Monday, December 29, 2008

Thank god!

Today I had a huge scare that caused me to invoke the name of the Christian god. You know, the one most of us (in the US anyway) grew up with.

My SO surprised me on Xmas with a beautiful pair of diamond encrusted 18K white gold earrings. For as nice and expensive as these earrings are the clasp leaves little to be desired; just a push of the front and the post snaps into the back. A little jostle is enough to cause the earring to snap out of the clasp and disappear. But I was sure I could keep track of them.

I decided to wear them today. This morning the temps were in the mid 40’s. I bundled up to take the dog for a walk with a scarf around my neck. I checked the earrings a couple of times so I was sure I got home with both on my ears. An hour later I paused in front of the mirror to arrange my hair in a ponytail and I was horrified to discover I had lost an earring.

Immediately I started to shake and whisper to myself, “Where could it be?” Over and over I wracked my brain trying to place where I could’ve knocked the earring off. In the span of about 45 seconds I raced to the closet where I had taken off my coat and scarf and looked on the floor. There it was, exactly where it should’ve been.

“Thank god” were the first words out of my mouth.

So why did I say that?

You have to understand, the earrings are special. I was so relieved to find them I would’ve thanked Zeus if that had been a common phrase of the moment.

So that’s it. It’s a common phrase with different meanings for different people. For me it was an expression of private relief. No gods were harmed or invoked.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sad indeed. A short rant....

The first comment to my last blog post was spot-on. So much so that I wanted to write more about the sadness of what my mother (and others) have done in the name of faith.

It is a well known fact that the Christian god cannot be proven, that one has to take him on faith. Christians say it all the time: We can't prove god but we feel him in our hearts, or some other nonsense that make little sense to those of us who take evidence seriously.

Now take me for instance. I'm provable. My mother gave birth to me on a dark late October night in San Diego in the early 1960's. She was there and knows I exist. I can be seen and touched and I respond in like. I'm not mysterious or invisible. Other people can attest to my existence. Signs of my existence are everywhere within my family and with friends and enemies. There is no doubt I exist. Ask my doubles partners.

So Christians, if you have shunned a non-believer in your family just because they are skeptical about faith and accept only reality and evidence then the shame is on you. Every time I think about how my mother, the woman who is supposed to love me unconditionally, shuns me just because I happen to think her god is non-existent, it makes me wonder about how wonderful this god belief really is. Sorry, but if I was in a similar situation, the god-belief would be gone. The love for my daughter would win every time.

But that's just me.

Side note: I may be an atheist but I'm not a monster. I'm a law-abiding, middle aged tennis fanatic. I have to watch what I eat because I gain weight easily. I hate to work out. I got a speeding ticket last week. I don't do drugs but like a glass of wine nightly. Sound like anyone you know? Yeah, I'm average too.

If you're a Christian and can't talk to your atheist relatives you need to get over yourself. Do it now before your relative doesn't give a shit anymore and it'll be too late.

Me? This has been going on for a long time. I finally don't give a shit.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

An interesting year.

2008 has been an interesting year for me. There were lots of firsts: trip to New York to watch the US Open, playing with dolphins in Cabo San Lucas. There were a few epiphany moments as well. They involved my family of origin and new thoughts on religion.

While in NY I meet a guy in a bar who wore religious jewelry in the form of a charm around the neck. He said was the patron saint of something then asked what religion was I. Answering proudly that I’m an Atheist I noticed he cringed ever so slightly. In response I said that I felt if he shared this tidbit then I had the right to share the same tidbit about myself. With relief on his face agreed then the subject was changed.

One the same trip I came out to a friend who had mentioned she felt sorry for atheists. We talked about what it meant to be an atheist and I’m sure I dispelled some myths she may have had. She is still a dear friend and I’m pretty sure she’s not praying for me.

These two experiences had a dramatic effect on me. I made a decision to discuss religion in any context if, and only if, it is brought up by another person. In my mind it gives me the right to voice my differing opinion but it also forces the other person to have to listen. Sounds good in practice but as it turns out super sensitive religious people have no tolerance and will not reciprocate.

My mother and sister are of the super sensitive variety of Christians. What’s great about this type of Christian is there no confrontation. Let me explain.

Mom likes to start her emails off with a bible verse or a god friendly quote. One such quote was about how if one doesn’t get guidance from god they are getting it from someone or something else. I totally agreed and wrote a short note:

I actually love this saying you are including in your email. I know I'm not guided by "God" because I'm guided by my own experiences and my conscience. I was also guided by what you and Dad taught me as a child. My other sources of guidance included teachers, relatives, authority figures such as policemen, and friends.

One thing I learned about "God" from reading the Bible is he's a mean, nasty guy and you never know when he's going to want to wipe out every living thing from the earth or ask you to kill your first born son (or daughter, or family). I'm glad I'm not guided by that monster!

I know that's not what you intended to mean by that saying but that's what it means to me. Thanks!

I know, it’s harsh, but it’s also appropriate. I also was not trying to convert her. The point of view was mine and I was only responding. That email was dated 11/22/2008 and that’s when she removed me from her email list. Now there’s just silence.

This is the way my mother and sister think: I’ll just stop emailing Tina because she is nasty to me when I write about my god; instead of: I’ll stop putting god stuff in my email because Tina responses to it in a way I can’t handle. Like I said, if they put god stuff in their email I will respond in turn. It’s fair.

Or is it?

Anyway, I’m the happiest I’ve been regarding my mother and sister in a long time. Silence, in this instance, is definitely golden.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Death in the family

Since I'm the bad guy in the family they may not be sending current information to me so this distant family member may not be dead. Seems he had a stroke and was off the ventilator in transit to a hospital too long and may be brain dead. This is all I know so far.

The emails for prayers and the emails stating said prayers are coming fast and furious. I've remained silent in the recent past because I feel the family doesn't like being reminded they have an infidel in their mists. It's been tiresome to me to interject myself into their fantasy lives so I've back off.

But this time I felt strongly that this very religious family needs to know that even atheists can feel sadness and empathy. After much thought I sent this message to the suffering family this morning:
Dear family,

As you know, I am an atheist. That being said, like all the others, my heart aches for you and your family and I have no words to express the sadness I feel for you during this time. If I was a true believer I would be praying for you and for George with all my heart and soul. Since I am not the only thing I can offer at this great distance is letting you know that my thoughts are with your family and I wish I could do more to help.

Love,
Tina
Update: My relative did indeed die. From what everyone is saying he's in heaven now, singing heavenly praises to our lord. I am still amazed at this childish way of thinking of death.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lying for Jesus - part 2

There's been plenty of "lying for Jesus" in the US for different causes. Prop Hate (8) in California is one instance that makes a liberal's stomach turn. This sign, from a church in Wichita, KS (I have relations there, unfortunately) that is a blatant lie for the Christian cause, whatever the fuck that is.

What makes people do this? I think it's arrogance. This people think the message is more important than the facts. Facts that would lead the sheeple away from Jesus and into the darkness of sin. I see this arrogance and ignorance in my red-neck family members when they say they aren't interested in learning anymore. They are happy and content with what their pastor tells them and they are too busy to look up facts on their own. The trust they have in a pastor with an agenda is astonishing and sad.

Within my own family I've given up. It was frustrating and disheartening trying to get them to understand what Prop 8 in California was really about. It's sad that they can't and won't understand that pro-choice is about the lives of women and not about murdering children. It's maddening that some of my relatives believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old and think I'm being arrogant for not believing in ghosts and demons.

This election cycle and my trip to Kansas has brought many things to light about my place within my family. I've decided not to pursue any relationships with anyone who doesn't respect me. OTOH, I cannot be in a relationship with anyone who I can't respect. That's only fair, IMO.

Note: For another view on this picture see A Gentleman's Domain.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Other thoughts

As I wrote last night I am very happy Senator Obama won the election. Unfortunately there were other elections that didn't turn out so great. One was Proposition 8 in California taking an already established right of marriage away from gay people. It is never good to take rights away especially since there was no harm being done with that right in the first place. I predict that thru a series of lawsuits to challenge this discriminatory law it will be struck down at the expense of tax payers within a few months. I am proud to say that I donated to the "Vote No on Prop 8" campaign to help my gay brothers and sisters.

I was glad to see that the Democrats did not get the 60 seats in the Senate as was hoped by some people. I think our government needs to have the ability to argue laws that the majority thinks are right.

I was glad to see Liddy Dole lose her seat to a Democrat because of her inflammatory ads suggesting her opponent is an atheist. As an atheist myself it alarmed me that atheists as a group are still being targeted for bigotry. We still have a long uphill battle ahead of us but we are making progress.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama wins!

