Archive for August, 2008

Denying the Holy Spirit II

August 31, 2008

Well, I’ve reconsidered.

It occurred to me last night that if blasphemy is libel– if it equates to saying untrue things– then I will commit the ultimate blasphemy, right now, against the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit exists beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Ha!  Am I atheist enough for you now?

Denying the Holy Spirit

August 30, 2008

One of the things my husband asked me when I told him I was an atheist is, “Do you deny the Holy Spirit?”

I should have asked him what he meant, but I evaded the question.

I don’t even know what it means to “deny” the Holy Spirit.  Surely it has to be more than saying the words, right?  It is blasphemy?  What would blasphemy against the holy spirit consist of?  So I went and checked with the only people who know anything about that.  The Catholics– namely, the Catholic Encyclopedia (all quotes in this post are from the CE).

Augustine said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was when you died without repenting… which I think really means that you’ve died without being Catholic. 

St Thomas put it this way:

He who, from pure and deliberate malice, refuses to recognize the manifest work of God, or rejects the necessary means of salvation, acts exactly like a sick man who not only refuses all medicine and all food, but who does all in his power to increase his illness, and whose malady becomes incurable, due to his own action.

But what does blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in particular mean?  Here we have the primary interpretation:

So, to sin against the Holy Ghost is to confound Him with the spirit of evil; it is to deny, from pure malice, the Divine character of works manifestly Divine. This is the sense in which St. Mark also defines the sin question; for, after reciting the words of the Master: “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost shall never have forgiveness”, he adds at once: “Because they said: He hath an unclean spirit.”

So do I deny the Holy Spirit?

No.

Here’s why.  If you’re talking about the third person of the Christian God, I don’t believe he exists.  If you want to call that blasphemy, you can, but blasphemy is when you attribute evil to God.  I can’t attribute evil to God because I don’t believe in God.  As the saying goes, blasphemy is a victimless crime.

I’ll be more specific.  “Blasphemy” comes from the Greek and means literally to injure the reputation.  It is “gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem.”  It is the opposite of praising God; it is cursing God.  It is being against God.

I am not against God.  I am an atheist.

Fate

August 29, 2008

Today I am wearing a little jade pendant that was a gift from a friend.  She bought it in China and told me about how jade is thought to bring good luck.  And while I’m not superstitious, I like a lot of the stories about which objects bestow which benefit or disaster.  (In other words, I like pretending that superstition is true.  Did you know that if you open your umbrella indoors, earthworms will fall from the ceiling??)  So I wear the jade because it was a gift, and because it is jade, and because it is lucky.

 

Luck, and chance, and fate are different, though the words are often used interchangeably– and “luck” is sometimes used as shorthand for “good luck.”

 

Chance is the roll of the die; things we can’t predict or understand why they happen.

 

Luck is how those chance events affect a particular person.  “I don’t believe in luck,” I’ve heard said, “but you sure have bad statistics.”

 

Fate is how it all ends up in the end.

 

It was by chance that I found the job posting and by skill that I got the job.  But were my skills predetermined by luck?  Was I just plain lucky that I was born with a love of learning, that I had various methods to fund and support my education, that I have no health issues?  Of course all those things are due to chance.  It’s due to chance that I was born at all.

 

Was I fated to be here, at this job, this marriage, this town, this house, wearing this dress?  Well, the fact that I am here speaks well enough to that question, doesn’t it?

 

Fate.  In a nutshell.  Or, in my jade pendant. 

 

I already wrote once about providence… I wonder why this keeps coming to mind.

Psychology

August 28, 2008

Yesterday I gave my friend a ride to her counseling appointment.  As I was taking her home, she told me the Dr. did handwriting analysis.  And in the split second before I asked, “How did that go?” I wondered to myself, “What’s she gonna do next week, Tarot reading?”

How dare that Dr give my bipolar friend a handwriting test.  The British Psychological Association ranks “graphology” with astrology.  I think I better call somebody.

Atheist blogroll

August 25, 2008

I joined the Atheist Blogroll. You probably only know about me, Alice, because of my listing on this blogroll, so I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary to make this announcement.

At any rate, you ought to check out some other awesome bloggering atheists.

Surprises

August 21, 2008

Yesterday was a day for surprises both depressing and encouraging.

