Why I am Not a Christian
August 18, 2011
Since first leaving my religion several years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to see debate after debate on topics of faith. The common secular argument is to default to the burden of proof. Show us your evidence of God, which we can and will refute, or stop perpetuating the idea. This is, of course, a valid way to oppose religion. But it leaves out an emotional element; it leaves out the human experience and our search for meaning. I am not a Christian not just because their claims are without evidence, but for so much more.
I am not a Christian because I embrace sexuality. I’m tired of people being shamed for who they are attracted to; for lusting. The Bible shames us for not just what we do in our sex lives, but for our thoughts as well. Christianity implemented and perfected “thought crimes” long before George Orwell introduced the term into our lexicons. I reject that. I will not repent for the thoughts I refrain from acting on. Nor will I repent for the thoughts I act on that are declared immoral by dogma, not reason. I will not sit idly by as enlightened Christians tell me of their love for homosexuals. Their sin is no worse than any others, they will tell me, comparing the companionship of two people to rape, theft, and murder. Of course it is no worse than any other sin. It is no sin at all. Sin is a meaningless concept, designed to shame those for their own humanity. I will not be shamed.
Christian arguments are at the forefront in the fight against a woman’s control over her own body and sexuality. As Margaret Sanger taught us, “No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” Christianity has fought hard to keep women from being free. Catholicism warns us of contraception; evangelicals poison the conversation on abortion with emotive terms like “murder.” Their leaders in state legislative bodies have introduced 916 bills restricting reproductive rights. It is a shell game. The real motivation is to take back control of women from the society that increasingly moves to liberate them.
I am not a Christian because I want to do good for my own sake. No act, undertaken by command coupled with coercive threat, can be moral. It is amoral. Christian’s work for the poor and their community is no different from Abraham’s willingness to kill his son or the believers commanded to stone impure women. They are doing as they’re told. I want more ownership over the decisions in my life, the good and the bad. I want reason to dictate what is right, not some ancient text. I want to know that when I do good deeds, it is for others, not to satisfy some supernatural bully.
I am not a Christian because I refuse to treat non-believers as pariahs. This spring, Damon Fowler of Bastrop, Louisiana stood up against school-sanctioned prayer. His community turned on him. His teachers mocked him. His Christian classmates berated him. His family disowned him. This is far from a secluded incident. Gay teenagers are harassed by religious family members, believing they are doing God’s work. They are taken out of their homes, and put into religious camps designed to “cure” them. Many are driven to suicide. Non-religious politicians are rarely able to give their lives to public service and representing others. A majority of Americans declare they would never vote for an atheist running for President. Long after being declared unconstitutional, some state leaders still invoke religious tests to keep the non-religious off the ballot altogether. I refuse to participate in any of this. I refuse to even be associated with those holding these views. George H. W. Bush told us atheists shouldn’t be regarded as citizens. As a citizen, I will not be regarded as a Christian.
I am not a Christian because I want to find my own meaning in life. Like Albert Camus’s Sisyphus, I find myself in an absurd life. I seek to find my own meaning. It’s a powerful thought. It drives me to activism; to bring change in the world. I fight for gay rights, because it will live on beyond me. I fight for a secular government, because it too will live on beyond me. Christianity faces no such struggle. This life is a throw-away, while adherents wait for the next one. I can’t conceive of living in such a way. Our existence is owed to winning a genetic lottery. I want to take advantage of that. Every moment, every experience, every up, and every down of life, we’re lucky to have.
I am not a Christian, not just because of a lack of evidence, but because a secular life incorporates the values I want to live by. Religion tries to hold a monopoly on bettering lives, while we’re relegated to fighting over the existence of God. I reject that. A secular life is the life I’m proud to live. That’s why I’m not a Christian.
About the Author: Trevor Boeckmann
Trevor Boeckmann is an intern at the Center for Inquiry, and a recent graduate in economics from the University of Northern Iowa. Boeckmann served as President of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers for two years, and this fall will be attending law school at UCLA.
#1 23cal (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2011 at 10:00am
Generally very good. I question the George H. W. Bush quote. From my research, the only person who supposedly heard this--and it was at a public press conference--was Robert I. Sherman who is described in many places (like the Washington Times) as an "atheist activist". I'm not impugning Mr. Sherman's honesty or accuracy, but his activism along with the fact he seems to be the only one to have heard this at a public news conference certainly does color the veracity for me.
"Attributed by Robert I. Sherman, reporting in American Atheist about a public press conference Bush held at O'Hare Airport on 27 August 1987. No other journalist confirmed that Bush made the remark."
#2 Trevor (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2011 at 12:34pm
Point taken and appreciated.
#3 Tyler (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2011 at 1:27pm
Beautiful. Thanks for writing this, as someone who did over 100 hours of community service last school year (at a technical institute while working on a Comp Sci degree mind you), I'm bothered by how will do community service for reasons such as "God wants me to." I do it because I care about the homeless, the less fortunate, the young, the elderly, and everyone else.
You are a great man. Please, don't stop being one.
#4 Jackson (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2011 at 10:35pm
I am Trevor's current roommate. Trevor, if you want to "do good for it's own sake", then make me a sammich. I can hear that you're already in the kitchen.
#5 Ned Morlef (Guest) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 at 7:28pm
#6 Mike K. (Guest) on Saturday September 03, 2011 at 5:07am
While I appreciate the sentiment, a secular life is better for all, I agree, but quite honestly, reality owes us no favours for comfort. Even if it weren't the case that secular people were happier or freer, that Christianity can offer no evidence or reason to believe them must be enough on its own.
That the secular life is better is a happy coincidence.
#7 Trevor (Guest) on Saturday September 03, 2011 at 6:46pm
Christianity has been tugging at heart-strings for years...and it works. For us to ignore the impact of secularism on our lives while grasping onto the "where's the evidence" rhetoric is to do a disservice to the growth of the secular community.
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