Although he didn't get the electoral votes of Texas he did overwhelmingly win the 270+ votes from other states. I cried tears of joy when MSNBC announced his win.

Now we'll see if he can deliver.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Calm, cool, and collected


I like what Colin Powell says without hesitation in the end. He is still indeed a Republican.

Un-American?

Ok, I'm over being called anti-American, although I was pretty pissed-off yesterday. I saw this video of Rep. Bachmann saying that unAmerican members of government needed to be found and removed along with the Governor Palin video implying parts of our great country are anti-American. Unfortunately for me, I hold views that are different than Rep. Bachman and I live in a large metropolitan city, both are anti-American characteristics according to these important women of power. The more I thought about it the more I realized that they were the ones being unAmerican by espousing views of division and hatred. I mean, can you imagine the witch hunt of the federal government if we extracted those whose policies differed from Rep. Bachmann? Remember McCathyism in the 1950's?

If you think the Democrats will steer this country into socialism (they won't) be afraid that the current Republicans will steer this great, diverse, and wonderful country into fascism.

My neighbor asked me a few days ago if I was concerned about paying more taxes. I replied that with Obama as president I wasn't getting any tax increases. I don't think we'll be making over $250,000 anytime soon. One thing that I didn't mention and I wish I had is that under a McCain presidency our medical benefits will be taxed. This should be a major concern of the elderly. A by-pass surgery can cost over $35,000. Can you imagine the taxes on that much money?

Oh, BTW, my neighbor is alright with me now. We talked yesterday but not about politics!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A neighbor rejects me!

Only 18 days until Election Day! Honestly, I really wish it were over. My Republican friends have been respective of my views for the most part but yesterday one of my neighbors started a conversation with me then walked off. It was uncomfortable and weird.

A little background. I'm not a Democrat or Republican. I'm what is commonly known as an Independent. This means that I have two choices and I want to make the best choice I can. The only way to do this is research by reading different publications. The reason for this is to take out the bias. This is why I don't read or watch Fox News. They are clearly biased on the far right and cannot be trusted. The best source I have found is the BBC and news blogs. People who write their opinions on blogs usually include reference material which I check out and have found very useful. I am very careful and extremely skeptical.

My neighbor Judy who I had the confrontation with is in her late 70's. Makes no bones about being a product of the Depression and WWII. I highly respect her. She is not connected to the Internet and doesn't own a cell phone. Her only source of information is Fox News. I know this because she told me.

Yesterday I was walking the dog when I come up on Judy and Eugene (another Republican neighbor) in the street in front of my house obviously talking about the debate. I thought, "Shit, how am I going to get past this?" I promise you, I wasn't going to engage at all, just say "Good morning" and walk into my house. But as I got closer I could actually hear exactly what they were talking about so I made a comment like "So I guess you guys are talking about the debate?" How could I be so dumb? Judy says "Oh yes, but you wouldn't agree with anything we have to say." To which I answered with a smile on my face and in a happy way, "Maybe not." She then started to ask me questions to which I had factual answers. Mostly what I got from her was a lot of "You've got to be kidding!" and "You really don't believe that, do you?" and she actually suggested that I was brainwashed. Now, I've got an extremely thick skin and I wasn't bothered in the least, which she noticed, so she changed the subject to how ineffective the Democratic Congress has been these past 2 years. I said that Bush has so much power that he's handcuffed the Congress and I think I also mentioned Dick Cheney and his seemingly unlimited power. That's when she stated she couldn't talk to me anymore and walked off. I thought, that's odd, getting upset about that subject.

I haven't seen her yet but I will guess that she'll continue to be neighborly and talk to me about the weather and such. Yes, I wish the election was over!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lying for Jesus

Mrs Palin is getting under my skin so I'm writing about her again. Please bear with me.

One of my friends is a 5th grade school teacher. She is a single mom with two adorable girls, 6 and 10. We were talking about Sarah Palin and my friend made a statement which resonated with me. She said there was no way she would vote for a woman who would force a 13 year old girl (or any age) to give birth to a baby conceived as a result of a rape or incest. She said that she couldn't imagine putting her own daughters though the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy on top of being victimized by a rapist. Mrs Palin misquoted Madeline Albright by saying, "There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t support other women." I agree. Her position on abortion ain't supportin' women so there must be a special place for her in the nether regions of mythology.

Note: the correct quote is: “There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don't help other women.” One of my favs.

I'm concerned about Mrs Palin's soul as well. (OK, not really.) She is bearing false witness by saying this statement. "Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." She was referring to Bill Ayers.

This is what the NY Times had to say in response: Summing up its findings, the Times wrote: "A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called 'somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'"

These kinds of personal attacks have a way of backfiring. In an age where information is readily available you would think the Republicans would stick with the facts. Mrs Palin ain't lookin' so good after all, is she?

You betcha!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My opinion on the VP debate

So far major media has Biden winning by a substantial margin. There is a good reason for this. Mr Biden, although many thought he was boring, presented facts in a professional way and corrected Mrs Palin over and over again when she tried to lie to the American voters. She tried her best to stir the debate away from McCain's mcsame record as the current president by being folksy and cute: "Say it ain't so, Joe. There you go pointing backwards again." He was pointing backwards because that's where we'll be going under another Republican administration.

I'm sorry but all that winking and using folksy language was unprofessional. If she's like this with us then she'll be like that with world leaders and diplomats. It might look good to the masses but world leaders will expect professionalism. She has yet to show that side to us. I cringed and felt bad for her every time she said "ain't" and winked. (BTW, I believe I counted 5 winks, who does that at board meetings?)

Was Mr Biden boring? I didn't think so. But if others thought he was boring at least he was honest. Mrs Palin was a cute, winking liar and I'm amazed that Christians love her so. (I thought not lying was a rule. Perhaps I'm wrong.) Being that she's a conservative Pentecostal Christian I'm surprised that she accepted this position with 5 kids and a special needs baby. As a concerned mother, instead of forcing an 18 year old hockey player to marry her pregnant 17 year old daughter, she should've had him thrown in jail for rape.

Only one thing I have to say about Mr McCain. He is a warmonger and I know you conservative Christians like war, but think about how these current conflicts are bankrupting us. It's not a good idea. We cannot be the world's police force anymore. Mrs Palin and Mr McCain both say that negotiating with unfriendly world leaders without preconditions is not a good idea, and that's not what Obama/Biden are suggesting, but I don't see a problem with it. I think if our leaders are willing to meet on good terms with unfriendly world leaders it just might make us look eager for compromise or resolution. Threatening unfriendly countries with sanctions and force has not and does not work.

Taxes. They are going to be raised no matter who is in office. We have to pay for these wars and the bailout. I'm willing to sacrifice, like those did in WWII, to make our country great again.

This is what one of my relatives had to say the day after the debate:
What a great debate last night. Sarah did wonderful and seemed she was a vice president all her life. She certainly has a smooth way about her and does not get ruffled in the least. Our prayers were answered, Praise God. We do need to be in constant prayer and praise to our wonderful Father in Heaven. It is going to take a long time to get out of this mess as it took a long time to get into it.....like **** back to President Carter's presidency.

There's no talking to people who hold this kind of opinion. They can't see the lies or they think with God on their side there are no lies. It's difficult not to say anything but in this case I chose not to respond. Their minds are closed and nothing can make them change their minds. It's tragic that much of our country is made up of people who are proud to be this way.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Guardian Angels

Do you believe in guardian angels? Do you think a dead relative hovers over you to protect you from harm? Do you pray to this person? If you do believe in this what proof do you have that this is true, or is it wishful thinking?

According to an an article from USA Today "a new survey of the USA's religious beliefs and practices finds 55% of all adults — including one in five of those who say they have no religion — believe they have been protected from harm by a guardian angel."

What's interesting is the poll that accompanies this article where most people responding to it claim that they in fact do believe this!

Are you as dumbfounded as I am? In the 21st century in the age of computers and iPhones people still believe they have a spirit protecting them from harm. Wow.

Funny thing is we have just experienced a horrific hurricane in our area and I have been hearing stories about people being "blessed" and "watched over" by dead relatives. One neighbor revealed to me that her dead father-in-law watches over the whole family and she prays to him every night. I was speechless, which was a good thing, because responding to something as crazy as how this sounded would not have been very neighborly or positive.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Aftermath of Hurricane Ike

We finally got phone service so I'm able to write about our hurricane experience.

It started last Friday night with the wind picking up. Thick clouds rolled around with little spits of rain. I took the dog for a walk that night wondering if we were going to get any rain out of this system at all.

