Archive for February, 2009

Three Books

February 25, 2009

Real quick— busy day ahead–

I’m in the middle of the book “The atheist’s way” by Eric Maisel, and it is about to change my life. Cheesy, but true. It skips over the arguments for atheism, acknowledges that there will be an existential crisis for someone (like me) who has deconverted, and offers guidance for creating a meaningful life without gods.  In short, every individual has to create meaning; there is no meaning to find.

While I was reading this morning, I paused for a moment to think if any other books had affected me so much, and I thought of two others.

“Getting things done” by David Allen. A comprehensive method for keeping organized and keeping your life moving in the direction you want it to move.

“Guide to the good life: the ancient art of stoic joy” by William Irvine. How to be content with your life and be a productive person who can be proud of her accomplishments.

id, ego, me

February 17, 2009

Every so often, when I’m wandering around my large home, or eating whatever I want from groceries I bought from down the street, or when I’m going off about how being a godless heathen is the best thing since sliced bread… I think to myself, “Boy, I’m sure glad I was born at this time and place.”

And then I realize… I don’t believe in the soul anymore.  Obviously.  But then, if I didn’t exist before I was born, then how much of an “I” am I really?  I am a product of my time and place and genetics and parents and everything.  I couldn’t have been born somewhere else because my consciousness is a result of my body chemistry, not my soul.

How would this happen, this being someone else?  Maybe God could accidentally me to a womb out of order?  Maybe I should have been second-born?  Or could God have put me in a different womb; the neighbors, or some random 300 BC Greek woman?

That’s just silly.

It’s a little weird, though, the idea that I am no more than my physical body.  I can’t quite grasp it.  Which is sortof backwards from how it should be, but maybe the human mind just isn’t able to fully comprehend it.  Like quantum physics. 

Is this what “I think, therefore I am” means?

Hrmm.  I will meditate on this.

a lesson in not being nosy

February 13, 2009

My husband called my Atheist Meetup an Atheist Church!! How in the sphincter hell does that work?  Because atheism replaces church, it is a church?

Then again, I never would have known this if I hadn’t been reading the email he sent his godparents. Serves me right 🙂

And so, it looks like it’s time for an atheist FAQ on my personal blog. Sigh. And I was so over myspace, too.

fake deconversion story

February 12, 2009

Because lying is okay as long as it’s funny (Alice 3:16):

Threats of Hell didn’t drive me away from Christianity. See, it was more like, the Bible is supposed to have answers for everything, right? But I looked and looked through the scriptures and just could not figure out if it’s okay to wear mid-calf boots with skirts that fall above the knee. So then, I was watching TV one day, and I realized, either Stacy London and Clinton Kelly are deities, or there are none. They weren’t listed in the yellow pages under churches, but I found a local atheist group on the internet. Now that’s what I call a sign.

What do you think?  How about you, do you have good one?

The end is near!

February 10, 2009

First things first: there were Jesus Freaks with signs out on the street corner this morning! A woman and what were probably her two offspring, holding signs with Bible verses about accepting Jesus. I wondered what sort of signs I’d hold up on a street corner, but I could only come up with “The end is nowhere in sight,” which isn’t very good.

Also, a friend that I thought wasn’t speaking to me (and the feeling is mutual, I guess) (it’s complicated) sent me an email this morning. Thanks for that. I really needed the stress of wondering how to respond. Jerk face. (An immature insult always helps me feel better.)

So the Jesus signs on the street reminded me of my childhood. My dad tells me that I wanted to be a Christian because I was afraid of going to Hell. I don’t remember that. But it sounds about right. If you tell children that they are sinful from birth and that they are going to Hell unless they accept Jesus into their hearts… instant Christian. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Jesus I love you I accept your sacrifice for my sins I repent in Jesus name amen. Done. Now… let’s get back to causing trouble!

So now, since I was taught the only way to be a good person was to be a Christian (and I didn’t have to actually do anything), as an adult, I have to teach myself ethics. The version of Christianity I grew up with was cognitive dissonance from the beginning. I want to be good, and since I accepted Jesus into my heart, he makes me a good person. So now I can just get back to doing whatever I was doing, and be good if I feel like it. Or not. Either way.

Spanking didn’t work for me. I loved to be sneaky and creative and do what I wanted just because it was what I wanted. Once, when my mom told me to stop reading and go outside and play, I put on my roller skates and skated up and down the front-yard sidewalk– still reading. I remember skating along, thinking, haha, I’m still doing what I wanted.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that Christians are moral people. They are human people, after all, and it’s built in. But I think Christianity hurt me just a bit more than it helped me. My poor dad knows this, and he feels a lot of guilt for raising us such wackaloon Christians. I’m really over it, though. I think he was surprised that I am an atheist, though. He knew I wasn’t a Christian any more, but I think he assumed I was in the same place he is, with a good, loving, internal light, Buddhist sort of God. I mean, you have to believe in some kind of God, right? Right?

