Posts Tagged 'Atheist'

Rufus Wainwright’s Atheist Christmas

I happened to turn on the TV to This Hour Has 22 Minutes just as this came on:

Merry Saturday Night, atheists!

PS: Woohoo I can embed videos now!

PPS: Aw it’s been a long time since I’ve watched 22 Minutesmemories!

The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day



Awhile back (a long while), someone named Chris commented on my Reading List page (which I have to update) that I should read The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day. Since it’s free to download I agreed, but so far I haven’t gotten past the first chapter. I thought I would write about the first section of the first chapter, and then maybe you can tell me if it’s even worth my time to keep reading.

 

The first chapter is called A Pride of Atheists (barf). Below is the text of the book in black, and my comments in red.

 ***

don’t care if you go to Hell. Shit! Well that’s one way to kick off your book.

 

God does, assuming He exists and assuming you know the mind of God, or He okay this is only the second “He” in this chapter and I’m already annoyed at the capitalizing of the word “he”…God cares about me but he’ll hold it against me if I don’t capitalize a pronoun? wouldn’t have bothered sending His Son to save you from it. Jesus Christ does, too, assuming he existed, if you’ll accept for the sake of argument that he went to all the trouble of incarnating as a man, dying on the cross, and being resurrected from the dead in order to hand you a Get Out of Hell Free card. Is God not omnipotent? He really had to go to all that trouble to give me a Get Out of Hell Free card? And if he went to all that trouble why is my ticket out of hell so conditional? Free my ass!

 

 

Me, not so much. I don’t know you. I don’t owe you anything. I don’t know you either, Vox Day, but if I thought you were going to hell I would care. I’d be absolutely outraged. Nobody deserves eternal torment. While as a Christian I am called to share the Good News with you, I can’t force you to accept it. Horse, water, drink, and all that. Barf.

 

So, it’s all on you. Your soul is not my responsibility.

 

I am a Christian. I’m also a libertarian. I believe in free will and in allowing you to exercise it. I believe that our free will is a gift from our Creator and that He expects us to use it. I believe in living and letting live. If you’ll leave me alone, I’ll be delighted to do you the courtesy of leaving you alone in return. I have no inherent problem with atheists or agnostics, I have no problem with Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Pastafarians, and I have no problem with the crazies who believe that humanity is the result of ancient alien breeding experiments. To be honest, I rather like the crazies—their theories are usually the most entertaining of the lot. I believe what I believe, you believe what you believe, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t both be perfectly cool with that. Sure, fine, I can go along with that.

 

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are not so much cool with that. Wha?? Wrong, they’re fine with letting people believe what they want too. Just because they choose to talk about atheism and criticize religion doesn’t mean that they want to force their views onto other people. Richard Dawkins was even part of an ad campaign that encouraged letting children choose for themselves what they believe, rather than labelling them from birth as Christians or Muslims or atheists, etc.

 

I’m not asking you to respect my beliefs. Good, I don’t. So far I don’t particularly respect you either. I mean, you just basically told me that you’ll be fine with it if I go to Hell. Why should you? Maybe you think I’m insane because I believe that Jesus is coming back one of these days, but does my insanity actually affect you in any material way? Not insane, but perhaps misguided. But it’s your prerogative if you think zombie Jesus is coming back. Is my religious madness really all that much more out there than my faith that the Minnesota Vikings will win the Super Bowl someday? Umm yeah the idea that some guy that’s the son of God but is also God who died 2000 years ago is going to come back to life and bring everyone up to heaven with him is kinda way more out there than the possibility that the Vikings will win the Super Bowl. Go Vikings! Talk about the substance of things hoped for . . . Vegas will give you better odds on J.C. this year. Who’s in the house? J.C.! As for your beliefs, I really don’t care if you want to question God’s existence or criticize the Pope or deny the Holocaust or declare that Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet. Every member of humanity is at least a little bit crazy in his own special way, some just happen to make it a little more obvious than others. True dat, yo.

 

Vox’s First Law: Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from insanity. I guess that’s supposed to be funny or cute or something, but it just doesn’t really work.

 

All I ask, all the vast majority of the billions of people of faith on the planet ask, is to be left alone to believe what we choose to believe and live how we decide to live. That’s fine by me, if only people were content just believing what they choose to believe. Unfortunately many believers want their faith to dictate what gets taught in the science classroom, or they want to decide who can legally marry or whether a woman can choose whether or not to stay pregnant. In some places peoples’ beliefs lead to terrorism and extreme violence against women. People can believe what they want to believe, but once those beliefs start affecting other peoples’ rights, we have to speak out against it. But the Unholy Trinity have no intention of leaving me alone. Richard Dawkins accuses me of child abuse because I teach my children that God loves them even more than I do. I’m not really sure if I agree with Dawkins that labelling your kid as a Christian (or whatever religion) from birth is tantamount to child abuse, but if what you want is for people to believe what they choose to believe, shouldn’t you avoid teaching your kids that there’s a god and let them discover that for themselves? Shouldn’t you let them be exposed to many different religions and to the idea that there may be no god and let them make their own informed decision without your prodding? Sam Harris declares that I should not be tolerated and suggests that it might be ethical to kill me in preemptive self-defense. Um, what? Sam Harris said that Christians should be killed? I seriously doubt that…anyone know what he’s talking about here? Christopher Hitchens asserts that I am a form of human Drāno, poisoning everything I encounter. He said religion poisons everything, not you. And I would sooner compare you to the clog in the drain, because you’re trying to stop the discourse and have everyone shut up about their beliefs, wheras Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins want to get the debate flowing. A fourth New Atheist, the philosopher Daniel Dennett, is less judgmental, but even he, bless his heart, wants to save me from myself. At least he cares enough to want to save you, you don’t even care if he goes to hell!

