This piece is by an author unknown to me, I imagine I picked it up on a messageboard somewhere but failed to note who wrote it ... if the author happens to visit this site and recognises it as his/her work then I will gladly attribute it to him or take whatever action he/she requires. We've all heard the stories. A guy's down in the dumps, life's shot, no money, no future, in pain from some sort of medical problem that he can't afford to have fixed, probably in trouble for some reason or another beyond that… and then, one day, that person finds God. That's where we find the comforting idea that there'll be salvation waiting in "the great beyond," and that there's a greater power that's watching out for you during the life you're in right now, among other things that I probably won't be going into right now. Because there's also an aspect that a lot of us atheists seem to ignore: the community aspect. The "real world" help that many people active in Christian life can take advantage of. In other words, the actual good that church organizations can provide. We don't think about those things that much. Not because it's detrimental to the cause we want to champion, but because, to us, there are a great many things that overshadow things like that, what with the abstract way that atheists tend to think about things. But I'm beginning to think it's a mistake to discount that, because it's a very real benefit that belonging to a church provides. If someone has a heart problem and a broken air conditioner, and the weather's so hot that it can send that bad heart into dangerous fluctuations, a church organization will usually gladly step in to replace or repair the unit. No questions asked. There's always a collection for the poor, the needy, the downtrodden… sometimes what's put into those collections doesn't always make it to the intended target, but I don't place the blame for that on the people that make the initial contribution to that collection. When a person's in great pain, emotionally or physically, the last thing that person needs to think about is the abstract. You basically know why you need the help, most of what you think about after that's established is how you're going to get the help you need. If it's just not possible to be completely self-sufficient, where does one turn? The easy answer to this is the church, and many times that's also the correct answer. This is because a great many of the people involved in church activities actually get the message. Everybody's heard of the "golden rule" that was never actually stated in the Bible: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That's a great way of thinking about life. Before you do something that involves another person, you stop and think about how your action is going to affect that person. If you wouldn't like to be treated in the same manner, then it should be a foregone conclusion that that action would be the wrong action to take. That should be one of the driving behavioural patterns of a human being. Maybe I'm rambling, but I got to thinking about these things when I woke up this morning, for the third day of a particularly unpleasant toothache that I can't get treated because of very concrete financial reasons. It could almost be said to be a crisis of my anti-faith, if you will. I'd certainly be comforted by the option of asking for the assistance of my local church, but I'm not going to do that. Even though I'm fully aware of the fact that there really wouldn't be any questions asked. But, and here's the big but, I can understand why people would be resistant to the idea of being an atheist. In the real world, atheists don't gather in large charitable communities and help each other out. I've never been to a Unitarian Universalist church, so I can't speak for that, but my own experience with atheism is that, at its core, it's an individual experience, just like every other "spiritual" ideal. I'd say that's probably the reason why people refer to it as "accepting Jesus as your own personal saviour." You're being asked to adapt another person's personal experiences as your own. I can suffer through my own pain. I've been doing it for years for a bunch of different reasons, probably the least of which being a lack of a dental plan. Like many other people, I know that there are steps that I'm going to have to take to get out of my own personal funk, whatever that may be at any given moment. And, for whatever reasons I might have, those steps haven't all been taken. Sometimes I feel trapped. Sometimes I feel lonely. At times like these, a Christian will most likely turn to the Bible for guidance. I can't do that. I know the Bible's real. It's a book that's been around a very, very long time. I know that a lot of the basic ideas ascribed to it are sound: You shouldn't steal, you shouldn't kill, "love thy neighbour…" But the fact remains that all of the terrible things that have been done for two millennia in the name of that particular collection of writings, in the name of that particular anthropomorphic deity, have all been rationalised through the use of those same words. I don't blame the common Christian. The common Christian is, at heart, a good person. Those that seek to convert, through hell or high water, are doing so with the kindest of intentions. They believe that their point of view is the correct one, and they want other people to see the same wisdom that they do in the words that they read. It's the same way when others discover, for example, Taoism. When I started reading up on the philosophy of Taoism, I felt compelled to tell everyone I knew about it. Hell, it most likely annoyed the crap out of them, what with me shoving books in their faces and such. But I've since stopped telling people everything I know about it, because I'm aware that many of them don't want or need any of the guidance that the Tao Te Ching sometimes provides. It doesn't help that I also don't follow everything in those books to the letter. You know, those who can, do, those who can't, teach. I can't, so I don't, but I don't teach, because I can't. I don't like being serious all the time. It's part of my personality to throw in some silliness as much as possible into any situation. I like to think of that as a unique benefit of my personality, to find as much levity as possible in any given situation. But there's always that point when silliness won't cut it. Unlike most things, I'm pretty much deathly serious about stopping the lies that people want to spread. I feel it's okay to deceive yourself, in the idea that every person has the right to view the universe as he or she chooses. But when a person insists on forcing their own worldview on other people, to the point of perpetuating lies and half-truths, I have to draw the line. And that's why I'm not a religious person. I don't like being lied to, I don't like lying to other people, and it severely irritates me when people choose to stay blind over actually seeking real answers to real questions themselves. As a whole, the community ideals of Christianity in the United States are sound. But certain individuals and the small groups that like to badger and practice intolerance and hate are, to put it bluntly, ruining it for the rest of the group. I keep my stance against religion because of these people and their idea that it's their "God-given" right to force themselves into other people's lives.