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.