Tuesday, July 31, 2007


This is such a great idea for helping to promote our positive image and to imbolden us to fight the good fight for science and reason. Check it out!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Why say "He was a good Christian?'

What does it mean to be a "good Christian?" Here in the southern US one hears that phrase all the time. As an atheist I see things a little different. I see good Christians taking advantage of others and trying to force their beliefs on our secular society. I see good Christians such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson preaching intolerance and getting wealthy on scraps that poor Christians send to them based on those lies. Remember the PTL and Jim Bakker? I see good Christians like George W. Bush saying that he talks to God then sends our troops to Iraq based on those conversations. I see good Christians like Bush's father who says things like "No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." I see good Christians within my own family that refuse to talk to me based solely on my non-belief.

I have been called a good Christian many times and I'm always quick to say that I'm an atheist. 100% of the time the reaction is surprise and the comment is usually, "But you're such a good person!" My answer is that it doesn't automatically take religion to be a good person. In fact, it takes religion to make good people do bad things. We don't have to look too far in our past to see evidence of that statement. Here in Houston, a few years ago, a woman drowned her children so they could go to heaven based on the dogma of her Christian faith. The past is riddled with examples such as this and others on a much grander scale.

How about we just say, "He/she is/was a good person?"

Friday, July 20, 2007

More from fundy relative

This morning I wrote to my relatives about our Houston weather:
It's raining again today (yesterday too, and the day before, etc.) and we have high chances of rain all weekend and the rest of next week. Try as I will to get God into the picture, I just can't. Why would he send us all this rain when other God-fearing folks on this list need it more? Why send us so much when we have a tremendous West Nile carrying mosquito problem? Oh, that's right, he works in mysterious ways. That old excuse still doesn't make sense to me. It's much easier to realize that weather patterns are as they are and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change them. Sigh.
I got this in response to that letter:
So sorry about the rain you all have been getting. We really could use some of it here. Believe it or not, I believe in the laws of nature. I just believe that God put them in place, not evolution. And it's certainly an imperfect world!
To which I wrote back:
The reason it is an imperfect world is because of the forces within the theory of evolution and the laws of physics. It's really beautifully simple and doesn't need an intelligent designer at all.

I'm surprised, as a teacher (she homeschools, that's another issue), that you take this attitude. I know you're a Christian first, but aren't you the least bit interested in the facts and data that supports the thing you can't/won't believe? My offer to provide you with web sites to educated you still stands.

BTW, I know lots of Christians that support evolution. Dr. Francis Collins is head of the Human Genome Project and is a staunch Christian.


Help me to understand exactly where you're coming from. Since you don't believe in evolution, does that mean you think the world was created in it's current form with it's current plants and animals 6,000 years ago? Or do you believe, as Dr. Collins does, that everything science says about the universe is correct (or least as correct as we can get with current technology) and that God tweaked it every so often to get it to its current form? Just curious.

I would still like to see this evidence that proves God created everything. I've asked you and a host of other people and have yet to be provided with any. With all this wonderful, amazing information out there why do you people continue to keep closed-minded about it? What are you afraid of?

High praise for "Infidel"

I finished "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali last night. Excellent book which I highly recommend. She gives the reader an education into the mind of a devout Muslim and the acrobatics they have to do in order to get thru the day. Like Christians, they are born sinners and feel guilty whenever an impure thought crosses their minds. But unlike Christianity, they take the scriptures to submit to Allah (which is Arabic for God) very, very seriously. It's no wonder their societies are so uncivilized: they are still living in the dark ages of religious tyranny. Christianity went thru its reformation about two hundred years ago (sorry, don't have the exact date) whereas Islam has yet to go thru this important transformation. According to the author, it's unlikely that will happen in the near future because of the strict adherence to the Koran the Prophet Mohammed requires of the faithful and the unwillingness to seek a better way. It's all about power and control, just as it is with Christianity. Although Ayaan's pathway to atheism was different and far more difficult than mine, it takes on more meaning when one realizes that she is continually hunted by fundamental Muslims because their holy book, the Koran, states that the apostate must be killed. As with me, Ayaan saw that reason, reality, and rationality make it impossible to acknowledge a merciful higher power that would allow such atrocities.

