So to continue some of my thoughts from yesterday’s post, I thought I’d go through a quick and dirty list of some of the true believers I’ve met in my life. However, I should clarify that these are just case studies–anecdotal evidence, and I personally don’t believe in forming political or spiritual opinions based solely on personal experiences, because everyone’s experience is different. It’s safer to base your opinions on statistics and things with hard scientific evidence. But that’s just not realistic, even for me, especially when the statistics back up your personal experiences. I don’t expect to convert anyone, but hopefully these stories will help people to understand why I’m such a devoted atheist.
The first real believers I ever met were the Zamoras, who introduced me to the concept of God and to religion when I was a child. I won’t detail them here because I think the fact that Isaac Zamora eventually killed six people in the name of God kind of speaks for itself.
I grew up without knowing many religious people, except for a few Jewish individuals who were similar to my Muslim friend I mentioned yesterday, in that they were logically thinking people who had manipulated their religion to fit their reasoning, instead of a true believer who rejects reason to fit their religion.
But when I was 18 I met Michelle. I intend to write a long story about her at some point since there’s a ton of interesting details about her, but to summarize, she was 15 years old, recovering from her fifth suicide attempt, and had the words “I HATE GOD” carved in huge block letters on the front of her binder. She believed that God’s only goal in the world was to create suffering. She truly believed that the more horrors and suffering you cause in the world the more likely you are to get into heaven, because God is entertained by our suffering, like when humans watch a horror movie. (See item 21 in 22 Ways Religion Promotes Crime) Earlier in her life she had tried to force herself to become a selfish and inconsiderate person, but was revolted by the idea, and instead decided to join a Satan worshiping group (just some kids who were angry and liked to cast spells) and decided that she hated God and all his followers and that she was okay with burning in hell for all eternity because she didn’t want to cause suffering in the world. She was horribly depressed and wanted little more than to end her own life, and insisted that it was God who was causing her to feel that way. I asked her why she didn’t just become an atheist, saying that I didn’t have any problems with depression, and she told me that atheists are just crazy, that it’s plainly obvious that God is real and that God loves suffering. She was certain that anyone who didn’t see that was ignorant and delusional.
She was expelled from school a month or so after I met her for excessive profanity and exposing herself in the lunch room and I never saw her again so I didn’t get the chance to watch how her belief systems developed.
Then a year or so later I met Jerry, who had kind of a modified Wiccan-Pagan belief system, believing in things like the psychic power of certain types of stones, spell-casting, alignment of planets and things of that nature. I’d met people who thought about these things before and considered them, but no one who was actually practicing and making active decisions based on these beliefs, such as making friends with certain people over others based on their birth sign. One night he insisted he was going to live forever, in his own corporeal body, that he would never grow old. I called him crazy and he became angry, telling me I had no right to disrespect his beliefs. He was living in a halfway house after getting caught with a quarter-pound of marijuana and for breaking into a safe and stealing $10,000 from a Hollywood Video. I didn’t judge him too much for these things, but when we went into a local bead store and Jerry later showed me the handful of beads he’d swiped, I started yelling at him about his thievery. He told me he was helpless to resist the urge to steal, that kleptomania was a disease and that I didn’t understand how difficult it could be. I asked him how his mind could be so powerful that he could believe himself into immortality but he couldn’t resist the urge to steal. Maybe he would be able to control his compulsion if he didn’t insist on believing that all these spirits and magic forces were in control of the universe. Unfortunately I never got the chance to say that to him because he was arrested for stealing from his job and was sent away.
Then I met a devoted Christian individual I’ll call Dave. He went to church, read the bible, and trusted his pastors. In every possible way that I understood, Dave was a truly devoted Christian. He was a wonderfully compassionate and respectful individual. He seemed to care about the planet and animal rights and a lot of other important issues and treated his dog with more respect and love than I think I’ve ever seen anyone treat an animal.
Dave would sometimes take certain things in the world and apply them as signs from God. For example, he believed that white cars meant yes, and red or black meant no. If he happened to see a white car, he would take that as an answer of yes to whatever he was thinking about, and actually make real-world decisions based on that. However, he was such a good person, and seemingly happy and well adjusted that he almost changed my mind about religion, until the night we had a few drinks and I watched him repeatedly pound his fist into his Bible, screaming “LIfe sucks! That’s a simple, absolute fact! God wants us to suffer, and if you can’t see that then you’re a blind fool!” Another time he took a whole bunch of LSD and decided that a mutual friend of ours was molesting a small child, based on the “look in his eye”. The child, of course, thought Dave was insane, but Dave insisted the little girl was lying and thought I was crazy for thinking the LSD may have distorted his perceptions.
One of the last times I saw Dave, he admitted to me that he did not care about his family. He said he didn’t care about the planet or the human race or right and wrong. All he cared about was getting into heaven and told me that he would jump at the chance to kill himself if not for his desire to avoid hell. He essentially admitted that all his niceness, compassion and generosity was nothing more than a means to serve himself and his desire for eternal pleasure.
Then I met Aleks, who had a whole altar set up in his room and would frequently cast spells and talk about how spirits were affecting his life and surroundings, and, just like Jerry, judged people as much by their astrological sign as their character. Then one day I watched him pull a knife on a mutual friend, insisting he would cut her throat if she didn’t stop sending evil spirits into his mind.
I’ll continue these thoughts in tomorrow’s entry…