 

And now we have a problem.

 

That’s why I’m writing this book. I’m not trying to convince you that God exists. Why not? If you convince atheists that God exists then they won’t be out there doing all those horrible things like talking about skepticism of religion and criticizing the Bible. I’m not trying to convince you to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I’m not even trying to convince you that religious people aren’t lunatics with low IQs who should be regarded with pity and contempt. But I am confident that I will convince you that this trio of New Atheists, this Unholy Trinity, are a collection of faux-intellectual frauds utilizing pseudo-scientific sleight of hand in order to falsely claim that religious faith is inherently dangerous and has no place in the modern world. You won’t succeed if the rest of the book is as full of crap as this first little bit has been.

 

I am saying that they are wrong, they are reliably, verifiably, and factually incorrect. Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel C. Dennett is wrong. Christopher Hitchens is drunk he reminds me of Julian from the Trailer Park Boys, always a drink in hand, and he’s wrong. Michel Onfray is French, and he’s wrong OMG, wrong and French?. Sam Harris is so superlatively wrong that it will require the development of esoteric mathematics operating simultaneously in multiple dimensions to fully comprehend the orders of magnitude of his wrongness. All I can do is roll my eyes here.

 

You make the call. Here’s what I think so far: the rest of this book will be a waste of my time.

 

 

***

 

Okay I’m back to black text now…so what do you think? Should I keep reading?

I’m Elated to Be an Atheist

There were a couple of threads on Reddit a little while back about how atheists should talk more about how great it is to become an atheist after being stuck in religious thought for so long. This is something that I think atheists should really advertise, because too often it seems that people who self-identify as atheists are perceived as always just living and thinking in opposition of something. Although it’s true that atheism is purely the rejection of theism, it also, at least in my experience, opens up a whole new world of discovery and possibilities.

As a theist I always had this sense that my thoughts were constantly being monitored, and that my actions were always being judged by big brother up there in the sky. It’s not fun to worry all the time about pissing god off. If I thought a bad thought about somebody I would immediately have this feeling of guilt and dread, and I would pray for forgiveness. I wasn’t actually sure if my religion taught that your thoughts are being policed, but at one point I scoured the Bible to try to find something that said that your bad thoughts don’t count against you, but just in case I made sure that I asked for forgiveness about anything that could count against me. I was scared of hell, y’all, you understand.

Aside from worrying about my own eternal damnation, I was also concerned about my friends and family going to hell. How could I guarantee that they all did the right things so that they could get into heaven with me? Did my grampa accept Jesus as his personal lord and saviour? Did my gay brother guarantee a ticket to hell just for being himself? In highschool a boy on my swim team died by suicide – I must have prayed every night for a year that he wouldn’t be punished for taking his life.

I also feel like I had less of a sense of wonder about the world as a theist. When I would see something like a photo of a beautiful nebula or a video of a coral reef, I would thing “wow, what an imagination that god has.” And the curiosity for how those things got there just didn’t exist. When I believed that god could just magic anything into existence, there just wasn’t that much mystery about the world.

For these reasons and more, the moment I realized that I no longer believed in my God or any other gods was one of the most freeing feelings I had ever experienced. Seriously! For that first few months I would get choked up reading about evolution or listening to podcasts about astronomy. There was this whole world of science out there that I had never allowed myself to absorb. The universe became a giant mystery and my mind was no longer being monitored so I had the freedom to explore questions like “what is the frickin big bang anyways?” and “how did single-celled organisms turn into that beautiful coral reef?” and “what is gravity anyways?” People, gravity is amazing!

I love being able to think whatever I want now. I don’t have to worry about offending sky-daddy with my thoughts, and I can entertain any ideas without worrying about consequences. I also no longer waste time with prayers. People often say that prayer is a nice way to look back on the day and get a nice fuzzy feeling even if it doesn’t work, and that was true for some of my praying, but truthfully I had a lot of anxieties about praying. At my Bible study they would pray so formally, but I tended to just pray as if I was talking to a friend – was I doing it wrong? Was I offending God? I also worried that I would forget to pray for somebody, so my blessings would go on and on until I would just say “and anyone else I may have forgotten” – what a silly exercise! I would also be really careful about what I prayed for, because I worried that if I prayed for something and it didn’t come true that it meant that I wasn’t faithful, or wasn’t a True Christian (TM). No joke – in order to counter this worry that my prayers wouldn’t come true, I would build an out into my prayers. For example, “dear God, please let so-and-so get better, and if he/she doesn’t please be with his/her family in this difficult time, in Jesus name, amen.” I’m so happy that prayer is no longer a part of my life.

There are so many fun things about being an atheist that I just couldn’t experience as a Christian. It’s not that I lost my moral code and I’m just going to run wild now and start trampling over people who get in the way of my fun. I still know what right and wrong is, that had nothing to do with my god-belief. But now I can break all those ridiculous little rules that religion imposes on you that have no reason behind them other than “because god wouldn’t like that.” For example, swearing! Swearing is a wonderful thing. When you stub your toe, screaming “ffuuucckkkkk” is the best pain relief I can think of. Religion gives so much power to these completely harmless groupings of letters, and it’s not just the four-letter-word kind of swearing that I can enjoy now. I can also say “I swear to god” or “oh my god” now. I used to think that those were the worst things I could say, and I’m pretty sure it’s an unforgiveable sin to take the lord’s name in vain. I used to be so careful about not doing that, so it’s so fun to me now to be able to use those words without those silly worries. To give an example of how silly it got with me, my favourite band (The Tragically Hip) has this awesome song called New Orleans is Sinking, and there’s one part that goes “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said I swear to God she said” but when I sang along I used to go “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said hmm hmm hmm hmmm she said.” Come on, how ridiculous is that? As an atheist I even get to enjoy my favourite songs more!

