I Will Just Be Me:
James G. Jones
When people ask me why I am an atheist I don't think they realize that it is not a simple one-sentence answer, especially for those atheists who were once a Christian. It is not like you wake up one day and say, "Hey, I'm going to be an atheist!" when your whole life has been bombarded with religion from day one. There are no simple reasons either. I think that most Christians think that we hate God, or that something bad happened to us to "make" us an atheist. Some even go so far to think that we are possessed by some demon or being led astray by Satan. Some of the really ignorant ones associate atheism with Satanism which is totally absurd because to believe in Satan is to believe in God.
For Atheists the word "atheist" is just something that we use so that Christians and other religions can know our position on their religion. They think we believe in a god but deny him. For most Christians they cannot understand a life without god and all those that say they are atheists are just lost and will someday find god. When asked by a Christian if we believe in God we say, "what God, Allah, Vishnu, Jehovah, Zeus, Ra, Marduk?" Christians can be atheists depending upon whom they talk to. If a Christian was asked by a Hindu if he believed in God, the Christian would say yes, but then the Hindu would ask "Vishnu?" and the Christian would say no. In the eyes of the Hindu, the Christian would be Atheist. In that sense, we are all atheists because we deny the existence of other's gods. I cannot say there is no God or Divine Power at all, it has not been disproved to me but it has not been proven to me either. I prefer not to worship at all since no one has come forward with reasonable proof.
Christians will come up with many questions and statements to try and prove the existence of a divine power. The problem with most of their statements is that it relies upon personal experience. If I tell you that while I was sitting in the desert alone with no one else around for miles and miles, a super-intelligent being from another planet who holds all the knowledge of the universe and beyond came to me and told me that there was no divine power could you tell me that this did not happen? Where you present when the being approached me? Could you prove to me that this did not happen? Of course you could not, at least not honestly. It is the same when someone tells me of visions; miracles and other such things that happen to them that proved to them that there was a divine power. I cannot honestly tell someone that his or her personal experience did not happen.
The Bible tells of things that will happen to us if we do not believe. But there is a flaw in the logic of any prediction. Most of the predictions in the bible do not give you a time of reference. And by not giving a time of reference it makes the prediction open-ended. Open-ended predictions are like the so-called "Psychics" of our time that rob money from those who believe that they need guidance. I will give you an example: Next week, you will become a millionaire. Can you prove to me that this will not happen? No. One of the problems with this prediction is that it has an end. You know that after next week you will either be a millionaire or not. Now let us take a look at a prophecy from the Bible:
... for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
All Christians know this phrase and what it is about, the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world, as we know it. There are many prophecies leading up to this event as well but, if you notice, it does not give any reference as to when the "Lord" will come. Therefore this statement cannot be proven or disproved. The Bible is full of statements like this. If you are bad and don't believe in God and don't ask for forgiveness for your sins you will burn in hell for all eternity. This statement is just like the last, a type of prophecy; it cannot be proven because there is no evidence for or against the existence of punishment after death. I could just as easily say that when you die you will go to a land of chocolate where you will eat until you explode. Then little candy people will put you back together and make you eat more chocolate. You could not prove to me that this will not happen because you would have to die and live again to prove it. The Bible uses fear as its weapon; the fear of the unknown. It is that same weapon that shaman's used to explain lightning, earthquakes, floods, the sky, the moon, the sun. And using that weapon gives them power over the people. Much like the power that the Catholic Church had over the monarchies of the middle ages.
To die and live again is another part of all of this. The resurrection of Jesus. According to the scriptures Jesus died and resurrected himself or was resurrected by God. During his time, the scriptures wrote that Jesus had brought the dead back to life several times. He had power over death. Once he was crucified and died, how would it look to the people who were beginning to follow him if he did not use his own power to bring himself back to life? Where did his power over death go? Now we have to look at the source of the resurrection story. The event of his resurrection was only witnessed by a few people, his followers.
Imagine if you will the situation at that time. Captive of the Roman Empire and looking to revolt but with no solid leadership, the Jews were begging for relief. The Sanhedrin enjoyed the power that they retained under the Romans and saw no need to rebel. Along comes Jesus who promises freedom for his people but not from the Romans but rather from the institutionalized and corrupt religious leaders of the Jews.
