Tag Archives: god

For Families in Hiding

science picSometimes, atheists email me from parts of the world where apostasy is a serious crime. It’s hard to imagine how frightening it must be to live in a society where, if you don’t believe in god or religion, you or your family could be put to death. When I hear these stories, it makes me realize how lucky so many of us are to live in countries where we can choose to believe or not believe. While things are not perfect, our battles are small in comparison.

This short post is for those families who must hide. I, as I’m sure many do, admire your bravery. You are not alone. There are many parents like you, both near you and far away.

So you ask: How can you raise your child or children as logical, free thinkers without bringing harm to them?
Be sure to read to them – a lot – about all sorts of topics, from all different points of view. Include them in discussions about politics, history, about how things work. Teach them about types of logical fallacies.  Teach them how to question  in their reasoning. Teach them to play chess. Teach them your morality. They will follow your example. They will learn what is important from you and what is not. Stay the course. You’re doing the right thing, the best thing for your children.
Friends and readers — if you have ideas for parents who are raising their kids to be humanists in countries where they could be put to death, please share your suggestions. We’re all in this together, no matter where we live.

Ted Cruz Doesn’t Know Climate Change

In a recent CNN interview, Ted Cruz claimed that, “Climate change, as they have defined it, can never be disproved, because whether it gets hotter or whether it gets colder, whatever happens, they’ll say, well, it’s changing, so it proves our theory.”

There’s another theory that fits every situation: It’s called the theory of God. No matter what, he is always the answer.

But climate change is actually easier to see and prove than the existence of a supreme being. Like the human body, the earth maintains a relatively constant temperature, balancing the energy coming in from the sun and the energy radiated back into space. We can be thankful for the naturally-occurring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and water, which have helped sustain our warmer, life-inducing conditions. If we had no atmosphere, our planet’s average surface temperature would be around 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

We really don’t need degrees in chemistry or environmental science to realize that anthropogenic activities can and do result in changes to our environment, even increases in temperatures. Let’s start with something we all know. Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, heard or felt by humans, yet we can all agree that it exists and that it is harmful. What happens when you close your garage door and start your car? Your car’s engine will produce carbon monoxide because it cannot get enough air to complete combustion, resulting in C + ½ O2 . The air in your garage becomes a toxic cocktail for you to breathe, and it’s a direct result of a human activity.

We know that what comes out of the tailpipe of one car can change the air within a space in a short amount of time. Now take millions of cars and put them into the garage of our atmosphere, our breathing space, and let them run nonstop.  Although carbon monoxide is still present in our exhaust, the bigger threat coming out of our tailpipes is CO2, which acts as a blanket, trapping heat inside our atmosphere. For each gallon of gas burned, it’s a measureable fact that twenty pounds of CO2 are emitted. Every year, those of us who drive are responsible for tons of CO2 emissions. Just as clouds act as a cover, reducing the solar heat that reaches us from above on cloudy days, greenhouse gases trap and redirect infrared radiation back to the planet, reducing the heat that is transferred out. But this is not the only problem. Carbon dioxide has a 100-year life, so the emissions we spew today will outlive us and will be a problem for our kids and grandkids.

If some folks still need convincing (not us, of course, but perhaps some of our coworkers or friends), they can try this experiment: Take two large glass jars and place a thermometer inside each jar. Cover the opening of the first jar with a glass plate. Leave the second glass jar uncovered. Expose the jars to sun and record the temperature every fifteen minutes for an hour.  The covered jar will be the warmest because the plate traps the sun’s energy and increases the temperature, just as the “CO2 blanket” does in our atmosphere. The same effect happens in our cars on sunny days.

We can see that climate change is not a hoax by the liberal media. We can and do have an effect on our environment. The fact that the scientific community has shifted its focus from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change” shows an ethical and honest approach.  As we add new information and understandings, we should refine our understanding of the world around us. That’s what honest people are supposed to do.

According to the 2013 Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Texans believe that global warming is happening. More than half of us believe that the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and 69% of us believe that individuals should be doing more to address the issue.

