Monday, April 30, 2007
I remember as a child the feeling of superiority from my mother when dealing with people who were different. I had a vague feeling that it was wrong but I didn't know why. With my mom, if it was in the Bible then it was right. She quoted scripture supporting slavery and even said that slaves were "marked" and we would know them. This is what she used to rationalize treating "colored" people as inferior. I remember being horrified and knowing I could never be involved in a religion that approved of owning another human.
Over the years I've successfully gotten over the prejudices of my parents. But time does not stand still and we are ever being bombarded with new "bad guys" and new "bad ideas." My atheism makes it easy not to hate a group or a person just because they are different. I look within myself and feel compassion for them and try to understand why I might feel threatened. We live and we learn.
Sheila is a liberal christian, raised methodist, and is a science and math teacher. She's been dating lately and complains that she's been attracting and been attracted to atheists. So lately, before the relationship gets going, she asks these men if they believe in God. So far the ones that she's dated for more that a few weeks are, but there are a couple that aren't and she blows them off easily.
OK, here's her dilemma. Sheila has met the man of her dreams. He's good-looking, witty, British, smart, romantic; you get the picture, he's perfect. He's got a couple of faults, but hey, don't we all. So she's going on and on about him and I finally ask the money question, "Have you asked him if he believes in God?"
Now, I've met him and talked to him a little. It would surprise me if he isn't an atheist and I told Sheila as much. I also asked her if he is an atheist is that a deal breaker? She couldn't answer the question. Instead she changed the subject and asked why there are so many atheists in her life and my answer is what offended her.
I explained that because she is intelligent she is attracted to intelligent people. I mentioned to her that many of these people have thought about christianity and have rejected it because it doesn't make sense. She then said that it was taking everything she could not to hang up on me. This really surprised me; I thought she was beyond being insulted religiously especially since I was paying her a compliment. I did prefaced it by saying that I was sure she had good reasons for not questioning those beliefs, it's just that other smart people have, and those were the one's she was attracted to.
On the other hand, I could've been insulted by some of the things she said to me, but I wasn't. She noticed that the people she knew that are atheists were brought up in fundamentalist households. And, as much as that might be true, I pointed out to her that I knew of people who had very positive religious experiences and that, as adults decided for whatever reason or reasons, became atheists. My husband is one of those people, which surprised her.
Anyway, the conversation ended well, with her understanding that I wasn't making fun of her. At the time I was talking to her I did make the connection that she was the one offended and I wasn't. Funny how religion will do that to you, even if you are liberal.
Hey, and no egg shells!
Saturday, April 28, 2007
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Friday, April 27, 2007
From his website:
Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.
In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.
In 2004, Tyson was once again appointed by President Bush to serve on a 9-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the "Moon, Mars, and Beyond" commission. This group navigated a path by which the new space vision can become a successful part of the American agenda. And in 2006, the head of NASA appointed Tyson to serve on its prestigious Advisory Committee, which will help guide NASA through its perennial need to fit its ambitious vision into its restricted budget.
In addition to dozens of professional publications, Dr. Tyson has written, and continues to write for the public. He is a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine under the title "Universe." His latest book, Death by Black Hole - and other cosmic quandaries, is a New York Times best selling collection of his favorite essays from the past eleven years. Among the rest of Tyson's eight books is his memoir The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist; and Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, co-written with Donald Goldsmith. Origins is the companion book to the PBS-NOVA 4-part mini-series Origins, in which Tyson serves as on-camera host. The program premiered on September 28 and 29, 2004. And beginning in the fall of 2006, Tyson appears as the on-camera host of PBS-NOVA's spinofff program NOVA ScienceNow , which is an acessible look at the frontier of all the science that shapes the understanding of our place in the universe.
Tyson is the recipient of eight honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson". On the lighter side, Tyson was voted "Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive" by People Magazine in 2000.
Tyson is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium where he also teaches.
From the squirrel:
He spoke at the 2006 Beyond Belief where he gave a speech about how the universe is not conducive to organic life. With black holes, radiation, and poisonous gases all around how can one say that God created the universe just for us humans?
Check out the other speeches given by folks like Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris.
Another video of Mr. Tyson is with Mark Molaro at The Alcove. Also highly recommended.
His most recent book is Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandries. I'll be reading this book soon and giving a short review.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Before I came out officially I made sure I was educated enough in the art of debate with Christians and had most of the proper answers to the most common of arguments. There are tons of reference material on the Internet. At first I read as many ex-testimonials as I could find. A good place to start is at exchristian.net. Another excellent reference sites are here and here.
Many of us use biblical references to prove our points. This is very rewards because of the contradictory nature of the bible. My favorite is Skeptic's Annotated Bible / Quran (Koran) / Book of Mormon. I've also used many of the bible resources that Christians use such as BibleGateway.com.
