1. It stacks the odds against you.
Here’s how a religious institution works: It tells us we are sick and then tells us that it—and only it—has the medicine. Religion imbues its followers with a belief that they are unworthy, fractured, and fundamentally sinful and only by devoting their time, energy, and resources to the Church can a follower be absolved of these intrinsic deficiencies. This concept of Original Sin is the perfect way to ensure all believers spend their whole lives feeling guilty and in the thrall of the Church. I find this abhorrent. I refuse to believe we are born with an inherent flaw. I refuse to believe lovely, chubby, innocent babies are born sinful or tarnished by some fictional act of transgression.
Why would God instill these desires in us if he wanted us to constantly suppress them? Why are self-denial, piety, and asceticism good traits? Why not remove these desires altogether? Why these constant impossible tests? Why keep us in such a state of guilt and conflict?
2. God seems a little unstable.
This brings us to my next point. Even if God does exist (I firmly believe he doesn’t), I would still choose to deny him because of his general volatility and nastiness. God’s actions seem incredibly unjust, capricious, and monstrous. Why does God give children cancer? Why does God make these atrocious choices? Why impregnate underage virgins? Why order people to kill their beloved sons? Why drown the whole world as a punishment for vices that he himself created? If he exists, why has God set up humankind for repeated failure from the very beginning?
In addition to revealing the Church’s inherent misogyny, the story of Eve’s transgression and the origin of Original Sin reveals a meaner side to God. As an omniscient being, God knew Eve was going to eat the fruit all along, which begs the question: Why put the forbidden fruit there in the first place? Why intentionally trick your beloved children and then eternally condemn them? The Church’s juxtaposition of free will and God’s omniscience is not only a fabulous lesson in doublethink but also conveniently explains any tricky questions that may arise when people question why anyone acts against God’s orders: “Oh, free will obviously.” But do we have a choice to have free will? Can we not beseech God to remove our free will so that we may act entirely under his guidance? The answer is no, therefore undermining the entire concept of free will in the first place.
The other explanation that religious people offer is that we cannot question or understand God’s workings. That he makes these choices because of some reason we don’t have the capacity to understand. I say nonsense. This is simply another way of demanding unquestioning conformity and stifling logical questions. There simply cannot be any justification, divine or otherwise, that explains cancer in children or the existence of that loathsome insect that thrives on eating children’s eyeballs.
3. It’s judgmental, oppressive, and dangerous.
The restrictive and divisive laws to which religious practitioners must adhere are at best foolish and at worst dangerous. The moronic parents of terminally ill children who choose prayer over modern medicine, the thugs who attack gay men and women, and the protestors outside an abortion clinic are all following an archaic, inflexible, and highly contradictory doctrine that has absolutely no place in contemporary society. Any institution that teaches blind acceptance and encourages its followers not to question or demand substantiated evidence stunts capacity for reasonable inquiry and oppresses the natural human instinct to understand and learn. Confused teenagers being taught masturbation is wrong, parents of babies who died fearing their child will suffer in limbo, or people stifling their sexuality are just examples of people for whom the Church offers not guidance but judgement, fear, and oppression.
Religious obsession with controlling the woman’s body is a crucial instrument of oppression and serves to perpetuate the Church’s patriarchal and misogynist ideologies. Religion restricts women’s rights so vehemently because an educated, enlightened woman is less likely to conform than a woman preoccupied with her many children and is dependent on her husband. Sanctions on premarital sex, birth control, and abortion are all ways to reinforce the belief that a woman may not own or control her own body, that she is in some way subordinate to her father, husband, and religion.
4. It’s hypocritical.
Shouldn’t loving Christians be accepting of all creeds, races, genders, and families? And why does the Pope live in a gilded palace? I’ve been to the Vatican and it is decadent. Shouldn’t the Church sell or melt the solid gold effigies and donate it to the poor?
That only scrapes the surface of Church hypocrisy. There has been so much written on rampant pedophilia and abuse within the Church that I feel it sufficient to ask why God allows children to be raped and abused by the people supposedly closest to him. For me, that question is all I need to deny any existence of God.
5. I don’t need to and I don’t want to.
A lot of people find comfort in their religion, and I understand that a great deal of reassurance can be found in believing that an all-knowing authority has preordained the course of your life. Accepting that your hardships are the result of a higher power’s plan may mean that painful situations become more bearable, but I have always found this unsatisfactory.
For me it is enough to say that all the pain, anger, and sorrow in my life are accompaniments to the joy, love, and laughter and as part of the human condition should be experienced fully and not passed off as the machinations of a divine entity. I find it disappointing when someone perseveres through hardship and then attributes their strength to God instead of crediting themselves for their effort. I find comfort in knowing that I have a choice in how I react. I also find comfort in knowing I will have to take responsibility for those choices.
I cannot, no matter how much I try to suspend my intellect and cynicism, believe that there is a cognizant entity existing on a transcendental plane overseeing my every movement on this earth. More importantly, I don’t want to. I don’t want to spend my fleeting life preparing for what may come when I die. I want to take ownership of my actions and spend my life free of restrictions and judgment. Despite the wars, diseases, natural disasters, and countless tragedies that befall the world I remain, without any semblance of faith or religious belief, convinced that it is a good and beautiful place and I am grateful that I am alive in it. Living without arbitrary restrictions, without guilt, self-abasement or believing that another life awaits is liberating for me. It reminds me to take time to find wonder in and appreciate it as much as I can.