Mr. Cruz, along with many of our state’s politicians, do not represent the majority of us but rather a relatively small and well-organized vocal minority—The Tea Party.  Our representatives realize that, in Texas, these unhappy folks will throw money, effort and votes their way. This is too bad for all of us, especially in a state that emits more greenhouse gases than any other in our nation. We, of all states, should be addressing the issues.

But we cannot make a difference if our most influential leaders claim that climate change is just a hoax.  What will it take to get our politicians and their posse on board? Do we want to leave our children with problems we created, or do we want to acknowledge the issues and work together?

 

 

Jesus Radicals

Happy New Year’s Eve! I hope everyone is safe and well. I’ve been traveling and unable to respond to my email this last week, so if you’ve sent me a message, I will get to it in the next few days.

Speaking of messages, I get a lot of emails asking me to reconsider god. It’s always the same arguments that people (usually Christians) want to engage me in. You know, can I prove that God’s NOT true? Why did I take hope away from my kids? Sometimes, it’s the same people who write on a weekly basis. In this new year, if you write to convince me to see the light (and you know who you are), I appreciate your efforts, and I will read your email. However, if you want me to respond, I will do so either by making your email the topic of a blog post or, if you prefer, I will answer you directly provided that you make a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s hospital for $25. You will donate to a worthy cause, and I won’t feel as if I am wasting my time responding to the same arguments over and over and over.

If you are an atheist, agnostic, humanist, naturalist or any other nonbeliever writing to share a story or a link or ask a question or even just to say “hi,” I enjoy your emails and welcome the opportunity to connect any time.

Enough of that. Let’s talk about Jesus Radicals. That’s the name of the site from which the following story comes from. (Thanks Theresa for sending the link to me!)

Here’s a  quick summary: Each day, three loyal women of Christ pass a calendar stand on their way to work. On the weekend of Black Friday, they decided they’d had enough. They were offended by the site of scantily-clad girls on the front of calendars.  The anonymous author of the article writes, “Each passing encounter forced a specific sexuality and beauty standard upon us, and we couldn’t take it anymore.”

Being a woman, I understand that some of my fellow females choose to objectify themselves, but they do so knowingly and for a price, both in physical and emotional currency. That’s their choice. It’s one thing to make a living as a swimsuit model and quite another to be an eight-year-old beauty pageant contestant, strutting across the stage in a swimsuit. (Where is the outrage and activism over that?) Christians might also remember that the Bible is full of stories about women who are sold, rapes and mistreated, that the most important woman, Mary, did not have a choice when she became God’s receptacle and incubator for the great savior of the human race, a man who would grow up to inspire thousands years of conflict with anyone who didn’t believe in him.

But back to the story. So what do the Jesus Radicals advocate? “If your environment disturbs you, disturb it.”

That’s right folks. If your surroundings irritate or make you feel uncomfortable, then you should feel free to break any commandment or secular law you want: steal and destroy personal property, cause harm to others who make you feel uncomfortable, insist that every person think and believe exactly as you do or you will commit acts of terrorism.

But understand this. If we, as individuals, are uncomfortable with the standards and values one group “forces on us,” then the miscreants of Jesus should be ready for Secular Radicals to steal their Christian-themed calendars and their Bibles and “gift books” from stores (Costco, watch out). Because what they are promoting has nothing to do with the teachings of JC, but everything to do with encouraging intolerance,  self-righteousness, jealousy and narcissistic personality disorders.

And breaking the law? “It will be easy and fun.”

Moral Limbo

In “Why There is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist,” yet another poorly-reasoned attack on atheists, Pastor Rick Henderson writes this in his conclusion: “One sign that your worldview may be a crutch is that it has to appeal to an answer outside itself…”

Here we go again. Does this guy listen to himself talk?

Yeah, you, Rick Henderson, do you realize that in your worldview you appeal to an answer outside yourself? You cannot know right from wrong until you consult your moral shaman; you must ask yourself, WWJD?  That’s scary as hell to me.

And the answers you receive?

(Silence)

We are waiting.

Right. It’s not for us to know or understand or blah blah blah. Because this all-knowing, all-powerful god is either fucking with us or is blind, deaf and/or mute.