It’s fantastic being an atheist, and no amount of badgering from a religious person is going to convince me that I’m not a hundred times happier now than I was as a god-believer. That’s why I think all atheist logos should look like this one:

The Discovery Institute Asks New Atheists What They Believe

In case you haven’t heard of them, the Discovery Institute is an organization that pushes the idea of intelligent design creationism. They have a blog and it’s pretty hilarious to read…anyways today they had an article that caught my eye called “What Do New Atheists Actually Believe?” I’m always interested to see what theists are telling us we believe, because sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised to see myself accurately represented by somebody who doesn’t agree with me.

Well in this case the author of the article (Michael Egnor), instead of telling people what New Atheists believe, decided to ask us instead! I think that’s a great approach, although I’m suspicious of its sincerity, coming from the Discovery Institute. Nonetheless I think It’ll be fun to answer the questions, so here goes! You can read the article here to get some context for why he’s asking these questions.

Egnor says:

I want to learn more about what New Atheists really believe. So I’m asking Moran a few questions, although other atheists (Myers, Coyne, Novella, Shallit, etc**) are invited to reply on their blogs, and I will answer.

**etc, that’s me!

And he has some rules for the answers:

1) Answers can’t be limited to the shortcomings of theism (e.g. ‘So who caused God?’). I’m looking for an exposition of New Atheist belief, not a criticism of theist belief. Mutual criticism will come once all beliefs are on the table. If New Atheist belief can only be expressed by negation of the beliefs of others, just say so.
2) Myers’ “Courtier’s Reply” gambit is fine. If you think that a question is nonsense, say so.
3) No changing the subject. New questions are welcome, once the old questions are addressed.
4) The Law of Snark Conservation applies; thoughtful courteous answers get thoughtful courteous replies.

Number 1 is just silly, Egnor must know that atheism is entirely a response to theism, it’s not a belief system. To try to stay within this rule I’ll just talk about what I believe, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m speaking for New Atheist beliefs, because there’s no such thing. Number 2, I don’t know what the Courtier’s Reply is so I’ll just ignore that one…and 3 and 4 sound fine. Now, on to the questions:

1) Why is there anything? *shrug* dunno. Does there have to be a reason? I’m just glad I’m here!

2) What caused the Universe? Good question…I’m sure it was some kind of quantum something or other.

3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature? I don’t know the answer to this one either, but I assume that if there weren’t regularity in our universe, we wouldn’t be around to ask the question.

4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist? I had to go on Wikipedia for this one and they all seem alright to me, but I’m not so sure about the final cause. I don’t really see the point of it, as it’s pretty subjective and there isn’t even a final cause for everything…I don’t understand what it’s supposed to imply, but I only spent 5 minutes on Wikipedia reading over the description.

5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence? I’m not sure I get the question, but I suppose it may be because there are so many variables that we’re faced with every day that it’s not possible to be completely objective. We have to form opinions and biases to survive otherwise we’d be paralyzed with indecision. (I have a feeling that question went right over my head, but whatever).

6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something? Huh? Is this asking why do humans have intentions? I guess because it makes us more likely to survive…I have no idea what this is supposed to be asking…philosophy mumbo-jumbo just does not penetrate my thick skull. Why is this relevant to atheism anyways?

7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.) There’s no such thing as “Moral Law”, but I think that morality is an artifact of nature – humans are social beings, and because we live in groups and cooperate it has made us a very successful species. We need our social ties, so it makes more sense for us to be good to each other. Our sense of right and wrong would have arisen through natural selection, because anti-social behaviours would lead to someone being less likely to reproduce. That’s how my simple mind sums it up, but there are some fantastic books out there about  evolution and morality. I just finished Born to be Good by Dacher Keltner, I recommend that one.

8) Why is there evil? Because there’s no benevolent god out there keeping us from harm.

None of those questions addressed the difference between the “old atheists” and the “new atheists.” All atheists don’t believe in god, but the new atheists feel like atheism is something worth sharing. The above questions have nothing to do with atheism, they just strike me as an attempt to bait atheists into answering in the wrong way so that Egnor can come back with “that’s where god fits in.”

Oh My Glee! Atheism on TV!

First off, I’ve been working on a couple of longer blog posts, including responses to some email feedback I’ve gotten lately, but life has been crazy and I haven’t had a chance to finish anything yet. But I just finished watching the most recent episode of Glee and I can’t help but write about it.

Spoilers Ahead! So STOP READING NOW if you’re planning on seeing the episode called “Grilled Cheesus”!

I was a little bit worried when at the beginning of the episode, football player Finn makes a “Grilled Cheesus” and suddenly believes in Jesus. He suggests to the glee club that they dedicate their songs to God. Normally when this kind of thing happens in TV land everyone goes along with it and has a fun time sharing their faiths, and my atheism isn’t represented. But there were so many moments in this show that I have to quote because I was so excited to see a popular character in a popular TV show say what I feel when it comes to religion.

In response to Finn’s suggestion to pay tribute to Jesus, Kurt says:

Sorry, but if I wanted to pay tribute to Jesus I would go to church. And the reason I don’t go to church is because most churches don’t think very much of gay people…or women…or science.

Yes! Oh yes…

When Kurt’s dad has a heart attack I was worried that this would become a story about Kurt being converted by his classmates, and about their prayers reviving his dad. It was soo not, yay!