We fell asleep late as the wind continued to howl and the rain beginning to fall. The power grid was tested by the winds several times before it completely failed. Each interruption lasted anywhere from a few seconds to perhaps 2 minutes, the final one at around 3 am. Plunged into darkness with flashes from lightening or transformers exploding as our only light we knew it was going to be bad.

As one can imagine, sleep didn't come easily. Our alarm system finally let us know around 5 am that it didn't like being on the battery that long. It beeped continuously until we disconnected it from it's power source. That's when we heard another sound: the whine of the water detector in the attic. Sure enough we had water trickling in from wind blown rain which landed in the AC pan. This detector was very loud and had to be disconnected from it's power source too.

By this time it's past 6 am and the wind has switched directions. The eye of the storm had passed us. Unfortunately the tall cedar tree in the front yard couldn't handle the new direction of the wind and was about to be ripped from the ground. In the driving rain my husband and I tied the tree in place from 3 different directions and hopefully saved it. It was just beginning to get light around that time and we could see the amount of abuse the trees were taking from the wind. It was both awesome and terrifying!

With all the rain we had taken in we decided to start the sump pump to prevent the backyard from flooding. Fortunately we bought a generator a couple of years ago just for this reason. We did get water up to the house but nothing inside. The pump helped.

As the storm was fading from our area we started cleaning up. I wanted to get as much out of the driveway as possible so the water from the yard could drain to the street. I next moved to the pool and scooped out over 50 pounds of leaves and branches. It was gross. I hoped that we would get power soon so the pool wouldn't get to far out of control.

So we spent most of the day cleaning the yard and talking to neighbors. My husband helped a few of our neighbors clear out large branches and broken trees from yards and streets. I offered our freezer space to some friends and ended up storing a few things for them. Everyone had minor damage, mostly trees, branches and fences, but nothing major.

The next day we woke up to another storm which dropped over 5 inches of rain in less than 3 hours. As it turned out, as Ike made it's way north through the country, a stray feeder band came back around to trouble us some more. This was worse than the storm itself and we had to man the sump pump again and keep the drains in the backyard free of debris. It was scary to have to live through it again so soon!

After that storm left the area, we resumed cleaning up the yard. We had hopes that the power in our neighborhood would be restore that day but as the day went on it looked like our chances were receding. Even in the mists of a wild rumor circulating throughout our neighborhood that the power company was there our hopes became dashed as the day wore on. Perhaps on Monday we'd have power again we all hoped.

As the day progressed and as people came out to help, several of us organized a party at the club house to get rid of food that wouldn't make it another day without power. I showed up around 5:30 and was immediately given a cup of wine. It was great sharing horror stories with friends and finding out just how much damage there was and how we mostly escaped unharmed. I wasn't there long when we discovered the power had been restored! It was as if we all had been given the greatest Christmas gift all at the same time. It was such a relief to all of us and we celebrated with a song. It was one of the nicest experiences I've ever had.

The total amount of time without power was about 40 hours. Much of Houston is still without so we are fortunate.

Today I finished cleaning out the pool. Right now it's a beautiful blue color with no debris. I knew it wouldn't take long. I'm also sweeping out the house of the leaves we brought in from the yard, and also sweeping the decking around the pool. I've called many of my friends and everyone got though with minimal damage. Many of my friends have property in Galveston, which was hardest hit. It doesn't look good for them.

Anyway, it's hard getting around the city since there isn't power everywhere. There's very little gas and few grocery stories are open. Tomorrow will be a better day and things will progress as the week goes by. My tennis leagues have all been canceled which is good. We all need to stay home and not be a burden on the infrastructure of the city.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike and Sarah Palin

Here's a hurricane update from the west side of Houston. We are currently preparing the house for lots of rain and wind. All patio furniture is either in the house or secured outside. The husband is getting the sump pump and generator ready just in case we get downpours that our drainage system can't handle. I had the opportunity to talk to many of my neighbors as I walked the dog this morning and most are staying at home or with other neighbors/family.

The evacuation of the low lying areas in and near Galveston has been going smoothly, mostly because of lessons learned three years ago from Rita and Katrina. Even though this storm will be a major impact on property the city governments have been doing a great job protecting people and keeping them out of harm's way. It's up to those individuals to do what they feel is right for them.

Now back to politics. The more I read about Sarah Palin and John McCain the more I feel they must not be voted into office. She stated in a recent interview with Charles Gibson:

"They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."


So that makes her qualified to be an expert on foreign policy? I understand that Republican standards are pretty low, but this is absurdly bottom of the barrel. I still haven't read anywhere that she's actually been to Russia or met their leaders in any capacity.

Another thing that worries me about McCain's choice for VP is how she feels about sex education. While I know that education is a state issue, the fact that she advocates for abstinence only sex education and at the same time her 17 year old daughter becomes pregnant on her watch should inform her that this way of teaching doesn't work. She is letting her religious dogma cloud her reason and her ability to think this problem though. This is not a quality I want a leader of this country to have. We need a leader that can think out of the box. She has proven incapable of doing so.

Her position on her particular brand of Christian dogmatic morality on women is not in our (women's) best interest. It is not reasonable to criminalize abortion and burden our overtaxed justice system with the job of sending poor women to prison for taking control of their lives. Abortions are a terrible thing but making it a crime will not solve this problem. Responsible sex-ed for teenagers is the answer and not the kind Palin thinks we should have. Sex happens and we should be teaching our children responsibility, not religious dogma.

And what's this about a possibility of a war with Russia? Is she insane? We can't even afford the wars we're in right now. We owe so much money to China they practically own us. Do we want to further cripple our country and our economy? I believe McCain feels that war is the answer. Our involvement in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. (I can't name them all) should be enough evidence to prove that it isn't always the answer. (WWII was an exception.)

Please, please think about these issues and the long range consequences they have for our children and grandchildren. I cannot vote for 4 more years of business as usual. I hope you can't either.

Constructive comments are encouraged and welcome.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back and ready to go


We got back from a week long vacation in Cabo San Lucas with Mr. Squirrel's side of the family. It was nice. Only problem was that Mr. Squirrel had a collision with granddaughter number 2 and severely injured his left knee. He feels he'll need surgery but I hope all he needs is a long recuperation.

Even though both sides of our families are very religious, this time I was at ease and had fun. There was no hidden feeling of a shark attack waiting to happen. One of the huge glaring differences is my family is Southern Baptist and Mr. Squirrel's family is Episcopal. In other words, one is conservative and the other is more liberal and tolerant.

Yes, I was much more relaxed on this vacation.

If you ever find yourself in Cabo San Lucas I must recommend seeing the dolphins at Cabo Dolphins. All six of us got to swim and play with Jennie, one of the dolphins at the center, for over 30 minutes. It was the most wonderful experience ever and one that our granddaughters will never forget. It was one of those experiences that will forever bring a tear of happiness to my eyes.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Am I angry?

I went back and read some of my most recent posts and it seems that I'm angry about something. Not that anyone has pointed that out to me or anything but I do recognize that I am angry and frustrated and have been for a long time.

The anger comes from being constantly misunderstood.

I need to clarify something here. I'm not a lonely, depressed, fearful person. I'm cheerful, positive, and friendly. In the various different social groups I participate in I'm well liked and popular. The anger isn't something I feel all the time. It just seems to rear it's ugly head when the subject of my immediate family comes up or I have to deal with them on an intimate level.

Back to the subject of being misunderstood. It's frustrating trying to get close to a person when they immediately throw up barriers based on a preconceived idea of who you are, whether it is true or not. When it comes to family, they seem to be more judgmental about my atheism than my friends and acquiescences. But are they being judgmental about my lack of belief or it is something else?

My immediate family has always shown some sort of contempt for me, even in my late teens when I left home. Because of this fact I figured it can't be my atheism that is the cause of this estrangement because I've only been a self described atheist for about four years. On the other hand, a relative told me four years ago that she's always known I was an atheist, so perhaps it's something that is intrinsic about me that I've only recently discovered through education.

So it seems that this behavior towards me is a result of my non-acceptance of Christianity. Honestly, it may seem to be the case, but I think it's more than that and my frustration and anger is a response to not knowing why I'm treated this way by my immediate family.

OK, now to get past the anger and to let go.

This may come as a surprise, but I've actually let go of a lot of "stuff" that drove my anger. My SO has noticed I don't talk about the craziness of my family as often as I used to. In fact, it's been close to zero. Unfortunately I've also made some mistakes along the way. Like going to Kansas and subjecting myself to seven days of torture at the willing hands of my unforgiving family.

Yeah, I'm angry at myself for allowing that bullshit to happen. In my defense I did want to give myself and my family another chance, knowing full well that the percentage for success would be quite low. And yes, a week was too long. I could've figured this out in less than two days.