My patience is wearing thin for people who climb atop their imaginary moral high horse and preach. If you need to believe that there is a super-human being in the sky who wrote The Definitive Book on Human Ethics (nonhumans have a different guide), then perhaps you should be asking that being what he based his sense of decency on, how he came up with his “objective” laws, and why he cannot enforce them.

I know. It’s scary as hell to think we’re all alone here on Planet E.  We’re like prisoners without a warden. If all humans thought that no one was in charge, we’d have anarchy, right? People would kill their neighbors, fornicate with farm animals, eat their young. (OMG!) We need god to be good boys and girls.

But wait. Atheists cannot be bad or immoral either, for if we don’t believe in god and his objective good, then we cannot know what is objectively bad or immoral. Following Henderson’s reasoning, because evil exists in the world and in human nature, we now have to say that someone or something placed it there. There is also a Definitive Book of Wickedness. So, according to those who believe as Henderson does, there are no morally bad atheists either because we don’t believe in their god hypothesis.

I suppose then, you and I live in a state of moral limbo, incapable of understanding what is right because we have no super-daddy to tell us these things.  One of the problems with this very simplistic worldview is that people like Henderson fail to understand that morality is not that simple. It’s a changing, growing thing. A consensus.

Killing is wrong. We all agree with that. But what if you had a chance to kill a woman who was holding hundreds hostage? You’d kill her, right? Or would you put down your gun, remembering the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” What about our soldiers and police officers who kill to protect the public or our nation’s economic interests? (Freedom is not free!) If you believe in god’s commandments, then there are no exceptions, unless one was specifically stated by The Man himself in a verifiable way. (Hearsay doesn’t count.)  If you believe as atheists do, then you understand taking out the woman hostage-taker is not a moral crime.

That’s all I have to say about this. I’m tired of beating religion’s dead horse.

God Forgives Them

There was an article up on CNN today about serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin. He’s a very religious man who lived a life counter to religion’s teachings, further proof that religion has no bearing on morality. But I only wanted to post this so that I could ask a question.

Franklin says he’s going to heaven because he’s repented. He says, “”The scriptures tell us when someone repents, God forgives them. Everything is forgotten, once forgiven.”

How do sinners know they’ve properly repented and that God has now approved their passports for passage to heaven?

This is the underbelly of the religious system. You can ferry all the guilt away simply by imagining your father has forgiven you. You’re still a child. You never grow up and assume the responsibility and repercussions of living by your own, internal moral code. It’s too bad we can’t rewrite the Bible to say, “You only get one shot at heaven, so don’t f*ck up. You will not be absolved.”

It seems damn unfair that this guy finds peace and relief in believing that he’s been forgiven.

Thankfully, our criminal justice system is not so forgiving.

 

Let’s not pick on Oprah

Jesus Keyrist, really? Do we really want an apology from Oprah? I’ve seen several articles now screaming, “Atheists want an apology from Oprah!”

Please. No. That is not necessary. We’re starting to look like a bunch of whiney babies. Watch the video. Decide for yourself. It’s harmless. Oprah is courteous and curious. She’s giving her opinion–as she always does; she clearly means no harm.  I get what both of them are saying.

If you watch the entire interview, you’ll see that Diane Nyad doesn’t even believe like many of us nonbelievers. She believes the soul lives on after death, that we can feel “collective souls.” That sounds pretty new-agey to me. It echoes the Jewish and Christian and Hindu and Buddhist idea of an essence that exists separately from the body.  There are a lot of us who would disagree, who would say there is no such thing as a “soul.”

And yet, it’s such a little thing.

So as for the “atheists in awe” comment, it’s no big deal to me.  And I hope there are a lot more out there who think so, too, after watching the interview. Besides, we have bigger proverbial fish to fry.

