Archive for March, 2009

feedback

March 30, 2009

I received an interesting piece of feedback this weekend.  A new friend from the Atheist Meetup was frustrated by my statement that my deconversion was something I “put my husband though” or that it was something he “had to put up with.”  My friend’s point was that it wasn’t my fault and I shouldn’t blame myself.  I considered this and decided it was a fair warning.  But also, in my view, being an atheist means I take full responsibility for my actions, and being a good person means that I am aware when my actions harm someone else.  So while it’s certainly true that I am not responsible for what my husband does or how he reacts, I must always do my best to be responsible for my own actions.  This is especially true in a marriage where everything one partner does affects the other.  Besides, while I do maintain that I didn’t intentionally lose my faith in God, I know that my embracing of the atheist position was something that I did choose.  I could have faked it or kept quiet about it, or I could have commenced a period of “struggling” with my faith and ended up coming back around to Jesus.  But I didn’t.  To be honest, I tried the “struggling with my faith” thing for a week or so but I knew it wasn’t true.  I wasn’t struggling.  I was recovering.  And now I have to deal with the consequences of that sense of betrayal (for lack of a better way to put it) between my husband and I.

 

But it was good feedback in that I do need to be careful how I frame the stress in my marriage.  I know it wasn’t my fault.  At the same time, the friend who gave me this advice is married to a woman who is a Catholic.  They have always been an Atheist-Catholic couple and so I don’t think he can appreciate what my husband and I experienced.  Also, my friend being a male who never took religion seriously, I am certain that he can’t appreciate the subconscious pressures on me to be a good little wife and don’t do anything that would make my partner sad and be careful of every little thing you do because it affects your husband.  That last part is true.  But the tension between self and partner-in-a-marriage is a tricky one.  Being a woman makes it harder, and I’m not sure how much of the people-pleasing pressure is cultural.  The source is less important than the effects, though.

 

In summary, I appreciate feedback.  It seems to me that there’s precious little of it going around, which is unfortunate since honest feedback is so useful.  When it turns into scolding, however, I draw the line.

 

Weekend summary: went to concert at an LA Jewish Cultural Center and my socks got rocked off, hosted Atheist Bookmobile where I and a friend brainstormed an atheist prayer group (not a serious title, but a serious need; more on that later), dressed up for a 1920’s era murder mystery party and got murdered, skipped church for the Farmer’s Market, went to a potluck, and received about a hundred pounds of grapefruit, along with one delicious guava, all from a friend’s backyard.  I have kept the guava seeds and will try to propagate them.  I think trees don’t reproduce predictably from seeds, however.  But it’s worth a shot.

 

Also, Catalina Island has a Pirate Weekend in October.  Costume preparation will commence immediately.  Should I get a monkey or a parrot?

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We’re all here, so…

March 25, 2009

I have been reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series, and at least once per volume I am just blown away by the way people lived a hundred years ago.  This morning I was reading about how, during a mild winter in town, everyone got together one Friday evening and started a literary club.  Now it was the first meeting and it was spontaneous, so they didn’t have anything planned, but they were all there and wanted to do something together.  What did they do?

They had a spelling bee.

That’s right.  Every man, woman, and schoolchild split into teams and they had a spell-off.

Makes me wonder how it would go if I invited the neighbors over for a spelling contest.  They would probably laugh in my face.  🙂

Plans

March 23, 2009

I suspect that my Mormon stories are getting a little old, but what can I say?  I never knew any of the LDS before.  So I’ll just say that this weekend saw me: 1) make my housemate sin again, 2) learn that Mormons can’t drink black tea.  I was later informed that as long as there’s no tea leaves in the drink, it’s okay, but honestly, that’s not my responsibility to know or even care about.  Except when it’s funny.

Speaking of funny, my housemate has been struggling with the rent (that’s not the funny part), and a kind person in her church donated some money to help her out.  So yesterday I got a check from the Lord!  It says it’s from the Church of Jesus Christ [in big letters] of Latter Day Saints.  I tried not to laugh in front of her because I don’t know why it’s funny, but I suspect I am being blasphemous.  Again.

Also, I should add that the blog will probably be moving.  I have a lot of things getting a lot more interesting in my life, and I don’t know if Alice is equipped to handle it all.  I’m turning into an urban homesteader, slowly but surely, and that will benefit from a lot more note-taking than atheism does.  I think I’m at my best when I am storytelling, not trying to write about what I’m trying to think about.  I think there are no gods and there’s not much more to it. 

However, I have a bit to write about creating clothes, gardening, preserving food, and figuring out what other home arts I have time to get into.  For example.  Co-worker Crystal is trying to get me a cutting from her family’s ancient blackberry bushes.  I got tomato plants from the super-nice Scandinavian old guy’s nursery yesterday, and he told me he would order some herbs for me and I could go in and pay for everything later– but he gave me the tomatoes already.  His tomatoes and the Home Depot’s cucumbers are hardening off outside and will be planted mid-week when the soil is warmer.  And speaking of warmer, I learned how to crochet and I’m making leg warmers.  (That’ll make my dozenth-or-so pair, but first home-made pair.)  They are going to be totally worthless for eight months when summer is really fired up, but they will be ready when those frigid 60 degree California winters arrive. 

