Archive for December, 2008

God will protect us

December 22, 2008

My husband and I were discussing the sorry state of affairs that is the youth ministry at his church, and in churches generally. The specific thing that bothers me (indoctrination of children aside…) is that these youth pastor positions usually require a ministerial degree. So you get these fresh young pastors heading up the Jr. High ministry, which is otherwise staffed by volunteers (such as my husband). The problem is that these young pastors are probably carrying university debts up to $80k from attending those private Christian colleges– and their salaries are around $20 a year. On top of that, the youth group my husband works with is extremely understaffed and unable to deal with the problems that arise when you get about 200 pre-teens in a room together and try to teach them about Our Lord And Savior. It’s mostly good fun and I know that it’s important for teens to have access to non-parental units. But it’s also incredibly difficult. And they have a budget of $0 from the church.

So we were talking about this the other day, and my husband says, “Oh, you’ll love this one. The church has to put together a security unit for the head pastor.”

What??

“There have been some threats, and last weekend a staffperson saw a guest in the congregation making a map of the place.”

I admit that is disturbing and I can see why they’d want some security for the guy. But apparently, this all started around Prop 8 time while the church was active in working to pass it. When my husband said this, I had to wonder: “Are they surprised? What did they think was going to happen when they actively worked to remove rights from a minority group which has been campaigning for their civil rights for over 30 years? You didn’t think there would be a lot of anger?”

I’m not saying the pastor deserves whatever violence he gets; quite the opposite. I’m just wondering… Didn’t he do what his God required of him? Didn’t he obey and convince others to obey? Isn’t this what generally happens when you stand up for God against popular opinion? So shouldn’t he take it like a man, take one for the team, take one for God?

But most of all, can’t God protect him?

The truth is, Christians talk a lot about how powerful their God is, but they don’t believe the half of it. They will canvass and vote and then praise God when the proposition passes. They will form a security team and sing halleluiah when violence is intercepted. And they’ll go to the doctor for an emergency and say “Thank God” after the surgery goes well.  If God was so powerful, they wouldn’t need to attribute their own works to His.

In Prop 8 news, California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a brief in favor of repealing it. This came as a surprise to many until they realized he was probably going to be running for governor against Gavin Newsom. And he’ll need that gay progressive hippie liberal vote. On the other hand… it’s not like that group has been too powerful lately. So kudos to Brown, and hopeful kudos in advance to the Justices, for not backing down even when threatened with a recall. When did all the bigoted assholes move to my state?

Man I sure hope California gets its reputation back. This whole anti-gay thing is embarrassing.

Playstation vs. Humanism

December 17, 2008

My husband has been wanting a Playstation 3 for a long time, so we decided to get one for Christmas.  Of course you can’t just get the Playstation, you have to get the hi-def plasma TV to go with it.  Obviously. 

 

So he’s telling me about all this over the phone, how he’s been doing all this research and finding the best deals and worked out how to get a new receiver from the cable company, etc.  And he asks one more time to be sure, “You’re okay with all this?”  And I say yes. 

 

As it turns out, this question of his is great timing.  Because I just registered for CFI West’s Winter Session evening courses for the new low price of $40!  What’s $40 compared to the $2k or so going for the Playstation & Co., after all?  Apparently, it’s the price of my soul.  Although if you ask me, if there are such things as souls, mine would prefer that I spend money on education rather than video games.  Not that there’s anything wrong with video games.  I’m just saying.  Souls are particular critters, from what I understand.

 

My poor husband.  I told him CFI is a Humanist group and he seemed sad.  I asked, “Do you know what Humanism is?” and he said, “Well, no, I actually don’t.” 

 

“You might want to look into that a little, then,” I say.

 

“Yeah, I should.”

 

We’re getting there!

Scientific endeavor

December 12, 2008

Well, I guess this is about as much of a scientific experiment as my name is Alice. But I am doing an experiment on myself.

I am coming down with a cold right now, and I am going to affirm, as often as I think of it, that being cheerful and smiling and enjoying myself (responsibly, of course) will help my body fight off infection and get well quickly.

Think it’ll work

I’m going to a nice steakhouse with my coworkers for our holiday luncheon this afternoon, so I’m off to a good start.

Adventures in Atheism

December 11, 2008

Last night I hosted an event with my local atheist group.  It was at a coffee shop, so as folks started coming in, they would greet me and we were all waiting in line to purchase a beverage.  The guy standing next to me says, “Hello,” and I didn’t recognize him, but I assumed he was with the group and so I greeted him.  (I’m a little new to the group and don’t recognize everyone yet.)  I got my drink and I turn to the guy and ask him, “You’re here with the atheist group?”

 

Yes, that was cheeky of me, since I was aware that he might not be with us, the atheists. 