Get to know your atheists

Here are some interesting numbers from an article titled, Conjuring up Our Own Gods:

8 in 10 Americans believe in angels
1 in 5 of Americans have experienced ghosts
1 in 7 have seen a psychic
3 in 4 Americans believe in something paranormal
4 in 10 believe houses could be haunted

Holy sh*t. That’s a lot of folks who believe in the supernatural.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the reason why a few scholars believe that we are hard-wired for believing in things we can’t see:

“….the fear that one would be eaten by a lion, or killed by a man who wanted your stuff, shaped the way our minds evolved. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were more likely to survive if they interpreted ambiguous noise as the sound of a predator. Most of the time it was the wind, of course, but if there really was danger, the people who worried about it were more likely to live. That inclination to search for an agent has evolved into an intuition that an invisible agent, or god, may be there.”

Wait, what? Did I miss something here or does this researcher jump from point A to point D. If I’m a cavewoman who is afraid of being attacked by my neighbor in the next cave, then I’m worried about the physical threat I know. It is a huge stretch to say that this fear of danger (a helpful thing) developed into “an intuition that an invisible agent, or god, may be there” (not a helpful thing). Yes, I’ll buy that only the paranoid survive, but there’s a reason why our presidents are surrounded by armed guards and not ghost-busters.

Like children, the human race has had its developmental milestones. At some point, man looked to the sky to figure out where all the wet stuff came from. We see our children do this when they become aware of the world around them. Perhaps, early man thought, there’s a person up there since people can make water when they cry.  Maybe we can ask that person to please stop dumping all this cold, wet stuff on us.  I use this example because some humans still say this. I have heard a religious mother tell this to her child when it was raining: god is crying because he is sad; he doesn’t like what people are doing.

It would also make sense that humans don’t all develop at the same rates, even though, as a species, we know where rain now comes from. So some of us have outgrown god.  Some of us still need–or just want–god. And some of us continue to use god as a tool to harvest followers. I’d say a certain senator from Texas (ahem, Ted Cruz) is a living, breathing god-king. Maybe he prayed with Rick Perry for rain. Mr. Cruz (looks suspiciously like the devil)

Back to the article, these researchers also found out that, if some folks (like this guy named Jack) work really hard, they can “create thought-forms, or imagined creatures, called tulpas.” You might wonder if this is how Lars and the Real Girl was conceived.

Luhrmann says, “The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche.”

Ummm. Not so sure about that.  Isn’t this what many of us did as children? We created imaginary friends or playmates? Yet when we mature to adulthood, we know that our imaginary friends do not exist; they cannot talk to us. We outgrow them. So perhaps these believers haven’t finished developing or perhaps they are mentally ill or perhaps they become writers who realize that they can vividly imagine characters for their stories.

But the following quote from Luhrmann is the reason I sat down to write this. Many people don’t understand what it means to be an atheist: “….just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots.”

I find this terribly insulting to those who don’t believe. If you reject the god myth, and you understand that praying for trivial things like wins for football games illustrates just how self-centered humans can be, why would you pray for a parking spot? Who does that, for godssake?

To top off her assumptions, Luhrmann writes, “Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard.”

That’s funny, right? I doubt that many churchgoers think they need to work to keep their god real. And I’ve never heard a secularist say that believing in god is lazy. IMO, it takes more work to believe, both physically and emotionally.  You’ve got to groom kids early to believe; you’ve got to constantly refer to your preferred religious text for answers. You’ve got to go to church and Sunday school and watch Fox News every day to continue the reinforcement. There’s a hell of a lot of energy that goes into living fearful lives, trying to please an invisible god and judgmental preachers. But there’s got to be a payoff for the energy expended, and religion does seem to bring comfort to many.

If we were to look at religion from the child development angle, we’d see that religion is delaying development by reinforcing the idea that the world doesn’t exist without us, that we will live forever and ever.  Yes, we disappear after our bodies are gone. The world doesn’t.

While believing in god does take work, living without god, takes courage.

I’m sorry for picking on Luhrmann today–usually I enjoy her writing. I think that she took the lazy way out here: perhaps she should have interviewed some real-live atheists before she wrote this piece.

An Atheist Case for Hope

I have another guest post today. This one is from Derrick, a life-long atheist and a regular participant here on this blog.  His topic is of particular interest for me. I recently had a discussion with a Christian on another blog who believes that we (atheists/agnostics/humanists) will one day wake up and realize that our lives are meaningless and without hope—and this will prompt us to run back to God. Derrick addresses this misconception that we have no hope. Thanks, Derrick, for sharing your thoughts here!