I like to listen to podcasts and the two best ones on the Web are The Atheist Experience and The Non-Prophets.
Here is a list of other podcasts I listen to.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Several things have happened that I want to touch on briefly. My friend (see letter below) has yet to contact me. I'm not surprised and I'm not upset. In dealing with friends like this in the past I find that I can no longer suspend my reaction when they start spewing Jesus crap. Replace "Jesus" with "Santa Claus" and you'll see what I mean. I don't want to be politically correct anymore when dealing with friends or family so if they mention Jesus I can mention atheism. It's a free country.
My mother sent me an email saying she accepts my beliefs although she doesn't agree with them. She also stated she wanted to have a mother/daughter relationship with me. Mmmmmm..... Since I've been sick I haven't responded and I don't think I will. I'm actually happy with this kind of relationship with her because it feels more real to me. I guess the next move is mine but I'm not motivated to do anything yet.
So anyway, I'm going to spend more time with my blog. Do some updating and designing. Perhaps join the Atheist Blogroll. Stay tuned....
Monday, April 16, 2007
While I was gone I had an opportunity to converse with a Catholic friend via email. He's very devout and I fear we won't be talking for much longer. In our last exchange it seems he's taken offense that I countered his "feel good Jesus" scripture with scripture that has Jesus not being so nice. He writes that there's no harm in his beliefs and that he actually does good because of them. My letter to him is as follows:
OK, I get what you're saying, that I should let you be happy in your delusion. I'm OK with that. You seem to understand, even at an unconscious level, that you are doing this for emotional reasons. Although I don't get that part, I respect your right to do such a thing. I have several good friends that cannot handle talking about Jesus with me and we've decided not to discuss religion. They know that if they mention God and/or Jesus the bet is off and I am free to talk about their unnecessary belief system. I'm sadden by this kind of arrangement but I always honor it. Perhaps that is what we should do. We can have civil conversations without the mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. What say you?
Living in this society where Christians make up 80% to 90% of the population, one can safely say that most of my friends are Christians, and many are Catholic. My experience in dealing with them is that bringing up God and Jesus in normal conversation is just not done. The reason is that God/Jesus means different things to each one of us and, as a rule, we are afraid of offending each other by discussing this concept. Each time you've brought up Jesus to me and I've countered you with conflicting scripture and you seem to get a little bent out of shape. You say, "You're right. There are so many holes in the Bible that there is no reason to believe it, but I do. So what?" As an intelligent person why would you settle for a belief that get you upset whenever someone challenges it? Shouldn't the one true belief be able to stand on its own?
Your apologists' interpretation of the scriptures I quoted was interesting. As you can imagine, I've heard it before. If you look up the warning signs for recognizing a cult these scriptures could be interpreted as one of them. (Matthew:10:34 - 37.) It's amazing the twists and turns one has to do to make the Bible a moral and acceptable document. It easier and more efficient to just be a good person and enjoy the world and the universe as a natural phenomena. The dogma and rules are confusing and, if not followed in a specific way, can lead one into perverse mental gymnastics that can drive one mentally ill. Think about the young children who are beaten daily because their parents think "sparing the rod" is a bad thing. Think of the millions of men who masturbate then feel guilty that they "spilled their seed upon the ground." Think of the women who won't leave abusive husbands because the Bible tells them they are bound forever in the eyes of God. This document in the hands of someone as thoughtful and compassionate as you, who is intelligent enough to pick out the bad, immoral things, is a harmless thing indeed. Unfortunately, it is also used, even in these modern times, to lie, cheat, steal, to justify murder, and to hurt helpless women and children.
The misogynous scripture of the day:
Matthew 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Why does Jesus only mentions women and fails to mention men in this scripture? It's very subtle but the Bible is very biased toward men and for a very good reason. The society was patriarchal and women were looked upon as property. The Bible is a product of its time. I am glad we don't live as they did with slaves and women as second class citizens.
You also said: Your atheism transcends family does it not? You would never revert to Christianity because of pressure brought on you by your parents.
This is not entirely correct. If my parents or anyone gave me sound proof that God/Jesus/Christianity is the one true religion then I would change my worldview after examination of the evidence. This doesn't include "feelings that there must be something bigger than me" or "God of the gaps" arguments. As Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In other words, to make a claim of an all-powerful deity you better have extraordinary evidence to back it up. I look forward to that day.
That's it for me. I'll continue to send interesting videos and articles to you but I'll let you initiate any discussion you wish to have about them.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Once in a while I get to talk politics or religion with someone. It's been a long time but the response I got from a friend when I revealed I was a non-believer was surprise. It was interesting but I never got a chance to explore it further.