Well… no, dad. Happy Christmas!

Remember Julia Sweeny, telling her parents she’s an atheist? Their response: “I know you don’t believe in God, but an atheist??”

But Richard Dawkins is so mean!

February 6, 2009

You know what is the most annoying thing about being an atheist?

There are of course the little things, like, “Evolution is only a theory,” or, “Atheism takes as much faith as religion.”

But the thing that has been taking the cake recently is the projection of bad habits and qualities onto atheists. I hear all kinds of bad things about people I don’t even know– brave atheists like Richard Dawkins who put themselves up to be a bulls-eye for any theist who ever felt ridiculed. I don’t know the guy, but every time I see him speak he seems respectful and polite. Yes, he is blunt. Don’t take it personally.

Last night I told my church mid-week group that I am an atheist. I also had to break it to them that almost nobody cares if they don’t swear or look at porn. They probably aren’t looking at you funny. And those who mind don’t matter. And if someone does give you a hard time and starts trying to tell you how bad of a person you are because of your faith, you can tell them to shut up. Really. But if it’s possible, take a few minutes to attempt a civil discussion. You’ll probably both be pleasantly surprised. Be calm. Be polite. Atheists aren’t all sneering at theists and theists aren’t all bigots. Avoid topics like abortion and gay marriage and evolution. Just get to know people.

And then, Christians, don’t sit around in your small group and talk about how hard it is to be a Christian in this godless world. It’s not that hard, really. I know; I’ve been there. I imagine it can be hard if you go around talking about how you hate the sin but love the sinner. It can be hard if you think everyone ought to respect your religion. The thing is, we don’t have to like your opinions or your God. We don’t have to tolerate your intolerance. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like you, and it doesn’t mean we can’t have a civil discussion.

I am out as an atheist to pretty much everyone I know on a first-name basis. Many of them are religious. We have not treated each other badly. We have been respectful and had some interesting religious discussions. But do you think the nice atheist they met on the train comes up at Sunday School? I think not. Then atheists all turn into caricatures of immoral, relativistic, God-hating, anti-religion infidels who think Christians are dumb and love to tell them so.

I don’t think Christians are stupid. Honestly, I don’t even think Christians are deluded. I simply think they are wrong about the existence of God.  Does that mean we can’t be friends?

chocolate

February 5, 2009

It’s raining in Southern California!  Let us celebrate.

Get a cup; a regular-sized mug (if it’s too big, then the rest of the recipie will be off). Fill it with milk. Then pour the milk into another cup (or into a nice measuring cup with a spout).  Add a few drops of vanilla extract to the milk. Put that in the microwave and heat it for about a minute and a half. Much longer and it will boil over.

Meanwhile, put in the empty cup:
2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons of sugar (I use brown sugar)
a dash of salt
a dash of hot pepper powder (like cayenne)
a few dashes of cinamon

Then, once the milk is hot, pour it into the chocolate cup. Mix it all up. Then, you can drink it, or, to impress someone with how nice you are, give it away.

Belief in science

February 5, 2009

I’ve been thinking about a statement in one of the comments on a previous blog:

Acceptance of science as a provider of answers is exactly the same as faith in god, as long as you don’t understand the science. And that’s the difference.

I disagree with this. I don’t “believe in” science. I use it. Science is a tool for understanding the universe; it’s a way of thinking, and maybe even a way of living.

Someone using science says, “I think such-and-such is true because of a, b, and c. If this is true, I would see something very specific [include a description of this thing]. If it were false, I would see something different [include another description]. I will test it using the following method [description]. I will record my results, see what other people have discovered on similar questions, and come to a provisional conclusion based on the data available. I will continue to seek out confirming and disconfirming evidence, and I will amend or discard my explanations as the evidence requires.”

Someone who believes stops after “I think such and such is true because of a, b, and c.”

So when someone (like me) says they agree with the findings of science, it’s not so much a belief in science as it is a confidence in the soundness of the scientific method. The closest I come to belief is that I believe in the people who use the method.

Furthermore, if I don’t understand the science or I don’t believe the scientists, I can go to college or join an apprenticeship program or read a bunch of books in order to understand it.  I can gather data and apply to have my findings published in a peer-reviewed journal. The findings of science are comprehensible (with the possible exception of some areas of physics. Those people are just freaks.) (Kidding!) If scientific findings are not comprehensible, it probably isn’t really science.

Meanwhile, back to the Bible and theology. Sure, your mind can understand the words and ideas. You can read the works of great religious men and women, apply your mind and reason, and see if you agree. But you haven’t dealt with much (if any) evidence. The good news is that once you’ve got evidence, you can start making real claims and observations about the world. There are ways to test the claims religions make. But you test them scientifically. You can’t go to Heaven or call up the Lord and ask him.

I would venture to say that most religious people would not wager their faith on a scientific test designed to measure the accuracy of the things they believe in. I however, would be more than happy to wager my beliefs on such a test.

And that’s the difference.