 

And here I should add that this guy was about 6’5″ and built like a Viking.  Long blonde hair and beard and everything, and a long black trench coat to boot.

 

And when I asked him my question, his eyes bugged out a little.  “What??”

 

“The atheists,” I explain calmly, throwing caution to the wind.  “We’re meeting in the upper room.”

 

“Well, I’m not an atheist,” he says slowly, “but I’m not conventionally religious, either.”

 

“Oh, yeah?” I ask.

 

“Yes.  I practice the traditions associated with what would be the Norse version of Satan.”  He said it really fast, but it was brave of him to say it at all.  He probably figured that if an atheist could talk about that, then by golly, he could talk about his Norse Satanism.

 

“Oh, really?”  Now here I did this thing where, when I’m really surprised by something someone says, I try to make my face go all blank.  It’s probably a very obvious poker face, but at least it’s better than looking prudishly shocked, right?  Besides, 1) I don’t like to appear shocked when someone says something that probably took a lot of courage to say, and 2) if they were trying to shock me, I don’t like to give them the satisfaction.  🙂

 

So the man, encouraged, starts to tell me how his faith is a sort of “don’t fuck with me or I’ll fuck you up” sort of belief system (“Oh really?”) and how he believes humans are a cosmic accident (“Yep.”), and mutations over time making us rather than a god (“Yeah.”), and I’m standing there with my hot chocolate, nodding and wondering what the hell (Hel?) he’s going to say next.

 

“My son is a mutant,” my new Viking friend says.  “He’s got 12 toes and 11 fingers.”

 

“Really?  How’s that working out for him?”  (Yes, I said that.)

 

“He was running when he was 11 months old.”

 

“That’s awesome!”

 

“Yeah.”  He turns to get his drink.  “He’s so smart,” he adds. 

 

And I nodded and said “Cool!” and walked over to my group.

 

Adventures in Atheism!! 

What do you have to lose?

December 10, 2008

What do you have to lose?

 

After Thanksgiving, when I wrote about Pascal’s Wager, I meant to follow-up on the question, “What do you have to lose?”  Because when I set aside talk of probability and evidence for God, it was a question that gave me pause.  What, exactly, do I have to lose; why not just say, “Ah, screw it, I believe in God.”  It would make my husband happy, it would make it easier to have a social life, it might even make me happier.  Why is atheism so important?

 

First of all, truth is important– truth as best as we know it.  If the truth as best as I can tell is that there are no gods, then I have a duty and obligation to that.  I have a duty to hold to the truth when faced with persecution and scorn, and one might even say that I have an obligation to test it and make sure it holds up against rigorous testing and investigation (i.e., the scientific method).  Generally speaking, without truth and conviction, or at least an opinion that one prefers, I’m not sure what sort of life a person can have.

 

Second, what I have to lose.  My self-respect and my intellectual integrity were the major factors that decided me on atheism.  When faced with the absurdity of Christianity, I could have gone to spirituality, or Buddhism, or some similar agnostic fence-sitting position: the “Well, there might be something out there that we don’t understand” or “the source of life” or “energy” or whatever.  My dad chose that path.  He also smokes a lot of pot, though, so I don’t put a whole lot of confidence in any intellectual rigor that might be behind his spiritual life.  🙂  And that was what I couldn’t get past: my own mind, faced with the evidence, coming to a clear conclusion that I had no choice but to accept.  To betray that would be a rejection of my very self.  To try to convince myself out of a position that I feel to be true and right would be so schizophrenic!  I would have to have some serious evidence before I did such a thing– and then, being convinced by evidence, there wouldn’t be any faith or hedge-betting involved. 

 

I tend to think that Richard Dawkins has it right when he says that the existence of God is a scientific question; either God does or does not exist.  If a person was truly curious about God’s existence, I suppose the best course of action would be to hypothesize that God does exist, and try to disprove it.  This isn’t too hard, in theory. 

 

But then, consider that according to most accounts, God is invisible, unalterable, immortal, omnipresent, and all the rest, including the fact that God does not like to prove his own existence.  Fine.  But this makes God, by definition, un-testable by practical, scientific means.  How convenient.  But that wouldn’t keep you from trying anyways.

 

Then we can test the claims of various religions to determine whether or not they are accurate; for this, history, logic, and archaeology would be useful.  But even that would not prove God’s existence since the veracity of certain claims does not establish the cause of those claims.  Once you’ve exhausted all those means of discovering God, you can begin to interpret the data and determine whether God 1) probably does or 2) probably does not exist.

 

That was a really long way to say that I’ve come to the conclusion that God probably does not exist.  This is not the final word on the matter; I’m not closed-minded to arguments or evidence.  But for me to abandon my conviction for no better reason than fear of my soul’s eternal suffering would be to give in to intellectual terrorism.  And I have a no hostage policy.

