This is my rumination on what I wish I could say to the fundie coworker who turned me into an atheist.
You taught me about a controversy that I didn’t know existed — between creationists and evolutionists — and I fell completely on the other side. I told you I had been raised a christian but was lukewarm about my faith. (I had been “born again” in my twenties but I couldn’t really take it seriously. And it didn’t mean biblical literalism to me. Until I met you, I didn’t know that anybody took the stories in Genesis literally.) I told you I was a science buff. Some things you said demonstrated a profound ignorance of science and a lack of interest in nature. You invited me to your church’s passion play. Silly me; I thought you were being a friend! I didn’t realize you were witnessing to me! You’re an evangelical; that’s your job. The irony of it all is that YOU tried to tell ME how a friend should behave, while all the time you were just trying to gain my trust so you could sell me something.*
A statement you made, that fossils are a hoax, led me to the Internet, where I learned all about the creationists/anti-evolutionists and I knew immediately where I belonged. Before I met you, I truly thought science and religion were not incompatible. I had some residual religious beliefs but didn’t give them too much thought. Your biblical literalism (which I thought at the time was a fringe belief) made me examine my beliefs critically, and I found that my continued faith in a loving God, guardian angels, and everlasting life, among others, simply did not make sense in light of the evidence before my senses every day. So I dumped it. All of it. In essence, it was your introduction to me of religion AS science (intelligent design, formerly known as creation science) that made me aware of how totally incompatible religion and science really are — and to embrace science and reject religion. Intelligent design is the Trojan Horse creationists use to try to re-brand their belief as science so it can be taught in public schools. I don’t know if you are an “IDiot,” but it was your comment about fossils being a hoax, which is an argument ID proponents use, that led me to learn out about “flood geology” (a total crock). I went on from there to talkorigins.net, where scientists have been educating the public about science and fighting the teaching of religion in schools for a long time. That of course led me to Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others, whose books and other writings introduced me to atheism, science, critical thinking, and many other things. I’ve been educating myself ever since.
I’m curious: did you ever realize I wore DNA earrings and a sixty-five-million-year-old ammonite fossil pendant just to tweak you?
I am now a hard-line Atheist. Not only do I think there is no evidence for the existence of god, I don’t believe there is a god or gods. I don’t believe in the supernatural, the paranormal, or the metaphysical, either. That’s right — no soul or afterlife. I am also a skeptic, a freethinker, and a secular humanist. And, since the hypothesis of a god or gods is unfalsifiable, I am, most reluctantly, an agnostic. (Or maybe not; it depends on which definition you use.)
I have passion now and a sense of purpose I never had before. A big issue for me is the separation of church and state (the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the “establishment clause,” which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”), which people like you are fighting to the detriment of everything our democracy stands for. I’m reading dozens of books, articles, and blogs by atheists, skeptics, freethinkers, and scientists. I’m writing a journal and essays and book reviews. I’ve joined American Atheists and the Skeptics Society. The cognitive dissonance that I suffered when I tried to reconcile my childhood beliefs with my love of science and critical thinking ceased. My newfound clarity has awakened in me an interest in all fields of science, and in politics, economics, psychology, and medicine. Before I met you I was a little fuzzy about natural selection and the neo-Darwinian synthesis. After reading several books on evolutionary biology, I have a much clearer idea of these elegant concepts. I’ve also become very interested in the pseudo-religious nature of belief in complementary and alternative medicine, metaphysics, “The Secret,” etc., and the psychology that makes people susceptible to believing such things.
If I hadn’t met you none of this would have happened. Learning this would mortify you; it was exactly the opposite of what you intended. (I guess the physicists are dancing in hell!) But never mind. I’m sure you have other talents you can use in the service of your lord.
One more thought: What you people are working toward is a theocracy. That experiment has been tried before. It’s called the Dark Ages. But I guess you don’t care about that because for you it’s a war for souls and these are end times (as they have been for believers for over two thousand years now). What happened on Nine Eleven is evidence that another very large group of people feels the same way about their god as you do about yours. They are also certain that it is end times and that YOU are the agents of satan. All you’re doing with your fanaticism is fanning the flames. The only thing ending here is democracy, enlightenment, freedom, and progress, and religious zealots like you are the agents of their destruction. What if you get your way and bring about your totalitarian, fascist theocracy, full of intolerance, misogyny, hate, and bigotry, and ruin everything good in our society, and then the world doesn’t end?
So, in conclusion, I thank you for showing me the error of my ways. I’m sure you would see it as a crushing failure but I’m not at all sorry. You triggered a paradigm shift in me and I will always be grateful to you for it.
P.S. 8/17/13: In reading Monkey Girl by Edward Humes (an account of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, in which science won a resounding victory against so-called intelligent design), I came across a description of Ken Miller, an expert for the plaintiffs, as a practiced debater. I don’t think you were a practiced debater, but you had memorized your church’s propaganda and were spoiling for a fight with someone so you could win a soul for your side. You chose the wrong person for that debate. At the time I wasn’t even aware there was a debate or that fundamentalists were trying to get religion redefined as science so it could be taught in public schools. Because of you I rediscovered my love for, and understanding of, science and its paramount importance in education and effective government. I would be ready for you now.
*The CD you gave me, “Why I believe in the bible” by Chip Ingram, was very entertaining. He said that Jesus is the expert witness for the bible. Just think about that for a minute. You work in the legal field, so you know what an expert witness is. Hiring Jesus as the bible’s expert witness would be like hiring your own client, the defendant in a lawsuit, to provide an “unbiased” expert opinion on his own behalf! Because the only writing in history where Jesus of Nazareth appears is in the bible itself. Look it up; only christians think there is any evidence of a historical Jesus. Their “evidences” have been thoroughly discredited by real historians. Mr. Ingram also claimed to have been initially skeptical, wondering how this book, written over so many years, by so many people, and translated so many times, could be the inerrant word of god. So I waited to hear what evidence convinced him. There wasn’t any! He did not present a single reference to a scholar or a document. Why is the bible true? It just is! God said so — in the bible! Both of his arguments use a logical fallacy called circular logic, or begging the question — using what you are trying to prove (the conclusion) as one of the premises of the argument. (The bible is true because it says it’s true.) It’s easy to learn about what is known about the real history of the bible and the historicity of Jesus from unbiased scholars. You can read about it on the web. If you think the web is satan’s tool, there are books. If books are also satan’s tools, you can take the world back to the Dark Ages, burn the books (and the heretics), and rely on myths and superstition to tell you how the world works.