As a voracious reader, and since I've recent increased my library considerable, I started reading another book this morning. The book is "God is not Great: How religion poisons everything" by Christopher Hitchens. Before starting this book I viewed many of his appearances on TV (YouTube) promoting his book. So far he's gotten great reviews and has been warmly received by most interviewers. His arguments are valid and strong. After reading the first chapter I must say that, even if you don't agree with his views or the subject, you'd have to admire his writing style. It is eloquent and beautiful, the prose flows effortlessly and invokes vividly imagery. I have read a lot of books, from fiction to biographies to non-fiction, and this is one of the best written works I've had the honor to read.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Murder suspect says he was doing God's work

A Cypress man charged in the death of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant said Saturday that he was doing God's work when he went to a Montrose-area bar last month, hunting for a gay man to kill.

"I believe I'm Elijah, called by God to be a prophet," said 26-year-old Terry Mark Mangum, charged with murder June 11. " ... I believe with all my heart that I was doing the right thing."

For the rest of the article click here. There's a reason this guy feels justified in doing this. Care to guess what that reason is? Right answer: Because the Bible says it's OK! (Seems he missed the "Thou shalt not murder" part though.)

A Christian thanks me

That's right, one of my fundy cousins actually thanked me for giving her the opportunity of examining her faith more closely and thus has strenghten her faith. She actually stated that her faith is stronger than it was before we started our discussion. WTF?

OK, here's my take on this. She's an ultra conservative fundamentalist christian and there is no way any of what we talked about could make her faith stronger. The reason is because she refuses to think outside the framework of this particular brand of christianity. I doubt if she really read what I wrote. Another thing, I think she wanted to say that I strengthen her faith just to get to me. It was an arrogant and unnecessary thing to say to me so the only motive was to gloat.

Here is what I wrote back to her:
You're welcome, I think. I have a feeling this is one of those pat answers Christians give to atheists just to get their goat. I'm honestly surprised that what I'm saying has strengthen your faith. I would've thought it was already quite strong and that what I have to say would not have matter one way or another. In other words, what I've discussed with you is really very old material that I thought you would've already covered in your previous studies and, in return, would've given me more of a challenge.

I'm not kidding myself, I have no delusions on challenging your faith on any level. My only hope was to get you to think outside the box, as I did, and make you go "Mmmmmmmm." Sadly, even if you did have the tiniest doubt or flimsiest qualm, you wouldn't feel comfortable enough in your faith to admit it to me.

That's too bad, because then we could really talk.

And I could be wrong.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book review of Death by Black Hole

I finished Neil DeGrasse Tyson's "Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandaries" last night. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned many things about the universe that I didn't know before. From the birth and death of stars to the possibility of multiverses to the primordial soup milliseconds after the big bang that all matter is make up of, Dr. Tyson made each subject fascinating and easy to understand in layman's terms. I highly recommend this book.

The last paragraph was very fitting for this group:

If you're not swayed by academic arguments, consider the financial consequences. Allow intelligent design into science textbooks, lecture halls, and the laboratories, and the cost to the frontier of scientific discovery - the frontier that drives the economies of the future - would be incalculable. I don't want students who could make the next major break through in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don't understand, and that nobody yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity. The day that happens, Americans will just sit in awe of what we don't understand, while we watch the rest of the world boldly go where no mortal has gone before.
In other words, saying that since you can't possible understand something doesn't mean God was responsible. There are many, many examples of scientists from Newton to Huygens to Galileo each reaching the limits of their understanding during their time only to invoke God when they just couldn't explain anything anymore. Fortunately we don't find scientists doing this anymore. Oh, there are a few but they are not taken seriously. One prime example is William Dembski and Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute. They claim that life is so complex that only an intelligent designer could've created it. They have published nothing that is peer reviewed and the claims they have been making have all been refuted years ago. It's sad that most people in the United States have poor science backgrounds and are unable (or perhaps unwilling) to spot bad science when they see it. Our country lags so far behind in the life sciences that we are now in second to last place just ahead of Turkey in the belief of evolution. It's sad that these people are actively trying to dumb us down and it's sad that so many people are actively participating.