Mercedes, in response to hearing the news, sings a song to Kurt about turning to God in hard times. He responds…

Kurt: Thank you Mercedes, your voice is stunning but I don’t believe in God.

Tina: Wait, what?

Kurt: You’ve all professed your beliefs I’m just stating mine. I think God is kinda like Santa Claus for adults. Otherwise God’s kind of a jerk, isn’t he? Well he makes me gay and then has his followers going around telling me it’s something that I chose.  As if someone would choose to be mocked every single day of their life. And right now I don’t want a heavenly father. I want my real one back.

Mercedes: But how do you know for sure? I mean you can’t prove that there’s no god.

Kurt: You can’t prove that there isn’t a magic teapot floating around on the dark side of the moon with a dwarf inside of it that reads romance novels and shoots lightning out of its boobs but it seems pretty unlikely doesn’t it?

Brittany: Is god an evil dwarf?

Oh yes folks, Russel’s teapot made it onto a primetime show about show choir! Kurt’s exiting line in this scene was nice too: “You all can believe whatever you want to, but I can’t believe something I don’t.” Go Kurt! “I appreciate your thoughts, but I don’t want your prayers.”

Next, everybody’s favourite cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester finds out about the breach in the wall of separation between church and state happening in the choir room. She gives a nice little lesson on the establishment clause, and then later she gives some nice responses to guidance counsellor Emma’s poor arguments in favour of letting the glee club keep pushing their religion on the unwilling Kurt:

Emma: What is wrong with you? … There is a boy in that glee club that might lose his father. How could you get in the way when the only thing anybody is trying to do is give that poor child just a little bit of comfort?

Sue: … Asking someone to believe in a fantasy, however comforting, isn’t a moral thing to do. It’s cruel.

Emma: Don’t you think that’s just a little bit arrogant?

Sue: It’s as arrogant as telling someone how to believe in God and if they don’t accept it, no matter how open-hearted or honest their dissent, they’re going to hell. That doesn’t sound very Christian does it?

Emma: Well if that’s what you believe that’s fine. But please keep it to yourself.

Sue: So long as you do the same. That kid could lose his father at any moment and you should start preparing him for that.

I was mad when the other students refused to listen to Kurt’s wishes and prayed over his dad, but I was pleased that he wasn’t pressured into belief. In the end, even after going to a lively church service with Mercedes, he states that he doesn’t believe in God, he believes in his relationship with his Dad. It’s a very touching moment.

A shining moment also comes when Finn, who started the whole religion theme with his Grilled Cheesus, realizes that he was making things happen for himself, rather than getting help from God. He sings R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and then says “I used to thing God was up there looking over me, and now I’m not so sure.” Simple, honest, thank you Finn!

After this episode I feel justified in my deep love for Glee. I can’t wait to see if they continue to explore these themes in the future!

I Used to Be One of those Awful Christians that I Can’t Stand

So I’m still in the process of moving, and I wasn’t planning on doing anymore blogging until I had made a significant dent in my unpacking, but I came across something today that I couldn’t wait to write about so here I am!

I’ve kept a lot of things from my childhood like letters, cards, journals, newspaper clippings, etc. and as I’m  unpacking I decided that I would go through this stuff and try to get it organized. I found a bunch of journals from when I was much younger, and I started reading one that I had to write in as part of our daily class participation when I was in 10th grade (15 years old).

At first I was cringing at what an annoying keener student I was, constantly pestering the teacher about different assignments and class work. But then about a month into the journal things got interesting. After we made our journal entry for the day, the teacher would read it over and put a comment in the margins.

On March 7th, I’m guessing in response to something we had talked about in class, she wrote “Are you involved with your church?”

She would probably regret writing that for the rest of the year, because this was the perfect opening for me to try to save her soul. Some of the things I wrote were unbelievable. I knew that I was passionate about Christianity in highschool, especially in Grade 10, but I had no memories of being so obnoxious about it.

To give a little bit of background, 10th grade was my first year in highschool, and it was also my first exposure to evangelical Christians. These new friends had a big influence on my thinking about Christianity, and they introduced me to the wackaloon ideas of the Rapture and the end times. They also got me hooked on reading that ghastly Left Behind series (click the link if you don’t already know what that is, the rest of this may not make sense if you don’t).

*****

Alrighty, time to start showing you what an insufferable Christian I was when I was 15…here are selected quotes from my journal (leaving my poor punctuation choices intact), with the notes from the teacher in italics, and comments from me in red, starting with after she asked about church:

March 8 – I wouldn’t say I’m involved much with my church because the sermons don’t really capture me, and I don’t feel I belong. I’d like to start going to [the local evangelical megachurch] because I’ve heard a tape of their pastor, and he’s really good. This is explained in a note I found in my memories box from an evangelical friend, who lent me a taped sermon on prayer from her church. I remember listening to that, and I seem to remember the minister talking about how dinosaur bones were put there by the devil to test our faith. I took notes from these tapes in my Bible, which I talked about in this post. I’ve been really devoted to God ever since I started reading this book series. The first one is called Left Behind…you should read them because they might save your life. Save your life??? WTF was wrong with me?

“I have faith and am an active member of my church. Thanks for giving me the names of the books though.” In other words, please stop pestering me.

April 27 – Have you ever read the books called Left Behind? I guess I forgot that I had told her about them already. I love those books! …It’s a series, and they’re really amazing…When you read the back it will sound like science fiction, but it’s soooo not! Of course it’s not, no science fiction could be as craptastic as the LB series. READ THEM!!!!!!!!! You’re guaranteed to love them. They get better each new book!!! Tell me if you read them!

“I will.” She then went on to explain how she doesn’t read much fiction, she probably thought that would be the end of it. Ha! I’m trying to save her soul here!