The anger will subside and be replaced with apathy. I've already stopped reading most of my extended families email and I find I am much more at peace with myself.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Deleted a post

A few days ago I deleted an old post which I wrote about Tony Snow. The subject was how arrogant I found his claims of being blessed by God when others who suffered from cancer didn't get the same treatment as he claimed to have gotten from his god. The post gained a tremendous amount of attention from Christians who made outrageous statements about my atheism and how I really believed in God but was just angry, sad, pissed off, wanted to be immoral, etc. It was amazing how stupid the comments were getting. I exercised my free will and deleted the offending post. Good riddance, I say.

At this point in time in my atheism I'm not interested in finding God anymore. I've spent a large amount of time searching and he still hasn't turned up so I want to focus my attention to other things. I'm very interested in my Freethought groups here in the Houston area and have gotten to know a lot of wonderful atheists. I also am involved the the Humanists of Houston and want to be more active in my community on a secular level. So far my activism has been to educate my friends what an atheist is and that they have been playing tennis with one for many years. The response has been positive.

To the Christians out there who think atheists are mad at God and that's why we don't believe, you are so wrong it's not even funny. We don't believe because there is no evidence. Nothing, nada, zilch, zero. Accept it and move on. Let's talk about other things like abortion rights and poverty. How about the Iraqi war and the economy? I want to talk about things that matter in this life right here and right now.

I'm still frustrated about my trip to Kansas and how I didn't seem to get anywhere with my family. Not that I expected anything, but I had hoped that things would go better. My mother and I have never had a connection which I now see on so many levels that, even though I gave up on her long ago, there is still no chance we will ever find common ground. At one time I had hoped that my sister and I could be friends but, for many of the same reasons, I don't ever see that ever happening. Both women are too judgmental, too sensitive, and too defensive for me to want to be around them for any length of time.

Funny thought: I wonder what they think of me?

I think I already know....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Back from Kansas

Yesterday I got back from visiting my mother and her husband in a god forsaken place called Goddard, Kansas. It's just west of Wichita on Highway 54. I don't think I'll be going back.

One strange thing I noticed was the political/religious signs that some families posted on the edge of their sprawling wheat fields. Mostly about their disdain for murdering babies, opps, I mean legalized abortion. I wanted to take a picture of a particularly amusing one but my religious and highly moral sister (who was driving) refused to pull over. The reason? She didn't want me to make fun of these people and their views on the Internet. So I figured I'd do it anyway sans picture.

It was funny to see signs condemning legalized abortion and condemning contraception. Yep, you saw that right - signs condemning contraception. Just squirt those Catholic babies out as fast as you can conceive 'em.

So there, I didn't need a goddamn picture to make fun of stupid views based on stupid dogma.

More on the rest of the trip later.....

Monday, July 14, 2008

How to respond to a friend

I got a goddy email from a friend. It was in good taste and not at all over the top. She's a good friend and has a reputation of being a sweet and thoughtful person so I sent this in response:
Hi Judy, thanks for the video and the message. It was nice.

Did you know that I'm an atheist? Have been for a very long time. Emails like this are no big deal, I just thought I'd let you know.

Love and hugs,
Summer

I sent an email with similar wording to an aunt who sent me a goddy email. Her response was that she loved me anyway and that my differing views didn't matter. I wrote her back letting her know that I appreciated her feelings.

There's hope for my family after all!

Trip to visit fundy family

Starting July 17th thru July 24 I'll be in Kansas visiting my mother and her new husband's family. I'll be going by car with my religious sister and atheist brother, along with a nephew and niece. Several months ago when my sister brought it up I thought it sounded like a good idea, now I'm having some reservations.

At first I thought I was feeling anxious because, not only do I not know that side of my extended family; they are conservative Catholics and I'm sure they know I'm an atheist. I don't know how religious or how conservative they are, but if I use their acceptance of my mother as a guide, I would guess very religious and very conservative.

With more thought about my situation I realize it's not the people I'm nervous about. I will be away from the comfort of my home for 7 days around people I don't know. Yeah, I get anxious about going away on vacation, but at least I know I'll have my own bathroom and the privacy I value. Going away for over 3 days to a place I'm not sure of is scary and upsetting to me and I'm big enough to admit it.

Now I've got to work on "getting so over it!"

Monday, July 7, 2008

Email about Mrs. Obama

I received an email from a cousin about Mrs. Obama not being as good a person as Mrs. McCain. It stated some great things that Mrs. McCain as done for children as a result of being very wealthy. Something I wish I could do. The last line of the email then attacked Mrs. Obama because she hasn't done these wonderful things.

It pissed me off so I wrote my cousin and told her why that email was wrong on many levels. Apparently I wasn't the only one. Her email today stated that we'll all just have to agree to disagree and that she wasn't going to write anymore about politics.

Fine, but that pissed me off too. Here the letter I wrote back in response:
Just some thoughts about the mantra "let's just agree to disagree." Sometimes it's good to back off and let things go; we are all different and we have different opinions. Fair enough. I find this mantra to be a show stopper for the wrong reasons and I'll explain.

The majority of the email about Mrs. McCain was interesting and informative. If someone was interested in her it would give them the motivation to either confirm or disprove the subject or just learn more about her. The last part of that email implied that Mrs. Obama was not as noble because she hasn't done as much as the wealthy Mrs. McCain. I don't know how many people commented on this email but my only problem was the attack on Mrs. Obama. It was underhanded and immoral. If we have to agree to disagree on this then there is a serious problem with some people's moral compass. We need to call attention to this kind of back stabbing if we are to have a civil presidential election.

I also think that the mantra "let's just agree to disagree" causes some to disregard important opinions and information. For example: a few years ago I was for the death penalty. As a Texan and a Republican, I felt if someone killed another person in an especially horrific way they deserved to die. I got into a respectable debate with someone on the Internet about it and he had some interesting things to say. Instead of shoving my fists in my ears and saying, "I do not agree and we'll have to leave it at that," I listened. I heard things that made me uncomfortable so I checked it out. Now for many reasons and science based evidence, I'm strongly against the death penalty. Same for the Iraq War. I got into a discussion with a friend and she said a few things that got me to think and to research. I have changed my mind. In fact, I've changed my mind a few times about this but now I'm in favor of stopping this war ASAP and convinced the public was lied to for reasons we may never know.

In conclusion I say let it all hang out, but be prepared to take the heat for it. Keep an open mind and perhaps you just might learn a thing or two. BTW, I love it when people disagree with me! I learn much from the experience and one of the things I've learned is that I'm not always right. Good life lesson....

Peace!
Summer

New site for Atheists

From vjack and Poodles I've discovered this new site for atheists to gather and exchange ideas. It's a lot like MySpace but cooler. It's got a great name too: Atheist Nexus.

Kinda got that Star Trek geeky feeling to it. Love it!

I'm using my real name there. Check it out and add me as a friend.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My thoughts on Carlin

I am very sad today about the untimely death of George Carlin. Although much of his humor wasn't my cup of tea, I still liked him and admired his irreverence. I did like his bit about the 7 words you can't say on TV or radio. Another thing I liked about him was his outspokenness about his atheism. He will be missed by many people who loved his work and his humor.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Meme

I got tagged by Oz Atheist:

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
Atheism is the lack of belief in the supernatural. I say this to stop the next question which is "Does this mean you're a Satanist?" Honest, I've been asked this recently.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
My mother attempted to indoctrinate me into the Southern Baptist religion, South Texas variety. It didn't take at all. It was stupid even to a very young child.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
Disgusting.

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?
I love astronomy and gobble anything on the web about it.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
Getting them to be more enthusiastic about getting together to do something, anything.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
I have no children, but if I did I would be disappointed but I would love and support them just the same.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
Pascal's Wager. I ask them how they know for sure that Christianity is the one true religion. Stumps them every time.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
Comparative religion should be taught in schools by an atheist.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
I love the way Hitchens crawls under everyone's flesh and flays them with big words and accurate arguments. You gotta love that British accent too!

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
My mother. She is so blindly and blissfully ignorant that it hurts to be around her. She's been fortunate that no one has yet taken advantage of her. She's so old, so happy, and so shielded from the real world that I don't bother.

I haven't been following blogs lately so I won't tag anyone else. If you feel like commenting on any of these I'd love to hear what you have to say.