I don’t know how interesting that all is, but it’s necessary for me to keep track of it, the garden stuff will especially be critical for next year.  So it has been wonderful to be able to take refuge in Alice when I didn’t know where else to talk about my atheism, and I appreciate all the support.  Now I think I am ready.  I’m getting on with my life, and while I’ll always be a skeptic and a science geek, I have a lot more going on right now.  I respect people who are quiet and confident in who they are– who don’t push their beliefs all over the place but aren’t embarrassed about the things they love.  And so will I be.

Bible stories and semantics

March 19, 2009

Let me introduce to you two new characters for today’s story.  First, we have Lisa, young convert to Mormonism and friend of mine from work.  Second is Beer Guy; I do not know his name but he’s a local brewster hero at the county fair, and I ask him beer questions when I see him sometimes. 

We all take the train home around the same time.  And yesterday, Lisa is telling me about her new baby niece who has not been named yet.  The two of us are talking about baby names and she says she likes Isabelle, but apparently this name is off-limits because there was a bad girl in the Bible named Isabelle. 

“Really?” I say, trying to remember the story.

“She was a whore,” my friend informs me, and I say, wait, what?  A prostitute?  “No, she was married, but she slept with Solomon.”  So, an adulterer, I say, and she says okay fine.

This wasn’t ringing any bells.  I pull out my Palm Pilot because now I am curious, and I have a searchable electronic Bible stored on it.  Then just as I’m firing the thing up, I remember: not Isabelle, Jezebel!

“Yeah, that’s it!  Jezebel!” 

And I say, “But I don’t think she was married…” I don’t know that story, actually.  So here, Beer Guy pipes up.  “Jezebel was Ahab’s wife,” he informs us.  He goes on to tell us that Ahab was an evil king and Jezebel made him even more evil. 

Now Lisa is saying, “But I thought Ahab saw her on a roof, and she was married.”

“Bathsheba!!” Beer Guy and I say.  So we tell Lisa that story to everyone’s satisfaction.  Then I give Beer Guy a high-five (I got the feeling it may have been his first high-five ever) and I grin at Lisa.  “You just got schooled in Bible stories by an atheist.”  She laughs, and we agree that that’s not fair because I grew up on Bible stories and she didn’t.

Also, there was a local atheist Meetup last night, and we had philosophical debates, and I was informed that “knowledge” is just another kind of experience; or it’s no different from experience.  I am still thinking about that one.  I am pretty sure that the discussion was about 80 percent semantics, but some people disagreed.  And I remember my brother told me that you have to define the terms of a philosophical debate first thing.  Otherwise, as I saw last night, you are arguing for 20 minutes until someone suspects we are saying the same thing with different words, and by that point, it’s too late to go back and start over because you are probably talking about something different that what you started with.  That, or, you say, “Hey, wait, this is semantics,” and the other party think you’re just saying that because you feel backed into a corner.

In other news, I have mixed plain yogurt with green tea and I am drinking it from a Mason jar.

Bless you

March 18, 2009

Friendly Atheist asks, “What happens if you don’t bless someone after they sneeze?”  Well.  Let me tell you.

Let me first say that I have never been a “bless you”-er.  It just never really occurs to me.  I understand that it’s just being polite, and that nobody really thinks my soul is trying to get out of my body.  I just don’t care.  I’ll fetch you some water if you are coughing, but sneezing… not important.

Here’s a little story for you.

A few years back, I had a cold, and of course I was sneezing all over the place.  Everyone was blessing me, all day, every day; strangers and family and housemates, and I had had it.  “That’s it!” I shouted, as I was at my computer. “The next person that blesses me is going to regret it!”  Only one other person was in the house, and he laughed and said okay, he wouldn’t do it anymore.

Then another person wanders in the house, turns on the Gamecube, and starts playing Mario Cart.  (Man, I miss those days.)  About five minutes into that, I sneeze. 

“Bless you,” person two says.

“Eat dirt and die!” I yelled at him.

Then me and person one laughed for about ten minutes, while the other person waits for us to stop and explain.  We do so.  He laughs.  Video games continue.  (I was playing Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, if you were wondering.)

So that’s me and bless-you-ing.  I don’t say it, and if people say it over and over to me, it annoys me.

Then I became an atheist.  And I guess my continued refusal to say “bless you” really started to bother my husband.  I’m sure it was one of those things that just becomes a symbol: he was angry that I wasn’t a Christian, and every time I didn’t bless him after he sneezed, he was reminded.  He started to peer-pressure me with the puppydog eyes and make me say it after he sneezed, and I would roll my eyes and say it.  Then he wanted me to say “God bless you.”  And I tried to draw the line.  “I don’t believe in god,” I would say, “Why should I ask him to bless you?”

“It’s polite,” my husband would say.  So for the sake of peace, I went on saying “bless you” to his sneezes whenever I thought of it, which, honestly, wasn’t very often.  Then one day I forgot to say anything, and he kinda flipped out.  He made it clear he expected me to say “God bless you” every time he sneezed, because he was very offended that I wouldn’t do this little thing for him.  I accused him of bullying me, and he said it’s not bullying because he’s not physically hurting me. 