My best friend is a Christian and we get along great. She had some experience dealing with atheists with another good friend so with me she set a boundary. We can talk about anything under the sun, but no religion. She stated that her faith was important to her and not a topic of discussion. I was a little disappointed but I realize she is comfortable for whatever reason and this is actually none of my business. My problem is I want the best for her and I think her religion is holding her back. What I am able to do for her is steer her away from woo-woo stuff whenever I can. She recently thought "The Secret" was a cool thing and I quickly intervened. When one is able to rationalize a reason for faith then it's easy to accept other things with no evidence.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Jesus is no longer in the grave! Our God is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living! Our Lord and Savior rose from the dead! He is risen! Do you not wish to shout it from the rooftops? He is risen! God Bless You!
The subject reads: "Friday is here, but Sunday is coming!!!" I'm the first on the "send to" list. She knows I'm an atheist yet still sends me this garbage.
The only way to deal with Christians like this is to reply back with kind, but firm words that support an atheist's viewpoint. I answer:
Thanks for the card and wishing us a Happy Easter. DH and I are not Christians and have no reason to celebrate. To us it's just another Sunday with great food!
She's trying to make me see that all is not lost. She replies:
Your welcome. Just wanted you to know that I do think of you very often and wish the best for my children. Charlie and I pray for all our children, together every night.
Charlie is her new husband. She's made no attempt for me to get to know him. It's a long story but she lives in KS now and I have no reason to visit. Anyway, the prayer thing is a common Christian copout that basically means "I care for you." It's annoying because there's no action in it. It's lazy and yet Christians think it raises their concern beyond normal caring because of god. To me it's just gross. So I answer back:
You don't have to pray for me. I have the very best life can offer and am in a very peaceful place. I know you pray because you care and that's important. I would rather you call me and actually talk to me instead of praying for me. I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed with the power of prayer; talking to a person is far more powerful.
I choose to do things for people I care about because actions speak much louder than words, which I'm sure you would agree.
So far, no answer back. Not that I expect one. I think this one went straight over her head.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
One point that this article doesn't address is that "geeks" are more apt to question authority. For me questioning authority meant I wasn't going to give up control of my life to another person. Within the church of my family I especially felt they were not qualified to do such an important thing as controling my little life. How could someone who doesn't even care about me know what is right or good for me? Even as a small girl I took great offense to this.
Don't even get me started about government....
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
In my late twenties I discovered that my life was meaningless. I know that sounds harsh so let me clarify. Being a realist I knew my limits and tried to live my life within those limits. I wasn't depressed or in despair, quite the contrary; I was a reasonably happy, dysfunctional person. If, at that moment I was to die, my family and a couple of friends would be somewhat sad about the occasion, then life would go on for them. To my surprise I wasn't devastated by this realization. So what! I wasn't meaningful to a lot of people, but my life meant a lot to me. A tremendous amount! I set out to make myself happier and surround myself with quality people.
Twenty years later my life is filled with activities and service. I still think my life is meaningless and I'll tell you why. My father died almost 3 years ago. He was loved by many people and everyone mourned their particular lose in their own way, but nothing changed for anyone; not in that earth-shattering, eye-opening kind of way. Life went on. This is how my life will end as well.
My life does have purpose at this moment; at this time and space. There is one person who depends on me for quality of life. If I don't pay the bills or get groceries or cook dinner his quality of life (and mine) diminishes considerably. I'm motivated to do these things, along with others, to enrich our lives. In a small way others depend on me to enrich their lives as well. This gives me purpose and I am content.
What I'm saying is life is what you make of it. Our lives weren't giving "meaning" by some sky-daddy who steers our lives. The purpose for our lives are assigned by us, by our consciousness, by our brains. My number one rule is to try very hard not to hurt people and that should be everyone's rule as well.
Monday, April 2, 2007
God Debate: Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren - Newsweek Beliefs - MSNBC.com
In my own family I get the feeling that they think I have no morals. They think that I suddenly became an atheist so I could lead a life of debauchery and lust. To be honest, I have little proof they think this way except for a few things that have been said to me or about me. When I mentioned to my sister that I'd love to have her son spend a week with me she immediately got defensive and stated that she didn't want her son exposed to my kind of thinking. I've also been accused of trying to take God away from an uncle when my only crime was correcting some email hoaxes that Christians like to forward.
Being a godless liberal my philosophy is to treat everyone with kindness, no matter what their background, religion, race, sex, etc. One thing I must guard against is getting an attitude toward Christians because of how I know they view atheists. I realize that not all Christians are like this and that some people do want to learn about other viewpoints and treat them with respect, but I am on guard around those who spout talk about Jesus too much or seem to have ultra-conservative views. It means to me that they are closed minded and not tolerant to other views. It means I have nothing in common with them.
So that's where I'm at with my sister and my mother. If they decide to include me in their lives that's great, but until then I'm backing way the hell off.