The Sermon, Part Deux

To continue the saga from my last post. My cousin obviously thought I meant something else by my email so I wrote this to clarify what I really meant. I tried to be as clear as possible without hurting her very fragile Christian feelings.
I think you misunderstood my email. It wasn't unsatisfactory to me, in fact it was everything I expected it to be and more. I enjoyed it very much because it forced me to be critical about the biblical and historical accounts Dr. Caner was claiming to be true. I don't just do this to religious people, I do this to everyone. It's called critical thinking. I can hardly watch the daily news without finding someone lying or stretching the truth about something to fit their own agenda. Everyone does it but I find it more disturbing when religious people do it.

I have no intention of trashing this CD. In fact, I was going to let several of my humanist friends listen to it so we could discuss it later. I did download to it my iPod which means I can burn my own CDs of this sermon to distribute amongst my friends. In other words, I would happily mail this one back to you if you will provide me with your address. Also, I can make multiple copies if you want to give them to others. Let me know!

Again, I appreciate the time it took for you to order and mail a copy of this sermon to me. It was both enjoyable and informative.

This is her reply:
OK, Summer. I can accept that explanation. And if you care to mail it back, my address is xxxxx.

Although I felt I handled the situation well, I felt she had already decided how she was going to respond based on what she thought I was going to say. This has been typical behavior for the fundies in my family. It's so important for us to spread the news far and wide that we atheists aren't bad and terrible people, that we aren't out to burn down churches or ban bibles. Our only goals are to keep government and religion separate and to be open about our atheism without fear of harm.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Sermon

Last week a cousin writes in her family email that a guest speaker came to their church to tell them his story about how came from being raised Muslim in the United States to being saved by grace and is now a Christian. Through our various emails she said the lecture had been taped and I asked for a copy, which I promptly loaded into my iPod the moment I got my little hands on it.

It was a typical sermon by a typical charismatic preacher. He was preaching to the choir and knew he wouldn't be challenged on any of his facts. Here is what I wrote to my cousin about the sermon:
Thanks so much for the CD. I got it today and immediately loaded it into my iPod. I've just finished listening to it. Dr. Caner started out by sounding like a credible person. Unfortunately by the end of the lecture he was guilty of lying and omitting crucial information knowing that no one in the congregation was going to challenge his authority. Also he assumes the Bible is correct and the Koran is not without giving any basis on those assumptions knowing full well that no one will challenge him.

I listened to his lecture while I was working out and didn't take notes. If you're interested in more of what I thought I will gladly listen to the lecture again (he is very charismatic after all and easy to listen to). Mostly what I found flawed about his argument of Christianity v. Islam is the appeal to emotion. For example, he talks about how horrible Islam is then omits or glosses over the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity. And nobody called him on it.

Over the years I've studied Christianity a lot but never really paid that much attention to Islam. The points that Dr. Caner covered were things I already knew from the little comparative study I've done between Christianity and Islam. They are very much the same, with some differences, but the biggest difference is Christianity has gone through an enlightenment period whereas Islam has not. I also disagree with Dr. Caner about this war; I think the war in Iraq has done much to hold back this enlightenment and anger Muslims against the crusading Christians. What we should have done is continue good relations with Iraq (and Iran) and import our way of life slowly by importing our goods and services to their countries.

Thanks again, it was an enjoyable hour.

The response I got a few days later was weird. First off, when I didn't hear from her immediately I figured she was offended by my words and couldn't bring herself to email me. I'm alright with that kind of response. My religious relatives are of the very thin skinned variety and I'm not the kind of person to pull punches. As it turns out I got a reply a couple days later.
I'm sorry your found the CD of Dr. Caner's message to be so dis-satisfactory to you. If you intend to trash it, I might ask that you send it back. The demand for the CD's has been high at the church. I'm sure there are others who would find it valuable. However, if you want to keep it, that is OK too.

My first thought was "Didn't she read my email at all?"

I'll post the rest tomorrow.

More from a cousin

Lately I've been corresponding with a cousin who feels so strongly about God that she goes to other dangerous countries to proselytize. I'll write soon about my conversation with her about her religion.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Responses from last letter

The next day my cousin writes:
It is obvious that we need to agree to disagree. I respect your right to disagree and appreciate your willingness to allow me to do the same.

I immediately respond to her:
OK. I thought that was understood.

Soon after that I get this:
I'm sure it should have been understood, but I guess I just had to reaffirm it. Your questions cause me to believe that you are seeking answers, but I suspect you are trying to convince me I am wrong, as I am trying to convince you that you are wrong. Without common ground, there is no basis for discussion. But you are right though, that I can accept you as a good person who does not believe in God and that we are fellow travelers here on this earth - just headed in different directions.

It's obvious that she's misunderstood my position, as religious people often do, so I write:
I was only trying to convince you that I too had a tough and painful journey and also came out of it a better person. There was no intention on my part of converting you or trying to convince you that your religion is wrong. I didn't take your email as trying to convince me that I was wrong, just trying to get me to see how you came to your conclusions. I just hoped to give you something to think about just as you did me.

My questions weren't really directed at anyone. Just pondering, I guess, as I always do when people make important life-changing decisions based only on faith. Being a reality-based person it just seems strange to me and I wrote it a question form on the off-side chance that someone will give it some thought. I'm sorry if you were misled. That was not my intention.

Another thing that I wanted you to consider is the other side of the abortion debate from someone who benefited from this freedom in a positive way and how, if this freedom was taken away, we, as women, will be doomed. I find when I debate religious people about this issue they are stuck on the "potential person" issue and will not consider the real and living people in the equation. There is no clear cut answer in this issue but one thing is for sure, if abortions are made illegal, women will die and women will go to prison and families will suffer. The common ground is this issue is the safety of our sisters, daughters, nieces, and mothers and their families.

Her last email was to acknowledge a personal request which is not important in this discussion. She never once tried to engage me intelligently about any of the issues she raised. It was all about emotion and nothing about reason. If I thought I wasn't reaching anyone, even at the tiniest level, I would stop discussing religion with them. But I think that I am and I'm gaining respect as an intelligent atheist, which is another added bonus.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Latest email and my rant

I've had a very busy month but had time to write this letter to my family after getting emails with comments about religious stuff and/or opinions that just pissed me off. Enjoy.

A cousin wrote something I wish to comment on. She wrote:

Our guest speaker at church was a former Muslem whose father was head of the mosque in Columbus, Ohio, He now is head of Southwestern Seminary What a story he had. Of course, he was very knowledgeable about the Muslem religion (could quote chapter and verse of many things from Koran) but could also quote chapter and verse of the Bible which pointed out the errors of the Koran. I am hoping they taped hismessage from tonight's service. It was so enlightening. I'd love to be able to share it.

When I hear or read these kinds of comments I wonder "How do these people know that the Koran is wrong and the Bible is right? Billions of people know the Koran is right and the Bible is wrong and what proof do Christians have that all these people are wrong?" This is a big reason I'm an atheist, there isn't a good answer to why one religion is wrong and another is right. I searched and searched for this information and never found it. What I did find was a lot of apologists that didn't make sense. There are denominations within Christianity that think they are the one and only true way to Salvation. What makes them wrong and yours right? One would think God would've created only one easy to understand religion so we could all get along.

Another thing I was to address is a cousin's comment:

Summer, just a word about the "honor killing" article. That is horrible and it happens often even in the US. How can a father kill his own daughter like that. That is part of the Islamic religion. But I had to think about women killing their own children by abortion. That is just as horrible.

Yes, honor killings are horrible. When one can kill a child on the word of God just because they have been dishonored using the word horrible is an understatement. But comparing this to a legal medical procedure used by women who have thought long and hard to make a difficult decision is offensive and wrong. I know many of you feel differently about this subject, but making a statement like this shows you do not think about what the woman getting the abortion has been through. You make it sound like women wake up pregnant then unemotionally decided to get an abortion like making an appointment to go to the dentist. In most cases this is simply not what happens. Abortion is a horrible, difficult decision to make and it is not done easily, I know because I had one at 22.

I sent this email out this morning but I had privately sent an email to my cousin about the honor killings vs abortion issue on Sunday evening. She has chosen to ignore me as has others in this email list. I don't really know why they don't engage with me unless they feel it's pointless to argue with someone who has already made up her mind. I guess I know how they feel.....

Seriously, can you imagine saying to people that abortion is women killing their children? It boggles the mind. If she had said that to my face I would've exploded. It's an arrogant and childish position to take and it demeans the tough decision those women had to make to end their pregnancies. I'm still pretty upset about it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Expelled Exposed

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast for March 26 interviewed Eugenie Scott who is the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Eduction. The major topic of discussion was the events surrounding the creationist movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. She was highly informative, entertaining, and very engaging. Her one request for bloggers is to link to a site which addresses the misinformation of this piece of propaganda. Hopefully the traffic will be high enough that it'll be the first site that pops up when one is doing a search. Sounds good. Let's all link to it!