April 28 – No you have to read them!!!!!!!! It’s not fiction at all!!!!!!!!! All the stuff in them is taken from the Bible! The only thing made up are the characters!

I guess I misunderstood. I will tell you if I read them. Ha, she can’t get rid of me that easy!

May 5 – Today the world was supposed to end! Guess not! Huh? I had no idea what I was talking about here, so I looked up 05/05/2000 and found this. The world won’t ever end. First Jesus comes and takes all his people, then theres 7 years of destruction on the Earth, then the world is rebuilt and living on Earth is like living in heaven! Source: a crappy fiction series loosely based on the zaniest book in the Bible. I got no response from the teacher on this one…

May 9 – Aren’t you going to answer our journals from May 5th? Have you read those books yet? You really should!

“I haven’t read the books. I’m pretty much at peace with my beliefs. Thank you for thinking about me.” If you thought I could take a hint, you thought wrong.

May 10 – You really should read them, though. What are your beliefs exactly? Have you read the Bible? She wrote “Yes” in the margin. I love reading the new testament. It’s beautiful. My favourite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are often troubled, but never in despair. dometi…I forgot it! But it’s beautiful! Oh Christ I can’t believe how annoying I was.

Yes it is beautiful. I don’t discuss my faith because it is so personal and important to me and I don’t feel I should have to explain it or defend it. I am happy that you have found your faith and that you have such serenity. I definitely didn’t have serenity with my faith if I was spending so much time trying to tell someone that the world would end soon.

May 11 – I disagree that you feel you shouldn’t discuss your faith, because it’s very important to share, and in doing so you may save other people. But I understand that it’s against policy for teachers to discuss subjects like that, even though I believe that rule is wrong. That’s right, I was one of those ignorant buffoons who thought that Christianity should be taught in schools.

There is a difference working in the public school system and the private school system. At [Mennonite School] or [Catholic School] religion is separate and integrated so teachers talk about their faith. The public school system has students and teachers of all faiths and if religion is discussed it can offend Buddhist students or Jewish students or Jehovah Witnesses – all of whom have distinct beliefs they value. You will notice there is no public praying in schools.

Although she was a Christian, she made a compelling argument against faith being brought into school, but of course 15-year-old me couldn’t let it go. When I read this next part today I was horrified, my face turned red, and my husband wondered what was wrong with me…

May 12 – I still hold to my belief that Christianity should be brought into the school, because all those people who are in those other religions are going to hell, pardon, I was pardoning myself for saying a swear word, not for saying those people are hell-bound…oh the horror! and same with the kids who don’t believe anything. kids! And I had no problem with this stuff! People think that being a good person will get you to heaven, but you have to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness from God and truly believe in Jesus and God and know that Jesus died to save us to get into heaven. And that’s a fact! Why do people think atheists are the smug ones? This might make it seem like God’s bad, um, yeah. but it’s man’s fault, because when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they gave the world to the devil, so he’s controlling everything on earth. And you could say God’s like a car, and we’re his gas. He needs our prayers to help us, and he wants us to go to heaven, but some of us don’t believe, and the devil keeps them to himself and they go to hell.  What the poop was I talking about? If this journal weren’t in my handwriting I probably wouldn’t believe that I could ever write down such ignorant and awful things.

In your adult life perhaps that is one of the ways in which you can serve – get involved in politics and make changes in the way schools are run. Translation: I’ll ignore the part where you went batshit insane and insulted almost everyone in the world and try to focus your crazy into a future goal.

*****

The journal went on and I would say it even got worse, but for now I think I’ve put you through enough. When I found these words that I had written what I really wanted to do was to burn them so that nobody could know about these horrible thoughts I had, but I swallowed my pride because I think it’s interesting to show how far I’ve come.

Finding that journal has shown me that it’s possible for people with fundamentalist beliefs to learn to use reason and to come around to a skeptical worldview. I’m so glad that I’m not that person anymore.

I may blog about the rest of the journal another time, but I also came across a few other interesting artifacts from my religious past: (1) a letter I wrote to the Bishop when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church, (2) a letter explaining why I wanted to quit going to my church, and (3) a philosophy paper from my first year in university in favour of the existence of God. I hope to write about those soon!

Now back to unpacking…or to bed, wow it’s late!

Response to a Christian Comment

While I was away on my trip, a Christian named Josh posted a comment on my About page, and since it contained a mish-mash of things I commonly hear from Christians I thought I would make a post out of responding to it.

Hey,
Just thought I’d share something. I am a christian and have recently been watching some clips of “Jesus Camp” “Religulous” and some of Dawkins videos (thats how I stumbled onto your site lol). I try to understand the Atheist point of view but can’t quite get my head around it.

I’m not a fan of your decision to capitalize the word “atheist”, because atheism isn’t the name of a belief system or religion. Atheists are without theism, that is without a belief in any god or gods. That’s the point of view that all atheists have in common, and what they believe apart from that has nothing to do with atheism.

A lot of it is just totally bashing Christianity or any other organized religion, but mainly Christianity.

What you may see as bashing, to an atheist may just look like fair criticism. Many atheists, such as myself, feel that religion shouldn’t be immune to criticism, skepticism and doubt, and choose to openly criticize it. You may feel that Christianity gets the worst of it, and that’s probably because you’re a Christian so you notice more, or because you live in an area where Christianity is common, so it’s naturally what people who criticize religion will talk about. Personally when I talk about religion on my blog it’s generally going to be Christianity because I was a Christian for most of my life, so that’s where my experience with religion lies.

I also watched a clip of Ben Steins video “Expelled” in which he interviews Dawkins and he comes up with a very complicated example of how live could have started. He believes that it is very much possible that a being of higher intelligence could have created life on earth.

