Chris is like any other average guy, he has a good job, gets along well with others, and there’s really nothing to hate about him. That is unless his beliefs, along with millions of other people who share the same belief are brought up. Yet, saying he has a belief is not necessarily correct either. Usually when people say they have a belief, many may assume that they are talking about religion and a God. Chris isn’t one of these people, he is an atheist. “There is no God, I don’t believe that there is a “higher-power”,” he said. He has strong views as to why there is no God, but he wasn’t always like this.
“I went to a Catholic elementary school until I was about 8 years old,” he said, “my grandmother was religious so she wanted us to attend a Catholic school, but when she died our parents put us into a public school.” Usually, Catholic schools would instill their students’ minds with not only just a general education, but they would attend church and would really try to make religion important to their students. For Chris though, this didn’t leave him any impression. In his teenage years, he started to realize why he didn’t believe in religion. “I was around 14 years old,” he said, “I didn’t want to believe it, it didn’t make sense to me.” While this was going on in his teenage years, something else was happening to Chris.
“I knew I was gay ever since I was 8 years old,” he said, “but I didn’t want to admit it to myself that I was.” He admits he tried dating girls but didn’t feel any connection, he also says how it made his life worse, and kept to himself a lot in high school. “I went through a lonely phase and wrote dark poems because I was so depressed,” he says. Towards the end of high school though, Chris went with a friend down to Texas to visit a church that his friend goes to, in search of hopefully getting the help he wanted. Once he was there and visited the church, he was saved. “You could say I was a “born-again” Christian, I was ready to accept religion and God into my life and eliminate my sin of being gay,” he said. He would return to Wisconsin where he started going to a church in Milwaukee where he studied and read the bible with the pastor. “I did this in order to be “saved” and I wanted to become a pastor,” he said. However, he couldn’t get over the fact that he was still gay. “I tried everything, I prayed and did everything I could in my power to take this away from me, but I was still gay,” he said. Eventually, he would lose his faith in religion and Chris says he accepted himself being who he is and left the church. He remembered talking to the pastor and saying, “Listen, I’m still gay and I’m really not believing any of this anymore so I have to leave,” Chris said the pastor responded, “ok well we’ll be here if you want to come back,” and Chris responded, “yeah that’s not going to happen.”
Six years later, Chris is still an atheist and is very well accepted by his family and friends, even if he is gay. “My dad was very supportive of me being gay and was proud of me as well as the rest of my family,” he said, “my sister would also agree with me in being an atheist as well as some of my family members, some are still religious but we all accept each other’s beliefs.” Now the question is, where did he get these ideas of atheism? What made him decide he was atheist?
“There are just so many flaws in the bible,” he said, “I mean, how could someone live perfectly by every commandment? Or how could God say he accepts all his children but they’ll burn in hell if they do this, or that, or this?” He also said, “The bible has changed so much over the years and has tons of versions filled with stories passed down after thousands of years written by hundreds of different people, at some point something must have changed.” Many other experts will agree to this as well, including evolutionary biologist and ethologist Richard Dawkins and even the great Stephen Hawking. But obviously these experts take more of a science side, mainly on evolution.
According to Richard Dawkins’ Foundation website, “A huge percentage of Americans reject what we know about human evolution…The Richard Dawkins Foundation sees its job as nothing less than changing America’s future,” (https://richarddawkins.net/aboutus/). His foundation according to his website strives to change America by showing school’s proof of evolution and changing everything we know from schools, politics, and even stem cell research as it states, “America will lose its standing in the world if this does not change,” (https://richarddawkins.net/aboutus/). Stephen Hawking will take the same approach, but is not as active as Richard Dawkins.
“Heaven is a ‘fairy story for people afraid of the dark’,” Hawking said in an interview in 2011, “our brains switch off like ‘broken down computers’ when we die..I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years,” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1387478/Stephen-Hawking-Heaven-fairy-story-people-afraid-dark.html). The smartest man in the world doesn’t believe in God or afterlife for that matter, much like Dawkins and Chris. But there is also more to it than just the science side, like Dawkins, there is a political side to atheism as well.
The American Atheist Organization is an organization setup to separate religion from government. According to their website, they have fought for many atheists’ rights since 1959. That year, Madilyn Murray sues her son’s school for forcing him to recite prayer during school. In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that reciting prayer during school by force was in violation of first amendment rights. That year, Madilyn would go on to found this organization. It’s more than just having the belief that there is no God or arguing with somebody over religion. This organization has fought for multiple cases in order to have people live free of religion in schools, work, and in politics for their own rights. “Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion,” The American Atheists say, “atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds.” This also includes military people as well. The website states, “From prayer sessions at boot camp graduations to evangelizing military chaplains, Foxhole Atheists face discrimination every day.” The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) was created for the community of military personnel that don’t have a belief in God.
On their website, http://militaryatheists.org/, you can find stories of top ranked soldiers, sergeants, and other military personnel that serve their country who are atheists. Here is a testimonial from Marine Lance Corporal Francisco Irizarry Gutierrez, who talked about what he went through. “My atheism began as anger towards the catholic god. The questions I had were never really answered. The answers were inadequate and preposterous. I continued to ask questions and science provided an answer. Anger turned into curiosity which in turn turned into atheism. Raised in a catholic Hispanic family, well you could imagine what it was like to come out as an atheist. The more I discover about science, the more passionate I become,” he said. The website also states that he has a purple heart along with other combat action ribbons and has been in service since 2005.
One can only imagine what our military men and women go through. A lot of them question as to why they are fighting in a war and looking for answers through a God that to them, does not exist. They only have themselves, but through MAAF, they have their own community of military atheists, no matter what rank or how long they served, everybody is accepted. They go through their troubles of fighting a war and then being involved in things like group prayers, which is the biggest criticism from atheist soldiers. To them it’s frustrating because the people they are fighting are mainly Muslim or Islamic in which many of them say are fighting for their freedom of religion, or “jihad,” which is the war against non-believers for Muslims. This just goes to show that anybody can be atheist and even the people who protect the country don’t need to be religious either.
“I think a lot of people assume that being an atheist means that you’re a part of a cult,” Chris said, “and that’s not what it is, I just don’t believe in a higher power (God) and I have no problem with anybody who is a believer, everybody should live the way they want.” These people who identify themselves as atheists, aren’t part of a cult, they are just like everybody else. They are neighbors, co-workers, or managers. During these times though, people are being more aware of the growing trends and being more acceptable of people’s lifestyles and choices. Everybody has their own rights, and sometimes they need help from one another whether it’s from MAAF or the American Atheist Organization to defend their rights. Chris also added, “Whatever you want to do in life, do it, because it’s your life and you deal with it, good or bad.”