9/15/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
Back when I attended church services with my wife, there was a young man who would come and sit next to me. Apparently, he sensed that I was a non-believer, because he would open the Bible provided in front of us, and point out the stupid and insane passages in its texts. When he stopped coming, I called him and asked why he dropped out. He said that he had attended Episcopal services growing up, and that the Assembly ones were too noisy. Much later he married a Catholic girl, and, even though he’s out-of-state, I'm tempted to ask him how, or if, someone like him might “suddenly believe” Catholic doctrinal nonsense which is just as stupid and insane as those texts he formerly pointed out to me.
My wife and I, and my siblings and relatives, were all raised as Catholics. She and the other relatives have been non-Catholic Christians for decades now, though the Catholic church still lists them as Catholic. Every one of us now living changed our minds about Catholicism. I remember a co-worker who changed from being an Episcopalian to Christian Scientist to Methodist. (Where his wife was in all this I can only guess.) He introduced me to “The Life of Brian.” Perhaps he’s gone through all the denominations by now. Maybe, like me, he didn’t bother and quit them all.
One of the beneﬁts of freedom of and from religion is the option of changing one's faith, as my friend did, at anytime. (An observation our local newspaper editor chose not to publish.) Citizens change their minds about sects frequently, sometimes choosing those which perplex or cause their friends to raise their eyes in a kind of “good grief!” reaction to the news. I suspect that, unlike me, most people wouldn’t have the impertinence to ask why they changed faiths.
It isn‘t only churchgoers who change their minds. The clergy have been all over the place about acceptance or rejection of LGBT rights. Even the new pope indicated that he has no problem in admitting homosexuals to the priesthood; something his predecessor would never change his opposition to. (Perhaps the new pope might change his mind about having women priests - and perhaps pigs will ﬂy). The Vatican would rather have practicing pedophiles as priests than women.
The free market is dedicated 100% to getting people to change their minds; to choose their products over their competitors. Churches are in the same game; “Jesus” is a product they sell, like Mickey Mouse or Peanuts characters in the secular market - cute, non-threatening, anthropomorphic, and available to the imagination. The sales are what counts. This is how religions operate today; this is why there are missionaries of all faiths, evangelical TV channels, and Mormons and J.W.’s coming to your door. They’re selling, hoping that their spiel will persuade you to change your mind and sign on the dotted line. Ditto the pope, Pat Robertson, etc. And, if you do, they have a lot more products to sell you - “must-have” products.
The marketplace of religions has nothing to do with the truth of their claims, nor integrity of their decisions and actions, nor virtue or “spirituality.” They are purveyors of hope, expectation, feeling good, stocks in the ownership of special status and ownership in the corporation. And they are successful marketers. (Just how many books/commentaries on the bible, gospel sermons and Christian songs on CDs, DVDs, does a Christian family require? Evidently, a LOT, if their contents are the only interpretations of reality permitted.)
If humans didn't change their minds, there would be no progress. For at least a thousand years, changing religions was forbidden, a.k.a., the “Dark Ages.” Without changing of minds there would still be slavery, the executions of heretics and witches, and overwhelming denial of women's rights (although the Christian Righteous are still eroding them.). Religion discourages changing one's mind. Two of the most screwed-up things created by Christianity are the dogmas that Satan will never have the option of changing his mind, and neither will the believer after death.
With constant examples of believers changing their minds being casually accepted, why all the powerful reactions whenever someone decides to scrap ALL religious beliefs? Why are religious authorities and their faithful followers so threatened by those of us who thus change our minds - to the extent of ostracizing us in their communities, as if we are carrying the plague? Why is it that former believers, who have most closely scrutinized their faith with utmost sincerity, are treated with insensitivity by those who have claimed to love them, when admitting they have changed their minds? After all, you have just as much right to change your mind as anyone else, without repercussions.
What makes religious claims so privileged and fragile that they cannot be rejected? Is it that a change of mind might lead others to listen to the changers, and thereby threaten the powers that be? You betcha! After all, believers are raised from childhood to be wary of associating with those who reject religious beliefs, under pain of being social outcasts themselves, and/or “your eternal soul's jeopardy unto damnation.” The child is taught that anyone WITHOUT those fears is not to be trusted and must be avoided.
Don't allow believers to bully you, because they are accustomed to believe that simply agreeing about dogmas among themselves means they possess the truth.But you changed your mind. You really didn't have a choice and you won't go back to being unfree again. You CAN tell anyone who asks that you have that right, period. No explanation. Those who truly respect you are the ones you want for friends anyway. If you are respectfully asked why you are now atheist or agnostic, you have an opening for discussion; but if the purpose is to put you down or mock you, then just walk away. (Christians should have no problem with this response. They walk away physically and/or mentally when you get into seriously questioning their beliefs.)
Don't get sucked into the coercion of sharing his or her own fears and self-delusions. Don't allow believers to bully you, because they are accustomed to believe that simply agreeing about dogmas among themselves means they possess the truth. You just can‘t get past that mind-set. As someone has said so well, “You cannot reason with unreason.”
Speaking as a non-believer, I would like to tell the salespeople, “Look, there are more than ten religion channels on my Direct T V receiver, all of which I've blocked out to my children AND my Christian friends. That's how interested I am.” (One less purchaser, one less sale.) I don't waste my time and energy. (It’s better spent in supporting freethought, American Humanists, SNAP... You and I deserve respect for honestly and earnestly searching for answers where others fear to tread.
I must assert: When we reach the conclusion that ALL religions, all gods, dogmas, and preaching are total B.S., we don't owe anyone explanations or apologies for changing our minds. WE are an omnivorously-curious animal, roaming freely, NOT a dogma- fueled, purpose-driven locomotive on tracks, keeping strictly to someone's schedule to arrive at some depot in the sky!
Maybe just being present OUT THERE, with our enthusiasm for life without religion, might be conducive to changing minds. Freedom is contagious. Change happens all the time.