Watch that clip again. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Expelled, but if I remember correctly Stein was leading Dawkins into that answer by asking if it’s possible for an intelligent life form to have created life on earth. Dawkins is not closed-minded to the idea that life was placed on Earth by an intelligence, so he entertained the idea be answering that maybe we were placed here by an intelligence, without departing from the reality that there is no scientific evidence of any supernatural being. Ben Stein knew what he would get when he asked that question, and he knew that he could make Dawkins look crazy by telling people that he believes we were placed here by aliens. I believe it should be clear to anyone who sees that clip that Dawkins was being misrepresented.

I wouldn’t take Expelled as an authority on anything. The filmmakers were completely dishonest during the making of Expelled. They lied to the atheists and scientists they interviewed about the topic of the film, the name of it, and they even went as far as making up a production company and website to trick people into getting on board. Stein’s interview style was also designed to try to bring out the worst in the scientists being interviewed. If you’re interested, this website talks about the making of Expelled and it responds to the dishonesty and lies that run rampant in the so-called documentary.

So essentially he is willing to believe in a higher intelligence, but it CANNOT be God.

Saying Dawkins CANNOT believe in God is dishonest. He always makes it clear that he doesn’t completely discount the possibility of a God. Like me, he doesn’t say with absolute certainty that there is no God. I believe that it’s more likely that we were seeded on Earth by aliens than popped into existence by a god. The reason for this is that we have no scientific evidence of anything supernatural or god-like, but we do have evidence of intelligent beings evolving from simple life (ourselves), and scientists are getting close to creating life from scratch in the lab, and we’ve done some modest space travel. Maybe we’re only a couple hundred years off of seeding life on other planets ourselves, why couldn’t that be how we got here? Of course I don’t believe that we were put here by aliens for the same reason I don’t believe we were put here a god – there’s no evidence for either. Right now I’m satisfied with saying “who knows how we got here, I hope science can eventually give us the answer.” I’m sure that’s what Dawkins would say as well, although I’m sure he would put it more eloquently.

This is looking at a Scientific and logical perspective:

The atheist generally claims that belief in a God without proof is essentially silliness. Additionally, an atheist generally accepts modern science and attempts to use it as means to prove or disprove the existence of God.

I would rephrase this to say: “atheists generally claim that belief in a god without evidence is intellectually lazy. Additionally, an atheist generally accepts modern science and uses it as a tool for examining claims and evidence made for the existence of a god.”

But the problem comes in here for me: Science can only “prove” something if it is able to be tested. The possibility that God exists cannot be tested (because it is a spiritual existence not necessarily a physical one) and therefore cannot be proven to be non-existent. So if science cannot prove or disprove God (however, it can and does give evidence for both sides of the argument) then there is some “belief” involved in the unbelieving atheist. You see, the common atheist says God doesn’t exist because it can’t be proven, but therein lies the problem in their position: God cannot be disproven either. Therefore there is some type of belief/faith involved in being an atheist. They don’t have absolute proof they just think they do.

Let me rephrase this too, and hopefully you can see why I think that what you just said is absurd:

But the problem comes in here for me: Science can only “prove” something if it is able to be tested. The possibility that Leprechauns exists cannot be tested (because it is a magical existence not always a physical one) and therefore cannot be proven to be non-existent. So if science cannot prove or disprove Leprechauns (however, it can and does give evidence for both sides of the argument) then there is some “belief” involved in the unbelieving aleprechaunist. You see, the common aleprechaunist says Leprechuans don’t exist because they can’t be proven, but therein lies the problem in their position: Leprechauns cannot be disproven either. Therefore there is some type of belief/faith involved in being an aleprechaunist. They don’t have absolute proof they just think they do.

Your phrasing here indicates a few things:

1) You believe that not being able to prove that something doesn’t exist is a good argument for its existence. Hint: it’s not.

2) You believe that atheists claim to have proof that there is no god. Not true. Like most atheists I talk to, I know that it’s impossible to disprove something, so my non-belief comes from the fact that I’ve never seen any evidence for the existence of any god. I’ll keep on not believing until I see evidence, and there’s no faith needed there.

3) You said that science gives evidence for both sides of the argument, so this indicates that you have scientific evidence for the existence of a god (even though you said God can’t be tested). How does this make sense? And what scientific evidence do you have?

Now I can tell you that God can be proven as real. If you have never experienced God, then you would never know how real He is. Atheists would logically explain that it is impossible to experience God because He isn’t real. How can you prove that? The truth of the matter is, you can’t if you don’t have a relationship with Him to really know Him. He isn’t like a boss that stays up in heaven and doesn’t like coming out of His office. He loves to be in fellowship with His children. Those who think of Him as that kind of God (the kind that just sits in heaven not showing Himself) will never be able to find out of God is real, its simply not possible.

I am being very honest right now in saying that I know that I know that I know God is real, because of the relationship that I’v developed with Him. And people have no clue the power of prayer. Not prayer for selfish reasons or to fulfill our own goals, but the kind that believes in God’s power and is obedient, humble, and patient for God’s perfect timing.
(Jeremiah 29:11-14)

So you’re saying that the only way to believe in God is if you have a personal relationship with God, but how can I get this personal relationship with God until he shows himself to me? Why can you have a relationship with God but I can’t? If God has proven himself to you then he should prove himself to everybody. Why can you have a personal relationship with him but I’m supposed to just believe you that God’s real? Shouldn’t God know that I require scientific evidence to believe in him? So why doesn’t he provide some? Does God have such petty disregard for souls that aren’t satisfied with taking things on faith?

