I used to be a staunch atheist. I used to think that religion was just another institution created by people with the sole purpose of controlling and manipulating their lives. I used to think that science and religion were at odds with each other. I used to think that the theory of evolution could not be reconciled with the story of God’s role in creating the universe. I used to think that Islam advocated the treatment of women as second-class citizens. I used to think that people who preached hellfire and brimstone while believing in a vengeful and punishing God were speaking the truth about their faith. What I have learned is that it is so easy for bad-intentioned people to manipulate an institution such as religion which is so inherently good at its core and at its origins, and consequently create a false, negative perception among the general populace that is misguided. Atheism is as extreme and as destructive as religious radicalism. One ideology is as close-minded and as extreme as the other. Obviously, we hear more about religious radicalism due to its prevalence in the news and the ferocity and homicidal and suicidal tendencies of its followers. But who is to say that atheism could not evolve similarly. Indeed, atheism is equally binding and narrow minded as religious extremism, at least ideologically. Neither is logical. Neither has any truth or any validity to it. Religious extremism is a power grab. It is perpetrated by people whose goal is to exert their will upon you and make you pay if you stand unwilling to follow. For many people, atheism is a response to religious extremism, and I am not just talking about militant extremism because indeed radicalism can come in many forms. For others, it is a response to plain misunderstandings about religious belief and religious doctrine promoted by people such as Richard Dawkins whose sole purpose is to turn you away from religion. These misunderstandings are also promoted by the news media. Atheism is composed of a nation of skeptics whose views are not born of facts or opposition to true religious doctrine and true religious belief. On the contrary, atheism stems from an extreme desire to reject something people see as wanting to control them, when, in fact, if they were willing to throw off all their negative misconceptions and prejudices in an exercise of true intellectual freedom, they would recognize the positive aspects of religion and what it has to offer. I do not know of any militant atheistic organizations, but who is to say they could not exist in the future with the same exact goals. The fact of the matter is when you have two suffocating ideologies on opposite ends of the spectrum that only seek to gain a following, that only seek to discredit the other, that only seek to limit your intellectual freedom, that will tell any untruth, that will perpetrate any evil in the name of their causes, that will distort anything in order to serve their agenda, it is your responsibility as a responsible and intelligent human being to listen and understand what they are trying to do to you and denounce it. That is what so many people are so unwilling to do. They hate religion because they see killing in the name of God in the news. They hate religion because they go to a church where the pastor is particularly extreme in his views. They hate religion because they think that religion says that God is this huge presence who is watching over their every move and unleashing judgment upon them, because that is what their pastor says. They believe science and religion do not mix because that’s what their high school physics teacher told them while lecturing on the big bang theory. The point is there are a multitude of misconceptions and distortions of religion out there whether they are as extreme as Islamic terrorism or as small as your science teacher trying to profess his or her atheistic views upon you.
My question is why should you take all these people to heart? Were you taught to believe that everything everyone tells you about anything is true and you should always blindly believe whatever anyone says Do not even take my word for it. Go out and discover for yourself what Christianity truly says. What is amazing about is that religion teaches that humans are indeed fallible. They are capable of sin. They are capable of evil even though, at our core, it teaches that we are inherently good. Let me ask you something. If humans are indeed capable of sinning, and we know this as a fact, than are we not capable of misconstruing facts for selfish purposes? Are we not capable of crafty manipulation and misrepresentation of an ideology or institution with the express intention of having power and control over others? And if this is true, are we not also capable of manipulating and countermanipulating religion. Religious extremism is a manipulation and atheism is its countermanipulation. Neither have our best interests at heart.
And I have always been looking for something, some ideology that has our best interests at heart. I find that in religion, specifically for me Christianity. Now I cannot call myself an ardent believer. I have never been engaged in any religious traditions in my life, and I do not call myself a Christian. I basically just started to read more about Christianity, and that’s how I formulated this argument. I especially recommend the book, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. It is amazingly intellectual, logical, and level headed and presents logical arguments against both the religious zealots and the atheists. Religion answers many questions and opens many doors to interesting thought. Religion explores the metaphysical realm. It explores those existential questions of human existence that are just part of who we are. It proposes logical solutions and explanations for many of the problems that plague our society such as economic inequality, poverty, the issue of war, and many other important issues that our country faces today. Now I can say I do have some disagreements with some Catholic doctrine, but that is all right. Religion is not bad. I think if more of us were willing to open our minds to it than our country would be better off for it in many respects. I can not expand on that assertion in this one post, but in subsequent posts I do intend to get into more specifics. This is just meant as a friendly and thought provoking message to skeptics out there. Consider it. What harm could it really do to learn a little bit more? Don’t judge a book by its cover.