Monthly Archives: January 2013

God Influences Sporting Events

Thanks to Trishia Jacobs who sent this link from CNN.

27% of Americans believe that God plays a role in who wins sporting events (I suspect that percentage is much higher here in Texas…say around 95%).

One of the contributors to the article said that, “these figures reflect many Americans’ belief in a very active God.” So I guess, if you’re like me, you’re wondering where the heck is God the rest of the time, when he’s really needed to affect things like wars, violent crimes and natural disasters.

The article quotes one of the players, Raven’s linebacker Ray Lewis, as saying,

“God doesn’t make mistakes. He’s never made one mistake. … God is so amazing.”

Not one mistake?

When life is good for you, your god doesn’t make mistakes. When life is not good, well….that’s not for us to understand.

Thanks again, Trishia, for sharing.

Boy Scouts

Word is that the Boy Scouts will discuss removing restrictions on sexual orientation. That is a good thing.

Currently, you also have to believe in God to be a Boy Scout. We know because the younger son tried to join. He went to the meetings, made some friends, earned some badges.

Then he had to earn a religious badge. “But we aren’t religious,” I told the Scout Master, leery to use the “a” word. “It can be any God, any religion” he said as he went through his list of acceptable religions.  I finally told him we don’t worship any god.  To which he replied, “We gave up our tax-exempt status so that we could require that our members worship a god.” Oh. I said. I presented this to my son and asked him if he wanted to earn a badge from any religion of his choice. “They shouldn’t force me,” he said.

So it is OK to be anything but homosexual and agnostic/atheist. According to Chief Justic Ronald M. George in California,  “The Boy Scouts is an expressive social organization whose primary function is the inculcation of values in its young members.”  Ah, that pesky word values. I wonder if their definition of values includes love, tolerance, acceptance and open-mindedness. Or perhaps it includes teaching children how to discriminate, exclude and marginalize people who have the same hopes, dreams and feelings as everyone else.

Hopefully, the Scouts will change their anti-gay policies. Perhaps the next step to a new and improved Boy Scouts will be admitting nonbelievers.  Seeing that the Nones are on the rise, this would not only be a good thing but a necessary thing.

Teachers

I was looking through my school district’s policy about allowing religious viewpoints in the schools. I came across the following quote on the district’s site, which supports some of the comments in the “Education” post. Looks like you cannot pull religion out of the classroom:

Play@Work is a campaign designed to share how MISD teachers incorporate their passion for a particular subject or topic into daily classroom lessons. Play@Work is about how teachers all across the district are applying the concept of play to their work. This simple act creates learning environments that are engaging, inspiring, and fun!

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” James A. Michener

Evangelicals

I showed my older son the video, Gospel of Intolerance, by Roger Ross Williams. You can find it on this NY Times link. You can also find the video in this article. It might be a good piece to share with your children.

American Evangelicals have turned their fight against “sexual immorality” to countries such as Uganda, which are more malleable to influences tied to donations. Sexual immorality is defined as anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Currently, those behaviors are against the law in Uganda, and there is a bill on the table again to make repeat offenders suffer harsh punishments, even death.

My son watched this video (he’s become a little cynical at this point). He shook his head and said, “Why do people care so much about other’s choices?”

I thought this video was a great jumping off point to discuss religion, politics and what it means to give. Here are some questions to get a dialogue going with children. Feel free to add more:

Evangelicals have invested a lot of money in building churches in Uganda. Why do you think they do this?
How are the “laws” of a church made? How are the laws in our government made?
What does it mean to be immoral and who defines this?
What does it mean to donate? If you tie a request or a condition to a donation, is that selfless or altruistic (a trait churches value)?
Why do you think some churches and their congregations care about the homosexuality issue?
If a person is gay or lesbian, how does his or her sexual preference affect society?
What would happen if homosexuality were made illegal in America? Do you think people would change their behaviors? What costs or benefits would be associated with changing the laws?

Choices

So much to say. I am very touched by the kindness and respect of almost all of the people who reached out here on this blog. This is our discussion; this is our issue to move forward. It’s obviously the right time. CNN told me that the essay that brought you here had the most page views and the most comments of any iReport. Every one of you has contributed to chipping away at the stigma (an appropriate word) towards non-believers, or even of those who have beliefs outside the mainstream.

I didn’t get a chance to read many of the comments on CNN. There were just too many, and there was a lot of fighting. But I did notice a common theme from the comments I’d read. Believers think that we aren’t giving our kids a choice. That’s just not correct. We can tell our children stories of the Lochness Monster. We can tell them the legends, the unproven stories of a water creature that would be discounted as hearsay in court. We would not be offering a choice; we would be convincing, persuading, or as some would say, brainwashing.

As a parent, we make many decisions for our kids: where they live, what they eat, the schools they attend. It is our choice to decide if we should pass faith onto our children. Faith is unsubstantiated. Faith, as we all know, is not fact. When our children are old enough to process and think through issues on their own, then they can make their own choices.