On to the next book. I immediately started "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The introduction tells the story about how she and her friend, Theo Van Gogh (yes, that Van Gogh) produced a film called "Submission" about the struggles of Muslim women within the confines of that religion. She goes on to recount the day Theo was gunned down in the streets of Amsterdam by a Muslim man angry about this film, and stabbed a 5 page letter onto Theo's chest addressed to her. Theo had been warned about making this dangerous film but he so believed in the freedom of expression that he didn't back down. It was even suggested that his name not be put on the credits for security reasons. This made him angry. He said, "If I can't put my name on my own film, in Holland, then Holland isn't Holland any more, and I am not me." Very powerful opening to an autobiography! I actually wept it was so moving.

I'm into the first chapter about her childhood and find it hard to put the book down. You can tell English isn't her first language, but it only adds to the intrigue of the differences between our cultures.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Answering a loving Christian

This letter is in response to a different cousin who wanted to let me know that he didn't hate me but, because of the compassion of his christianity, he was required to pray that I find jesus/god. I find it funny that they think that's enough to convert me. He also states that his christianity is what compels him to help other people.

My letter to him:

Dear Cousin,

I don't think every Christian hates atheists, but the bible does give permission for you to hate people like me. And that's a problem. The fact that you feel you have a responsibility to pray for me to no longer be an atheist does mean you have some negative feelings about me. In other words, me being an atheist is wrong (negative) and that the only way I won't be wrong (bad, negative) is for me to convert to Christianity.

One thing you don't know about me is that I was never a Christian. I knew at an early age that Christianity wasn't a religion for women. Later in life I revisited Christianity just in case I was wrong and discovered I wasn't. I still don't understand why women willingly submit themselves to such an obviously patriarchal and misogynist religion. I also studied Eastern religions and found they too had dogma that I found wanting and immoral. I haven't turned away from religion because I wanted to live a life of debauchery, I turned away because it doesn't make any sense to devote time and energy to something one has to take on faith; something that can't be proven.

I too have helped people, as you have, but I didn't rely on faith to help them. I helped them because it was the right thing to do and the moral thing to do. My compassion comes from wanting the best for my fellow human being and not wanting to see anyone get hurt. I have also gone out of my way to help people I don't know and will never see again.

If there is anything that I've written about that you wish to comment on please feel free to do so. I try to be very thorough in my arguments and cover all my bases. In other words, I like to be challenged.

I do respect everyone on this email list. I have never attacked anyone personally and it isn't my nature to do so. Unfortunately, as I have found on this email list, Christians are easily offended. I cannot understand why Christians get defensive about a religion that is supposed to be so good. You would think such a religion could stand up on it's own merits. I have yet to defend science.

Thanks so much for your email. I'm glad you don't hate me, but please don't feel you have to pray for me. Unless God does something he's never done before I will not believe in him. If he exists, he knows what that something is. I'm sure your prayers won't help him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Another fundy relative chimes in

A note from my other cousin:
Summer, I want you to know I agree with almost everything Carol said. Since you're into free thought, I hope you will extend the same right to us Christians. And one of the biggest problems I see with not believing there's a God is not the problem of evil, but the problem of good. I can't see where evolution accounts for the ideas in life we hold dear- love, honor, courage, compassion, mercy, sacrifice, patience, respect.

I write back:
I could recommend some good books, or direct you to websites that explain this concept without the notion of God, if you're interested.

Problem of Good? That's a new one. The only reason you don't see where evolution accounts for human behavior is because you haven't studied it. I have and evolution explains it better than just saying it came from God. Unfortunately, it's very complicated and I don't have the education to understand all of it, so I cannot explain it 100% in an email.

OK, in a nutshell, we have developed altruism as a way to survive within our society. We would not be able to survive outside the group unless we cooperate within the group. That is why people who lie, cheat, and steal are not generally accepted. We also have secular laws, which have also evolved over thousands of years without the help of God, that also keep us moral within our society. All societies have this attribute no matter what their level of technology is. The more primitive the society, the more religious (or superstitious) their laws are. This is an extremely simplistic way of putting it and doesn't do the scientific explanation any justice.

The religious laws that are in the bible are not moral according to today's standards. We no longer consider owning slaves and we would never consider treating women as property in our modern society. The "good" laws or qualities of the bible predate the bible and are not new ideas, such as the Golden Rule.

