B.C. or thereabouts. The society, the culture, of India, developed in such a way as to make it inextricably tied up with the complicated maze that comprises the Hindu faith. But then, in the early 16th Century, the Great Moguls invaded from the north, gradually taking over India and subjecting its Hindu majority to Muslim rule. Although Akbar the Great, the second of the Moguls, repealed a special tax that was being levied on Hindus, his successors gradually restored that tax, and other forms of oppression — of keeping the native Hindus “in their place.”
So, we can see that, yes, religion HAS caused some wars, some injustices, some suffering, in world history. But to use that fact as an excuse to argue that religion is useless, that it’s “illogical,” that it should be “abolished,” is the ultimate in foolishness.
IT’S LIKE THIS: Religions were founded by people — human beings — most of whom said that in some way or other, God, or gods, or angels, or whatever, appeared to them, inspired them, or told them to found a particular religion. Now of course, we could all be cynics, and say, “Oh, Abraham and Jesus and Mohammed and Joseph Smith and all those others just made all that up so they could gain great power and make other people do what they wanted them to do.”
EVEN IF THAT were true — which I don’t believe for a minute — think about this: How did this world come into existence? How did it get populated, with animals such as apes which later evolved into humans, and many, many other animals, too? How did man develop speech, music, writing, art, literature, a thousand other things that we all take for granted? The “Big Bang Theory”? HA! Not a chance, folks. These things, this Creation, this development, this world — they were PLANNED. By which Higher Power, you can choose and decide for yourself. You can BELIEVE. You can have FAITH.
Or, you can sneer and scoff, and talk about superstition and imaginary men in the sky, and pride yourself that you’re “too smart to believe in all that nonsense.” You can be a cynic, who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
But remember: The world is run by “C” students. Not geniuses. Not people with IQs of 155 — or even higher. And not by people who, because of their “genius,” so-called, think they know it all.
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