Thursday, January 5, 2012

#52- The New Atheist 2: The Army again...

In the summer of 2008 I became an officer in the Army National Guard.  As part of my commitment I had to go away for a few months for some training.  It was time to leave home and I was in a state on metamorphosis as I accepted the fact that I was an atheist.  This was in the summer of 2009.

Two friends gave me stern warnings that I would go the hell (one Christian and the other Muslim) if I rejected God.  My Muslim friend told me to read the whole Quran and I accepted.

My Army training took me to North Florida, then to Georgia, and finally to Virginia.  A major that I helped rewarded me with a certificate upon completing my duties and gave me some Christian literature and a CD as a gift.  That was a very uneasy time.  Although I love talking to people about religion I learned to read the sensitivity of the person that I may end up conversing with to judge if it was worth it. Meanwhile, believers were free to express their faith thinking that it was harmless and that most people were probably Christian anyway.  I felt that had I disclosed that I was an atheist it would've changed the nature of the relationship.

When I had the time I read my Yusuf Ali English translation of the Quran.  I had about 4 Quran's in my library.  Although I felt that I had enough knowledge about Islam I didn't mind reading the Quran since I was away from my normal set of distractions.

I started from the first page and made notes on the margins and underlined things of interest.  I honestly did give it as unbiased mind as I could.  However, I was critical because I was more knowledgeable now than I had been previously.  I criticized and gave praise where I felt it merited.  It was an on-and-off affair.  I read and took break.  I read and pondered and read again.

I won't go too deep into my findings now but the book did have it's share of interesting points.  The one thing that came to mind was the use of the word "atom".  Yusuf Ali used a highly advanced word to describe an Arabic word that I was sure that Muhammad and his companions didn't know about.  I suspected that Mr. Ali infused the world "atom" in his English translation to heighten the sophistication of the book.  This was fine as long as it is declared that the translator declared that he is taking creative license.  But it was wrong of him if Muhammad did not know what an "atom" was.

When I arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia we were mostly all business.  I felt uneasy in a way because our cadre were preparing us for a long and unpredictable war.  I pondered on peace.  I wanted to be part of the team that sought it and exhausted all means in order to prevent going to war.  I felt that too many of the problems we face in the world was caused by religion.  But again this was not the place for that kind of discussion.  I stayed quiet.

A young Ranger captain approached me passing out information about a church event on day when I was about to go to the cafeteria.  What he was doing felt illegal but I wasn't sure.  He out-ranked me and was a Ranger.  I stayed quiet again but was angry that Christians seem to have a "carte blanche" when it comes to proselytizing.

When I arrived in Virginia, I was a bit more vocal.  I was assigned to a Muslim exchange soldier from Saudi Arabia that I was suppose to help with whatever he needed.  We asked each other questions about each other's culture and religious views.  I also met a Liberian soldier who was open to discuss the Bible.  I even went to a Liberian church with him on one of my weekend just see who the Liberians do it.

One of the most daring moves I made was telling a chaplain officer that I was an atheist.  He and I exchanged a few emails but I stopped chasing that one because I felt it was fruitless.

Fort Lee (Virginia) was essentially a Christian flavored mini-society.  The Army developed ambitious programs designed to stop the rising tide of soldier suicides that were happening by adding "spiritual fitness" to a soldiers recommend list of things to keep up with.  Where did that leave me?

In January of 2010, Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake.  I was dealing with it as best as I could but it bothered me a great deal seeing all the cataclysmic suffering.  I still have close family there and I didn't hear of their whereabouts until much later.  It was during this ordeal that Pat Robertson made his infamous statement about Haitians making a deal with the Christian devil in order to be free from (Christian) slave owners.

Even though the statement was fucked up it reflected an accurate sentiment of some people.  It was in-line with the ineptitude and evil of Yahweh.  Haitians are a very spiritual people and even after the disaster they still sought out Jesus even though he stood by disinterested in the plight of the Haitians.

Haiti needs to be rebuilt physically and mentally as well.  Too many Haitians are still misappropriating credit and blame on invisible and superstitions agents.  I don't know how many atheists rose from the ashes of that disaster but we have a long way to go.

#51- The New Atheist

In August of 2009 I declared myself to be an atheist.  I felt that I had injured my chances to date many women.  I knew that religion was going to come up in any serious conversation and being a non-believer could potentially be a show stopper.

After posting that I attended an atheist meetup on Facebook and old high school girlfriend responded positively to the posting.  That was the only positive reinforcement that I got during that time.

During my journey to atheism I had a friend who became Muslim.  He and I became friends when I showed him some disturbing and racist quotes attributed to Jesus.  His conversion took me by surprise but I supported him.  I expressed concern that he would may be killed if he tried to leave Islam.  I also was weary of Islam affecting our relationship in a negative way.

I told him that I had lost faith in God and was an atheist.  He took it relatively well but he introduced me to some knowledgeable Muslim guys who did a good job of explaining the reason for their faith.  Eventually he told me that it was time to really consider the consequence of my decision and to read the Quran so that I could learn the truth of Islam for myself.  He knew that I was plenty familiar with Islam but he challenged me and I accepted.

Something must have been in the air because another friend from my former church gave me another dire admonition to reconsider the danger I was putting my self or my soul in by leaving Christianity.  Listening to him hurt me.  He sounded equally disturbed, concerned, condescending, angry, saddened, stern, and betrayed.  I happened to be at a Starbucks reading the Quran when I got that phone call from him.  He knew that I had done a lot of reading and that I was not afraid to probe the queries that I found interesting and worth while.  He sounded like I went too far and gave the impression that I was in imminent danger.

I bit my tongue and submitted to him.  I did this because I know he meant well but I wanted to rebut him with the knowledge, logic, and rhetorical skills that I had acquired.  It was the kind of phone call that is symptomatic of a break up.  I new that our relationship would never be the same and it hasn't been since.