Before that, our children just need to know that we are honest with them. If we do not believe, why would we push someone else’s belief system onto our kids? That would be dishonest. This is not to say that Christian parents and parents of other faiths are not being honest. They are believers, so that is their reality. We are nonbelievers and this is ours.

Compliance

First, I wanted to thank everyone who reached out here to share their experiences or their views. It is very encouraging to see the kindness of strangers. I was truly moved. Hopefully, by speaking up, we can all make a difference.

Has anyone seen the movie Compliance? If you’ve never seen it, it’s about a man who calls fast food restaurants, pretends to be a cop, and asks the managers to strip search employees. (Read more here.) If you’ve never seen it, and want to rent it, I won’t tell you too much. Sadly, the film is based on actual events. I’ll just share a few things.

When told that the caller was a cop, managers followed the instructions of the “police officer,” even though the requests were illogical or immoral. There were a few who doubted and refused to follow instructions, but there were many who did exactly as asked. I’m sure you know where I am going with this.

We are trained to respect authority, not to doubt, not to question. The caller in the film exploits that weakness. The problem is that we are so conditioned to accept what we hear as true, we oftentimes relinquish our common sense. Authority does have its place, bringing order and safety to society. But we have to keep our radar up at all times; we have to keep that sense, that small voice, which tells us something is not right, no matter who is saying it. The movie is frustrating to watch–I know becuase I watched it last night. We think, who would continue to take those instructions? Would I? I suppose until we are in a situation like that, we just don’t know.

But I do know that the radar, telling us something is not right brought us here. It brought us to the place where we’ve rejected the notion of god that many of our authority figures have held as true. We were not compliant.

Discussions

When I wrote the piece that appeared on CNN, I wrote it as an iReport. I just wanted to get my voice out there about some misconceptions. I wanted to be heard and understood. I wanted people to know that those of us who don’t believe are not bad. We DO have morals. We’re kind, loving people who want the same things as people who believe: we want to raise good children and have good lives.

I was shocked by the amount of response, and even more shocked by the number of people, both from faith and from no faith, who supported agnostics/atheists. If you’re a non-believer, you expect people to be angry. I did not take that personally. Those people lash out because of their own fears and insecurities. But I was floored by the amount of people who felt the same way. I don’t feel so isolated, and I hope others feel the same way.

I was also glad that this opened up a dialogue, and it brought doubters out, made them want to speak up. It’s sort of like immunotherapy: every time we talk about this, each discussion, can move us closer to mainstream acceptance. It means that our children may live in a world where religion does not dominate a political discussion, where they can speak up and say, “No thanks, I don’t believe.” It means that we will never have to worry about Creationism sneaking into our classrooms and textbooks.

For now, I have to admit, I am relieved that I have been able to retain anonymity in my community. Writing this piece has shown me how many kind and thoughtful people are out there, but it has also reminded me that there are a few very, very angry people. These people make nonbelievers fearful. We’re seen as the Devil’s work, and if you believe that the Devil controls people like puppets, then I don’t know what other realities you have trouble with.

One more observation…I see that one popular argument against agnostics and atheists is that “we don’t understand.” Or, we haven’t tried religion. Very few of the people who commented had actually been raised without religion. Most of us have been there, done that. We’ve given a lot of thought and reflection to our stance. We read religious texts and books. We didn’t come to this place of disbelief lightly. It’s a difficult place to be. It takes some getting used to. There are no safety nets. There’s no big guy in the sky watching our backs.

It can sometimes be a scary place, but knowing there are other people out there who have these same views is comforting.

Still plugging away…

I continue to make my way through and respond to the comments. I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to reach out. Yes, there have been some negative remarks, especially on CNN’s site, but I am floored by the overwhelming good will from people of all beliefs. It is so interesting to read about other’s stories, struggles and views. 

I know that CNN had a problem with people flagging the piece as inappropriate. I think that some folks still fear that a lack of belief in God means that there will be lawlessness, lewdness and immorality. A shift in an important paradigm such as faith in God is unbearable for some because belief provides such a strong underpinning and moral compass. I do understand. I guess the only thing we can do is remain true to our ideas and principles, too, and the agnostics/atheists/free-thinkers will gain the same acceptance. (I’d like to see atheist or agnostic as an option to check on college applications…)

At least we have the freedom and rights in this country to speak out, and we are lucky to have news venues that allow us to present other views. Although we have very vocal extremes in the US, at least we don’t have radical religious groups taking hostages….

Your Comments

Thank you to those who’ve reached out to comment here on this blog (whether we agree or not in our views).  Sorry it’s taking me so long to respond. I didn’t expect so many here. But if you’ve taken the time to write me, I WILL take the time to understand and respond to everyone who has commented here.

I’m in awe of the 99% of the people who have been so kind and respectful. And I’m really enjoying the stories many of you have shared….

 

 

The War on Christmas

Atheists in a war over Christmas should stop bullying their way into the spotlight. There should be no war over Christmas. There should be no war. If people want to believe, they should be allowed to believe.

No one should take away the right to believe in God or to worship–just as no one should take away the right not to.