“Are you going to let me say no?” I asked. 

“No.” 

“Don’t you think that’s bullying?”

We argued for a couple minutes and, because he said it was very important to him, I finally agreed to say it.  (I wasn’t really expecting him to hold me to it because I knew that later, he would realize he had lost his temper and apologize.)

After that was settled, I asked, “Now, are you really expecting me to go to church with you when I have told you how important it is to me that I not go back to that church?”  (Ha!  He had been talking about it all week.)

To his credit, he immediately said no, he didn’t expect me to go to church when I didn’t like it.  I am glad I brought it up because if I hadn’t, I was pretty sure I knew how it was going to go: he would keep mentioning it all week, and I wouldn’t respond because I had already told him my stand, and then Sunday morning he would say “Let’s go,” and I would say no, and he would be sad and do the puppydog eyes and I would probably go to church to make him feel better.

Anyways, that doesn’t happen any more. 

So the moral of the story is: Eat dirt and die!

Another possible contradiction

March 17, 2009

Tell me if the following ideas are contradictory:

1: Single men and women are expected to completely abstain from all sexual activity.
2: Married women must please their husbands sexually.

It seems to me that if we expect singles to abstain, and we consider that possible and right and good; then to turn around and tell married men that they don’t have to abstain, and if we imply (and it WILL be implied)  that a man’s adultery is excusable if his wife wasn’t pleasing him sexually…

Viva la double standard!

God loves a cheerful giver

March 16, 2009

I’ve just realized that I am a horrible giver. I mean, I enjoy giving people things and being generous as much as the next person, but when I do, I’m SO not gracious. It usually comes out like, “Here, I don’t want this, you can have it.” How horrible is that?

And that reminds me of this little kiddy Bible verse song from my childhood that goes, “God loves a cheerful giver, ha ha ha ha ha!” (You’re supposed to laugh cheerily there, and it repeats a few times.)  The chorus is “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”  Which is ironic, given that the last few times I’ve given something away, it’s been a packet of seeds that I never got around to propagating.  (Pomegranate and eggplant, in case you were wondering.)

So I hereby resolve to be a more gracious giver.

Being a librarian

March 11, 2009

Being a librarian, while it has its boring points, is also a surprising source of amusement. Reference questions, for example.  Firstly, they so often begin with a WAY over-simplified question, which requires careful prodding by the librarian to understand what the REAL question is.  For example, the person asking, “Where are your history books?” may actually be asking for a biography on J Edgar Hoover.   But just a couple minutes ago was awesome. As I was walking down the hall, an attorney saw me coming and said, “Hey! Are you any good at geography?”

To which I replied, “Uh, I used to play a lot of ‘Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?’.”

The question was, which is closer to Southern California: Nevada or Arizona?

“Let me get back to you.”  I went to my desk, pulled up Google maps, zoomed out, and got out my handy-dandy ruler.  Then I went back and informed him: “Nevada.”

(Yes, I went to graduate school for this.)

Days like this I find immense satisfaction in librarianship. (Plus, the guy who asked me this is kinda cute.)

The last laugh

March 9, 2009

Every time I get a cold, evolution scores another win.

Q & A

March 9, 2009

I sometimes imagine that I have my little Small Group Bible Study at my mercy for all the questions I want to ask them. They have to answer my questions on their own with no help from friends or pastors.  And one of the first questions I’d ask is:

Isn’t there something odd about “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”?  There’s no women!  Where’s the Mother?  Why do you suppose God made his family so disfunctional?  If marriage is “one man, one woman”, divorce is wrong, and children should be raised by both parents, where’s the Mother in the Godhead?

Of course there are some other fun gender questions, such as, “Why didn’t God make a way for Jewish women to have babies without it making them unclean?” or, “Why didn’t Jesus have a wife to play the reverse of Eve’s role?” (As Jesus is supposed to be the reverse of Adam.)

And what I would really love to hear is Christian women’s responses to “Why do you buy all this stuff about the man being the head and women having to shut up in church?”  I think I’d have to give them a truth potion first, however.

Oh, another one!  “Does God have free will?”  Because if God wants everyone to be saved, but he will still send people to Hell, then it doesn’t seem like he has a real choice in the matter, am I right?  I have quizzed everyone on free will before, and of course I forget to bring up Calvinism.  No free will for Calvinists, no sir.  But these people probably wouldn’t know Calvin if they met him in the afterlife and he accidentally poked them with all his Five Points.  Which are… here’s a little refresher for you.

Total depravity (without God’s grace, we can only choose evil)
Unconditional election (can’t choose God; he chooses us)
Limited atonement (Jesus only atoned for those he’s elected)
Irresistable grace (we can’t refuse God’s election)
Perseverance of the saints (“once saved, always saved”)

I apologize that my blogs are more-or-less random.  It’s pretty much a grab-bag of whatever I’m thinking that’s even remotely religious in bent.  I really should get organized. 

Or, I could watch Monty Python videos.