“Freedom of Religion” by John Reed

This article is a continuation of: https://johnreedforpresident.home.blog/2019/05/23/my-atheist-god/

Just a few hours ago, I had a thought. The thought wasn’t true, but the thought was that a person was attacking my faith. Not my Christian faith, but my atheist faith. Allow me to explain.

My atheism is like a faith in and of itself. I built my life on the assumption that I will not have an afterlife. For example, because I never believed that I will have an afterlife, I invested heavily into health (diet and exercise) and even went into pre-med in my younger years. My thinking was that if I don’t have an afterlife, then all I have is this life, and for that reason, I want this life to last a long time. The longer this life is, the more time I will have. This is an assumption that I made which was guided by my belief, or my faith, that there will not be an afterlife. This is an assumption that I made, and I built my life on this assumption. It has influenced my decisions and shaped my system of beliefs.

Now imagine that someone who was very religious confronted me and told me that my belief was heresy, that there is an afterlife, and that I will go to hell for my belief. As a non-religious person, I would perceive this as more than just an attack on an idea or a belief that I hold. I would perceive it as an attack on me. One’s beliefs are built on top of their faith, and an attack on one’s faith is perceived as an attack on them. It is perceived as a personal attack. It is a form of persecution.

Ultimately, the way I generally see the world is that human actions are dictated by the humans themselves and not by God. I see a rock, and I am the one who moves my hand to touch it, not God. My God doesn’t actually do anything – people do things, and God (if God exists) sort of just watches. This is how I perceive the world. My sense of “good love” and “evil hate” is on the inside, and if God is love, then my God is, like me feeling of Love, on the inside. For example, I could imagine that there is like a little God in each of us. Sometimes I can sort of imagine something over my shoulder, but in general I don’t see a God on the outside. Some people might see a person move and think that God moved that person. I see that person as having moved themself the way I move myself. I usually do not have an external sense of God.

Some atheists seem sort of anti-religion or anti-Christian. There were even stories of people who attacked, burned, or blew up churches (hopefully with no people in them). The story at this link might just be “Fake News” that was generated as part of the investigation into Russian Intelligence’s attempt to pit Americans against one another using the media (ex. Facebook ads and news), but let’s assume for a second that this story about an atheist running around burning Black churches is real. In general I think what is really happening in real attacks by atheists on churches is that these (usually crazy) non-religious people perceive that Christianity is threatening their atheist faith, and this is their response. This really isn’t that different from a (crazy) Muslim blowing up a Christian church or a (crazy) Christian blowing up a Muslim mosque. Ultimately, just like these faiths, I see atheism as a faith that one has, and if a religious person says “no, there is a God, you are wrong and you are going to hell for it”, that is like an attack on an atheist’s faith. Atheists just sort of assume that they are right (and this belief that they have, if it is true, means that, from their perspective, someone else’s belief to the contrary is not true). They can’t actually prove this belief that they have to other people, so their atheism is a faith that they have. They have faith that there isn’t a God (at least in the outside world) and that there isn’t an afterlife. This is a belief that they hold. This belief is true TO THEM, and they operate under the assumption that this belief that they hold is true, just like religious people operate under the assumption that there is a God and that this belief that they hold is true. Ultimately, a religious person can point and say “look, God!”, and an atheist can point the same way that the religious person is pointing and say “I see no God!”, and they can do this all day long and make zero forward progress. Ultimately the atheist is assuming that their belief is right and the religious person is assuming that their belief is right. The atheist can’t actually disprove the other person’s belief and the theist can’t actually disprove the atheist’s belief. They both just sort of have the way they see the world, and their reality and their belief is based on that. Regardless of how much each person believes “I am right”, they can’t actually change the way another person perceives the world.

I was never a religious person, and that was true for my entire life. I never saw anything as an act of God. Everything I did or everything that other people did I always saw as an act of people, not of God. If I did sort of imagine something over my shoulder or above me, that thing that I imagined never did anything. From my perspective, absolutely nothing that happens is an act of God. That is the way that I see the world. That is my faith.

Does this mean that I should attack other people’s faiths? Absolutely not. My faith is my faith and your faith is your faith. An attack on my faith is an attack on me just as an attack on your faith is an attack on you. Ultimately, the more someone thinks that their faith is under attack, the more they will want to respond or retaliate. This is true even if they just think that their faith is under attack, even if it isn’t actually under attack. If atheists believe that their atheism is under attack by very religious people, this will probably provoke a response from them. Maybe they will respond by doubling down on their atheism in response to this perceived threat on their belief system. This is equally true for religious people. If atheists attack their belief system, and they feel threatened by it, they will probably double down on their beliefs. If I recall correctly, sales of the Bible actually went up after Richard Dawkins published a book called “The God Delusion”. Richard Dawkins actually believes that he is right and that most of the rest of the population is wrong, and this is a belief that he holds, and to be honest it’s not something that he can actually prove to other people. A religious person can point up at the sky and say that they see God there, and then Richard Dawkins can pull out a video camera and say “no look – look at this video tape directed at the exact spot where you are pointing your finger – no God here”, and they can do this literally all day long and make zero forward progress. Ultimately, people have their belief, and it is their belief, and ultimately atheism is just a belief just as theism is just a belief. My belief is my belief, and I do not want anyone attacking or persecuting it. That is why, when it comes to Freedom of Religion, I believe that each individual’s faith must be protected from persecution. I believe that an attack on a person’s faith is an attack on them. No one’s faith should be under attack and no one should feel personally persecuted for their personal faith. Your God is your God and your faith is your faith. Freedom of religion for all (including people who aren’t religious).

Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/JohnReedForPres/status/1131299319531937792