And what of the people who say they have a personal relationship with a different god or with a ghost or an alien? Why should I believe your personal experience over theirs? Should I believe everyone who tells me with sincerity that they have a personal relationship with their god? How many gods are there??

Do you see why this personal relationship thing is unconvincing? Not to mention I was a devout Christian for most of my life, and I never once heard God speaking to me or felt a presence. How do you define a personal relationship?

I mean I have seen God do amazing things in my life and in the people around me. I have seen 8 people healed of cancer in the same year, without Chemotherapy (mind you there is no cure for cancer). All these people believed in the power of God, and they waited patiently and humbly and were healed.

That’s fantastic that they were healed of their cancer but there are other ways besides Chemotherapy that doctors use to fight cancer. You haven’t given me any specifics about these 8 people but I sure hope their health is being monitored by doctors. I believe that the most sinister result of belief in prayer is that some people rely on it in favour of medical treatment. There are stories in the news all the time about people dying of easily treatable diseases because they (or their parents) believed that prayer would save them. If you care for these 8 people you’ll advise them to visit the doctor for regular checkups. Even if you believe that God is healing these people, at least be open to the possibility that God heals through doctors and medical treatments.

I could share many more miracles (lost things coming back, running on an empty gas tank for 20 miles, many many more).

Finding something you lost is a miracle? Running on an empty gas tank? I’ve done that – you know the needle says empty well before the tank is actually empty right? Your standards for miracles are really low.

It’s amazing how those who don’t have a relationship with God never experience such things.

I don’t have a relationship with God and guess what? I find things I’ve lost all the time! I have a story that when I was a Christian I considered a miracle: When I was in university once I went to campus for a final exam for one of my classes 8 hours early so that I would have time to study. I wanted to make sure I had the location right for my exam, so I checked the schedule only to find out that my exam would be starting in 15 minutes! I thought God made me check the schedule so that I wouldn’t miss my exam. Now I realize that it was pure dumb luck. You know what would have been a miracle? If God had stopped time so that I’d have an extra 8 hours to study…maybe that way I wouldn’t have gotten a C on that exam…

Many would argue why God would do that, but its not God at all. It was sin that destroyed man’s relationship with God. (Genesis 3:23-24)

It wasn’t my sin, it was Eve’s. Your petty God is holding a grudge against everyone alive today for something someone did thousands of years ago, and you worship this guy?

And when I say sin it sounds sooo cliche, but God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) so that we could be in constant fellowship with Him. But if our spirit is not righteous and holy like He is, then we simply cannot fellowship with Him. Its like the polar sides of a magnet, they simply cannot attract its impossible.

I see nothing righteous about the God depicted in the Bible.

When it all comes to an end, every person on earth must die. We are NEVER guaranteed tomorrow. And when each person dies, at that moment, they will know the truth of this issue of if God is real or not. The scary part is if someone is unprepared when they finally face the truth. Because at that moment you cannot go back and try to relive your life correctly.

I’m not worried.

Many say why live a Christian life because its so hard. Not really, not when you realize how much God loved us to sacrifice Himself to restore us to the place that he created us.

I lived the Christian life and it wasn’t hard. Now I try my best to live the skeptical life and that’s hard, but, I feel, way more fulfilling. Trying to hold your beliefs up to high standards of evidence and critical thinking is a challenge, but it is rewarding and I learn and grow more every day. As a Christian I felt that I had the answer to life and the afterlife, and I could look to the Bible for easy answers to everything. The faith I had suppressed my curiosity and it didn’t allow me to freely learn and explore ideas like I do now.

I really don’t know why, but I felt like sharing this with you.

Thank you for sharing. I know some of what I said may have felt harsh and like I was bashing Christianity, but I hope you are able to read my thoughts without taking them personally, and I hope you’re able to consider some of the questions and criticisms I’ve put forward. I think it’s fantastic that you’re looking into atheism and thinking about questions of evidence and faith. I think it’s important to examine your tightly held beliefs, to make sure that you’ve got good reason for holding them. When I started looking honestly at what I believed and why I found that I no longer believed. For some people this type of inquiry may lead to strengthened faith. Either way, I applaud anyone’s willingness to test their faith.

How Can Women Stay Catholic?

I’m sorry about the rare posting lately, July has proven to be a crazy month. I bought a house so I’m packing up the apartment, looking for new tenants for our old place, I’m also in a wedding party for a wedding next week, going camping with the fam soon and getting ready for a trip to Europe next month. So I think I’m excused for my poor attendance on my blog lately!

What prompted me to write today was a post on Friendly Atheist. You may have heard about this recent news out of the Catholic Church:

The Vatican today made the “attempted ordination” of women one of the gravest crimes under church law, putting it in the same category as clerical sex abuse of minors, heresy and schism.

The new rules, which have been sent to bishops around the world, apply equally to Catholic women who agree to a ceremony of ordination and to the bishop who conducts it. Both would be excommunicated. Since the Vatican does not accept that women can become priests, it does not recognise the outcome of any such ceremony.

I want to talk about the question (more like a questatement) that Hemant Mehta posed on his blog post in regards to this news:  “I really want to know why any self-respecting women would remain in a Church that treats them so poorly.”

It’s an interesting thing to think about, and I’m sure a lot of atheists would have a hard time seeing why any person would remain in the Catholic Church even before these new rules came out. I know I express all the time my incredulity at anyone who stays in any religion. But really, for most of my life I was religious, and there are billions of people out there who have no problem belonging to religions that tell them they’re worthless without their god of choice.

So why is it that people will go on believing in a religion that has so little respect for them?