Expelled Exposed!

I've got some explaining to do....

Two of my pet peeves are people who feel they have to continue to explain something even when they've been told they have been understood and those who don't tell me that they already understand something I'm taking valuable time explaining.

The later is obvious, I really appreciate it when people say "Hey, I get it." Those are thoughtful and nice people. Thanks to anyone who has actually do this to me. On the other hand, I've noticed that not many people are like me. I recently had someone get extremely upset with me when I informed them that I understood the situation and the lengthy explanation was not needed.

On a different occasion, an acquaintance was trying to console me when discussing my aunt's recent death. She wasn't aware of my atheism and proceeded to go into great detail about how my aunt was not suffering and in a better place. I could tell it was going to be a long lecture so I quietly said "thanks, but I'm an atheist and I don't believe in heaven or hell." To my surprise and relief she stopped right away and expressed simple and appropriate sympathy for my loss.

I'm just guessing here but I got the feeling she appreciated me letting her know that I would not have been comforted by her explanation and thus spared her and me the agony of time spent talking about something I didn't believe and she was just quoting as a Christian. If a person is going to talk to me about their religion then I have every right to express my lack of belief. It's only fair, right?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Too busy to blog

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post which is an unforgivable oversight. DH and I own a business and we've had to get our records organized for tax purposes. I'm also on 3 different tennis league teams and I've had to play every day (practice and lessons included). I'm in great shape but these past two weeks I've been tired to the point of exhaustion. As a result of all this activity my blog has suffered.

A couple of interesting things have happened to me directly related to my atheism that I wish to share. I hope to get a post in describing these events in the next day or two.

Good news is my tennis win/loss record is 10-2. This is my best season ever!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Update on my Funeral experience

Over the years I've been to many Christian funerals. Each have been different: Methodist, Church of Christ, Baptist. Unfortunately I have yet to attend a secular funeral. I want to discuss the weird things I've noticed that are in common with each of these funerals.

The weirdest, most glaring problem I noticed was the minister didn't know the deceased. At all! Also, they didn't take the time to ask personal questions like how did friends and family refer to the decease when she was alive. My aunt was known by her middle name and yet this minister kept calling her by her first name, which I didn't know until Sunday. He also read from notes that I think he obtained from her obituary and he got those wrong or perhaps just misread them. What's sad about this scenario is that he was at the wake before the funeral and could've asked more questions about my aunt. I suppose he was busy feeding his face.

At the other funerals I've attended this has also been the case. It shows that the minister really doesn't care about the family. Aren't these people of God supposed to care enough to get basic facts straight? You'd think they'd have the funeral routine down to a fine art. (I've noticed this at weddings too.)

Another gripe I have is the sermon. The minister knows she has a captive audience so she's going to preach the word of God as she's supposed to. That's fine. What pisses me off is the funeral should be a celebration of the deceased life and 100% of the time spent at a funeral should be about that person and her family. At my aunt's funeral it was about 50/50. Bearable. At other funerals I've had to sit through 45 minutes of Jesus Saves to 15 minutes of eulogy. And the eulogy was first. Sad.

How about a disclaimer? It be great if the minister said, "Now I will begin to tell you the story of the glory of God and the life of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Those who don't want or need this sermon can now leave with no penalty." RAmen!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Funeral report

I just walked in from being around my Christian relatives all day and, other than being bone tired, it was a very nice day. No proselytizing from relatives, avoided the crazy Christians successfully, and the God-Jesus talk from the minister was a bare minimum. All and all a very good day from an atheist POV. More tomorrow.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Christian Funeral

My mother's oldest sister died last Thursday after a very long illness. She was 83 and lived a very difficult life. The funeral will be held on Sunday where she'll be buried next to her only husband and youngest daughter. Yeah, I'm going.

I've been absent from my blog again for several reasons. This is tennis league season and I'm on three teams. My record is 8-1 so it seems the captains are putting me in the lineup every week and it takes a huge chunk of time away from my Internet activities. I'm not complaining, as I love tennis, but I do feel out of the loop when I'm away for so long. The other reason is my DH. Since we are self-employed we have the extra burden of keeping track of all of our expenses and I'm the one who gathers the information and organizes it into spreadsheets. It tedious and rewarding at the same time. The last reason is I've found a website with back episodes of House, MD and I've become addicted.

Anyway, back to the subject of this post.

My family of origin is comprised of 2 atheists (my brother and me) and 2 conservative Christians (sister and mother). My mother's husband is Catholic and my sister is raising her young son to be Christian, whereas my brother is raising his daughter to be a critical thinker to give her tools to make the decision on her own. Of my extended family everyone, save one person who is an atheist, are all conservative Christian with a sprinkling of crazy fundie mixed in. This is what I will have to deal with at the wake and funeral of my dearly departed aunt on Sunday. Sounds like fun?

Actually, it's been about four years since I've declared my atheism and since then I've educated myself on all the typical arguments that Christians use when defending their positions. I'm confident that I can hold my own without getting into a shouting match. To be honest, I'll be surprised if anyone approaches me to discuss the existence of a deity and the reasons for believing in such fantasy. I've decided to play their game and not call attention to my position. I'll bow my head and be respectful to my aunt and to my relatives. In fact, I think if I'm approached by anyone I'll say that this is not the time or place, that I'm there for my aunt and to show support for the family, not to fight for my immortal soul. Engaging in a potentially volatile subject in their presence is disrespectful and has a high probability of making me look bad, something I don't wish to do in the name of atheism.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

God's love and why it's creepy

Over the years of dealing with well meaning and generally good natured Christians I've noticed this desire for a small number of them to "spread the love of God and their Saviour." This love takes many forms but it's usually offered in times of crisis: in sickness, death, or despair. I'm not referring to the people who do this for those reasons; I'm referring to the fundamental, conservative Christians who say it to just say it and don't care that they look, well, unhinged. In fact, they're a bit proud of it.

Now the more moderate and more socially aware Christians don't do this. Among my family spreading the love for God and Jesus is stated and restate ad nauseum to the point where it looks like bragging. These are the same people who send email hoaxes without checking their validity and bible verses to everyone without asking them. They also write in all caps and use lots of exclamation marks. The assumption is that everyone feels the same as they do and if they don't then this particular email or verse will surely change their mind. Again, it's a small number of Christians that do this and I seem to be related to everyone of them.

Here's the problem I have with professing in public or around unfamiliar people one's love of God/Jesus and their desire to spread it: it looks arrogant. There, I said it. With no regard to the religious or irreligious feelings of most people, these kinds of statements make a person look as if they are not in touch with the real world. Seriously, most people keep their religious feelings to themselves and are uncomfortable whenever someone is loudly and boastfully proclaiming this "love."

So if you're one of these Christians that feels compelled to share the love, keep in mind that most people will think you're nuts. Also know that very few people will be honest with you and tell you this important bit of information. The reason might be because they know you'll get offended and make a scene. Someday I'll have to tell the story of a fundamentalist Christian relative who made a scene at my father's memorial because I wouldn't accept her flavor of God. The arrogance of her actions was insulting and still haunts me to this day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Day After

I seem to have a talent for voting for the loser. Mrs. Clinton won the primary in Texas by the slimmest of margins. She managed to get 51% of the popular vote. I'm actually glad this has happened because I feel we need more time to feel out our candidates and to get to know the issues more intimately. What will happen is we will get more information flowing to us via the media about Democratic policies, more people will be educated on the issues, and the Republican Party will take notice and change to accommodate.

Mrs. Clinton won in Ohio and Rhode Island as well. She stated in an interview this morning "as Ohio goes, so goes the nation." We'll see.....

More good news is that God decided that the Rev. Mike Huckabee is no longer his choice for president. Gosh, Mike was so sure that God caused him to win Iowa that surely the rest of the states would follow. NOT! Mmmmm, insert the "God works in mysterious ways" excuse here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Texas Primaries

I made up my mind a few days ago to go early to the polls to cast my vote for Barack Obama. I got up about an hour early, got coffee and let the dog out, then took a short drive to the school to vote. The polls opened at 7:00 am and at 7:05 there was already a long line for the Democratic voters. I got in line and surveyed the scene, wondering if I had enough time to do this before my morning activities. I could always come back later. Fortunately a woman about my age got in line behind me and we struck up a conversation.

It was really just small talk in hushed tones, we were in a library after all, until I mentioned that it was unusual for me to be in the majority this time. The last time I voted was against the proposition to outlaw same-sex marriages and I was absolutely sure I was in the minority that day. She said she felt the same that day and revealed that she is gay. She also shared her coming out story to her mother but stated that God had prepared her mother so she would be more accepting. It was very subtle when she said that in her position she really didn't take the idea of God too seriously.

