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Christianity jntb on 06 Dec 2006 10:05 am

In response to Nicholas Kristof …

A New York Times Journalist, Nicholas Kristof, published an article entitled “A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion” in which he criticizes atheists and certain authors of books about atheism. I wanted to send an email to Mr. Kristof to respond to his article, but the New York Times website requires that I pay money to do that so I have posted my response here.

In the article, Mr. Kristoff asserts that I am a member of a militant, in-your-face brand of atheism and that my leaders are Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. He couldn’t be farther from the truth, but as the New York Times has discovered over the years, the truth rarely sells many papers so why bother with it.
The truth is, I have been a lifelong skeptic of religion since about the age of 4 or 5 when I attended Baptist bible school during the summer. I attended Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian services over the years, engaged in bible study so I am hardly an obnoxious participant in an atheistic movement. Nothing about religion really ever made any sense to me, and while I suspect that it rarely makes sense to many other people, few are willing to state so. It is taboo in America to criticize the Christian god but perfectly acceptable to criticize every other supernatural entity, so you better keep in line or you may be out of a job or your property may be vandalized, but at the very least you will be ostracized by your family and friends who occupy your social circle. Rare is the person who doesn’t experience one or more of these reactions upon identifying themselves as a non-believer in the Christian god. It’s a high price to pay for personal honesty in the country that most vociferously expresses that we should all be allowed to be free.
Mr. Kristoff, what you do not understand is that I never had any atheistic resources to rely upon for the first 35 years of my life. My only real exposure to atheism was watching Phil Donahue interview Madelyn Murray O’Hair on his show sometime in the early 1980s. While I wouldn’t describe her as militant, I can understand why she was viewed as militant. Nobody would take her seriously until she did something serious. At the time I watched her, I still believed in God, whatever form he was that didn’t make any sense to me. I thought God existed, just not in the form stated in the Bible. Nevertheless, I was secretly cheering for her accomplishments at getting rid of prayer in the public schools. I didn’t want to pray in school and I was made to pray in school — yes, organized prayer had already been prohibited in public shools before I started attending school, but that didn’t stop school officials from allowing organized prayer to be held across the school speaker system. Bow your head and at least act like you are praying or you will be ostracized by your own classmates. Is that the freedom Americans cherish? That was unjust, illegal and just cruel. I hated it. I had no atheistic resources to rely on. They didn’t exist.
Over the years, I managed to live my life in abstentia of religion. I had a mild belief that there was a supernatural entity that existed, but probably only due to the mass delusion that others had for the same thing. Once the Internet came into being, I did on occasion lookup references to atheism. I didn’t consider myself an atheist at that point, but perhaps agnostic. The atheist resources on the Internet were not very good. I don’t mean to criticize the publishers of early websites, but there wasn’t a lot of meat to the material they published, or it was written in a way that anyone would consider as caustic. I turned into an atheist 5 years before finding this website, WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com. Before that, I had not read a single atheist-oriented book, magazine or even newspaper article (are there any?). I found WWGHA to be very courteous, simple, direct and quite effective in delivering the message that a rationally-thinking human being cannot consider the Christian god to be valid. I found a home.

I never knew who Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins were until I visited the forums at WWGHA and read the posts of other forum member who had read books by those authors. For me, no one — absolutely no one — contributed to my atheistic beliefs prior to me identifying as an atheist. That’s hardly evidence for an atheistic movement, and no author of any work can take any credit for me becoming an atheist. I became an atheist through my own rational thought.
So, Mr. Kristoff, go ahead and delude yourself that there is some coordinated atheistic movement. Enjoy your fantasy that atheists are proselytizing. A journalist like you should not misappropriate words. You obviously do so to further your own religious agenda and your own religion doesn’t even give you the basis to correctly express non-religious concepts. While you are asking for a truce, is a journalist like yourself really searching for the truth when you identify WWGHA as sarcastic and disrespectful, or are you looking in the mirror?

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