Am I trivializing humans by removing God? Not at all, for we have a rich history of evolving mentally, spiritually, and intellectually. By saying that God is responsible for this trivializes our achievements by giving us no credit for trying to make our world a better place to live. Religion and God are man-made to explain the unexplainable and science has been making God (or I should say, the supernatural world) smaller and smaller. Demons are no longer responsible for sickness and were explained away by germ theory. The sun no longer revolves around the earth, making us a little less unimportant in the universe. The beginning of the universe is getting better understood by astronomers and physicists. Even the evolution of religion can be explained.

The reason we call ourselves "free thinkers" is because we do not allow ourselves to be held back by the dogma of religion. We think for ourselves. We come to conclusions based on data, evidence, and facts. You may think you do that as well, but you will only allow thoughts within the confines of your religion and will not consider anything that is outside of those confines. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing. It works well for you and your family and I would not want to take that away. I suspect it will be impossible for you consider the facts in the paragraphs above because of your faith and because of your personal relationship with God and Jesus.

Oh, by the way, I want to quantify this fact straight away. Judy and you have both accused me of this. I do not know everything. Period. I do not claim that science knows everything. Period. I can say the same for you, that you must know everything to know that God exists. See how ridiculous that sounds? I would not assume that of anyone.

I find it sad that you agree with Carol. She didn't read anything that I wrote, made bad assumptions, got very defensive, then ignored me. I tried to get her to reread what I wrote, but by that time I'm sure she invoked the delete key and hasn't read anything I've written since then. That's not the sign of a free thinker. BTW, I never delete anything you guys write to me. I read and reread what you write and I carefully consider what to write back. Judy did not show signs of doing that. That is not a quality of a free thinker.

There are others on my email list that have given me positive feedback and have opened their minds to new ideas. I don't think I've changed anyone's mind, but they have told me that they never thought about something in the way I have and that it was refreshing to get a different perspective. Nice! That is all I ask for.

Monday, July 9, 2007


The fool has said in his heart,
"There is no God." They are corrupt,
their deeds are vile; there is
no one who does good.

Psalms is a wonderful place to mine positive, warm and fuzzy verses, but it contains this one that gives christians permission to judge and hate someone like me. I know for a fact that there are family members who hate me because I am an atheist. Guess what? They didn't hate me before they found out, but once they did, they couldn't (and didn't have to) hide the hate any longer. Because of this well-known verse (it gets passed around as an email hoax near April 1 to poke fun at atheists. Claiming that this verse proves that April 1 is Atheist Day. Get it? April Fool's Day! Anyway, I'm sure it was a nice, well meaning Christian who thought up that precious tidbit.) atheists have to hide their lack of belief for fear of retribution at their jobs and/or communities. This is one of the main reasons I hold my head high when I state I'm an atheist, to prove this verse is untrue and demeaning to decent unbelievers like me.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Satan's death count

No one in my family offered Satan's death tally, but I wanted to get that number out there before they did just to prove the atheist is a better bible scholar than they are. I succeeded. Satan killed 10 of Job's children as part of a wager with his friend, God. That's it! Only 10 against God's millions.

I was also engaged in a discussion with a fundy cousin about the problem of evil when suddenly she states:
My faith has been formed over my lifetime through exposure to a lot of Christians through sermons, retreats, books, etc. However, the most important part of my faith is my personal relationship with God. I know you do not believe in Him, but I know Him, talk to Him, and hear from Him.

That was it. Fini. No more discussion. Weird.

I emailed more about how the problem of evil is even harder to understand when taking into consideration the innocent children around the world that suffer horrible diseases and God doesn't stop this from happening. No comment from anyone. I guess the word is out to ignore the atheist relative who is working for the devil. Sad, I think.

Then out of the blue my mother writes:
This is what my old Baptist preacher told me one time. He said that God doesn't let bad things happen. Just have faith, wonderful faith and I pray for those that don't have it.
She hasn't been paying attention and it frustrated me. I know my fundy relatives are all nodding their heads in agreement because they don't think to look at the suffering others are exposed to in the world. Here in Houston a teenager recently committed suicide. Story here. In anger I sent that article along with that stupid quote to everyone in my family last night. Again, nothing.

I'm not ready to give up the good fight just yet.