Remember: if you’d like to share your questions, insights or experiences, drop me a line to the email in the sidebar.

An Atheist Case for Hope

First and foremost, a sincere thank you to Debbie for suggesting I contribute a guest post and then graciously accepting it. This is truly a community of many voices. To begin…

James Freeman Clarke once noted  “The atheists have no hope.” [1] [2]

This phrase has been trumpeted repeatedly by theists for over a century. Freeman’s idea was that without god there could be no redemption and no ever-lasting life. This, to him who was a very devote man, caused life to lose all hope. The phrase is routinely trotted out and lobbed at atheists although the connection to the author of it is regularly lost or misunderstood.[3] [4] Moreover, the entire concept is patently absurd.

Hope, to begin with, is not the sole property of theists. There is nothing inherently special about hope, except that it is often the foundation of why most people continue to move forward through life. It is not the province of any deity in any manner, yet theists like to state without hesitation that atheists are devoid of hope. They argue the rejection of god and religion strips atheists of this vital human force. Even more important is that at the heart of the theist argument lies a truly bleak philosophy.

Consider that a good many of the world’s religions contain some sort of apocalypse in their theology. Think about this: most religion are actively awaiting the end of the world. Christians are especially prone to this because of the Book of Revelations. These types of theology look forward to a torrent of destruction and suffering. Their only hope, and the irony of that phrase is well understood, is if they are just righteous enough to escape eternal damnation and torment. This is not hope: this is fear.

In short, theists contend it takes god – or rather the act of redemption and salvation through a deity – to offer any kind of hope for humans. Without it, they hold, mankind is left wandering aimlessly in the void without any real sense of meaning or an objective for living. In their framework of thinking, evil would continue to exist and gnaw away at the human spirit. Furthermore, this would mean humans are enslaved to the single goal of being spared damnation by their god. One has to argue and wonder how anyone could consider this type of philosophy emotionally or mentally healthy. Once again, this is not hope by any stretch of the imagination. It is the exact opposite in most respects.

How then can atheists have hope? Consider that Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines hope as “…to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true….”[5] What is interesting about this definition is it tends to be a central element of atheist thinking. Atheists realize we have only one shot at this life. We get one chance. As a result, most atheists tend to think very actively about her or his existence, the relationship this singular existence has to other people, and the impact it will have in the long run. Most atheists want to do something adding to the collective good. A great many atheists think about the future quite a lot and regularly in constructive ways.

The promise of hope requires action. Thus, a proactive life begins with hope. It is mired in hope. It oozes hope. Atheists tend to concern themselves with ideas of how to make the here and now better, and how to make certain it does not detract from the collective good of future generations. There is a belief, a hope if you will, that if we act properly today with forethought, then tomorrow will be better and brighter. Atheists cannot wait for divine intervention to make things right. There is no hiding behind some mystery plan waiting to unfold: life demands action in the present moment. It requires concerned, good people to make it happen.

Atheism tends to free people from the shackles of fear placed on them by religion. Once free of fear, something moves into takes its place. More often than not, it is hope that wins and not despair or a sense of futility. Existence takes on a dynamic realism with a need to live and experience life. The mind awakens and begins to see that life can and should be different… better. Realization of the difference demands a mindset that seeks solutions. Living for the here and now does not equate to hedonism: it routinely equates to a call to action. Life without action is stagnant. Atheists are far from stagnant.

The most interesting and spectacular part of atheist hope is that it includes everyone. Theists are not left out in the cold. This is not a coddling or mothering demeanor, but one of real inclusion. We tend not to discriminate. We want everyone to be happy, almost regardless of their beliefs. Atheists, in the end, have hope enough for everyone.