 

First, a coworker/friend who calls himself a Christian revealed his belief that the Bible is fallible and that God is spirit, not necessarily a person.  God is the ultimate source of love and goodness, he said.  This was a pleasant surprise to me– and also served as a reminder not to make assumptions about people’s beliefs.  I asked him more about what he believed, and he wasn’t very specific.  I’m not sure if it’s because he’s agnostic at heart, or because he didn’t know, or maybe he wouldn’t say.  I had to ask him something along the lines of, “If you don’t believe that the Bible is the revealed, inspired, infallible word of God, and you don’t believe God is a person, what makes you then call yourself a Christian?”  I put it in gentler terms, but maybe I was too vague and he didn’t understand what I was asking.  We talked a lot about truth, and the possibility of God revealing truth versus people reaching for an ultimate truth (and failing). 

 

The conversation started because he brought over a little video he’d downloaded about Hell.  Hell, in his view, is a place we end up not because an ultimate being judged us and sent us to Hell, but a place we send ourselves based on our own actions toward our community.  Did we love; did we serve; did we seek truth?  But I get the feeling that my friend was assuming that without belief in a divine source of some kind, we have no access to this source of love and beauty and truth– and therefore we cannot love.  I rather doubt it; he’s very thoughtful and non-dogmatic.  But I think it’s somewhere in his belief system; perhaps he is unaware of it.

 

Then I happened to remember Dawkins saying, in a video I’d watched on YouTube the night before, that “If God is simple, if God is limited, if he is the Universe rather than the controller of the Universe, then what’s the point of calling him God and worshiping him?  And if God is complex and powerful and intervening, then he doesn’t exist.”

 

It went something like that.  I thought it was very funny and well-put.  And I’d never watched Dawkins speak before; he’s not the best speaker, but he does have interesting things to say, and good visual aids– he does powerpoints very well; it’s an easy thing to screw up on– and he gets this little smile on his face sometimes that’s funny; like, “Yeah, I just said that!  What now?”  And the audience laughs and claps.

 

Back to my surprises: the second one was depressing.  One of my old Christian friends asked the question, “Why is Creationism an issue of the separation of church and state?”

 

Are you kidding me?

 

So I told him.  I hope he gets it.  He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed… nice guy, but you know… some people just don’t care about science, or government, or the Constitution, or rights and freedom.  I guess there’s nothing morally wrong with that, but at the very least you really should know that you don’t know, and then, if you want to inform yourself later, you can. 

 

And I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said that education is the foundation of a democracy.  Makes you wonder how things could be different, doesn’t it.

De-conversion

August 18, 2008

What makes it hard to de-convert?

Let me start off by saying I’m a confident woman. I have pride, and I know what I know, and I know what I’m good at. I like the approval of others as much as anyone, but if I don’t have it, I don’t think about it much. If anything, I wonder if they just don’t understand me… which isn’t the end of the world, either.

But being a Christian woman, a Christian wife, makes some things a little different. There’s this whole idea of what I’m supposed to be like, which I more or less ignore. Obedience was not in my wedding vows, I do not want kids, I have more college education than my husband, and I make a higher salary (until he finishes his career change). I even like to drive. But my husband considers himself the head of the household (come to think of it, what the hell does “head of household” even mean?), and morally responsible for me. This is a little weird when I say “Honey, I’m an atheist,” and he says, “This is my fault.”

Because of course, it isn’t his fault.

That makes conversation about my non-religious conversion difficult. It’s not that I don’t want to hurt him, exactly, because I have faith in his faith in God. The first time this topic came up between us, the “A” word wasn’t even in the picture– but regardless, he told me he felt suicidal. I’d say that’s partially my fault and mostly God’s.  But not only do I, as an atheist, have a lot to prove (as far as having a working lifestyle/philosophy), he as a Christian now has a lot to prove to me.

Not that I don’t feel a little bad. I know he didn’t sign up for this.

Feeling like a different person

August 18, 2008

You know what’s the strangest thing about quitting Christianity?

It’s the fact that it doesn’t feel strange. Not at all.

I feel awkward and apprehensive sometimes, like when I know the next words out of my mouth are going to really surprise someone:

Maybe Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

What if God doesn’t exist?

Life starts at conception? An unborn child has rights? Like what, the right to an attorney?

I left the room rather swiftly yesterday to keep that one from coming out.

