Monthly Archives: September 2015

Things Not to Say to Secular Parents

Oh brother!I found this list I started working on called, “things not to say to secular parents.” So I’m going to discuss a few here in hopes that it might help other parents.

Over the years, I’ve always been a little surprised by the responses from people when I tell them I’m not raising my kids to believe in God. Interestingly, many of the comments and protests from believers are remarkably similar. Yet all of the comments are just as remarkably uninformed.

Here are my responses to some of those questions and comments:

  1. “If something happened to one of your kids, you would want to believe they are in heaven.”

No, actually I would not want to believe this. Let’s say heaven does exist: not only is it dark and cold beyond words, there is absolutely nothing to do. Forever and ever. You exist in an eternity without a physical being, without a mind and you’re sharing the same living space with ex-boyfriends, ex-wives, bosses you didn’t like, and crotchety neighbors. No, I don’t want my children to live on in a perpetual nothingness. I’d want to know that they thrived on this planet, with as much awareness and love as they could stand. I’d want to know that they enjoyed every second of their short visit here. From where I’m standing, heaven is merely ego’s wishful thinking. Heaven is here. Heaven is our awareness that being here is a good thing.

  1. “But you believe in evolution and science. Those are beliefs, too.”

I believe in science, but that is different from saying, “I believe in God.” I believe in science means that I put faith in the people and institutions that are doing the work, that I have confidence in their methods. I could do the math or science myself, if I had the time and the education. But you and I cannot specialize in everything. We cannot do all things. So we must trust that others are doing their jobs, the same jobs that we could do, using the same methods that we were all taught and have agreed are worthy of our trust and confidence. These things are provable and repeatable and verifiable across the scientific community.

“I believe in God,” as many philosophers have noted, is an existential claim that is made when the thing believed is unrealistic, unproven or highly unlikely. There are other such claims: I believe that eating more burgers before conceiving will create a boy baby. I believe that kissing a frog will produce a prince. I believe in the tooth fairy. Vampires. Leprechauns. Water nymphs. God.

  1. “Belief in nothing is still belief in something.”

This is one of those puerile platitudes that just is not true. I don’t believe in unicorns. Do you? No? Is that a belief in something? If so, what?

Many Christian apologists will insist that atheism is a “belief system” or a religion, too. This is simply an attempt to equalize the two, to bring unbelief on the opposite side of the equation from religion, which is a belief system. If, believers postulate, both sides are “beliefs” and if one is free to choose from two separate–but seemingly equal–systems, then it standardizes religion. Religion is now logical like math and science. Science and math now require a leap of faith. Belief and unbelief are simply one of two choices that any reasonable person can make. This is not logical. One person’s belief in God cannot create two religions: theism and atheism.

This concludes my Sunday rant. I should note that, in spite of all the religious silliness I’ve encountered, I adore Pope Francis. He is a great example of a humanist.

Please feel free to add your, “Things not to say to secular parents” below.

Religious Liberty Exemptions, Lawmakers, and Stupidity

Many of you are probably sick and damn tired of hearing about Kim Davis, who has been made famous, or infamous, depending on your view, by refusing to follow U.S. laws and choosing instead to follow her imaginary  god’s law. She represents the problem that many of us have with a certain segment of Christians: they want to impose their religion, their beliefs, and their morality on everyone. It’s not enough that they believe stupid, unjust or irrational things; they want all of us to follow along as well. And if we don’t, well, they’ll bully us until we do.

So Davis doesn’t believe that her god thinks gay marriage is moral? Fine. In her next marriage (and by now surely everyone has heard that Davis has been married four times), she should not marry a woman. All of this has nothing to do with her job, which is to be the conduit of the law for fellow citizens.

The funny thing is, she doesn’t even realize that she is just following silly memes impregnated into her brain by religion, most likely by her pastor. God says homosexuality is a sin. Did she ask god, the same god who also says not to judge, not to usurp his powers? Of course not. She’s just caught up in the script of her church’s morality play.

And now we have the story of a Muslim flight attendant who was suspended for refusing to serve alcohol. Ms. Stanley converted to Islam two years ago, and her very subjective beliefs now affect her ability to do her job. Her god says that she cannot drink alcohol and neither should anyone else.

You know what? If the god of your imagination tells you not to marry someone of the same-sex or not to drink alcohol, good for you. Don’t drink; don’t have a same-sex marriage. But you cannot decide for others, and if it’s your job to serve others, and you cannot understand that you must separate your subjective judgments from your paid work as an employee, then find another job. If my god says I have to fast during a certain holiday, or that I cannot eat meat at certain times, and I work as a server, is it acceptable that I don’t serve food or meat during the times my god says not to? It may seem extreme but it’s the same logic. What if I convert to Religion X, and my god says that I cannot work on Wednesdays–and neither should my clients–because working too much is bad for the soul? Shouldn’t I receive the same respect for my beliefs that others want to give Davis and Stanley?

I sure hope that our lawmakers will not be like Davis’ husband, who said, “I’m just an old, dumb, country hillbilly, but I know God…” Once you allow citizens the right to claim religious liberty exemptions, you have created “micro-lawmakers”: you allow citizens who claim this exemption to make and change public policy according to their beliefs and their whims. That is not fair or just. That is not a democracy. Davis and Stanley are not choosing between their career and religion. If they don’t like their job functions, if they feel they are unable to perform, they can find another, more suitable job for their judgmental personalities. Or, like the rest of us, they can perform their jobs realizing that there are some things they don’t like but must do, as long as those job functions are legal and not causing harm to others. However, that requires a certain level of maturity, morality and cognizance that some folks don’t seem to have.

The two cases are a good springboard for a discussion with our kids. Whether it’s refusing to fill a prescription for the morning-after pill or issue a marriage license, should one person be allowed to affect or prohibit the lawful behavior of another? Isn’t this a gateway to more dangerous behaviors, such as: it’s okay to kill others when justified. You know, like bomb abortion clinics or shoot people who are of a different faith?

Let’s hope that our nation’s lawmakers see past this religious ruse.