Beta Culture: Patheos Intro, Part 1

If we lived in a society where there were stiff penalties for not going to church – say getting beheaded, or flogged in the public square and being cast out of the community  – I’d go to church.

But I’d still be an atheist.

Beyond my strong conviction that it’s better to believe true things, there’s a whole raft of benefits to the individual. See Because I Am An Atheist.

Even aside from punishments for unbelievers, some still in effect today in various parts of the world (including places in the U.S.), we atheists have traditionally been at a thundering disadvantage. Goddy people have always gotten MUCH better treatment. More leeway. Friendlier reception. A long, long list of advantages that have not been available to us unbelievers.

I can walk two blocks from my house and behold a literal castle devoted to the enjoyment of Christians. The First Reformed Church, built of warmly beautiful red stone in the early 1800s by stonemasons the likes of which may not even exist in the United States today, and all for nice Christians.

Oh, I get some benefit out of it. It’s where I go to vote, after all. And it is admittedly a scenic addition to the neighborhood.

But it’s also offensive. For one thing, it’s where I HAVE TO go to vote. For another, its very existence serves as a reminder of the extreme favoritism toward religion on the part of government (which means DISfavoritism toward people like me). There’s been a church on that spot since the 1600s, and not a cent of property or income tax has been paid in all that time, nothing at all in return for the hundreds of years of fire protection, police protection, all sorts of government services and allowances flowing into it in obvious deference to the fact that it’s a religious outlet rather than a secular one.

Yes, I get the argument that there are some social advantages – charity and so forth – supposedly flowing out of it. But … a few years back I mapped the number of churches and church-owned properties within a 2-mile radius of my house in central Schenectady, and there were close to 80 of them. In that same area, I doubt there are that many schools, convenience stores, hardware stores, pharmacies, supermarkets and libraries COMBINED.

If the number of churches somehow correlated with charitable acts, you’d think there would be a goddy sob sister on every street corner, begging to drag in every last wayward alcoholic and drug addict, orphaned child, homeless family and lost puppy for charitable assistance. But that does not seem to be the case. The orphans and families get state and local government assistance, the puppies get private volunteer and donor assistance (or killed), and the alcoholics and drug addicts get arrest records and squalid jail cells. If the churches are involved in this stuff in any big way, they’re damned subtle about it.

There does seem to be a certain occasional presence outside the local Planned Parenthood office, the Fetus Patrol valiantly saving beating hearts from pregnant teens bent on murder, but these may be volunteer bleeding-heart conservatives rather than church-affiliated ones.

But other than that, hmm. I don’t see it. I see castles. This being one of America’s older cities, growing up in a time when Jesus needed big free-standing buildings and not these upstart boutique churches shoved into strip mall storefronts, I see castles, and plenty of them.

Here, I’ll show you a few pictures from my neighborhood so you can judge for yourself. Bear in mind these are all within a 15-minute walk from where I live. (Click and click again to enlarge photos.)

What do the local atheists have? Don’t know about where you live, but around here we have a Meetup group that rents the back room of a local pub every month or so. And nothing else.

I went to the Reason Rally in Washington DC a while back, and I can’t tell you how AT HOME I felt, for the first time in my reasoning life. I also got invited to speak at Eschaton 2012 in Ottawa last November. But generally, the society in which I live offers friendly events and services for my type about as often as Great Comets appear in the sky.

So I started thinking about that “something” we atheists COULD have. You know, if we worked to create it. What I came up with, I dubbed Beta Culture.

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[ Continue with Beta Culture: Patheos Intro, Part 2. ]


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