 

Besides… who’s to say I have a soul, anyways?  How can I possibly survive my own death?  I am conscious; but does that mean I existed before I was born?  Based on my understanding of the soul, it is basically the claim that there is an ultimate Alice that is manifesting itself in this body.  Is that really necessary?

 

Think of this.  I suffered from mild depression recently.  I wasn’t responding to life the way I usually did.  I didn’t see that something was wrong, until one evening, when I found myself thinking about death.  This made me realize, “Whoa!  This isn’t me!  Why am I so down lately?”  I was seen by a doctor and prescribed a low-dose of anti-depressants.  And within six hours of my first dose, I felt like my normal self.  What a relief!  But isn’t it a little disturbing that so much of one’s identity is dependent on and alterable by chemistry?  Doesn’t that seem like evidence against the idea of a soul?  If I have a soul, what do you suppose the drug did to it?  As for people who undergo brain surgery and lobotomies and whose personalities are permanently changed, what has happened to their soul?  Does an amnesiac have a soul?  Where is a brain-dead person’s soul; is it in the afterlife or is it hanging around in the body waiting for the body to die?  What does a soul do? 

 

Anyways, I will be seeing a counselor and working on myself so that I don’t have to be medicated.  I’d rather understand what is making me depressed and work on changing it than go on living a medicated life where I continue to ignore whatever is wrong.

 

So perhaps it is my separation from God that is making me depressed, and if I go back to Christianity, I will cheer up again.  I know my husband thinks so.  But if so, why is it then up to me to betray my self and go back to God like everything is okay?  In other words, if God really wants my belief and service, couldn’t he give me a little hint?  Would I really benefit by believing in God against my better judgment?  And if so, how would that be different from living a medicated life in ignorance of what my issues really are?

 

So the short answer to the question, “What do I have to lose?” is: my self-respect, my identity, my ability to trust myself, and my intellectual integrity.

Ever since I stopped

December 9, 2008

Ever since I stopped believing in a god, I’ve said “fuck” a lot more. It’s usually been in private, or in my head. The other day I mentioned this to some friends, and they asked why I say it more now.

“Because nobody’s watching me anymore, so I can say whatever the fuck I want!”

It’s awesome.

Head coverings and hairstyles

December 7, 2008

I saw a Muslim woman wearing a head covering at the bookstore the other day.  She was reading hairstyle magazines.

This made me very curious…

It took a lot of self-control to keep from going over to her and asking if she was planning to quit wearing the head covering.

Perhaps I should have gone with Pandora instead of Alice  🙂

Legal fact of the day

December 6, 2008

Atheism is considered a religion for the purpose of classification and protection under the Federal First Amendment’s separation and establishment clause, as well as employment discrimination.

happy and thankful

December 5, 2008

I’ve never done a meme before!  Here we go.

 

Ten things I am happy about or thankful for:

 

1. Books make me happy because learning new things makes me happy.  I am currently reading “Guide to the good life: the ancient art of stoic joy.”  

 

2. Eating chocolate chips out of the bag makes me happy.

 

3. Watching Comedy Central parody news with my husband every evening makes me happy.

 

4. I am very thankful for my new friends at Inland Empire Atheists.

 

5. I love to see something that makes me say, “Magical!!”

 

6. Like extravagant Christmas lights, for example.

 

7. Banned/challenged books being made available to the public makes me happy.

 

8. Hot green milk tea with pearls and no sugar (from Fantasia in Milpitas, CA) makes me magically happy.

 

9. The “Holiday Tree” down on the other side of the building, decorated in blue and white, with the birds and the seal perched at the top, is also magical.

 

10. I am thankful for my home with a really big kitchen, my very comfortable bed, my shiney car, my favorite orange dress, women putting on their makeup while commuting on the train, and Guitar Hero (oooohhhh Barracuda!).

 

And now I am supposed to tag 10 people, but I don’t know if ten people read this blog, so … do what you want  🙂

Atheist communities

December 4, 2008

I went to my local atheist group last night.  We meet once a month and I think I need more than that. 

 

It’s just such a relief to be around people who understand atheism without me having to say anything, or defend anything, or feel uncomfortable when people pray or talk about God.  I was a little uncomfortable during Thanksgiving — though it was mostly a great time — and I really let loose last night.  I think I was a little manic.

 

Plus, this might sound odd, but there’s a quiet guy there I’ve spoken to a little, and something about certain quiet people just makes me want to be loud and wacky.  I think I am that quiet person sometimes, and when I am, I like to sit back and observe people.  So maybe the flip side of that is performing for the quiet people.  🙂

 

But back to communities.  Everyone needs them, atheists included.  So I hope you check out your local atheist/freethinker/non-religious group.  You’ll be glad you did.