– Derrick

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)


 

Losing our humanity

     I read a story this weekend on CNN called Holy Trollers: How to Argue About Religion Online. Of course, many of the commenters missed the point of the article. It made me appreciative of the people who comment here, who speak not to offend but to understand and inform. (So, first, a big thanks to you guys.)
     For the rest of the country, it sure would be nice if we could get to the point where there was no arguing, where there was just acceptance and understanding on both sides. But I guess that will only come when we all realize that belief in god is a choice and a preference, and not a commandment and requirement.
     You might wonder why I bother blogging. I wonder this, too. What’s the point? None of this matters. The debates over god and religion go around and around and around, with name-calling and personal attacks from both sides. There seems to be no linear movement, just one dizzying dispute after another, like a dog chasing its tail.
     When I was blogging in the early 2000’s, I was trying to connect to other parents. There wasn’t much talk about being agnostic or atheist, especially as a woman and a mom. I was frustrated at facing so much negativity and misunderstanding around nonbelievers where I live, and I was growing irritated with the assumption that we all are or should be believers in God and Jesus. 
     A few years later, I wrote an article for the local paper about being an agnostic and wanting religion handled fairly in school. I received a lot of feedback, people “calling me home,” but none of it nasty. Then new atheism came along like a steamroller, and the four horsemen proposed beating back religion with a stick. You and I understand where they are coming from. We’re tired of the assumptions, of being forced to bend to the will of those who believe their religion should be our law and our life. We don’t like being told that we’re the reason for the world’s evils and that religion makes a person better.
     But it seems like this new movement has hurt our humanity. Abraham Lincoln, in closing his first inaugural address, reminded the country that we are not enemies, but friends: “Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” We’ve all become defensive and self-righteous that we don’t see our friends and neighbors on the other side. We shoot to maim or kill. Just check out the comments in the CNN piece above or the iReport I wrote earlier in the year. One wonders how fellow humans can be so cruel.
     I realize that one reason this hostility prevails is because people can comment anonymously, and they feel that they can be as nasty as they want. But, really, is that who they–who we–want to be? Wouldn’t we be ashamed to hear our mothers or our children speaking that way? 
     I also realize that part of this nastiness grows out of the sensationalist culture and the fact that sites like CNN do not discourage people from vomiting their vile thoughts all over the page. These big news organizations–CNN, Fox and the like–are feeding the frenzy. I imagine them dropping stories like bits of flesh into a school of piranhas and watching the attack, laughing at how base we all are. Now who’s playing god?
     What I’m trying to say is, can we make changes without losing our humanity? Can we respectfully encourage the religious to move over, to keep their religion in church and out of our schools and government? We don’t mind if someone says bless you; we understand that’s their way. We just don’t want god forced on us or our children. And we don’t want god to represent, oversee or guide our nation; we elect humans for that.
     I’m guilty, too. I’ve helped spread discontent with the words I use and the things I write about. I refer to god as imaginary, no doubt offending readers who do believe. What I should say is that god is not real for me. I have no faith, but I should not try to tear down other’s faith in the process.
     So I will try to be more aware of my language because, after reading Holy Trollers, the last thing I want to be is one of those folks spreading hate. I don’t want to shame my friends or make family members feel stupid for believing.
     In the meantime, how can our nation make progress on this issue without losing our humanity?

See You at The Pole Wednesday

Sh*t. I almost forgot. Our principal sent us reminders that tomorrow, at 7:00 a.m., is the annual See You at The Pole Day.  Christian students will meet at the flag poles on public school campuses across the nation and pray.

That’s super-nice of this principal, considering I’m pretty certain that he wouldn’t do this for just any event.  (And for those of you living in my town, perhaps you know who “he” is.)  It sort of feels like an endorsement of his religion, but it is his school, and in his school, he’s god. Wait. Wrong movie.  He’s not god; he just gets to promote god.

Sigh.

I’m sure not everyone has received a reminder, and I just thought I’d give you a heads up in case you were wondering why the kids (but hopefully not the administrators–hint, hint) are gathered around the flag pole. No, it’s not a group dance lesson. It’s “…all about young people, desperate for God, inviting Him to intervene and make “His kingdom come” among their friends, in their communities, and in our nation.”

So, if you’re at school at 7:00 a.m. and feel inspired, give a honk, wave or hold up your own special symbol in support of everyone’s right to free speech.