Now usually when people mention God in any context my attention will sharpen. Atheists are good people and I think I'm a good example of a typical nonbeliever. When I get a chance to introduce myself as an atheist I do so with no apology.

After she mentions the problem with being gay and believing in a higher power I tell her that I understand because I had problems in my family when they found out I was an atheist. She laughed a little and said, "I bet your Mom would've much rather you'd been like me, huh?"

Actually I'm not sure Mom would've preferred a lesbian daughter to an atheist daughter but this wasn't the time or place to discuss it. We were about to be processed to vote and I didn't have the time to wait to finish the story. I told her how much I enjoyed talking to her and was happy to have had the opportunity to meet her.

I then voted for Barack Obama. It wasn't an easy choice for me. I really wanted to vote for a woman. I really tried to find a good reason to do so, but in the end I felt that Mr. Obama might have better plans for our country and the war in Iraq. I've been paying attention to what his goals are and they resonate with me.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Strangely silent

This past week as been extremely busy for me and I feel I need a couple days to catch up. One thing that has been occupying my mind is an email a relative sent me. It was a story about a teenage girl who was having some personal problems such as a boyfriend who suddenly broke up with her, failing algrebra, and a close girl friend moving to a different city. The moral of the story was that God throws bad stuff at us but the end result is good because God love us. There was no attempt at critical thinking in the email; at talking about why these things were happening. It bothered me that this relative felt proud to send this to everyone and she probably got a lot of "Amens" send back in response.

On a side note: this relative has recently moved back with her mother with four young children in tow because the husband is irresponsible. Divorced? Won't do it because of her religion. I'm absolutely sure she lives her life as if God is in control and shit continues to happen to her. I used to feel sorry for her but I'm finding it hard to do so now.

Anyway, the email was sent last week and since I've been busy I haven't had the time to respond. But another thought is "Why bother?" There is no way I can answer this is a way that will be gentle and not condescending so the resulting response from her will be one of anger. I guess I should be the good little atheist and say something tactful about the parenting skills of the mother in this story.

Update. This is the email I sent to my relative:
I'm concerned that this email sends the wrong message to parents and to children. I would hope that this mother also sat down with her daughter to explain that there are good reasons for events that happen to us and that we should use critical thinking to solve our problems. A good example would be for this mother to have a heart to heart talk about why boys break up with girls or vice versa. Perhaps the daughter was unwilling to have sex with the boyfriend and he broke up for that reason. Wouldn't you want to know that information as a mother? It would be an important opportunity to instill high self esteem in this girl who is hurting because a boy no longer likes her. Just telling her that God has a plan isn't enough. Perhaps another idea would be to find out why the daughter is failing algebra and solve that problem. Again, telling the girl only that this is God's plan encourages her to accept defeat without trying to find an answer to a problem. With the friend who is moving away, an explanation about parents getting transferred or divorced would be easier to accept along with the explanation of God's plan for the future.

I know you realize this and are giving your children critical thinking skills to deal with life, at least I imagine that you are. It's just that this little story broke my heart about what some parents may be teaching their daughters about accepting the crappy things that life throws us without giving them a chance to succeed by thinking through their problems. God did give us a brain for a reason, right?

This isn't meant to offend you and I'm so sorry if it has, but this email has been bothering me since you sent it and I had to say something. I think, as women, we especially need these critical thinking skills to be everything God intended us to be. This is the greatest gift a mother can give to her daughter.

I think I handled it pretty well. I chose to approach it from a Christian POV and included the God stuff just to be nice and understanding. What do you think? I'll post what kind of response I get if any.

Atheists are growing in numbers

I found this over on MySpace at ATHEISTS AGNOSTICS SKEPTICS & HUMANISTS ON MYSPACE and felt the need to post it on my blog. It makes a point with statistics that being non-religious is a more moral place to be than being religious. With all the evidence of religious people going bad one would think that this would be a "no-brainer" but there is still the connotation that one is a better person with God on his side. This video gives some proof that that is not the case.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thoughts and Prayers

An old HS friend's parent passed away this weekend from emphysema. After emailing my condolences I decided to call to let my friend know that I cared very much for him, especially in this time of immense emotional pain. We talked for over 30 minutes and I let him tell me how he felt and his feelings about his father's present state. As much as I disagree, based on the available scientific evidence to the contrary that an afterlife exists, I always chose to listen and not argue the finer points of accepted Christian dogma during these difficult times. I'm not callous or insensitive to the comfort people feel in their beliefs and it's not my duty to take that away. My friend appreciated my kind words even though I felt I didn't offer much comfort by talking about heaven and better places. I may not pray for my friends and family but it doesn't mean I don't care. I care very much and always wish I could do more, which is what we all do whether we feel guided by a supernatural force or not.

One of the problems I worry about is seeming to be an asshole when I struggle with finding the right words. Mostly what I try to convey is support and love. If there is anything I can do I offer my services. What more can we do?

How do you handle situations like this?

iPod update

The atheist podcast environment has been changing a lot lately and I've updated my list by adding a few more and providing links to the websites of the podcasts.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Jesus found me!

That's right, Jesus came to lock my cable box. Comcast sent him to make sure no one will be able to steal the signal. At first we had a major failure to communicate, as he isn't from around here, but we managed to get though our differences and he complimented me on how nice I was. Jesus was very sweet, I should say. Nice eyes!

I wrote the above paragraph to my religious relatives in a family email and NO ONE thinks it's funny. Dang!

Suppose they aren't aware that "Jesus" is a common Hispanic name in these parts?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama is NOT a Muslim

I finally got that email from a fundy, retarded relative who refuses to fact check anything that looks like it came from a Christian (what? they never lie!). I always address these issues by referring everyone on my family email list to snopes.com with hopes that some of these people will get the hint to look this stuff up on their own. I'm happy to report that I have reached a few people but the majority still won't bother.

After going back and forth with one relative who seems genuinely interested in the truth (small "t" also known as facts) she emails a letter where she is concerned that Mr. Obama could possibly be forced to become a Muslim because his paternal grandfather was Muslim.

This is my response:
I'll get back to you on this. Research is required before I can answer this question. What I do know from my studies on religion, some of it being Islam, is if you are not a Muslim you are not of any concern. (I think Jews are a problem but that is not what we are talking about so I won't refer to it here.) If you convert to Islam you have reached salvation but if you convert to another religion you are condemned to death and will not be accepted back into Islam. I believe shunning and perhaps death is part of the process.

I have never read or heard that if you are a Christian (or another faith) and your paternal grandfather is Muslim then you are a Muslim. I think you are considered a non-Muslim and thus not a concern of other Muslims. Being Christian is mildly acceptable and considered convertible.

If Mr. Obama lived in a Muslim country and was an average citizen and was a Christian with relatives that are Muslim then that might be a problem. Obviously this is not the case.

If I had any thought that Mr. Obama could be forced to accept Islam or Sharia Law just because he was related to a Muslim I would not consider voting for him. As an American (and most of us feel the same way) we take our freedoms very seriously, especially the freedom of religion and of speech. There would be no way one could force or insist that I accept a belief just because my grandfather was X religion. I would be surprised if Mr. Obama didn't feel the same way.

On the other hand, I feel that his unique background will give him the upper hand in our foreign policy.

Anyway, how could Mr. Obama be forced to be Muslim? I suppose someone could take his family hostage and "force" him that way. That would be quite an interesting and explosive scenario.

Anyway, I'll get back to you when I find something out. This may require some digging.

Does anyone know the answer to this question? I'll post if I find it. Also, if I've written something that is not factual please post the correction in the comments. Unfortunately, being that I'm surrounded by Christians and was raised in a Christian environment I'm mostly familiar with Christianity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day (yeah right!)

Just a few thoughts about the significance of this date. For me this is just another day that's been manufactured to separate me from my dollar. It's a great idea, no doubt, but I find it lacking in feeling and sentiment. Sure, we all love our significant others, but to designate one special day out of the year seems disingenuous. We already have special dates, like anniversaries and birthdays, so this seems excessive to the point of being disgusting. So this year Mr Squirrel and I agreed not to get each other cards or flowers and will have a nice evening together with a little wine and dinner. I will admit to making him a special dessert with cream, marshmallows, and pineapple but that's as sentimental as I'll get!