Here’s the comment I posted on the Friendly Atheist post:

When I was a Catholic I accepted that as a woman I was inherently inferior to men due to Eve’s mistake. Stupid, I know…but if other Catholic women think like I did then they’re not self-respecting women, so the Church’s declaration would probably just be swallowed like all the other bullshit the Church dishes out.

I want to elaborate a little on that because it got me thinking back into the mindset I had when I had no problem accepting such a harsh doctrine.

Growing up my parents never pigeonholed us into gender roles. My brother played with Barbies and I played with Hot Wheels and they never discouraged us from doing non-girly or non-boyish things. So where did this idea come from that I’m inherently inferior to men? I think it started when I was in highschool and I became friends with a couple of evangelical Christians. We had our spares together, and my friend would bring her Bible and we would discuss various topics of interest to Christians. I only had a passive interest in my Bible until she started telling me about this and that inspirational story, and that’s when I started really looking at the thing (of course I looked selectively like a true Christian would, see the post on my childhood Bible).

I think that once you allow yourself to be immersed in the culture of Christianity it’s only natural to start to believe things like abortion is always wrong, homosexuality is a sin, women should stay in their place, etc. I believed that the Bible was true, and I believed that God was good and loving. I also bought into that crap about humans being sinners who need to repent. I believed that all humans had to pay for the mistakes of Adam and Eve, and somehow it didn’t cross my mind that God was at fault for putting the apple in the garden to begin with. And of course, I believed that Jesus would save me from my sinful ways.

I remember once telling someone…I can’t remember who it was, or what we were discussing…I think I was telling someone why I believed feminism is stupid, and my reasoning was Eve ate the apple and that’s why women have the joy of menstruation and that’s why our job is to serve men. Women have to pay for her mistake, too bad, so sad. I have no idea if that’s really what the Bible said, but it was enough that it seemed like something that the Bible would say, because it was nice to have a pat answer.

Christianity was easy. It had black and white responses for almost everything. Rather than delving into the complicated ethics of abortion, I could just refer back to “thou shalt not kill.” I think that’s a large part of what drew me to the religion. I thought I had all the answers, and I felt like I was in on the secret to everlasting life in heaven. It’s a nice feeling provided your thoughts don’t drift to those poor souls who haven’t heard the good news.

Okay I’d better get back to the topic, which is why Catholic women stay in a church that treats them like second-class citizens. When you’re a part of a church you generally buy into the idea that you’re a sinner, and that this church has the answers you need to gain entry to heaven. The problems that exist in the world are caused by the evils of humans rather than of God. You trust the church leaders because they speak with authority, they’ve studied the religion all their lives, they must know what God wants you to do.

Once you’ve accepted this then it’s in your best interest to act how your church wants you to act. When I went to church on a regular basis with my family, I revered our priest. I felt like when he shook my hand or handed me the sacrament that I was getting a special gift from a holy person. I trusted that what he taught was the truth, and I thought that all churches were probably like mine because what I was being taught just seemed to make sense.

It’s hard for outsiders to see why someone would associate themselves with an organization that, it seems, is always in the news for the horrible things it says and does. But when you’re indoctrinated to believe that you’re a worthless sinner, you don’t have self-respect, and you go along with what the Church wants you to do because that’s the way to be saved from your horrible self. Although it may seem from the outside that women shouldn’t belong to an organization that has so little respect for them, that’s just the harsh reality that the believer accepts. You believe that the Church has your best interests at heart, and that when they say something like “the ordination of women is a crime,” they’re really just trying to save the souls of would-be female priests.

Atheist/Rationalist Reading the Bible

Just sharing a link,

Here‘s someone who is reading the Bible cover-to-cover, and rationalizing as she goes. The tag line:

My journey through the pages of “The Holy Book,” what I uncover and how my knowledge of history and my rational thinking explain its secrets.

She’s plugging along at a good pace too, so if you’ve ever wanted to read the whole book you might want to read along with her!

Good stuff!

Defining Atheism, for the Sake of my Sanity

I’m sick of people misrepresenting what the word “atheism” really means, so I’m going to spell it out here and refer back everytime someone spouts nonsense about what atheism is. It bothers me to no end when people say that atheists believe this and that, because “atheism” doesn’t describe what beliefs someone has, all it says about someone is what beliefs they don’t have.

Theism = The belief in a god or gods

And just like apolitical means without political association, asexual means without sex, or asymmetrical means without symmetry…

Atheism = Without the belief in a god or gods

That’s it! If you ask someone: “do you believe in god?” and they say: “no”, they’re an atheist, simple as that.

Oh, FYI, saying “I don’t believe in ___” is not the same as saying “I believe ___ can’t/couldn’t exist”. Got it?

Being an atheist just means that you don’t believe in any gods. People who describe themselves as atheists can believe in ghosts, goblins, hell, heaven, unicorns, psychics, leprechauns, Santa Claus, they can believe the Earth is flat or there are aliens living on Venus, they can be tyrants or saints, they can be any type of person you can imagine, as long as they don’t believe in any gods.

All you can deduce when someone tells you they’re an atheist is that they don’t have any god beliefs.

One more thing: there’s no need to bring the word “agnostic” into this definition. Theism/Atheism is a true dichotomy, meaning if you’re not a theist you’re an atheist. There’s no need to pretend that “agnostic” is a middle ground (it’s not, gnostic/agnostic deal in knowledge, where as theism/atheism deal specifically in god belief), because atheism is a spectrum from the people who don’t really believe in god but would be easily convinced, to the people who assert that there’s no such thing as god and it’s not possible for a god to exist.

Really, the only important parts of this whole post are the bolded parts, the rest is just me imagining to possible objections to my definition. If you object to the bolded parts I’ll be doing this:

Likely followed shortly by this:


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