I think I should interrupt here and clarify a little about the Sanhedrin and the Roman Empire in Judea. When Julius Cæsar defeated Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 B.C.E., he had to reorder affairs in the East. The following year he went to Syria, where he confirmed Hyrcanus as high priest and appointed him "Ethnarch" (ruler of the nation), with the right to try capital cases. This right continued in Jewish hands until the appointment of the procurators in 6 C.E. Thus it was no longer n force when Jesus was put to death. Cæsar also confirmed the special privileges of the Jews of the Diaspora-the right to live according to their ancestral laws. Importantly, later Roman rules confirmed those privileges. Anitpater, a Jew who supported Cæsar, was given Roman citizenship in return for assistance that he provided the Roman Empire when Cæsar was at war with Egypt. He was also rewarded with the office of "Custodian of Judea" with vague duties. Antipater made his elder son Phasael governor of Jerusalem and his younger son Herod ruler of Galilee.
With the assassination of Julius Cæsar in 44 B.C.E. by Brutus and Cassius, all hell broke loose in Judea. Antipater tired his best to please the new Roman Administration but in the process he completely ignored Hyrcanus, the high priest, and the Jewish aristocracy. The result was that Antipater was assassinated; they had poisoned his food.
When Marc Antony defeated Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, Herod headed a delegation that went to Bithynia (in Asia Minor) to meet Antony. After Herod had generously greased Antony's palms, and after Antony on his own decided that the Herod would be more loyal to Rome than Hyrcanus and his allies, he confirmed Herod and Phasael, Herod's brother, in their official posts. But Hyrcanus remained the chief religious leader. After Hyrcanus and his allies assassinate Phasael, Herod runs to Rome and asks that he be made King of Judea. After several years and a few successors Herod and his family of successors were finally assassinated one by one and rule was left into the hands of the procurators.
The primary responsibility of procurators in Judea was to maintain public order, but the normally did not manage the government on a day-to-day basis. (Of course the most famous of these procurators was Pontius Pilate.) The Sanhedrin was responsible for the day-to-day management of the government. The Sanhedrin was made up of the high priest, the successor of Hyrcanus, and the religious council of high priests. In legal or criminal cases the governor heard accusations leveled by provincial individuals and had the power to impose any form of punishment: death, hard labor, exile, etc., as in the case of Pilate's trial of Jesus.
But when Jesus came, he told the people that they were no longer the religious slaves of the Sanhedrin but rather they are masters of their own afterlife. By doing this Jesus led the wrong revolt for some people and made enemies of the Sanhedrin because it brought upon the questioning of their authority over religious matters. When Jesus was imprisoned at the request of the Sanhedrin he sat next to another prisoner, but this one was a prisoner of the Roman Empire. Barabbas. The Romans had nothing against Jesus because his revolt was not directed towards them or their control but they feared Barabbas. When the Romans asked the Jewish people to pick a prisoner to go free, a typical event when the governor had a feast, the Romans were hoping it would have been Jesus but the Jewish people wanted to shake off the yoke of the Romans and believed that Barabbas would be the one to do that. They did not think that the man who said, "Give unto Cæsar that which is Cæsar's" would free them from the Romans. Barabbas was a revolutionary, Jesus was a religious reformer.
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"
So now you have Jesus hanging on the cross. The Son of God, the king of kings, the man who performed so many miracles like bringing the dead back to life now being subject to death himself. Jesus did not perform miracles lightly; they had a purpose. Their purpose was to show his power; otherwise he would just be another religious reformer and not the promised Messiah. How would it look to those who were on the brink of following but had not committed themselves to it yet if their Messiah all of a sudden ... died? People would have laughed Jesus right out of history and he would have been known as a sham. His followers had to do something. So, after 3 days, Jesus was resurrected and visited his followers. People would go to his tomb and find it empty. Not a hard feat to accomplish.
As you can see, it is not difficult to do what the followers of Jesus did, and it is not difficult to see why. For me, this is why I do not follow the Christian religion. It has way too many holes and relies upon ignorance, faith, if you prefer, for its following. The Bible even comes with its own disclaimer to protect the Christians against those atheists like me (me = those who Christians deem as dangerous):
And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
To believe it, all you have to do is ignore the history and close your mind to the situations that brought Christianity to its present day state. It is not hard for those who need some kind of reassurance to go to a church to just sit and listen to the preacher behind the pulpit and not ask anything, but rather just believe. I have no problems with those who believe in a divine power or those that believe they need spiritual guidance. I have no problems with people who feel the need to attribute any undiscovered phenomenon to an omnipotent being. If it helps them to be at ease, if it lowers their stress level and makes them more comfortable to believe that there is a God who will take care of them when they need them and who is responsible for all that is, then more power to religion. I only ask that they follow their own rule, and to do unto others that which they would like done unto them. I will not stand on the pulpit and condemn Christians; I will not go visit Christians door-to-door and try to convince them of what I believe to be the truth. I will not hand out flyers in front of the library or put bumper stickers on my car proclaiming my faithlessness. I will not have my children go to school and in front of the class lead them in reciting Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution. I will just be me, an atheist.
James G. Jones