Monday, February 11, 2008

What I did for Darwin Day

Tomorrow is Charles Darwin's 199th birthday. His contribution to biology is extremely important and today the facts behind the theory of evolution by natural selection contribute greatly to our quality of life. To celebrate this event Saturday I attended a lecture series at Rice University put on by the Houston Freethought Alliance with my friends from church. The lectures I attended were: So...What exactly is Evolution by Dr. Lesley Campbell, Darwin: The Man and His Work by Jim Ashmore, and The Evolution of the Eye by Dr. Graeme Mardon. All these lectures were great! I learned more about how evolution is studied in the first lecture; I was already very familiar with Charles Darwin's life but I wanted to see if I would learn any information I didn't know; but the last lecture was by far the most interesting. The construction of the eye is very complicated, no doubt, but Professor Mardon made a great point that the eye doesn't look unintelligently designed. In fact, he says, the human/primate eye is poorly designed and only evolution through hundreds of millions of years can explain it. His lecture was fascinating! It's a shame that creationists in our state are working hard to keep this information out of HS biology.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Habits in Voting

I've noticed that the voting statistics on the current presidential candidates during these primaries as follows: Women are voting for Clinton, blacks are voting for Obama, evangelicals are voting for Huckabee or Romney, and white men are voting for McCain. OK, I'll admit that very simplistic, but here's the point: People are not consciously thinking about who is the best person for the job. Or, in other words, they think the best person for the job is someone like themselves.

I'm rethinking how I'm going to vote and why.

Updated the iPod Podcast list

Here!

Feel free to lift a few and if you like them let those folks know where you got them. (Or not.)

Thanks!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Burning question

Lent. What a weird concept. Giving up ice cream or sweets for an omnipotent deity seems to be an exercise in futility. Do you really think God cares? Sorry, but doing something that's good for you doesn't seem much of a sacrifice; and shouldn't you be doing it all the time anyway?

So it's really not a sacrifice.

OK, now I'm really confused!

Can someone explain this to me in a way in which it doesn't sound crazy?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pat Condell's latest rant


Simply brilliant!

Sign the Petition!

I wanted to draw your attention to this important petition that I recently signed:

"Adopt Florida Science Standards"

I really think this is an important cause, and I'd like to encourage you to add your signature, too. It's free and takes less than a minute of your time.

Thanks!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Going to see Expelled?

Read this first.

This article pulls no punches. It also makes one wonder: When are these seemingly intelligent people going to "get it" about creationism? I'm surprised, disappointed and, frankly, confused as to why reality and truth doesn't set well with them. My biggest problem is the lying. The information on evolution is so easy to get that there is no excuse (other than lying for Jesus, which is OK I suppose) for this lack of knowledge on their part.

I see this stubbornness within my fundy relatives too. I'm beginning to think they're just lazy and thinking "God dun it" is easier.

Which is it fundies? Too lazy or is it too hard for you to understand?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sad to see Edwards go

I see that John Edwards has dropped out of the Democratic Presidential race. It's too bad. I felt he was the most qualified out of those who were left. I still haven't made up my mind, but Obama is sounding very presidential lately. I won't be providing any references just yet but I think he may be the right guy at the right time. Don't get me wrong, I really like Clinton too. Being a lady senator automatically makes her a very attractive choice to this feminist.

On a side note, I was so happy to see that my faith in the intelligence of the American people was spot on. For whatever reason, be it the veterans or the "over 65" crowd or even the evangelicals, but most people have seen through the facade of the Rev. Mike Huckabee. Sorry guys, but it's not about God. It's about power and money. As we've seen with GWB, not even a man of God can navigate the waters of corruption safely. In fact, they seem to be pretty bad at it. We only have to look at Falwell, Haggard, Robertson, Sharpton, a whole bunch of Catholic priets, etc. Just because one puts "Rev." (or Father) in front of his/her name doesn't automatically make them a good, moral person. In fact, I could argue that it gives some people power to do unimaginable horrible things.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's It Gonna Be?



I found this over at frisbeesANDflipflops;a bright star in the Atheist World. She's been featured on Pharyngula as a great example of positive atheism. Check her out, but in the meantime, enjoy this crazy music video. It was a great start to my day!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back from Holiday

I've been on holiday since last Friday getting back last night. We stayed at a very nice resort on the island of Ambergris Caye in the English speaking Central American country of Belize. Except for 2 days, the weather was hot and nice. I took a great book with me.

I'm going to have to figure out how to make this picture just a little bigger. Anyway, the book is The Portable Atheist edited by Christopher Hitchens. It's the first personal book that I've felt the need to use a highlighter on. There are so many great passages that I want to be able to find them immediately!

Also, on a much more solemn note I've been getting comments from a nasty Christian troll on my post about Tony Snow. I finally had to let her know that she should seek help for her mental illness and that attacking my family was off limits.

On the subject of Christian nut jobs, there are several in my extended family that are just like this troll. Full of venom and hate while hiding behind the righteous facade of Jesus. Christians like these people make their religion look bad and, in fact, will drive people away. The Christians in my extended family hate me with a capital HATE, there is no love and "crying for my lost soul" by these Christians. The ones that might be feeling sorry for me don't let me know that they feel this way. That's fine with me. In fact, I'm glad they don't call or email me with pleas to join the sheeple.

If I was to give this troll any advice it would be to let her know her tactic doesn't work. Normal people don't want to be around you, especially atheists. People like you are one of the many reasons I am an atheist. People like you give good Christians a bad name.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How I feel about Republicans

If I was to rate the Republican presidential candidates I would put McCain first, because of his experience in the Senate; and Romney second, because of his experience as governor of Massachusetts. Ron Paul and the Rev. Mike Huckabee have both proven to be ill informed about the history of our government and out-of-touch with the voters in this great country so they are not qualified to be on this list.

BTW, I will not be voting Republican this year so I haven't been keeping close tabs on these guys. Ask me about the Democrats and I can be more specific. The number one reason I'll be refraining from Republican politics is they seem to blur the line between Church and State and, if they knew the history like a presidential candidate should, they would be educating people about this instead of pandering to them. I find them blatantly dishonest. Especially, but not exclusively, the Rev. Mike Huckabee.

The founding fathers of this country would've been horrified to hear the statements made by the Rev. Huckabee last Monday.

Although not a founding father, Abraham Lincoln had this to say about people who try to subvert our government:
"We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution."

Another memorable quote:
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Thomas Jefferson


What it would take to change the Constitution: Constitutional Amendments - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I don't heart Huckabee

The US presidential race has gotten more interesting. The Rev. Huckabee revealed exactly what he intends to do with our country:

As we all know The United States Constitution never uses the word "God" or makes mention of any religion or denomination. However, Republican presidential candidate the Rev. Mike Huckabee thinks it's time to put an end to that. If you don't want to see him say it in the above video here is a quote:

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," the Rev. Huckabee told a Michigan audience. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."


I'm taking a different view than most of my fellow secular humanists on this. If the Rev. Huckabee wants to waste our tax dollars and his valuable time as President to change the Constitution then he will be fighting a very long and hard battle. Voting for a man who will work to change our country to a theocracy, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, is irresponsible and the American voter is more intelligent than to let that happen. For one thing, even the most religious person in our country will realize very quickly that the Rev. Huckabee's version of "God's standards" may be very different from theirs. From what I've read in the Bible, the word of God as defined by Christians, the Rev. Huckabee not only will get an opportunity to redefine marriage and abortion, which BTW are not mentioned in the Bible, he will also get the chance to change the way you eat, the way you raise your children, and the way you dress and style your hair.

Fortunately Mike had revealed exactly what he wants to do and has now become unvoteable. Thank Reason!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Came out to a friend

Last night Mr. Squirrel and I went out to dinner with friends. Granted, these friends aren't your usual Houston fair, she is a professional involved in a family medical business and he's a corporate lawyer. They are both Catholic and both Republican.

After a few glasses of red wine our lawyer friend starts talking about the religious right. In the middle of a sentence he remembers that he really doesn't know how religious we are and asks. I assure him he's doing alright and he proceeds with his part of the conversation. A few minutes later I approach him and tell him that not only am I not religious but I'm an atheist. He's a little surprised and even said he wasn't aware of my non-belief. Then with a quick smile he leaned into me and said "Give me a few minutes and I'll make you a Catholic!" I smiled back and said, "I doubt that but you're probably closer to me than you think!"

Then the evening went on as if nothing spectacular happened.

I think I'm going to do this more often. The secret is the timing!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New Jersey billboard


Long ago it would've made me a very happy person to see this sign. Being raised in a very religious, irrational family, knowing other people felt the same as me would've enabled me to come out much sooner. This billboard will help many people, young and old, realize that they share feelings with millions of other people and give them a resource in which to start.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Another Brilliant Video from Pat




I think he actually got tiffed while making this video, which made me like him so much more.