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.

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.