The tyranny of religion and the freedom of atheism

by Joel Furches

On occasion, the atheist podcast and radio show “Reasonable Doubts” will feature an interview with a high-profile atheist who was formerly a religious activist.

In the past two years, the show has interviewed a radio personality who began his religious activity lobbying within a fundamentalist evangelical church against liberal politics. From there, he converted to Catholicism. Finding the current Catholic doctrine to be too lax, he joined a Catholic sub-culture whose efforts involved resurrecting the far stricter teachings of medieval Catholicism. Finding this did not satisfy the perfection he sought in religion, he began to push a return to Old Testament law. This pursuit of radical legalism left him entirely disillusioned with religion, eventually causing his conversion to atheism.

The show also interviewed a former Mormon woman whose induction into the Latter Day Saints required her to embrace bizarre and oppressive standards, including absolute subjugation to her husband. She eventually divorced her husband, fled the religion, and has discovered giddy moral freedom in her current life as a professional dominatrix.

The most recent interviewee was a woman who embraced and became a leading voice in a religious movement known as Quiverfull. Formerly the administrator of the household – a role with which both she and her husband had been comfortable – her new religious views required her to insist that her husband take charge, while she remained submissive to him. She isolated her family to an extreme degree, eventually forming a home church and homeschooling her children. She had increasingly risky and life-threatening pregnancies, since her religious beliefs required her to have as many children as possible. Finally, a kindly atheist uncle helped her to see that her lifestyle was senseless and self-destructive, and she divorced her husband to become an atheist.

Around the year 2008, atheists in the UK and the US began promoting bus signs with various anti-religious slogans, one of which read “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy life.”

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This slogan succinctly sums up the looming problem with religion: only good boys and girls go to heaven. God, therefore, becomes a source of worry; of anxiety. How do I know if I’m good enough? With this omniscient authority figure frowning down from heaven on high, constantly judging my every action, ready to condemn, his laws are an oppressive burden that rob life of any enjoyment it might otherwise offer.

Consequently, atheism becomes a source of relief. Freed from the horror of this judgmental God, a person may now act as they please without fear of consequence.

This is, perhaps, summed up best by the closing paragraph of Rachael Slick’s 2013 article, The Atheist Daughter of a Notable Christian Apologist Shares Her Story:

“Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything. My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful. Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.”

The freedom from moral responsibility that atheism seems to offer is somewhat contradicted by “morality without religion” which has become a topic of much discussion in atheist circles…

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