And when someone asks me to pray for them, I usually say “okay” before I can come up with a different response. (I have to work on that. Don’t want to be a liar.)

But when I tell someone that I’m thinking of going to a local atheist group, the look of shock on their faces… well, it shocks me. Everything feels pretty much the same as it used to feel– in my head. Nothing I’m doing or thinking feels shocking. As far as other people’s expectations of me go, they tend to be a little dated. They think I am the same person I used to be. I mean, I obviously didn’t go on a killing spree or start robbing banks once I stopped believing in God. I still don’t swear (mostly), I drink responsibly, drive safely, love my husband; I still play guitar and read on the train and try to cook Indian food (and usually fail). I go back into the grocery store when I realize they forgot to charge me for the milk.

But my mind is very different. I think of things differently. Does this make me a different person?

I feel like I have found a shortcut that I never knew was there. it made sense to take it; it makes sense that there is no god. It isn’t very complicated.

Here’s where I’m coming from: when you’re a Christian, you believe that God gives your life meaning. You believe that Jesus’ love and sacrifice gives your life worth. You believe that your belief will be rewarded, and that your belief must inspire good deeds. Therefore, it’s easy to infer from these philosophies that without God, life has no meaning; that without Jesus, life has no worth; that doubt will be punished; that good deeds are impossible without God inspiring them.

But my life has virtually the same meaning as it ever did, I value my life and my self, I reject rewards and punishments like Heaven and Hell, and I find that I still like to be a nice, kind, good person. Is that meaningless because I don’t have a god in my corner?

What if I had another God than you had? Would that be okay somehow? Would you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that I was being kept in line by some other all-powerful being? What’s so frightening about life without a god?

Well? What’s so frightening?

Why don’t atheists care about religion?

August 15, 2008

 [trackback]

The best answer to this question was probably written by Mr Pharyngula.  Here’s my answer.

The reason atheists often don’t concern themselves with the details of religions, and the reason atheists often lump religions together, is because to an atheist, all religions start with the same premise: the existence of supernatural being(s) or events.  Atheists do not believe in anything supernatural.  We like explanations for things that include something that can be tested, observed, and verified objectively.  Since the details of any religion flows from supernaturalism, which we reject, why should we study religion?  I mean, if one is curious, there’s no reason not to, just as there’s no reason not to read up on all the different sorts of fairies in various folk tales.  If something is interesting and useful, atheists are just as curious as anyone else, and religions often contain truth and beauty that can be useful in living a good life.

But being atheists, we don’t agree that belief in the supernatural is needful for living a good life; therefore, we may not be interested in the details of all the different religions.  And to be honest, don’t you have better things to do than study all the different things you don’t agree with? 

As for me, I’ve got novels to read, MMOs to beta-test, a backyard to weed, dinner to cook, and music to download.  So to be honest, and I mean this in the nicest way… I’ve got better things to do than worry about which god is most likely to send me to which hell.

Killing in the name of

August 15, 2008

Everyone knows that when Christians kill in the name of God, they are not true Christians.  (I don’t fully agree with this, since certain interpretations of religions do encourage the killing of heretics and unbelievers.  I’ll not quote the scriptures; this is easy to find in the Skeptic’s Annotated scriptures.  Let’s just leave it there for now.)  Same for Muslims and Jews and etcetera.

Similarly, but with a stronger argument, non-theists do not kill in the name of atheism.  This is for two reasons. 

One, nothing about atheism in and of itself demands the killing of theists.

Two, while it can be shown that certain fascist regimes killed religious people, this was anti-religious activity, not atheistic activity.  I can see how these can get confused, but they are different.  But think about it: when a Christian government kills Jews, they are also being anti-religious.

Ideas don’t kill people; people kill people.

Besides, why should it be so surprising when a fascist kills Christians?  Christians kill people with other religions, atheists kill people with religions— it’s the same thing.  Is there really such a difference when a man kills for power and when a man kills for God?  God and religion is often an excuse for power; this is why I am willing to concede that Christians who kill for God are not real Christians.  The religion may give an excuse to kill, but honestly, people don’t need God as an excuse to kill… neither do they need God to keep them from killing.

And since the subject of this post has been at the top of my screen this whole time…

Some of those who work forces are the same that burn crosses.

I said it!  Carry on.